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Tag: 4G

Archos Helium 50 4G Smartphone Review

Posted by Andrew at 8:57 AM on June 19, 2014

Archos LogoFrench firm Archos has been in the smartphone business since 2013 with a range of over 10 models but the phones are still relatively rare outside of their home country. At this year’s CES, Archos announced the Helium 45 and 50, affordable 4G smartphones with 4.5″ and 5″ screens respectively and Archos have kindly sent me a Helium 50 for review. Let’s take a look.

The Helium 50 doesn’t stray far from the classic smartphone form factor: it’s a rectangle with curved corners and there’s nothing really to make it stand out from the crowd – let’s say it could do with a bit more Gallic flair. Dimensions are 145 x 7.5 x 9 mm (5.7” x 2.8” x 0.35”) and weighs in at 160g. The build quality feels good and the rear shell clips on firmly.

Front View

No major surprises – head phone socket on top, volume rocker on left, power on the right and microUSB on the bottom right for charging. Oddly for a new smartphone model, the buttons at the bottom are fixed – they’re not the expected soft buttons – and one of them is a menu button too, which I believe is deprecated on the newer versions of Android.

Rear View

Although a slim phone regardless, the camera isn’t quite flush with the back.

Archos 50 Camera

Perhaps slightly of note is that when you peek inside, between the microSD card slot and the SIM slot, there’s an empty slot that could potentially take a second SIM.

Inside

On paper, the Archos 50 is running Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) on a 1.2 GHz quad-core Qualcomm ARM processor, partnered with an Adreno GPU driving a 5” 1280 x 720 (HD) screen with IPS. There’s 1 GB RAM, 8GB storage plus a microSD slot under the back cover. Not cutting edge specs by any means. Running Geekbench 3, the Helium 50 scores 341 in the Single-Core and 1156 in the Multi-Core test (cf 502 and 1499 for the Nexus 4). Disappointingly, although advertised as an 8 GB phone only 4 GB seems to be available to the user. Clearly a microSD should be an early purchase for new owners.

Archos 50 Specs Benchmarks

Initially, the smartphone’s performance seems good. Nova Launcher animations are smooth and games like Shardlands and Iron Man 3 look detailed and fluid with the Adreno GPU earning its keep. Unfortunately after using the phone for a time the lack of RAM becomes noticeable: while running apps work fine, returning to a previous app often requires the app to restart rather than smoothly switching back.

Shardlands

While talking about games, Ingress shows up the Helium’s GPS. While it’s accurate enough once settled, the GPS can be slow to update and sometimes stalls in one place for 20-odd seconds. It’s probably not so much of an issue with less demanding uses but in Ingress, fast and accurate GPS is critical to hacking and taking a portal.

On the plus side, Android seems to be mostly stock Jelly Bean with a few minor tweaks and some custom Archos apps for music, videos, FM radio and file management. The apps are good and in their favour is that they have built-in access to SMB shares and UPnP servers, which is a definite “thumbs up” from me. If interested, the Video Player is available from Google Play to try out on other phones.

Media Menu Media Player

Moving on to the camera, it has the most comprehensive range of settings that I’ve seen on any camera app – there are no less than three separate settings menus with several options that I didn’t have a clue about – “Max longshot NUM” anyone?! Despite the plethora of settings photographs were a little disappointing with the default settings. Even on “Super fine”, photos were a little grainy.

LionZoom In

Finally, in terms of connectivity, 4G is nippy and watching films via Netflix or BBC’s iPlayer is feasible over 4G (but beware the volume caps!) There’s no doubt that this is the future and I can see that this will appeal to commuters on public transport who want to take advantage of the spare time. Obviously speed and 4G availability will be dependent on your mobile operator but I was pleased with EE’s performance when I was able to get a 4G signal.

In conclusion, I used the Archos Helium 50 4G as my daily phone for about a month and it works: it works fine. All the apps run, it has a big screen, it plays music and it’s well-built, but there’s no doubt that the uninspiring design and low RAM drop it down the leaderboard in comparison with other Android smartphones. On the flip side, the Helium 50 is a 4G smartphone with a 5″ screen, priced at only £199 off-contract which is attractive, especially when compared to other 4G phones at twice the price.

Thanks to Archos for the loan of the Helium 50.

Boosty Your Broadband at The Gadget Show

Posted by Andrew at 2:31 PM on April 14, 2014

Boosty BoxWhile many of us are fortunate enough to be served by fibre connections to our homes, many of us are still stuck on copper ADSL circuits with single digit download speeds. This isn’t great, especially with the rise of on-line gaming, movies-on-demand and second screening. Most of us have a another high speed data connection in our smartphone and this is where Boosty comes in, seamlessly adding a 3G / 4G mobile data connection to your home network.

I talk to Paul about how easy it is to add the box to your network and the accompanying service which lets you control who uses the mobile data and how much data is used. The Boosty box can use a WiFi connected smartphone or a 3G/4G USB dongle.

Boosty will be available in the next few weeks for £69.99 which includes the cost of the Boosty box plus a year’s subscription to the service. Pre-order at the Boosty site now.

Motorola Moto X Comes to the UK

Posted by Andrew at 4:12 AM on January 14, 2014

Motorola M LogoAs widely rumoured, the Motorola Moto X is coming to the UK and the rest of Europe. The specs and features seem as per the US version – touchless control for Google Now, Active Display, Connect extension for Chrome and twist to start camera. KitKat will be on the Moto X out of the box and as expected, it looks like Motorola’s touch on the OS has been relatively light, with the addition of apps such as Migrate and Assist which were seen previously in the Moto G.

Specwise, it’s Motorola’s X8 Mobile Computing System which includes a software optimised Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro (1.7GHz Dual-Core Krait CPU, quad-core Adreno 320 GPU), a natural language processor and a contextual computing processor. RAM is 2 GB (excellent!) with 16 GB and 32 GB storage versions available. To sweeten the deal, there’s two years of 50 GB storage free on Google Drive.

All the latest wireless technology is included with Bluetooth 4.0 LE + EDR, wifi 802.11a/g/b/n/ac and LTE bands 800/1800/2600MHz (B20/B3/B7). Of course it has 2G and 3G as well. 10 MP rear camera and 2 MP HD front camera.

Motorola Moto X

There’s no information in the press release regarding the customisations that are available in the US, only that there will be a black version and a white version. Update: Motorola have confirmed that Moto Maker will not be available at launch but they are exploring options.

The Moto X will be available in black from 1st February from Phones 4u, Carphone Warehouse, O2, Amazon and Techdata.  The white Moto X will be an exclusive for Phones 4u for the first three months.  Prices vary but start from GB£25 per month on contract or £380 SIM free and off-contract. As with the Moto G, that’s a pretty good price for a 4G SIM-free smartphone.

Archos Helium 4G Smartphones at CES

Posted by Andrew at 5:39 PM on January 2, 2014

Archos Helium SmartphoneArchos today entered the 4G and LTE smartphone market with the announcement of its new Helium range of sub-$250 smartphones. French company Archos has a long history with Android tablets and smartphones and the Helium 45 and 50 join the Platinum, Titanium and Oxygen lines. The new phones will run Android 4.3 Jelly Bean out the box with an expected upgrade to 4.4 KitKat. Both phones will have full access to the Google Play store.

Spec-wise, both phones are powered by a 1.4 GHz quad core Qualcomm Cortex A7 processor with 1 GB of RAM. The 45 has a smaller IPS screen at 4.5″ (854 x 480) and only 4GB of internal storage, with the bigger Helium 50 sporting a 5″ 1280 x 720 HD screen and  8 GB. Usefully, there’s a micro SD slot to expand the storage if needed. Other features are as expected in this price range – rear-facing cameras are 5 MP and 8 MP with VGA and 2 MP front-facing cameras on the 45 and 50 respectively. The VGA-spec is a little disappointing.

In terms of 4G and LTE, the radios support 800 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600 MHz frequencies with LTE cat 4 150 Mbps / 50 Mbps.

The smartphone has revolutionized the way consumers access information, giving them the ability to instantly view, connect and share ideas regardless of location and time,” says Loïc Poirier, CEO of Archos. “The Archos Helium 4G smartphones will once again change consumers’ mindsets by making the best possible technology affordable.

Overall, the Helium 45 and 50 look like good value entrants into the 4G smartphone market priced at a penny under $250 and $200. If you are interested in knowing more, visit Archos’ complete selection of smartphones, tablets and connected devices on display at CES 2014 in Central Hall Booth 9844.

UK’s 4G – Common-sense or Cover-up?

Posted by Andrew at 1:18 PM on September 11, 2012

Ofcom LogoThe launch of 4G services in the UK by Everything Everywhere today has been heralded by the majority of the tech blogs and news sites as a long-overdue success. But is this a victory for common-sense or has Ofcom simply managed to cover-up its own incompetence? (For those outside the UK, Ofcom is the regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries.)

Here’s part of article from GNC that I wrote in October of last year.
Ofcom, the UK’s regulator for the telecommunications industry, issued an update on its plans for the auctioning off of the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum bands. These are the frequencies that will be used for the delivery of 4G services.

There has already been one consultation on the auction of the frequencies but based on the responses received, Ofcom has decided to carry out an additional second consultation at the end of 2011 which will run for around 8 weeks. The outcome of the consultation and auction proposals will be published in the summer of 2012, with a delayed frequency auction expected in Q4 2012. More likely Q1 2013, based on their track record.”

So how is it possible that Everything Everywhere, or EE, as it is going to be called, can a launch a 4G service when the frequency auction hasn’t even begun?

The answer is that Orange and T-Mobile, the partners in EE, put a proposal to Ofcom that they should be allowed to use one of their existing frequencies (1800 MHz) to launch 4G services in the UK without waiting for the auction. Ofcom thought this was a brilliant idea and gave the go-ahead. As you can imagine, some of the other players in the UK’s telecoms market (Three, Vodafone, O2) were less than thrilled at Ofcom handing EE a 4G monopoly for at least six months. Imagine how tempting it would be to switch networks if a 4G iPhone 5 was available from EE and only EE.

Depending on your point of view, the launch of 4G in the UK is either a victory for a common-sense approach to available spectrum or else it’s a monumental cover-up over the way Ofcom has failed to manage the transition to 4G.

I’m in the latter camp and I won’t be buying a 4G device or service from EE.

 

Livestream Broadcaster Review

Posted by geeknews at 11:27 PM on June 22, 2012

I received the Livestream Broadcaster several hours ago and have been playing with it since it’s arrival. My initial impressions are mixed so lets start with the basics.

Straight out of the box when you power it up you need to connect it to the Internet to get it sync’d with your Livestream account. I connected the device via its network cable and it connected to Livestream and immediately asked to be updated. This took about 5 minutes (no issues), while I was waiting for it update I upgraded my Livestream basic account to a $45.00 per month “heavily limited” producer account, the first 3 months are free. The $45.00 a month essentially gives you ad free live streaming which you can do cheaper at Amazon, additionally you do not get shareable live stream embed code, and you are completely locked into the Livestream site.

I hate being locked into anything. But this is the restriction and the rules Livestream has in place at this time.

After it updated it presented me a code that I used to sync the device to my account. I did a quick Live Stream using a sony consumer camera I had lying around in the office, you can view the short video here. Once the stream is completed you can get a embed to put on a website but sadly it is not mobile ready.

I did nothing more than film the device in action and it worked as advertised. Knowing this device has been designed for portable use. I disconnected the device from the Lan cable and restarted it after I had plugged in my Sprint 3G/4G card. The device detected the Sprint wireless card but refused to ever connect to Sprint.

Strike 1 – The Livestream Broadcaster device will not connect to a Sprint U301 3G/4G usb Wireless Card to the Network!

I switched it to scan for wireless WiFi networks it found the 3 networks in my home, after entering in my password it connected to the wireless network with no issue. Every time it connects to the network is syncs with Livestream and through the menu system you can start a stream real easy.

Strike 2 – Every time you turn the device off, it does not save the password you entered for your WiFi network? Thus requiring you to manually enter it each time. This is a total fail and they will need to fix this. Be sure to keep your passwords short and 1-9 , abc as it takes a long time to key in letters in the middle of the alphabet.

Through the system menu on the device you can look at scheduled events that you have setup already online, you can set the stream quality, set the HDMI format from 480i, 576i720p 50, 720p 59.84, 720p 60. 1080i 50, 1080i 59.94, 1080i 60, 1080p 30. It auto-detects aspect ratio or you can set it to 4:3 or 16:9. The Audio menu allows to select HDMI, Line in or None and you can choose to have Stereo or Mono. The device also has a Auto resume feature which is real nice.

The menu system is really actually very good, and easy to navigate. Nothing compared to the Cerevo Liveshell device that I also have which online menu is a pain.

Minus the tech issues, this is nearly a perfect solution with “one” huge exception it really drives me crazy in the way that Livestream forces you to create an event before live streaming. You cannot just have a page on Livestream that you can easily send people to. The broadcaster account forces you to send folks to the Livestream site to a unique page with a new URL, for each live event. To me that is really is a deal killer.

I understand their reasoning they are selling a device similar to a cell phone model, the device is likely being sold at a loss, and they know that because they are “forcing” content creators to send their audience to the Livestream site that they are going to build traffic. It would not be so bad if I could have a “dedicated” Livestream landing page, that my live video could be found every time.

I would have paid a $1000.00 for the device plus a monthly fee to have a “dedicated” landing page on Livestream for all of my live shows. The folks at Ustream understand the value of having a dedicated show landing page. Who wants a landing page for a show to change each time you do a show livestream is not catering to serial content creators.

Overall Livestream has some bugs to fix. Wireless card support, Storing WiFi passwords and coming up with some additional producer options. I am very willing to pay for the added features. The question is will Livestream be willing to give up some control and quit forcing content creators into their way of thinking. Only time will tell. Is this device worth $495.00 in its current condition and restrictions I think so because the price point of something similar is much higher.

GNC-2012-03-08 #748 Apple TV Fail

Posted by geeknews at 5:30 PM on March 8, 2012

What the heck was Apple thinking. The Apple TV update was the weakest hardware update in Apple’s history. Lots of great tech today and luckily I do not dwell on the Apple news.

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Links to all the articles talked about in this Podcast are on the GNC Show Notes Page [Click Here]

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Not Just StuffIt! At Smith Micro

Posted by Andrew at 1:11 AM on February 6, 2012

Smith Micro Mobile Network DirectorSmith Micro is best known for its Mac software and StuffIt! in particular but the company’s portfolio is much wider than that. Andy and Don chat to Carla of Smith Micro Software to find out what else the company does.

Smith Micro has a portfolio of products in the mobile wireless space, delivering solutions for telcos and cable operators. As Carla points out, if you’ve ever connected your laptop to a 3G network, you’ve probably used some of their software.

Sprint chose Smith Micro’s Mobile Network Director to intelligently manage traffic between 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi connections. A software client on the smartphone works with the carrier’s systems to select the connection technology that will give the best performance in the particular situation. For example, in a very congested 4G area, the software will transfer the data connection to a quieter and consequently faster 3G network.

From the interview, it sounds like Sprint has learnt from the CarrierIQ debacle and while the software on the smartphone works transparently, the owner can override the connection selection manually. Good.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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Altair Semiconductor Powers 4G and LTE

Posted by Andrew at 10:43 PM on February 4, 2012

Altair Semiconductor logoThe Altair Semiconductor Company specialises in 4G and LTE wireless chipsets for the mobile telecoms industry. Andy and Courtney chat to the CEO of Altair to find out more more about the transition to the latest wireless standards.

4G, LTE and mobile broadband were all key technologies at CES this year, with products incorporating 4G announced from Motorola, Samsung, Nokia and LG, to name but a few. When compared to the relatively slow penetration of 3G, 4G uptake is happening much faster and it’s even surprising the industry. Verizon is expected to have most of the USA covered by the end of 2012. China and India are not far behind with major deployments.

Tablets and smartphones are driving the market but Altair’s chipsets are included in 4G dongles, MiFi-type units and wireless broadband routers.

Interview by Andy McCaskey  and Courtney Wallin of SDR News and RV News Net.

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Wi-Ex zBoost Signal Boosters for Cell Phones

Posted by Andrew at 6:36 PM on January 28, 2012

zBoost by Wi-Ex logo

zBoost by Wi-Ex is a range of signal extenders that will improve cell and mobile phone coverage in weak areas. Todd and Don discuss zBoost’s latest products from Sharon Cuppett, VP of Wi-Ex (and they get a mention on Wi-Ex’s blog)

Wi-Ex launched two new products at CES, the first being the zBoost 4G-V, a signal booster for 4G frequencies on Verizon, the largest mobile carrier with over 100 million subscribers. A whole 4G product line is under development, including dual- and tri-band boosters. Available in Q2 2012 for around $220.

The second is an in-car booster, the zBoost zForce, which comprises a cradle for the phone and a magnetised antenna for the outside of the vehicle. Powered from the cigarette adaptor, the zForce can boost coverage by about 10x, eliminating dead spots and increasing range in rural areas. Retailing at only $99, it will be available shortly.

(You’ll have to watch the Blue Microphone interview to realise this, but in this video Sharon borrows Don’s phone to demonstrate the zForce and then walks off with the phone at the end of the interview!)

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor, for the TechPodcast Network.

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