Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks

Tag: review

Shure PG48 Microphone Review

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 5:44 PM on May 9, 2012

Shure PG48I do a small non-tech related podcast and this month I decided I needed to upgrade my equipment. I had previously been using the headphones that I use with my android phone and after 10 episodes I decided it was time to do an upgrade. I have been following and listening to the Podcast Answer Man, Cliff Ravenscraft for several years now, and he recommends getting a dynamic XLR microphone for office recording. Although he does love the Heil PR40 it is a little steep for my bank account. I ended up getting the Shure PG48 Vocal Cardioid Dynamic Microphone. The microphone comes with a Mic clip, a 15 foot XLR cable and a carrying pouch. I also purchased a XLR female to 1/4 Male adapter separately. The Shure PG48-XLR list price is $49.00, but was on sale for $39.00 through Amazon. This is a dynamic microphone so it is built to pick up sound from the front while filtering out most sound from the side and back. It is supposed to be able to handle extreme volume level without distortion. It has a frequency response of 70 to 15,000 Hz. The microphone itself feels good and sturdy. It has an on/off switch which I love. I have done a short test of the Shure PG48-XLR which I have enclosed here.

Testing the P48

I still waiting for the mic stand I ordered and my mixer before my current setup is complete. If you listen to the audio above especially with headphones, you can clearly hear the difference. With the PG48 there is very little background noise and its much clearer. I have to admit I am not an audio snob, but even to my ears the PG48 sounds much better. At this point I am glad I purchased it.

Touchscreen Kleen Review

Posted by Andrew at 4:33 PM on May 8, 2012

Fingerprints are the bane of modern life. You’ve got your beautiful new tablet, you show it to your friends and before you can say, “oleic acid”, there’s a horde of greasy smudges all over the screen. Aaargh!!!

Here at Geek News Central we’ve seen several solutions to this problem, from carbon-based wipes to fashion self-cling pads. Touchscreen Kleen adds to the portfolio: it’s a special-formulated spray combined with a microfibre cloth.

TouchscreenKleen Package

It’s pretty simply to use….turn off the screen, squirt some cleaning solution onto the microfibre cloth and polish the screen with the cloth. Job done.
And it really is that easy. I cleaned tablets, smartphones, LCD monitors and they all came up looking like new, completely smudge free. Very impressed.

The microfibre cloth is washable so if you have to clean a really dirty monitor screen, the grubby cloth can be washed before the next use.

Touchscreen Kleen is available in two sizes, 15 ml and 50 ml, currently on special offer at £3.99 and £5.99 respectively in the online store.

Disclosure – Touchscreen Kleen was provided for review by Screen-Kleen Ltd.

The New iPad Review

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 5:37 PM on March 16, 2012

iPad My new white iPad arrived today, a 16 GB WiFi only version.  I previously had the first generation iPad, so this review is for someone who is going from the first generation to the third generation iPad. I am aware that some of the things I will talk about were already available in the iPad 2. The first thing I noticed when I took the iPad out of the box is it feels more balanced than the first generation iPad (aka iPad 1). When I was reading on the iPad 1 I always felt like it was about to tip forward, that isn’t happening on this one so far. However it does get heavy fast if you are holding it up to shoot a video. I predict that someone will come out with a tripod for the iPad fairly quickly, because I do see potential for it being used to film videos. If you are replacing an iPad I would recommend updating all your apps first and then use the backup to set up your new iPad. Once you finish setting it up you can’t help but notice how beautiful the screen appears with the retina display.  Apps that are retina display ready really just pop. I almost don’t need my reading glasses when looking at a retina display app. I think that for any app that is video or image related being retina display capable will be a must. I have tried the voice dictation and it works very well, as long as you don’t speak too fast and you enunciate. It does work better in a quiet room and if you use headphones with a mic, then without. I love the WiFi mirroring, which wasn’t available in the iPad 1. In the iPad 1 you could stream video and music, but that was all. Now I can mirror exactly what is on my iPad to the Apple TV. To do this you have to turn on mirroring on through the music application in the dock first. If you had the iPad 2 I realize this is old news, but I know a lot of people who went from iPad 1 to the current iPad and skipped the iPad 2 where this is new.

I am very happy with the new iPad. If you haven’t gotten an iPad yet or are still using the first generation iPad I would recommend taking a look at the current generation of iPad. If you have the WiFi version of the iPad 2 I not sure it is worth the upgrade, although I have to say the retina display does look beautiful.

Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Router with DD-WRT

Posted by Andrew at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2012

On review here is Buffalo’s AirStation Nfiniti HighPower dual band wireless-n router and access point with DD-WRT pre-installed, aka WZR-HP-AG300H. I’ve had the AirStation on loan from Buffalo for a couple of months and it’s really rather good.

Buffalo Nfiniti Router

As you can see from the pictures, it’s black and about 18 cm tall, excluding the antennae which swivel and tilt to give the best Wi-fi coverage. The unit can support two 300 Mb/s networks, one in the 2.4 GHz band, the other in the 5 GHz range.

Buffalo Nfiniti Router - rear

Round the back, there a four Gigabit Ethernet ports and as this a router, there’s the extra WAN port (the blue one) for connecting to an Ethernet modem (or hotel network port). There’s a single USB socket too that can used either by a storage device or by a 3G modem. In a nice touch, a USB extension lead is supplied, presumably to get the 3G modem positioned away from the high power antennas.

The supplied AirStation Navigator CD gets the AirStation router up-and-running with the minimum of fuss via a straightforward setup wizard. However, it’s largely superfluous as all the configuration of the AirStation can be done through the web interface. A handy tool on the CD that will find the AirStation on your network and provide the IP address. Once you’ve got that pasted into your web browser, you can access a whole plethora of settings.

DD-WRT Interface

Seriously, there are an awful lot of settings in here, from the usual IP setup through to setting up an advert supported Wi-Fi hotspot. I counted no less than 41 pages of settings and frankly, some of the stuff I had to look up to find out what it was about. Fortunately, you can leave the vast majority of the settings at their defaults and there is a setup assistant to start you off. All the usual features of a wireless router are here and then some. If you do find it all too intimidating, it is possible to flash the firmware back to more typical Buffalo wireless router software.

In use, the AirStation was fire-and-forget. I setup the router a few weeks before Christmas and since then I’ve only had power-cycle the device once, which in my experience is very good. Performance was also good with no problems streaming HD media from a network NAS and QoS settings can prioritise video and gaming traffic over other packets. I had a wide range of devices connected to the AirStation including laptops, Android smartphones, an HP TouchPad and a Nintendo Wii, with no lock-ups or unexpected drops apart from the one mentioned previously.

Using the Android app Wifi Analyzer, the AirStation’s range was a few metres better than my other 11n wireless access point, but whether that was attributable to the “HighPower” or the directional antennas is hard to tell. Perhaps it doesn’t matter as long as the extra distance is there.

Overall, this is an excellent wireless router that should be seriously considered by anyone who wants to tweak performance to the max.

The Buffalo AirStation Nfiniti Router is available from the usual retailers for around £80. Thanks to Buffalo for the loan of the WZR-HP-AG300H.

NX80 NoiseHush EarBud Review

Posted by geeknews at 12:04 AM on December 29, 2011

I received a pair of NX80 NoiseHush EarBuds to review over a month ago. When I was wearing them I was bragging to my kids how nice they sounded. It was not long after I reviewed them, that the earbuds disappeared from the review box I keep in the office. This afternoon after questioning a certain 15 year old on where they went, the NX80 NoiseHush EarBuds are back in my possession temporarily.

Seeing my daughter has had them for about a month, I asked her what she thought of them, as she was using them with her hand me down iPhone. She said they where really nice, as she as pleading to get them back. I asked her why she liked them, and she said because they sounded really good.  I have to admit for the low price range, these earbuds deliver a very nice dynamic rang especially in low frequencies.

The NX80 NoiseHush Earbuds feature an In-line microphone as well, that is acoustically tuned to filter out external noises. I played with this feature quite a bit in trying to determine how effective this filter is. It does a decent job for the earbud price range.  The earbuds also feature a  control button that is about chest level,  that allows you to switch between calls and your music with just a click.

Overall they are great value for the price @ $19.95.  They come with 4 different sized ear inserts and a nice carrying pouch. My wife now want’s a pair as well, and I have given the review set back to the 15 year old.

Boogie Board Rip Hands On Review

Posted by Andrew at 4:00 AM on November 25, 2011

Boogie Board RipThe Boogie Board Rip from Improv Electronics is an electronic clipboard that will save handwritten notes and drawings to Adobe‘s .pdf format for later transfer to a PC via USB. You draw or write with the included stylus on the pressure-sensitive 9.5″ dark monochrome LCD screen, which results in light coloured lines and writing.  When you want to save your work, you simply press the “Save” button at the top. To start over, the “Erase” button wipes the screen. It’s that easy.

Here’s a few scribblings and the complementary .pdf. I’m no artist. That’s an A4 notebook behind it for scale.

Improv Electronics Boogie Board Rip

Improve Electronics Boogie Board Rip PDF

I’m not sure exactly how the stylus and the screen work together to record the image as any stylus can be used to write on the screen, but only writing from the included stylus will be recorded in the saved .pdf. Sometimes, I found that I wasn’t pressing hard enough for all the lines to be recorded; if you look at the picture of the hedgehog, you’ll see that the drawing is much spikier than the .pdf. This was an early trial picture and you get used to pressing that little bit more firmly.

Boogie Board Rip Hedgehog

Boogie Board Rip Hedgehog PDF

The internal memory is only 8 MB but this is sufficient for around 200 .pdfs. Getting the .pdfs off the device is simple – just connect up via micro USB and the Rip appears as an external drive. I had no problems connecting it up to both Windows and Linux machines. The Rip has an internal rechargeable battery which charges via the USB and lasts ages – the manufacturer suggests a week of normal use and I can see no reason to disagree.

I found the Rip to be a great partner for tools such as Evernote. I could take notes in a meeting and then transfer the notes into Evernote, creating a chronological record of meetings and discussion. Personally, I was looking for a simple paper notebook replacement that was a relatively cheap and robust, and nowhere near as expensive as a full tablet.

In the end, I had mixed feelings about the Rip. It does what it does well, but it’s not the complete package that I need it to be for the Rip to replace my A4 notebook.

First, the 9.5″ screen is too small. Being used to A4 notebooks, I struggled with the narrower page and often used the Rip in landscape mode rather than portrait to get extra width.  If you are a Moleskine person, more used to the A5 format, it will perhaps be less of an issue but I look forward to a larger screen.

Second, the “resolution” of the screen and stylus combination isn’t detailed or fine enough. When I write with my normal handwriting, it’s difficult to read the writing on the screen because the lines are quite broad. As a result, I have to write larger which compounds the small screen issue. To be fair, the saved .pdf does record the handwriting accurately so perhaps I just need to get over the display and rely on the .pdf.

Boogie Board Rip Handwriting

Boogie Board Rip Handwriting PDF

I admit that I have specific needs so I would also emphasise the Rip’s good points.

First it’s very easy to use. There are two buttons, “Erase” and “Save / Wake” and when you do press the buttons, the device responds almost instantly. There’s no PIN or password to enter.

Second, it’s lightweight with little difference between it and a paper notebook.

Third, the saving of drawing and notes straight to a .pdf is the brilliant bit. No need for scanning or special paper. I can instantly upload the .pdf to Evernote (or Microsoft’s OneNote) for a historical record of meetings and other activities.
Finally, it’s fun and you’ll never run out of paper.

In summary, Improv Electronics’ Boogie Boards are styled as paper replacements and they’re not far wrong but for me it’s just not there. At the moment, the Rip is best suited to drawings and sketches but falls short for handwriting, so I’ll be keep my A4 notebook for now. However, I genuinely look forward to the Rip 2, which will I’m sure will have a larger screen and a more detailed stylus.

ATEM Television Studio Review

Posted by geeknews at 12:04 AM on October 8, 2011

I had very high expectations for the ATEM Television Studio by BlackMagicDesign and when it was originally released several of the promised features where not ready but have been included by firmware updates last year.

Let me start with the basics the ATEM Television Studio is a low priced, high powered 6 channel switcher where you have a combination of  HDMI & SDI for a max of 4 inputs of a single type..  It has  2 Program SDI outs, 1 Multiview SDI out, 1 HDMI Multiview out, and 1 HDMI Program out. Note: The HDMI inputs allow you to start with inexpensive consumer grade cameras versus more expensive cameras with SDI Outputs. Review the entire spec sheet over at BlackMagicDesign.

You control the switcher via the ATEM Software control panel software (Mac/PC) that communicates to the switcher via Ethernet. The unit has a USB 3.0 connection that can be used to set the IP of the device or provide program video out to a secondary laptop, (more on that in a moment) Audio is injected through a BNC AES/EBU connection.

Let me add a disclaimer here that I am a Tricaster TCXD 855 owner, and am used to spending big money on broadcast quality gear. The ATEM Television Studio is priced just at $995.00 which is 25x less than my Tricaster. So dollar for dollar the ATEM Television Studio does amazing things for the price!

At NAB I got excited about several of the product features that really gives this device serious added value.

1. The ability to record H.264 high quality video/audio from within the ATEM Control Panel without the need for secondary software.

2. The ability to view the camera inputs on a external monitor and switch the from the ATEM Software Control Panel from the computer.

Unlike most folks who would mount this in a rack, my plan was to incorporate the ATEM Television Studio into my travel system. My shows Video quality recording has always suffered when I travel With this new gear and so far has lived up to my expectations. 

UPDATE: See how I have designed a integrated solution that is a 4 channel travel system.

In a future update, they could sweeten the pot and add a streaming component as well so we would not need Wirecast / Vidblaster. If Wirecast and Vidblaster can do it they can. This would make this a true mobile television studio.

The ATEM Television Studio is a great piece of gear at a great price.

Apple TV 2 Review

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 4:37 PM on September 24, 2011 I picked up an Apple TV. The setup was simple just plug in the power cord and then connect an HDMI cable from the Apple TV to a HD monitor. You do have to buy the HDMI cable separately. At that point you either have to connect an Ethernet cable to hard wire it, or connect it to your wireless network. If you have a network password like mine this can be tedious using the remote that comes with the Apple TV, thank goodness you only have to do it once. The next thing I did was turn on home sharing, so I can watch movies that are on my network thru my Apple TV. This reminded me that I do have some videos that need to be convert to the correct format. I will probably use Handbrake to do that. I also need to go back and enter better metadata, I am getting unknown video a lot.

One of the reasons I picked up an Apple Tv was to use AirPlay with it and my iPad (version 1) and iPhone 4. It worked perfectly with the iPad, I love having the ability to send videos from my iPad and then watch them on a big screen. However, I work on my iPad a lot, so I wanted to make sure the iPhone also worked with AirPlay. At first I tried using AirPlay with Showyou a video application I had on my iPhone and it didn’t work. I thought maybe it didn’t work thru Showyou, so I tried it thru the YouTube and it still wasn’t working. In fact I wasn’t even seeing the AirPlay icon at all. I double checked and they were both on the same network, which I knew could be a problem. I finally found the answer on the Apple Forum, I power the iPhone down completely and then restarted it and then AirPlay worked.

So far after using the Apple TV for only a couple of hours I really like it and am glad I purchased it. I did have the original Apple TV and I jail broke it and now I am deciding if I want to jailbreak this one. If you have a jail broken Apple TV 2, I would like to know why you did it, did you run into any problems doing it and do you like the results.

My Initial Review of Lion

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 11:36 AM on July 20, 2011

LionThis is not full review of Lion, but just my initial look. I downloaded Lion as soon as it became available in the Mac App Store. I know that some of you are saying you should have waited, but when it comes to OS I like to live dangerously and try the newest thing when it becomes available. It took about 55 minutes to download, there was one glitch when it stopped downloading and said please try again, I hit resume and both the download and my heart restarted. Once it finishes downloading it then starts the install process. At this point you have to agree to the EULA and fill in your user id and password. The installation itself takes about 35 minutes, once it is done the computer restarts. Clearly this not something you want to do if you are in a hurry.

At this point click on the Assistant Icon in the Dock, you can read about gestures, at the bottom of the text it will say continue to Lion, click on that. At that point the OS will tell you if you have any applications that are not Lion compatible and move them to a special folder. I had one, TotalFinder which fortunately I don’t use. At this point Lion starts up. The first thing I did was go into Magic Trackpad in System Preferences and check what gestures were available, you can uncheck the ones you don’t want. If you use a mouse, then go to the mouse icon under system preferences. While doing this I determined that Lion makes the MagicPref app I had installed to use with [Snow Leopard]( leopard) unnecessary. Opening up. Apple Mail also lead to another discovery, many third-party add ons may not be ready for Lion. I have both Mailtags and Mail Act-On installed, neither of them show up in Apple Mail under Lion. Mail Act-on does have a prerelease version you can download. If you have a favorite add-on you may want to check to see if it is ready for Lion, before installing Lion. Another thing I noticed right away was in the upper right hand corner in the menu, was my user name. Now you can easily switch users, this is great if you have multiple users using the same computer. The finder window also allows you to view your files, folder and application how you want including by category. This can be quite helpful if you have a lot of applications or files and folders.

Do you need to download Lion right away, no there is no reason to be in a hurry. Is there any major reason to wait (other than application and add-on incompatibility) I say no. The final decision is up to you, do the research and make the best decision based on your circumstances. As for me I am happy I installed Lion. How about you have you installed it, what do you think. If you haven’t installed it and you are on a Mac why not?

HP TouchPad Mini Review

Posted by Andrew at 5:00 AM on July 13, 2011

My HP TouchPad arrived on my doorstep last Tuesday and it’s been an interesting week since I opened the box. Here are a few thoughts on the first WebOS tablet.

First impressions do count and the box itself started well. It has an almost airtight sliding drawer construction that makes it impossible to open quickly. This slowly reveals the TouchPad as it pulls gently out. Once you eventually have the ‘Pad in your hand, it’s obvious that this is a well-constructed device. The front is glass, presumably of the Gorilla variety, and the black is a hard shiny plastic with the HP logo in the centre. It is heavier than I was expecting but not uncomfortably so.

As a Pre 2 owner, I was right at home with WebOS from the start. Some of the gestures are missing, such as the back swipe, but the main upwards swipe from the bottom of the screen persists. Along with the multitasking this is the heart of WebOS. And it works very well. I’m probably biased but I definitely think that WebOS is the best tablet OS by far.

This would be for naught if there weren’t the apps to run on the OS. And it would be wrong to say that there are loads, becuase there aren’t. But they’re coming and each day new apps are released specifically for the TouchPad. Most of the phone-based apps also work in a kind of emulator but you don’t get the benefit of the big screen. The TouchPad apps are pretty good and there’s some nice free stuff that HP has presumably helped with. The Epicurious app is chock full of great recipes and there are Sky News and USA Today apps as well. Of course, Angry Birds makes its obligatory appearance.

Other commentators have mentioned that the TouchPad is a bit laggy. Laggy is the wrong word – it pauses sometimes. When you are actually doing stuff, it’s pretty quick – I have no complaints there. For example, doing a bit of web surfing is as quick as you’d get at your laptop, but if I switch to the email app and I change to a different email account, the app sometimes seems to pause as if it’s checking for new email. These are generally minor irritations - looking at my TouchPad now, I’m listening to music with a weather app, email and three web browsing sessions open. Flicking between the apps is smooth and they respond instantly once they pop to the foreground.

What else is good? The Beats Audio is very impressive – I think it’s possibly the best MP3 player I’ve listened to.
The Skype client is integrated into the Messaging App and seems to work well. I Skype-d my father with video from the UK to Shanghai and there was a bit of lag at the beginning of the call but the call got better as it went on. (Of course there are a number of factors involved in Skype calls).
Ms Office document editing isn’t ready yet but the viewer has handled all the Office docs and Adobe .pdfs that I’ve thrown at it.
Video plays well but the hi-res screen shows up the limitations of the source. What looked really crisp on my phone now looks a bit pixellated in places. Perhaps I should have bought the 32 GB version after all.
Flash works as well as Flash ever does. The BBC’s iPlayer works ok but I had a bit of trouble with Channel 4′s on demand programming.
Bizarrely, there’s no calculator app. C’mon guys – how long would it have taken to take the basic calculator from the Pre and re-skin it?

There’s a nice three pane app interface that I hadn’t seen before. It’s used to good advantage in the email app, with the left column showing accounts, the middle showing the email headers and the right showing the email body. By tapping on a little III icon, you can get the pane to expand over the panes to the left. It’s very slick and very handy.

One personal peeve is that certain apps insist on running in a particular orientation, which as far as I’m concerned is upside down when I’m holding the TouchPad in my hand. I can understand that some apps want to run in landscape rather than portrait but wanting to run a particular way up is nonsense.

Overall, I’m pleased with my purchase - for the purposes of disclosure this was a personal purchase and not a review unit. There are some rough edges and there is a lack of apps, but there’s nothing a few software updates won’t fix.