Reviews

Reviews of gadgets, hardware, software cloud services, and Operating systems

eBay takes on Pinterest with “Collections”

eBay takes on Pinterest with “Collections”

By on Apr 16, 2014 in Reviews |

If you use eBay a lot you may have noticed links for “collections” nearby the links for adding an item to your watch list. What’s this all about I hear you ask. Well, eBay are getting in on Pinterest’s action, that’s what. Collections are a new feature to arrive on the UK and European eBay websites. You may be used to using the watch list, and creating several lists to organise items you’re keeping an eye on. Collections is a very similar idea, except that collections are public and have a much more enticing visual design – much like Pinterest. It seems that eBay is hoping that the trend of people sharing the things they like, whether it be through Facebook likes or Pinterest pins, will help drive sales on the Internet’s de facto auction house. This has been coupled with the much more social design to eBay’s user profile pages – and here’s a link to my eBay profile. It is now possible to ‘follow’ other eBay users, and get updates on their activities. Additionally, individual collections can be followed to. Arguably, the latter is the more useful tool for someone trying to fine tune their “product stream” (my term) to a particular range of items. It’s an interesting move, and it could pay off, but it might not. I think it will depend on whether people’s urge to curate and share things is so great that they’ll do so wherever they can, including with eBay. The possible fly in the ointment is that eBay is now so old in ‘internet years’ that its users will probably have a set pattern of behaviour. At least the addition of collections isn’t jarring and intrusive. If you don’t want to use it, it doesn’t get in your way, but it’s there if you want to give it a whirl. Certainly, if you have found yourself going and buying items you’ve seen on Pinterest or Fancy, then having the same kind of curated content built into eBay will certainly streamline the process. Here’s a list of the collections I’ve curated so far: Raspberry Pi Kits Home Networking Google Nexus Accessories Novelty Smartphone Cases Windows 8 and RT Tablets Samsung Galaxy Accessories...

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Review – Wireless Portable Charger Plus

Review – Wireless Portable Charger Plus

By on Nov 12, 2013 in Reviews |

The third in my series of device reviews from Mobile Solar Chargers (MSC) is a portable wireless charger. The “Wireless portable charger plus” to be precise. If you have a Qi enabled device and want to charge up when away from a socket this 5,450 mAh charger is a compelling option. Earlier this year, I had never heard of a wireless (Qi) charging pad with a built-in battery. I got thinking that such a thing would be very cool and started searching eBay for the typical set of electronic curiosities that are exported from Hong Kong. What I found was the charging pad I’m talking about today from MSC’s eBay store. MSC actually sell three wireless charging pads. The one I’m reviewing in this post has no power-out ports, just a Micro USB input for charging its internal 5,450 mAh battery. Additionally, there is a 4,800 mAh portable charger with a wireless charging pad and a USB output port that costs £30. Then there is a mains-powered pad for £25. As described, the pad in this review only charges Qi enabled devices, it has no USB output, but it has the largest of the two capacities available. That means it’s a very featureless device to look at. On first impressions one could be forgiven for not being able to guess its purpose; which is exactly what I’d like to see from future tech! The base of the device has a rubber ring to keep the device stationary on a table. The base also features a button, which when pressed illuminates the charge indicators on the end of the device. There are four blue LEDs for charge level, a green LED to say that it is charging, and a red LED to let you know that the device is charging from its USB input. The charger is encased in glossy white plastic which makes it look modern and stylish. However, this also means that it’s possible for some devices to slip out of place. Alignment is the enemy wireless charging, so this lack of stability between charger and device is sometimes a problem. It really depends on your device. For example, the Nexus 4 has a perfectly smooth glass back...

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Review – Mobile Solar Chargers Executive Solar Charger

Review – Mobile Solar Chargers Executive Solar Charger

By on Nov 11, 2013 in Reviews |

Back again with my series of posts on portable chargers. This time I’m looking at a 6,000 mAh solar charger. Again this has been supplied from Mobile Solar Chargers. The “Executive solar mobile charger” is one of several solar power banks (i.e. portable chargers) sold by Mobile Solar Chargers. It’s the second largest that the shop sells. However, it isn’t quite as rugged as the Travel Solar Charger that is also a 6,000 mAh power bank. The device is similar to other power banks – it has a Micro USB port for topping up the internal battery but only one power-output USB port, and four blue LED charge indicators triggered by a key on the device. The executive charger is cased in a glossy black plastic, with a handle on the top of the device – which is very handy for hanging out in the sun. It’s disappointing that the charger can only charge one device at once, but at least the port supplies 2.1 Amps. The fact that it has one port, possibly speaks to the best scenario in which to use this device. Of course, the promise of solar power is free energy from the sky. However, the efficiency of photovoltaic cells is still lower than we’d like. The best way to use this charger is to charge it from the mains before you head off – say on a weekend break. Then, the solar panel will maintain a trickle charge to compensate for the drain incurred by charging your mobile devices. Most of my time testing the charger was done in the height of summer behind a glass window (I don’t get out as much as I’d like to!). In this situation I found it topped up about 5% day. Of course, glass will attenuate the most energetic sunlight wavelengths quite a lot. Therefore, you can expect that rate to at least double if you leave the charger outside, say by your tent, in direct sunlight all day. I would advise against leaving it on your car’s dashboard, as it will be starved of energetic UV light. All of that means you have 6,000mAh plus say another 10%-25% (depending on weather) to keep your phone going....

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Review – Premium Portable Power Bank

Review – Premium Portable Power Bank

By on Nov 10, 2013 in Reviews |

One of the oft-overlooked issues in mobile technology is that of battery life. For a heavy user even the best smartphones (with few exceptions) fail to get through the day. With that in mind, I’ve been testing out some portable chargers donated by Mobile Solar Chargers that I’ll be covering in the next few posts. The first device I tested was the “Premium portable power bank”. This device is a 12,000 mAh portable battery. For anyone who has seen the Proporta Turbo Charger, this device is very similar, except that it has nearly double the capacity. When you open the box you have the charger and one short and flat Micro USB cable. I like these flat cables as it prevents annoying twists being set into a cable. The complementary parts are somewhat barebones compared to Proporta who send a felt drawstring bag, two retractable cables and lots of interchangeable charging tips. However, I always find that retractable cables are a somewhat cumbersome and fragile, and the extra tips never get used. The power bank comes in white or black – I was sent the white one. The first thing that struck me (after having used Proporta’s model for so long) was the noticeable increase in both size (mainly length) and weight – it really is a lot heavier. Just like Proporta’s model, it has two USB ports for charging devices and a Micro USB port for charging. Also, it has four blue LEDs to indicate its charge level, which can be checked any time by pressing a key on its side. Where it differs from the Turbo charger is the amount of power it can output. Both this charger and its Porporta counterpart have a “high power” USB port that supplies 2.1 Amps for charging tablets. However, whereas the “low power” port on the Proporta Turbo charger only supplies 0.5 Amps (the same as a PC port), the Premium portable power bank gives 1.0 Amps (the same as a regular phone charger). This makes a big difference when keeping two devices topped up during the day. If you suffer from battery anxiety, and want to feel like your devices will never run out of juice, then you –...

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Review – Sonivo Nexus 7 Leather Case

Review – Sonivo Nexus 7 Leather Case

By on Nov 7, 2013 in Reviews |

Even though I haven’t written a review of it, I’ve had the 2013 Nexus 7 for a month or so, and am very happy with it. The folks at GearZap sent me a Nexus 7 case to review. Hence if you’re looking for a case, read on to see what I thought of Sonivo’s leather Nexus 7 case. To be honest, I haven’t been big on cases for my mobile kit. With the original Nexus 7, I had a clip-on Bluetooth keyboard also served as a case. However, my usage patterns have changed, and I’ve found myself going out more often and throwing my tablet in my bag. Anyone who does the same will know that bags full of tech might as well be a food blender – things get beaten up pretty quickly (unless you have an awesome bag with dedicated internal pockets). Originally, I ordered a cheap flip-case for the new Nexus 7 from eBay. It was mostly a hard shell kind of case with a segmented front-cover (much like the iPad Mini flip case). It worked pretty well apart from the magnet. It was hit and miss as to whether the Nexus 7 could detect it and wake up and go to sleep as the case was opened and closed. So I pretty much got what I paid for. A couple of weeks later the Sonivo case was sent along to me from GearZap. To be honest my first impression was that it was a fine case, but that it wasn’t (aesthetically) for me – dare I say it felt a tad too feminine? After just a couple of days that first impression was done away with. The case is leather, and comes in a range of colours. As you can see in the photos, I was sent the blue one, which took a little getting used to, but it has grown on me. The first thing I’ll point out about this is that it has a magnetic seal which is 100% compatible with the Nexus 7’s sensor. That means you don’t have to use the power – the Nexus 7 will wake up when you open the case, and go to sleep when you close...

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Review of the Mu folding USB UK mains adapter

By on Aug 4, 2013 in Reviews |

If you’re the type who has to carry a phone charger everywhere you go, then you need something that’s small and compact. That’s easier said than done with the sturdy old three pronged UK mains plug. That’s where the Mu USB adapter comes in, its folding and pivoting design makes it easy to slip in a pocket while you’re on your travels. The design of the Mu adapter has been on the go for a while. It was originally devised by designer Min-Kyu Choi, where it was originally envisioned as a replacement to for plugs on the end of a mains lead. In this original incarnation, a bar connecting the live and earth pins rotated so that all three pins were in line – this is what they call PVT Technology. Behind the pins, there were two panels which folded out as a socket cover that also exposed a little handle so that the plug could be easily pulled out of a socket. The design was taken further with a multi-plug adapter which would connect to multiple plugs in their folded configuration. Neither of those visions made it to market. However, what has made it to market is the USB mains adapter version of the PVT’ing plug (pardon the pun). The adapter supplies 1 Amps at 5.0 volts (the standard voltage for USB), which puts it in line with most mains adapters that are supplied with smartphones. However, that also means it’s insufficient to charge a tablet, but Made in the Mind (the company behind PVT plugs) say that a tablet version of the adapter is the next product to be released. Bear in mind that it was “coming soon” in 2012, though). The USB version of the PVT plug has the socket cover concealing the pins of the plug. So you must fold those back first, then rotate the pins in to position. It’s as simple as that. There’s a single USB socket on the back where a USB cable will be connected. I hope that when Made in the Mind come up with a tablet version that they can consider putting two USB sockets, say one at 2.1 Amps and a second at 1.0 Amps to make...

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