Archive for February, 2013
Lately a large number of wireless audio products have emerged such as latest-generation wireless headphones, iPods, cell phones and wireless amplifier products which promise to cut the cord. I will take a look at some of the newest gadgets and technologies to find out how well they work and in which situations they work best.
Products can be categorized into products with built-in and those with optional wireless capability. Streaming audio products will often have a plug-in slot for adding a wireless LAN card. Latest generation iPods and cell phones already come with built-in WiFi and Bluetooth support.
Bluetooth is a fairly low-cost solution but has some drawbacks which are often overlooked.
1) Limited range
Bluetooth devices typically only have a 30-foot range which limits Bluetooth to single-room applications.
2) Low data rate – audio compression
Bluetooth reliably supports data transmission rates of around 1 Mbps only which is not enough for uncompressed CD-quality audio. Therefore Bluetooth applies audio compression. This is less critical though for compressed audio such as MP3 audio but excludes Bluetooth from use in high-quality audio applications.
3) Audio latency
Due to audio compression, Bluetooth will introduce a signal delay of at least 10 ms which will cause the audio to be slightly out of sync in case of video and real-time applications. This is again less of a problem for MP3 players.
4) No multiple headphone support
Bluetooth does not support any number of headphones which may be a problem if you have a larger number of people who want to listen to headphones from a single transmitter device.
WiFi is another widely used wireless protocol that is also suitable for audio streaming. WiFi does support uncompressed audio but will have problems transmitting to a large number of wireless receivers simultaneously. Due to the fairly high power consumption it is rarely used in wireless headphones though. WiFi is convenient for streaming audio from a PC however since almost all PCs have WiFi access.
Wireless speakers and wireless amplifier products for home theater speakers typically use their own proprietary protocol. Entry-level wireless headphones and speakers typically still use FM transmission which offers low cost but is prone to noise and audio distortion.
More advanced wireless protocols are based on digital formats which eliminate audio degradation and incorporate advanced features such as error correction to cope with interference from competing wireless devices.
Advanced wireless amplifier devices support uncompressed digital audio streaming to preserve the original audio quality. Some of these protocols allow streaming to an unlimited number of wireless amplifiers which is convenient for whole-house audio distribution. Read the rest of this entry »
A camera is a very handy gadget but most people go overboard when buying them. They spend hundreds of dollars on fancy cameras that they hardly know how to use correctly. If you want a simple camera that you can rely on to take great pictures of all occasions then you should look for the best digital camera that fits your pocket. There are quite a few cameras in this price range and you’ll find that most of them are quite adequate for your needs. In fact, these may be point-and-shoot cameras but they are still highly sophisticated.
It goes without saying that the best digital camera will not take professional quality pictures. However, you can definitely take great shots of all birthdays, anniversary and other special occasions with a reasonably good camera. Since there are so many different options available these days, you need to make sure that you choose the right one or else you might end up paying for camera features that you do not require. Be sure to look for:
- A minimum of 12 megapixels, although some cameras do offer a couple more megapixels in this price range
- At least 10x optical zoom, but this can easily go up to 18x zoom
- High speed consecutive shooting so that you do not miss out on significant moments
- Very clear display (screen should be at least 3in in length).
- A variety of editing features such as cropping, coloring and filtering right on the camera
- HD video recording
- GPS tracker so that your photos can be tagged automatically.
- Ergonomic design so that you can handle it without any trouble. It should also not be too large that it cannot fit into a purse or a pocket.
- Easy to use so that you can get fantastic pictures even if you are rushed for time
- Reasonably long battery life Read the rest of this entry »
There are a lot of things to consider when you are shopping for that laptop, the two most important specifications however are going to be your processor and your RAM. Here I am going to explain some of the fundamental features of both so you can make a better choice when buying a laptop for yourself.
Intel the world’s largest semi conductor maker has begun the process of transitioning into a quad core line of processors. Their range is branded as Core i3, i5 and i7. If you are hunting for a bargain then you could choose its older Core 2 models, but you would be better off sticking to its latest range.
You could also consider a processor from Intel rival AMD which has a compelling range of products branded as Turion II and Athlon II. If you are a budget shopper then these processes are well worth considering and will serve the purpose for most tasks. The big difference between processors made by AMD is they are simply not as fast as those made by Intel and they tend to act as a drain on battery life.
The most important task is working out exactly how much processing power you need. In general the Core i3 or i5 are suitable for most people. If however you do a lot of video editing then you are going to need a more powerful processor. Gamers in particular believe they need a powerful processor but in practice can actually get away with a slower chip.
Quad core chips still cost a lot and also tend to drain battery life quite quickly. You can identify a quad core chip by the Q denoted next to the machine’s model number. If you use your laptop as your main machine, and not taking it out on the road, or you are a gamer or video editor, the quad chip case becomes more compelling.
The decision over processor gets trickier when you are ordering a custom laptop from a manufacturer. You should as a rule avoid the most expensive chipsets on offer and go for the second or third least costliest chips. The increase in price is usually proportional to performance. You should not spend more than $150 upgrading a processor. If you are simply surfing the internet or word processing, even a dual core processor is more than adequate.
4GB RAM is the standard memory offered by most manufacturers even on low end laptops and that is really all you need. Starting prices for a laptop with 4GB RAM are just under $500. In the past manufacturers used to make consumers pay through the nose when they upgraded the memory whilst custom ordering. More recently, this practice seems to have changed, and only Apple really still does this.
If upgrading your memory to 4GB costs you less than $90, which is what it costs separately, then you should definitely upgrade. Upgrading beyond 4GB is going to be expensive, and the only real reason to do it is if you are video editing, and even then it’s still not absolutely necessary when you compare it against the expense. For a desktop, spending an additional $100 is no big deal, but for a laptop where it is going to cost you an additional $300 for 8GB, it’s simply not worth it unless your laptop is your primary video editing device. Read the rest of this entry »