Gadgets

UNIC UC46 1200LM LED Multimedia Projector Review: How Good Can A Sub-$100 Projector Be?

The UNIC UC46 is the company’s latest compact projector. Boasting similar specs to the company’s popular UC40 model, the new model adds improved cooling and UNi-Link, a feature that allows you to stream multimedia via wifi.

I want to say thanks to GearBest for sending me a sample to review. You can purchase the UNIC UC46 from them here.

Check Price at GearBest

What’s In The Box?

UNIC-UC46-Review-Inside-The-Box

UNIC have provided a respectable set of inclusions:

  • 1x UNIC UC46 LED Projector
  • 1x IR Remote
  • 1x Composite Cable
  • 1x Power Cable
  • 1x English User Manual

UNIC UC46 Projector Review: Design

The design of the UNIC U46 is predictably similar to its predecessor. Essentially a large black box, the device definitely nails the projector aesthetic. There’s a subtle geometric design on the top now that looks nice and helps give the projector some style cred.

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The front of the unit features the projector lens protected by a removable rubber cap. The car’s only held in place with friction and would fall out with a some jostling so if you’re transporting it, you may want to find a better lens cap.

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The top of the unit has some controls for navigating the menus and controlling media playback. There’s also dials for adjusting focus and keystone correction to get the clearest picture.

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All the ports are located on the right and rear of the unit. The right side features a 3.5mm audio output jack, composite video output, HDMI In, an SD card slot and two USB ports, although one can only be used for charging devices whilst the other can be used for media playback. The rear has the IR sensor and VGA port (hidden at the very bottom of the unit).

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Underneath the projector, there’s a riser. It’s essentially a long screw that allows you to tilt the projector so you can easily position the projector on a table. It’s pretty handy when you can’t raise the projector high enough.

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UNIC UC46 Projector Review: Using It

Powering up the projector is done via the power button. It takes a few seconds to boot up before you can access the interface.

There’s a fan to keep the unit cool and it’s not particularly quiet. Thankfully, it’s slightly quieter than UNIC UC40 but you’ll definitely be able to hear it during quiet scenes.

The UI is identical to the that of the UNIC UC40. It’s colorful, with several tiles for each type of content: movies, music, pictures and text.

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Oddly, there’s no Settings menu item. Instead, settings is brought up via the menu button on either the remote or projector itself.

The file browser is basic, with icons representing the content. Pausing over a video causes it to start playing. However, you have to hit the play button to actually start playing the video as pressing OK adds the video to the playlist instead. It’s a little unintuitive but you get used to it.

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The inbuilt media player does a decent job of playing back the most common formats. I didn’t have issues with 30fps H.264 videos, MPEG2 and the like, though don’t expect more demanding videos to work. Attempts to play 4K H.264, H.265 and Hi10p didn’t work at all. Similarly, Dolby audio isn’t supported so you’ll either need to transcode or add a dedicated media player.

One thing to note is that the UNIC UC46 doesn’t seem to have any onboard memory. Settings will be saved as long as you keep the unit plugged in but it seemed to reset itself as soon as I unplugged it from the wall. That’s not an issue if you’re keeping the projector in one place but could be an issue if you’re wanting to transport it around.

UNIC UC46 Projector Review: Image Quality

Normally, I’d review a projector describing looking at the picture quality relative to something like an LCD TV. However, that’s really not fair to a sub-$100 projector that won’t even get close to units 10 times the price.

The UNIC UC46 boasts 1200 lumens of brightness but that’s still not enough to overpower ambient light. I wouldn’t bother trying to use the projector in a well-lit room.

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However, turning off the lights changes things dramatically. The image is bright and colors are vivid. Too vivid in fact – I recommend turning off the unit’s super color setting it as it tends to overstaturate the image.

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There’s a number of image presets but I found all of the to be pretty awful, with a tendency to oversaturate images. That said, after playing with the settings, I was able to get a pretty nice looking image.

The 800×480 resolution (DVD quality) is definitely lower than what we’re used to in the world of 1080p and 4K television. That said, detail is reasonable enough for movies or gaming.

For watching a movie, playing some games or as a screen for the kids, it’s pretty perfect given its sub-$100 price tag.

You’ll need to focus the image using the focus and keystone correction wheels to get maximum sharpness though sharpness falls off from the centre of the image. Using keystone correction exacerbates this so the closer you can get the projector to level, the better the image quality.

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When I reviewed the UNIC UC40, I complained about the transparent UNIC logo constantly in the top right corner of the screen – even over video. Thankfully, common sense has prevailed and the UC46 doesn’t exhibit the same flaw. You’ll just get unadulterated images.

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You may also notice the black dot in some of my photos. Unfortunately, my unit had a dead pixel which, given the 800×480 resolution, meant that I had an omnipresent black dot on the screen. However, I’d wager it’s just bad luck.

UNIC UC46 Projector Review: Audio Quality

The UNIC UC46 also boasts on-board sound for an all-in-one setup. However, the unit’s tiny 1.5W downward-firing speaker predictably sounds hollow and lacks bass. It’s functional but I’d strongly recommend taking advantage of the 3.5mm output jack to connect the projector up to a better quality speaker like the Blitzwolf F1 Bluetooth speaker.

UNIC UC46 Projector Review: Wireless Streaming

The biggest feature of the UNIC UC46 is “UNi-Link” – UNIC’s wifi-based solution for streaming content straight to the projector without any wires. Miracast, DLNA and Airplay are supported, covering off the most common standards.

After changing over to the UNi-Link input, just connect to the UNi-Link WiFi hotspot using the password displayed on the projector.  Afterwards, navigate to the provided IP address and use the web-based UI to connect the projector up to your wireless network.

The web-based configuration tool is basic at best and looks more like a relic from the MySpace era than anything else – complete with Clipart-style GIFs. It’s hideous and thankfully, setup is probably the only time you’ll need to use it.

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There’s also a remote on there that has the key features but keeps the same hideous design. I’d recommend you stick with the physical remote.

The actual streaming features work really well. I tried streaming video from my server using BubbleUPNP and to worked flawlessly. I was able to dream 720p and 1080p H.264 videos via WiFi without any buffering.

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AirPlay and AirPlay mirroring worked using my iPhone 6 on iOS9 pretty much flawlessly. I did have the occasional situation where I couldn’t play the next video. However, such glitches are pretty common with unofficial Airplay implementations across the board.

Should You Get One?

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For its price, the UNIC UC46 is a real bargain. As long as you have realistic expectations of a projector that costs only $75, the UNIC UC46 checks a surprising amount of boxes. Whilst the DVD resolution is on the low side, it’s sufficient for watching movies or playing games on. Combine that with the in-built media player and Uni-Link wifi streaming functions and you’ve got a great package for cheap entertainment.

Getting One

You can get the UNIC UC46 from GearBest for around $75.

 

Check Price at GearBest

Alternatively, it’s available from Amazon.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit Review: DIY Smart Home for under $60

There’s no doubt that smart home and home automation gadgets are everywhere, particularly if you’re looking for a DIY smart home system. However, most are expensive so when I had a chance to review the $60 Xiaomi smart home kit, I was definitely interested.

Consisting of the Xiaomi smart home gateway and several wireless sensors for only $60 (!?), the Xiaomi Smart Home kit seems to be a comprehensive and affordable DIY smart home system. Is it worth it? Read my review to find out.

Thanks to GearBest for sending me a sample to review.

Check Price at GearBest

Alternatively, it’s also available from GeekBuying, Amazon, and Banggood.

In This Review

What’s in the Box?

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

I’ve been sent a few different Xiaomi Smart Home components:

  • Xiaomi Smart Home Gateway
  • Motion Detector Sensor
  • Magnetic Door Sensor
  • Smart Button

There’s also a smart wifi-enabled plug and a temperature/humidity sensor that also integrates with the setup too.

All of the sensors come with additional adhesive strips which is a nice touch.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit Review: Hardware

Xiaomi’s smart home kit is built around the Smart Home gateway which uses the familiar white, minimalist design of other Xiaomi products.

The gateway plugs directly into the wall. Fortunately, the Chinese plug is compatible with Australian sockets, but other countries will need to pick up an adapter.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

In terms of design, a large speaker grill dominates the front of circular device, with a small multi-function button located on the side.

There’s a circular LED strip that’s capable of outputting an impressive 16 million colors. This lets you use different colors for various features, such as white for a night light and red when an alarm trips.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

The onboard speaker is decent. It’s reasonably loud (though it won’t replace a traditional security alarm) but certain sounds caused some vibrational distortion. I wasn’t expecting home theatre grade audio but it’s a little disappointing. Thankfully, I found I rarely used the speaker.

The other sensors follow the same minimalist design principles. Each device is compact, which makes it easy to keep them out of sight which is great for home security. The motion detector is a tiny 3cm tall!

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

I found the sensors themselves to be quick and responsive so I always knew what was going on inside my house.

However, the best part about this DIY smart home system is the cost. Each additional sensor ranges for only $5-$15. So you can have a comprehensive smart home setup for under $100 which is insane given the prices of competing systems!

Each additional sensor ranges for only $5-$15.

If you’ve got Yeelight smart LED light bulbs, the Xiaomi smart home kit also integrates with them via the Mi Home app. For example, I set it up so my lights turned on as soon as you walk into the room.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Yeelight Bulb - DIY Smart Home

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit Review: Software

Xiaomi’s smart home setup is centered around the Mi Home app (available on iOS and Android). I found the app intuitive, though there were a few quirks.

I found the app intuitive, though there were a few quirks.

The app originated in the Chinese market and it shows. Whilst Xiaomi keep improving the English translation with each new version of the Mi Home app, some parts are poorly translated or still in Chinese. That said,  I didn’t have any issues setting everything up.

You’ll need to create a Mi Account (if you haven’t already got one) and select “Mainland China” as your region, as Xiaomi’s smart home devices aren’t currently available in any other region.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Mi Home App

Adding the gateway into the Mi Home app is dead simple. After selecting “add device” and picking the Gateway, the app guides you through the whole setup process. Whilst there’s gateway voice prompts are in Mandarin, the app guides you through in English.

After the gateway is hooked up, you can add your sensors. All of them follow the same process:

  1. Select the sensor you want to connect
  2. Press the “reset” button using a pin (or Apple SIM tool)

The app then pairs it up, updates the firmware (if needed) and you’re ready to go.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Firmware Updates

The app will automatically prompt you when updates are available. Whilst reviewing the devices, I’ve already had 3 updates so Xiaomi seems committed to keeping it updated.

Any device settings are also managed through the Mi Home app. So if you’re wanting to change the Gateway’s LED colors or listen to Chinese radio on the Gateway’s speaker (no other radio stations are supported), you’re covered.

Notifications are available for various actions, letting you know when something has occurred. Unfortunately, some of the notifications are only in Chinese which is a shame as I don’t read it. Opening the app will show you what’s happened recently though so it still works as a prompt to check what’s happening inside your house.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Log

Theres also a list of all your devices at the bottom. Tapping on each will open the devices settings pages (if possible).

Home Automation

The automation is where the magic happens. With all the sensors connected, you can set various triggers and actions.

There’s a list of preset actions such as “Get Up” and “Leave Home” which can be tweaked to trigger certain devices. However, the real power is in creating your own home automation scenes.

The range of configuration is pretty impressive. You can set up a scene to trigger if one or all of the conditions are met and you can use multiple actions at once.

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - Mi Home App

For example, I set it up to turn my lights when I arrived home if it’s after 6pm. That’s incredibly handy.

There’s even a comprehensive alarm system, allowing you to set up triggers, add arming delays (i.e. how long after arming the system do the triggers start working) and set the alarm tone.

There’s a few downsides however. Unlike an alarm system which has battery backup, Xiaomi’s system requires both power and internet to work. If either of those go down, so does the alarm system.

As comprehensive as Xiaomi’s automation options are, they’re unfortunately limited to Xiaomi’s ecosystem only. That means automation services like IFTTT and Yonomi aren’t supported. Here’s hoping Xiaomi release other service integrations in the future.

Verdict

Xiaomi Smart Home Kit - DIY Smart Home

The Xiaomi Smart Home kit is a great way to get started with home automation and create your DIY smart home. The smart home system is cheap, expandable and impressively customisable. Whilst poor translations do detract from the overall experience and the lack of IFTTT support is disappointing, the sheer power of the Xiaomi Smart Home kit given it’s ultra-cheap price makes it worth the investment.

Pros

  • Impressive range of automation options
  • Cheap sensors
  • Comprehensive home automation ecosystem

Cons

  • Only Chinese Plug available so you’ll likely need an adapter
  • Some Smartphone Notifications in Chinese
  • Average Speaker Quality
  • No IFTTT compatibility

Where to Buy the Xiaomi Smart Home Kit

The Xiaomi smart home system is available from GearBest.

Check Price at GearBest

Alternatively, it’s also available from GeekBuying, Amazon, and Banggood.

BlitzWolf 40W 5-Port USB Charger Review

The Blitzwolf 40W USB charger is a powerful option for those who need to charge multiple devices at once without needing a raft of power bricks and available plugs for under $20.

Capable of outputting up to 8 amps at any one time (a maximum of 2.4A per USB port), the Blitzwolf charger is a charging beast – particularly if you have lots of high powered devices such as iPads.

I want to say thanks to Banggood for providing me a sample to review.

Check Price at Banggood

Who’s it for?

The Blitzwolf USB charger is perfect for everyone to be honest. If you’ve got multiple USB devices such as a tablet, smartphone and a smartwatch, they can all be charged via the one device, rather than separate chargers.

It’s also great for travel, when you’re limited in what you can take with you.

Video Review

What’s in the Box?

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Inside the box, you get:

  • 1 x Blitzwolf USB charger
  • 1 x Power Cable
  • 1 x English Instruction Manual

Being Australian, I’ve got used to not being provided native wall plugs so it’s great that the Blitzwolf charger actually came with an Australian plug. No more annoying travel adapters.

Design

There’s not too much to say about the Blitzwolf’s design. It’s an elegant black slab with chamfered edges. I think it looks good – particularly given we’re talking about a charger.

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I did find the glossy finish to be a bit of a fingerprint magnet but it’s not a big issue.

It’s also pretty compact at 91 X 58 X 26mm, making it a perfect travel companion rather than carting around a whole army of power adapters.

The front of the unit features the 5 Power3S USB ports.

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The power cable connects in the rear.

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There’s a really nice weight to the unit and there’s 4 rubber feet underneath which help keep the unit in place. I didn’t have any issues with it moving when everything was plugged in.

Everything’s really well designed and built.

Using It

All you need to do is plug the Blitzwolf and it’s ready to go. I really wish there were power LEDs to show that it’s ready to charge or which USB ports are charging but you’ll just have to check your device for it’s charging status.

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There’s no special marking on any of the USB ports as the Blitzwolf USB charger features what they call “Power3S” ports. This means they’ll automatically adjust to maximum current allowed by the devices. They’ll also turn off once the device is fully charged. Each port features overcurrent and overheating protection.

Plugging in a USB device will cause it to start charging almost instantly.

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I was able to plug in an impressive amount of stuff into the Blitzwolf and it kept charging all of my gadgets. Two iPads, a smartphone and a smartwatch were no issue at all.

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The unit doesn’t really warm up whilst charging either. There’s a little warmth but nothing to be afraid of.

Should I Get One?

The Blitzwolf 40W USB Charger is almost a must have gadget. It’s build quality, portability and power are exceptional and being able to charge so many devices at full speed from a single device is so convenient. If you’ve got a several devices that constantly need to be charged, the Blitzwolf 40W USB charger should be something you seriously consider. Well recommended.

Getting One

The Blitzwolf 40W 5-port USB charger is available from Banggood.

Check Price at Banggood

It’s also available on Amazon.

BlitzWolf 40W 5-Port USB Charger Technical Specifications

  • Power:40W
  • Input:AC 100-240v
  • Output:5V±0.2V /2.1A(2.4A Max per USB port)
  • Size:91 X 58 X 26mm
  • Weight:300g
  • Color: Black or White

Ulefone Paris Pre-Orders Go Live Starting at $129

Pre-sales for the Ulefone Paris, Ulefone’s latest smartphone have just begun. For a limited time, you can pick the the smartphone for $129.99, which is pretty heavily discounted from the $169.99 RRP.

The Ulefone Paris comes with an impressive set of specs for its $129.99 pricetag. The budget smartphone features a 5-inch 1280×720 IPS display, 2GB RAM, 16GB of storage, 13MP Rear Camera and a 5MP Front camera. The device is powered by the octacore MediaTek MTK6753 which should provide plenty of grunt for Android 5.1, whilst the device’s metal frame is an impressively thin 8mm.

Orders are expected to ship on the shortly after the 20th of September. You can pre-order the Ulefone Paris from GearBest, GeekBuyingPandaWill and CooliCool.

You can see the Ulefone Paris in action below:

 

Mlais Reveals an Android Wear Smartwatch of their Own

Hot on the heels of Elephone’s reveal of the Ele Watch, their first Android Wear smartwatch, smartphone manufacturer Mlais have unveiled their own.

Details are very limited at this stage, with some filtered images revealing a round screen and metal frame, presumably stainless steel.

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There’s two different watch bands on show. The first appears to be a leather style band whilst the other is a metal mesh design.

Mlais’ Facebook post also mentions that the device will be IP67 rated.

There’s no availability information at present so keep posted for more news.

Elephone Reveal the Ele Watch Smartwatch Running Android Wear

Smartphone maker Elephone are venturing into the smartwatch market with the Ele Watch. The round screened device is particularly interesting given rumors that the Ele Watch will run Android Wear, rather than the MediatTek smartwatch platform we’ve seen on devices such as the No.1 Sun S2.

Android Wear has only been featured on devices from three manufacturers: Motorola, LG and Sony. With Elephone confirming that the Ele Watch runs Android Wear, it’s the first Chinese manufacturer to run Google’s smartwatch OS.

There’s still a lot of unknowns at this stage, but the images revealed show a completely round screen (not the “flat tyre” screen seen in the Motorola 360). The body seems to be made of stainless steel, with a matching wristband.

As is expected by this stage, there’s a heartrate monitor on the rear so it’s safe to assume that heartrate tracking, along with other health functions such as a pedometer will be along for the ride.

Based on the renders and feature set, the Ele Watch is definitely shaping up to be a “premium” smartwatch rather than some of the impressively cheap smartwatches we’ve seen of late. Expect to see a price north of $100.

No.1 Sun S2 Smartwatch Review: Round and Stylish

The No.1 Sun S2 is the latest smart watch from smartphone maker No.1.  Following up on the fantastic No.1 G2, the No.1 Sun S2 maintains the stylish metal build but swaps out the Galaxy Gear-inspired design for a trendy round screen and fancy bezel.

Thanks to GearBest for sending me a sample to review. Click here for the latest price.

What is the No.1 Sun S2?

The No.1 Sun S2 is a stylish smartwatch that allows you to receive notifications, make phone calls, control your music and a whole host of other features, all from your wrist.

No.1 Sun S2 Technical Specs

  • Chipset: MTK6260
  • Screen: 1.54 inch TFT Screen(240×240 pixels), Sapphire Glass
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: 130W pixels
  • Battery: 350mAh Li-polymer battery
  • Other Features: Speaker, Microphone, Water Resistant (IP67 Rating)

What’s in the box?

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The No.1 Sun S2 comes with the basics.:

  • 1 x No. 1 Sun S2 Smartwatch
  • 1 x Micro USB charging cable
  • 1 x Charging Cradle

No USB charger is provided but the smartwatch charges from a standard USB port.

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No.1 Sun S2 Design

When I first set my eyes on the No.1 Sun S2, I was impressed. I’ve once again opted for the all-metal variant which helps distinguish the No.1 Sun S2 from most smart-watches which look like toys due to their plastic frames and rubber straps.

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Compared to the No.1 G2, the new round screen helps the device look like a traditional watch. It looks great flanked by a patterned bezel.

The stainless steel band is essentially identical to the one on the No.1 G2, which is to say it’s elegant, comfortable and easy to adjust. It is lightweight, but whether this is a pro or con depends on personal preference.

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The charging cradle is now magnetic rather than the mechanical lock on the No.1 G2’s cradle. This is a massive improvement. It’s far easier to just place the device in the cradle and than having to physically clip it in. It only takes about 30 mins to fully charge, so it’s easy to plug in it before you head out and be ready for the night.

Using It

After holding down the power button for a few seconds to boot up the watch, you’re greeted with the home screen. Unfortunately, it’s nothing like the iOS inspired renders from the marketing materials. I’d go so far as to say it’s a step backwards from the No.1 G2. I’m hoping No.1 improve it in a future firmware update. On the plus site, you can now set a custom wallpaper to improve the situation and make it look more stylish.

Going into the apps, the UI looks far more polished, with colorful pages of icons. It looks great and animates nicely. Swiping and tapping my way through it felt responsive.

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The round 240×240 pixel screen is nice and bright. Although the screen is relatively low-res, text is easy to read.

Unfortunately, like the Motorola 360, the screen isn’t perfectly round. There’s a black semi-circle at the bottom which hurts aesthetics. You do get used to it but it doesn’t look as good as it should.

The round face has clearly caused issues for the UI designers. A number of screens suffer from cramped or cut-off text which detracts from what is otherwise a cool gadget. Important text like alerts or notifications are fine but some of the menus may have a partial letter or two.

The included watch faces look really nice, with all the dials working like a real watch. This is a massive improvement from the relatively bland inclusions in the No.1 G2. Thankfully, viewing them is no longer a chore, with the screen now automatically turning on after raising the watch.

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Push Notifications

Pairing with my Android was a breeze. Simply open the watch’s QR app, snap the QR code and install the BTNotifier APK it links to. The app guides you through setup, letting you set up which notifications you want pushed to the watch or trigger the “find watch” function.

No1-Sun-S2-BTNotifier

iOS users aren’t so lucky however. I had no problems pairing the smartwatch to my iPhone 6 but the MediaTek app used for the No.1 G2 wouldn’t sync. That means that iOS notifications can’t be pushed to the device – a real shame. I was still able to use the watch to answer and make calls and skip tracks. However, it’s times like this that I lament Apples locked down OS.

Included Apps

The No.1 Sun S2 has a fairly comprehensive set of features. Some are genuinely useful, such as the Bluetooth Shutter used for taking photos remotely, whilst others aren’t that handy. For example, it’s nice to have sleep monitoring in there but I personally can’t imagine going to bed with a hunk of metal strapped to my wrist.

The messaging system has been revamped to be more flexible but this is both a blessing and a curse. You can now send any message instead of the handful of canned responses in the No.1 G2. However, trying to tap out any sort of message on a tiny keyboard without T9 prediction is a nightmare.

The heart rate monitor seems reasonably accurate, particularly given the issues with optical heart rate monitors in general. I did experience occasional instances where my heart rate reading fluctuated between within seconds of repeat tests so I wouldn’t rely on it for any serious monitoring.

No1-Sun-S2-Heartrate

No.1 Sun S2 Sound Quality

Being able to take a call from your wrist is pretty cool and thankfully, the No.1 Sun S2 does a great job here. Audio was clear, although was lacking a little in volume. According to the other party, they could hear me fine so the microphone’s up to the task.

No.1 Sun S2 Camera Quality

No1-Sun-S2-06

The No.1 Sun S2 features a camera like its predecessor. Unfortunately, this isn’t an area that No.1 have improved. Located on the faux-crown, the camera is low-res, outputting a 640×480 image. It’s pretty useless when trying to take a photo of anything that’s not bathed in sunlight and even then, it can be a little muddy.

Video quality is terrible and can only record video at 320×240 at 5 fps.

No.1 Sun S2 Battery Life

Battery life was pretty good, getting around 2-3 days out of a single charge with the motion-activated setting on. I’m sure if you disabled it, battery life would be longer as it’s the screen that drains the most power.

Should I Get One?

The No.1 Sun S2 is a solid followup to the No.1 G2 smartwatch. For Android users, you’re getting a great looking smartwatch that covers off the key features you’d expect. However, the loss of iOS compatibility from the No.1 G2 and some clunky UI decisions do detract from the experience. At around $60, it’s not a bad way to dip your toes into the world of smartwatches.

Getting One

You can purchase the No.1 G2 from GearBest. Click here to view the latest price.

Alternatively, it’s also available from GeekBuying and Amazon

No.1 Sun S2 Additional Photos

MUZO Cobblestone Review: A Beautiful Network Music Player for Streaming Music

The MUZO Cobblestone is an gorgeous network music player, controlled via a smart device. Starting its life on Kickstarter, it’s perfect for streaming music around your house.

I want to say thanks to Pandawill for providing me a sample to review. Click here for more information.

 

MUZO-Cobblestone-01

MUZO Cobblestone Technical Specifications

  • Connectivity: Wifi 802.11b/g/n (AP / STA modes supported)
  • Music Formats Supported: MP3, WMA, AAC (AAC+), Apple lossless, ALAC, FLAC, APE, WAV.
  • Frequency range: 20Hz ~ 20KHz
  • THD+N: -85db
  • SNR: 96dB
  • Connectors: 3.5mm Stereo (Audio), MicroUSB (Power/Charging), Ethernet
  • Power Supply: 5V, 1A
  • Dimensions: 20mm x 140mm (Diameter)
  • Weight: 255 grams

MUZO Cobblestone Unboxing

What’s in the box?

MUZO-Cobblestone-Box

The MUZO Cobblestone has provided everything you need to get started:

  • 1 x MUZO Cobblestone Music Player
  • 1 x 3.5mm to 3.5mm Audio Cable
  • 1 x 3.5mm to RCA Audio Cable
  • 1 x USB Charging Cable
  • 1 x USB Charger
  • 1 x English Instruction Manual

MUZO-Cobblestone-Inside-The-Box

MUZO’s inclusion of both 3.5mm to 3.5mm and 3.5mm to RCA audio cables is great and should satisfy most speaker connections. An Ethernet cable wasn’t provided but, given the device supports WiFi, I wouldn’t be too critical.

Design

There’s no doubting it – the MUZO Cobblestone is a beautiful music player. Taking its namesake literally, the MUZO Cobblestone have taken the Cobblestone name seriously and produced a device that looks and feels exactly like a pebble. This is a beautifully unique music player that draws attention yet blends in at the same time. As a testament to its appealing aesthetics, when I first unboxed it, my partner said she’d be happy to have it on display. I nearly fell on the floor.

MUZO-Cobblestone-02

At the front of the Cobblestone’s round shape are 3 touch-sensitive multimedia controls that are completely flush with the device. Offering previous, play/pause and next, all the key functions are covered off if you don’t happen to have a smart device handy.

The rear of the device houses the ports, with a WPS button, Ethernet, 3.5mm audio output and microUSB power input making an appearance. A thick rubber pad underneath the device ensures that it won’t budge when its all hooked up.

MUZO-Cobblestone-Back

Using it

Plugging in the MUZO Cobblestone causes it to automatically boot. The yellow power LED lights up and the media buttons flash yellow briefly. Spoken audio cues let you know what the device is doing, such as “Router Connected” to tell you that it’s connected to the network.

Setup is handled entirely through the smartphone app which guides you through the setup process. After entering my WiFi password and pressing the WPS button on the device, the player was discovered and connected to the network.

Although I wasn’t initially alerted about any firmware updates, the second time I opened the app, I was told an OTA update was available. Accepting the prompt. the firmware update was downloaded and installed whilst audio cues and the progress bar in the app showing installation progress.

Smartphone App Control

The MUZO Cobblestone is controlled via your smartphone with official apps provided for iOS and Android devices. The apps offer the ability to play music from a wide variety of sources. Local files, DLNA media servers, TuneIn Radio, Pandora and Douban (a Chinese Internet radio station) all make an appearance here. TuneIn radio played quickly without any noticable buffering which was great. Spotify support is noticeably absent. However, the developers have stated they are working on it.

MUZO-Cobblestone-App

The apps are attractive, with all the music sources hidden away in the main menu. When playing a track, the coverart is displayed on a spinning record, with playback controls underneath. Other functionality, such as favorites and playlist support are also available inside the app.

Music control worked really well and as long as you remain connected to your home network, you can still send commands to the Cobblestone. That means your range is only limited by the power of your WiFi router. However, there is a slight lag of about half a second when sending commands or songs to the Cobblestone. It’s not really an issue during use but something to be aware of.

Overall, the apps are fairly intuitive and I was able to play music with great ease.

UPnP Support

Playback control isn’t just limited to the smartphone apps however. The Cobblestone also presents itself as a UPnP renderer, allowing you to use players such as Foobar2000 (with the right plugins) or BubbleUPnP to cast directly to the device.

Continuous Improvements

Some things have also improved since I posted my impressions article thanks to updates to both the Cobblestone firmware and apps.

When I first started playing with the device, DLNA playback via the MUZO app was only supported in the Android variant. The latest update brings the iOS app on par with its Android counterpart, with UPnP serves appearing under “My Music” item.

I also tested Airplay on my iPhone 6 running iOS 8.3 and confirm that it now works exactly as expected which is great.

MUZO have also stated that a whole raft of other music sources will be added over time, with Google Play Music, Rdio and Soundcloud among the list of upcoming services.

Multiroom Audio

I would have love to have tested out multi-room audio to see if the players correctly synced the music however, I was only provided one unit. I’ll probably end up buying another one and update the review.

It’s Not All Sunshine and Unicorns

I did find the Android up to be a little buggy during testing. It occasionally got confused about which track it was meant to be playing, with the cover art not matching the playing track. When this happened, the playback controls’ responsiveness suffered and I had to wait about 10 seconds for everything to work itself out. I didn’t experience the same issues with the iOS app so some more polish should help improve the situation.

Music Playback Tests

I’m not an audiophile so you won’t hear me talk about which frequencies weren’t well represented or that you need to use $500 audio cables, but I can safely say that the audio coming out sounded good and I didn’t notice any loss in audio quality. Everything sounded as it “should”, so to speak.

To test the playback capabilities of the MUZO Cobblestone, I ran a few sample files via a Samsung Galaxy S4 to the device (as there was no way Apple was going to play nice with all the formats I wanted to test).

Music FormatWorked?
MP3 (320kbps)Yes
MP3 (VBR)Yes
AAC (256kbps)Yes
Apple Lossless (ALAC)Yes
FLACYes
WAVYes
WMAYes
Studio Master (96kHz 24-bit lossless) ALACNo (Playback was distorted)
Studio Master (96kHz 24-bit lossless) FLACNo (Playback stuttered)

The MUZO Cobblestone performed well with the samples, only tripping up with the less common formats. Most people will have no issues with the Cobblestone being able to play their favorite tracks.

Getting One

The MUZO Cobblestone can be purchased from Pandawill. Click here to get the latest price. Alternatively, it’s also available from Amazon.

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