Friday, August 29, 2008


Motorola MOTOMING A1600 Quadband GPS PDA Unlocked Phone Review

The Motorola A1600 succeeds the world-famous A1200 (also known as MOTOMING) with the same unique design and operation. Everything has got better in the A1600, but does it have enough to survive in the smart phone sector? Let’s find out now.

The package comes with the phone, battery, charger and a handsfree. It also has an USB cable, a CD-ROM and User’s Guides. It only comes with one stylus so be sure not to lose it.

Like its predecessor the A1600 has a strong semi-transparent cover to protect the screen and house the speaker. As you may notice the A1600 has only the Answer and Reject buttons and a joystick. It does not have a keypad.

The A1600 uses a modified version of Linux as its operating system. The interface is a little bit dull even for a smart phone but it has a lot of useful applications hidden in the menus!

Since the A1600 relies heavily on the stylus for operation, the number of keys is kept to a minimum. In fact there is almost no need to use the buttons or joystick most of the time.

The built-in English-Chinese dictionary can recognise the words captured by the camera and give a Chinese translation quickly. The phone can also pronounce the word loud and clear. It is definitely one of the best dictionaries currently available on mobile phones. The phone also has MOTONAV software for use with the built-in GPS.

The 3MP camera can focus objects from as close as 10cm afar so it is easy to take pictures of name cards and books for use with the business card reader and dictionary. The phone also comes with software to create Panorama and GIF animation images with the camera.

The phone can recognise English or Chinese handwriting. The handwriting software is mature enough to give accurate recognition most of the time.

The A1600 comes with a Barcode reader that can recognise the kind of barcode shown in the image below, which is quite common in Japan. The A1600 does not recognise the more popular “product barcodes” that have columns and numbers .

The picture shows the SIM card, microSD and battery slots. Unfortunately the microSD card can only be removed by opening the cover.

The A1600 was designed for businessmen/women in mind. The construction is solid and the operation is fast. The camera integrates nicely with the fully-functional dictionary and barcode reader. The MOTONAV software gives useful directions for drivers. Since the phone is targeted at Chinese customers, Motorola may be forgiven for not including 3G capability in the A1600.


Nokia 7610 Supernova Quadband Unlocked Phone

Boom! The 7610 Supernova blasts us with a crazily reflective design and some really well-implemented functions. Let’s find out how well it performs.

The box contains the phone a battery and a charger, a data cable plus a HS-47 handsfree. It also has two Xpress-On covers for covering the back of the phone with your favorite color. Oh, and it has got one of the most beautiful user’s guide too.

The phone has rounded corners and it fits pleasantly in my hand. The Xpress-On covers have a rough surface so the phone did not slip when I slid out the keypad.

There are at least 4 colors of Xpress-On covers produced by Nokia. Obviously the two other covers will cost extra.

The keys are rather small on the look but I have no problem with them even with my big thumb.

At the top of the phone lies the 2.5mm headphone jack, an On/Off button and a port for charger. Since the headphone jack is not the standard 3.5mm type, you will need an adapter for your favorite earphone.

The volume control and music keys lie on the right hand side of the phone. The keys require a good push to give responses so don’t worry about pressing them accidentally. Strangely enough the auto-focus button only works in the camera mode. To launch “Camera” you need to press the up side of the 4-way D-pad instead.

The “Colourise” button allows you to identify colors with the camera and adapt them to the key illumination and wallpaper. You can view and change the applications associated with the D-pad or launch the applications from the Go To menu.

The phone is very music-capable. It comes with an equalizer and Nokia’s own Stereo widening technology that can give you a greater difference in what is heard by your left and right ear when listening to a stereo track. The 7610 Supernova leaves the majority of phones behind with its own 3.2MP, dual-LED flash, auto-focus camera. It still can’t replace your digital camera because it lacks optical zoom.

The 7610 Supernova has an elegant design and good handling. Music quality is superb and the camera does not disappoint. The 7610 Supernova would had been perfect if had 3G support and optical zoom.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Ricoh GX200 vs Panasonic LX3

I must say I am more than happy to be the reviewer of the wide-angle duo, Panasonic’s LX3 and Ricoh’s GX200. I will whet your appetite with the usual scrutiny of the GX200 (for LX3, see here), followed by a duel of the pair. You will soon find out that there is more than the outlook and specifications…

As usual, it comes with a battery pack, a charger, a data cable and an AV cable, plus a CD Rom and a User’s guide. It has a hand strap for the camera but no strap for the lens cap.

The camera has a professional construction and a giant hand grip. They set the GX200 apart from other compact cameras and put it in the rank of prosumer cameras.

The 3X zoom lens has an equivalent focal length of 24mm to 72mm. Across the range, the aperture changes from f/2.5 to f/4.4. Zooming is fluid and fast with little motor noise.

The ring cap can be removed by pressing the button under the flash. What is it for? Well Ricoh has developed an optional auto open/close cap as a substitute for the strap-lacking lens cap.

The GX200 strangely leaves out the shutter priority mode, thus there is no “S” on the dial. The MY1/2/3 can only save your favorite settings but they cannot function as the S mode. If you must use shutter priority (God, I can’t live without it), use the manual (M) mode instead. In the M mode the camera displays a live histogram and an approximate exposure level. With the two dials (one is below the power button) for changing shutter speed and aperture, the M mode is actually quite easy to use.

Each of the 4 directions has a secondary function, except the up button. Why not make it a Fn3? This is probably due to the proximity of the button and the thumb pad (near the zoom rocker). The button layout is excellent, I could access all buttons with my thumb and one-hand operation is possible.

The GX200 has a CCD-shift image stabilization that can be activated in the menu (but not the Fn1/Fn2 buttons). The 12MP sensor has an ISO sensitivity range of 64 to 1600 and can be changed in the menu or by the Fn buttons.

Beneath the giant hand grip is the battery and card compartment. Hmm…the door hints of an alternative power source. It’s the long-forgotten alkaline batteries (AAA size only)! These cylinders may have less juice and more weight than Li-ion bricks, but they are cheap and everywhere! Good job, Ricoh.

The camera with the electronic viewfinder (VF) tilted at right angle, impressive look.

The VF performs reasonably well and has 100% coverage. A vari-angle VF is better than a tilt-able LCD under bright sunlight, but is not so great if you are forgetful or wear glasses.

When tilted vertically, the VF prevents the flash from popping up. The VF also covers the hotshoe at any angle.

Below are two sample shots with no photo-touching except resizing. You can see that they are very slightly under-exposed. Also notice the fine details in the last picture.

If you can live without shutter priority mode and a long tele-end, the camera maybe your perfect match. The GX200 is comfortable to use and it takes good picture – all in a light but durable body.
Now that we have some idea about the duo, the question then becomes “Which will be the wide-angle champion?” Both cameras have a reputable family history (the GX100 and LX2) and the rare 24mm wide-angle coverage. As mentioned in the LX3 review, the difference between lens-shift and CCD-shift stabilization is not significant, especially in wide angle cameras.

The cameras have about the same size with Ricoh being the wider but thinner and lighter one. The LX3 is located on the left side of the body, so the optional optical viewfinder can be used with the pop-up flash. The GX200’s flash is located in the center and may be obstructed by the electronic viewfinder if the VF is tilted vertically.

The lens battle is fought between Leica (on the LX3) and Ricoh. The Leica VARIO-SUMMICRON brutally beats the Ricoh Zoom lens in sharpness and maximum aperture. The LX3 has a maximum aperture of f/2 - f/2.8, compared to GX200’s f/2.5 to f/4.4. The Ricoh zooms lens has a longer tele-end though (72mm vs 60mm), so it has more versatility.

It is hard to decide which camera is more convenient to operate. The GX200 has two dials for quickly changing settings in manual mode with two fingers while the LX3 has an intelligent joystick design that allows me to change settings in PASM mode intuitively with my thumb. Both cameras allow users to save settings and customize buttons, but only the LX3 has switches to change focus mode and aspect ratio. The LX3 is next to impossible to operate with one hand while the GX200 was designed ground-up to do just that (that’s what we call an irony).

The LX3 has a considerably bigger and better-looking LCD but it doesn’t support an electronic VF (only the optional optical one).

So, which camera is better? There is no answer to that and it all depends on your application. The LX3 may have better picture quality thanks to Leica lens’ sharpness and better noise control, but this is not everything. First, the difference is not visible unless you do a direct, full-size comparison. Second, the GX200 has a longer zoom range and takes AAA battery. The electronic VF also allows for right-angle framing, which is especially useful if the object is below eye level.

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