January 23, 2015

Ruggear – The World’s Toughest Mobile Phone

Filed under: News — csadm @ 2:37 am

Most people at some time in their life will experience the horror of dropping their mobile phone on a hard surface and realising it doesn’t bounce very well, or even worse dropping their phone into water and realising it doesn’t like to swim.

If you have ever bruised, battered or drowned a mobile phone, then it’s time you considered RugGear.

RugGear manufactures the world’s toughest mobile phones. Founded in 2006, RugGear products have been developed without compromise – with ruggedness and durability at the core of the product DNA. They have been tried and tested as waterproof, shock proof, dust proof and life proof.

As such they are ideally suited to Papua New Guinea’s unforgiving environment, and miners, construction workers and tradespeople, trekkers, sportspeople and adventurers are going to find RugGear a common sense solution to their particular situation.

You can choose from a simple rugged phone that will just let you send and receive calls and text messages, or a fully-featured Android smartphone with access to thousands of apps as smart and capable as any other smartphone on the market.

The RG970 is a good example of what’s on offer at the top end of the RugGear range of smartphones.

The RG970 is an Android tough device designed from the chassis up to withstand the kind of elements that would render everyday smartphones useless.

At 156mm tall, 83mm wide and 16mm deep, it’s a big smartphone. The sturdy construction brings its weight to a hefty 245g. In the hand, its solid feel leaves you confident that the RG970 can withstand a beating.

The RG970 is a nice smartphone in its own right. Its yellow-and-grey high-visibility cushioning is built into its chassis with proprietary screws joining it together. The 3.5mm headphone output and micro-USB charging port are sheltered by a protective flap. Even accessing the SIM tray and expandable microSD memory slot requires two flat-head screws to be removed.

As a result of this armour, RugGear claims the RG970 can be submerged in 2m of water for 30 minutes, withstand falls of 80cm on concrete, and is completely resistant to dust.

Dominating the front is a 5.3in LCD screen which has a 960×540 resolution and a density of 208 pixels-per-inch. These aren’t cutting edge specs but they are of high-appeal and functionality to the end-users, many of which will be tradespeople wearing protective gloves.

Four buttons are evenly distributed on its sides: a lock screen and camera shutter key are located on its left, while volume up and down buttons are positioned on its right. Bordering the bottom of the front are the four capacitive keys used to navigate its Android operating system. These include the typical sub-menu, home, back and search keys.

The RG970 has the distinction of being a dual-SIM smartphone. It takes two full sized SIM cards and is compatible with networks up to 3G.

Another trait of value is the RG970’s never-say-die character. The construction can easily take drops, knocks and kicks in its stride, bar a few markings. Although I don’t advocate mistreating smartphones, the RG970 is one that can handle itself when the going gets tough.

RugGear claims the RG970 can withstand waters two metres deep for a period of 30min. If you do take the RG970 out for a dip, be sure the top flap has a snug fit and that the rear panel screws are properly tightened.

Apart from a few applications and subtle tweaks, RugGear has taken little liberty with the Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean software used by the RG970. Swiping down the application drawer reveals three panes of shortcuts, and its rugged bravado is matched by a suite of adventure-savvy applications. These include an application equipped with various outdoor tools, a file manager, and most impressively, an FM radio that functions without the need to plug in headphones.

Powering the RG970 is a 1GHz dual core CPU, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of built-in storage, which can be expanded by way of a 32GB microSD memory card.

Photos captured with the 8MP rear camera aren’t cutting edge, but they’ll do for a tough phone. There’s also a 2MP front facing camera that can be used for video conferencing over apps like Skype.

Besides making some of the world’s most rugged Android smartphones, RugGear has also dipped its toe into the tablet market.

Known as the Ultra Tab 7.0 – RG900, the Android tablet is designed to be used in any extreme environment. Besides its IP67 rating for water and dust resistance, the Ultra Tab 7.0 – RG900 is also protected against drop-shock impacts.

It has a polycarbonate tough body frame with materials that guards the corners of the device to reduce the drop force and protects the display. Due to its rugged chassis, the Ultra Tab 7.0 – RG900 is rather bulky for a 7-inch tablet at 20mm thick and weighs 650g.

But if you are in the market for a tough tablet or phone, then you will expect the device to be stockier than your ultra-thin i-Phone or Galaxy. One thing for sure, your RugGear device won’t bend in your pocket.

Performance-wise the RugGear Ultra Tab is as capable as any other device. It comes with 16GB internal storage and a microSD memory card slot that supports memory cards up to 32GB.

Other specs include a 7-inch (1,280 x 800 pixels) IPS display, an 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera, a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, AGPS and a single 3G SIM card slot.

There are a number of other models in the RugGear range.

Here are just a few more that will also give you an idea of their strengths and positioning in the RugGear line-up:

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January 9, 2015

Bose – Noise Cancelling Technology

Filed under: News — csadm @ 2:35 am

Ok. It’s time I got in your ear about noise cancelling headphones.

The humble set of headphones has been with us since early last century, at first in military applications and then they found their way into the radio and telephone industry. The first stereo headphones were produced in 1943 and it was from that point forward that they began to find a home in the music industry.

Headphones are one of the main reasons music went from being a social activity to an intensely private activity. Yes folks, once upon a time, music was a shared experience.

If you want to read more on the evolution of popular music then I highly recommend a book called “How Music Works” by David Byrne (former frontman for the alternative rock band Talking Heads). Byrne also sheds light on how our experience of music varies depending on the venue and the medium being used to transport the music. Remember when we used to listen to music on cassette tapes and vinyl? It was far from perfect but we accepted it. There are also many that believe that vinyl was actually a better medium than the compact disk that superseded it. The thing is we generally accept music at “face value”.

With the advent of the digital age our experience of music has now zeroed into the individual as the target audience and the end-user, and to be specific about the location of the target, it is literally right into your eardrums. The focus is now on enhancing this intensely private experience by eliminating any extraneous noise – even at the expense of a little music quality.

It is accepted among audiophiles that the American company Bose has perfected the technology of noise-cancellation in the QuietComfort range of headphones which now includes the QuietComfort 20i – the first “in-ear noise cancelling headphones”.

Bose’s preferred term “in-ear headphones” doesn’t quite make sense to me. A headphone in your ear? Come on guys. They are more commonly known as earbuds and I will talk more about them later in this article.

Bose was founded in 1964 by Dr Amar Bose specialising in audio equipment, not only for the domestic market but also for the aeronautic industry. Bose now produces aviation headsets, space shuttle headsets and combat vehicle crewman headsets – all with very necessary noise-cancelling technology.

According to Bose, the company got obsessed with noise-cancellation technology after Dr Bose went on a 1978 flight to Europe, “was trying out a new set of airline-supplied headphones and found that he couldn’t really enjoy the sound with the roar of engines in the background.”

The advent of digital music and the “personalisation” of music has led Bose on a quest to make noise-cancelling technology available, at a price, to the masses.

The theory behind using noise-cancelling headphones is simple, instead of turning up the volume to block out external noise—which is never good for your hearing—noise-cancelling headphones work to isolate and “remove” those unwanted sounds while preserving the original audio signal. That means you can listen to music, movies, audiobooks, and podcasts at much lower volumes than you would have otherwise.

The best noise-cancelling headphones work so well, many owners sometimes put them on, turn on the power, and don’t listen to anything through them—just to enjoy the silence.

The downside? Noise-cancelling headphones generally don’t sound as good as same-price standard headphones, and often, even models that are less expensive. Manufacturers prioritize the noise-cancelling algorithms, which can interfere with the quality of the remaining audio signal. As if anyone really knows the difference! Remember what I said earlier about our “acceptance” of music.

Bose has recently introduced the QuietComfort 25 replacing the QuietComfort 15, giving better audio performance and noise reduction. QuietComfort 25 has an improved folding design that allows them to fit in a more compact carrying case – an important feature for frequent travellers.

The new QuietComfort 25 is the first update to the legendary headphones in five years, and completely overhauls both design and audio.

QuietComfort 25 follows the standard set by the QuietComfort 15 in that it’s an over-the-ear headphone with a detachable 1.4-metre headphone cable and a removable AAA battery (one non-rechargeable cell is included).

A single switch on the right ear-cup enables or disables the QuietComfort 25s’ brilliant and class-leading active noise cancelling, there are six tiny noise cancelling mic ports arranged across both ear-cups, and apart from the Apple-compatible microphone, call and volume buttons on the 2.5mm-to-3.5mm cable, there are no other controls to speak of. These are headphones in the most traditional and conventional sense — and that’s a good thing.

Like the QuietComfort 15, the QuietComfort 25 is foldable to fit inside the small, eminently portable carry case included with the headphones, which measures 210x146x51mm and is finished in a sturdy leatherette. There’s an elasticated pouch on the rear of the case that looks perfectly sized to store a passport, wallet and smartphone, too. In terms of accessories, you get a brilliant multipurpose airplane adapter (one of the prongs folds away for newer planes’ in-armrest audio jacks), again integrated into the body of the carry case, and a space for a spare AAA battery.

The headphones themselves have beautifully smooth metal ear-cups finished in a dark, gunmetal silver, with a dark blue band on the outer edge, and each with a laser-cut Bose logo in the centre. As well as swiveling laterally across just over 90 degrees of motion, the ear-cups tilt vertically over around 45 degrees to accommodate larger and smaller heads.

The plastic, metal and denim-wrapped headband of the QuietComfort 25 has soft foam suede padding, and the leatherette ear-cups are equally soft and plush and incredibly comfortable. Inside the ear-cups, the left and right markers are bold, oversized aqua-and-black diagonal lines with ‘R’ and ‘L’ characters in negative space — it’s a striking effect and you won’t put the headphones on the wrong way ever again.

The overall fit and finish of the Bose QuietComfort 25 is superb and the sound is excellent. Audio is upfront, strong and musical when noise cancelling is switched on, with powerful bass and clear, sibilant treble. Music just sounds good with these headphones, made more so by the fact that it’s not interrupted by any outside noise. There’s no significant hole in the entire frequency range, and although midrange is slightly recessed compared to the more punchy mid-bass and treble, the overall feel of the QuietComfort 25 is quality – you won’t be unimpressed with the sound that you’ve paid for. A wide variety of music, from acoustic tracks to beat-driven electronica, all sound consistently impressive on these headphones.

Even better, and hugely improved from the previous model, is the fact that the QuietComfort 25s don’t need the noise cancelling to be powered on to operate. The timbre of the headphones’ sound is much changed, and you lose the vast majority of that low-end aural punch, but it works. This is a last-ditch solution, but especially for those final hours of a long flight, it will come in handy one day.

The battery life of the QuietComfort 25 is very impressive. 35 hours is a huge amount of time for even an energy-dense rechargeable lithium ion battery to last, let alone an off-the-shelf AAA.

The QuietComfort 25 is the best pair of headphones that Bose has ever made. There’s no doubt about that. The quality of the noise cancelling is incredible, and the sound quality that goes hand in hand with it is of a similarly high level. These headphones suit a wide range of music, and do so while simultaneously doing an amazing job of blocking out droning constant ambient noise.

However, QuietComfort 25 are headphones. They are designed to fit on your head and over your ear, and this is not to everyone’s liking. I recently flew from Sydney to Hong Kong in Business Class and found that the noise-cancelling headphones were great at eliminating aircraft noise but, like any headphones they make my ears ache after an hour or so. Not the eardrum, but the outer ear.

For me, I actually prefer earbuds and so Bose QuietComfort 20i “in-ear noise cancelling headphones” are an exciting and welcome development. The additional benefit of the Bose noise-cancelling earbuds is that they take up hardly any space in your carry-on luggage.

Both the QuietComfort 25 headphones and the QuietComfort 20i earbuds have been receiving rave reviews from around the world. Like all Bose products they are pricey, but you are paying for quality and cutting edge audio and noise-cancellation technology.

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