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Carry your own hotspot

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Gone are the days of being restricted to Wi-Fi usage in shopping centres, office blocks or even ‚”accidentally‚” using neighbours’ connections, writes DARRON SEHAYEK, after trying out Cell C’s Huawei E586 Mobile Wifi Router.

Huawei is already synonymous with great products for mobile connectivity, especially the 3G dongles used by most connected laptops in South Africa.

Its E586 Mobile Wifi Router, packaged with a cell bundle, will pleasantly surprise the user. Sure, there are other devices available that do a similar job but I do not think they’re remotely comparable.

I’ve been using an alternative router for over a year and, while it certainly served its purpose, it was neither aesthetically pleasing nor continuously reliable. In fact, it was so large, that transporting it was more of a pain than anything else and often caused me to leave the Internet at home due to the fact that it was cumbersome and unreliable.

But with today’s technological advances, it’s a minimal requirement to have both speed and reliability when connecting to the Internet. This device is not only fast and lightweight, but also houses a slot for a microSD card. A built-in (and removable) battery allows for completely cordless use.

The advantage of complete portability is that you no longer have to keep the device connected to either a USB port/power supply or 2/3 pin plug. Simply charge the device using its supplied USB data cable, which acts as a dual-purpose charger and connectivity to your computer. The charging time is quick and you’re ready to go in just under 2 hours.

My device also came with a small, practical and modern docking station, which not only keeps the router safely in place but simultaneously charges it while inside.

Incidentally, it also happens to use the same charger as a BlackBerry (and many other devices using micro-USB). So, if you have a Blackberry charger spare, my suggestion would be to use this to charge the modem via the included docking station and to keep the actual data cable with you, just in case you ever need to charge the device via USB.

The data cable also comes with a 2-pin plug adaptor, which means you can charge it anywhere with electricity. A great add-on, as many suppliers these days seem to be leaving these out of the boxes due to costs and space constraints.

The initial setup was a breeze. Simply plug the included data cable into the device, then into your computer and allow it to auto-install. Once done, go to the admin page described in the easy-to-understand instruction manual and follow a few more settings prompts such as WPA2, router name and password (recommended, else your neighbours may just use your internet connection as their own).

The device takes a full-sized SIM card (so no need to change to micro). Another great feature of this device is that it shows you (approximately) how much data you have used. No more removing the SIM card just to check the balance used/left. Simply turn on the device, allow it to authenticate and connect and you will see how much data you have used.

I got 7 hours worth of usage out of the battery before I had to charge it and since the price of data has decreased dramatically, I have no excuse for not staying online for longer.

In a nutshell: Modern looking, great battery life, truly compact, includes a handy docking station for optional use, up to five users can share one connection and real value for money at less than R1500.

It would appear Cell C is not only focusing on great service and great pricing but also introducing impressive devices that ultimately make our lives much easier and make us wonder how we ever managed without them.

My verdict: 9 out of 10.

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Product of the Day

Asus ZenBook Pro Duo reimagines dual screens

Asus’s ZenBook Pro Duo implements the dual-screen concept very differently: instead of side-by-side, the extra screen sits beneath the main screen. BRYAN TURNER tried out the laptop.

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Asus’s strong ZenBook line, aimed at creatives, has added a powerful laptop to the game: the dual-screen ZenBook Pro Duo. This machine shows some of the most thoughtful design on the market, including a new type of dual-screen layout that makes a lot of sense. 

When closed it looks like any other laptop and has a concentric circle design etched into aluminium. The laptop feels sturdy on the base as well as the screen, and looks like it could withstand a drop. It’s 24mm thick and weighs around 2.5kg, so it seems pretty thick until one looks at the internals of this machine. 

We had the Intel Core i7-9750H processor configuration but can come with an Intel Core i9-9980HK configuration. Both configurations come with Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, with 6GB of GDDR6 VRAM. This makes this laptop more of a high-performance desktop with laptop features rather than a high-performance laptop. 

When opening up this computer, we were greeted with a large 15.6” 4K (3840×2160) OLED panel and another 14” (3840 x 1100) 4K UHD display below that, called the ScreenPad Plus. Both screens are touchscreens, 100% DCI-P3, and are brighter than most laptops. As a result, the keyboard and trackpad have been shifted below the second screen. The lowered keyboard takes some getting used to, but is totally worth it for the second display.

The ScreenPad Plus comes with a set of its own apps, including Spotify, handwriting mode, and a few other quick settings. It comes with a stylus called the Asus Pen, which allows for 1024 pressure levels and rejects one’s palm, making it very useful for apps like Adobe Illustrator. The top screen supports that pen too, but writing feels far more natural on the ScreenPad Plus.

An ErgoLift hinge raises the computer up at an angle, to make the lowered keyboard more comfortable to type on, as well as aid the cooling system. It’s at a small 4.5 degrees tilt with this hinge that makes a huge difference in typing comfort.

On the left side, a USB-A port, a regular size HDMI 2.0 port and a proprietary charging jack. On the right side, it features a USB-A 3.1 port, Thunderbolt 3, and a 3.5mm audio jack. Both sides feature air outlet ports. 

We tested Rise of the Tomb Raider at 1080p, with the RTX 2060, and set the game to its highest preset graphics settings. The game’s frame counter was used. It hovered between 70 and 75 frames per second (fps) with 10 minutes of gameplay, which is really good compared to most desktop computers. 

The processor is a 6-Core 9th Generation Intel Core i7 CPU (i7-9750H), which provides snappy performance. We noted a start-up time from shutdown to desktop around 7 seconds. This was made possible by a combination of the fast processor and solid-state drive in the computer. This also makes opening programmes lightning fast.

Now for the trackpad. The off-centre trackpad placement feels a bit weird, even though we know why it’s placed that way. We found ourselves using an external mouse and using it in a very handy NumPad mode. The trackpad is extremely precise otherwise. 

The laptop’s battery is 71 Wh, which may seem large, but it needs to power two big screens and heavy processors. As a result, it’s difficult to get more than 6 hours of productivity out of the machine. We played Rise of the Tomb Raider with both screens on for about 1 hour before we needed to charge it. 

It will be available for about R48,000 (depending on when one buys it) in the Intel Core i7, 512GB SSD, and 16GB RAM configuration, putting it up there with the high-performance laptops in terms of price.

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Featured

Hit the road with high-tech night light for bikes

Cyclists need effective lighting by night and day, writes JOEL DORFAN, in his test ride of the latest in high-tech from Fenix

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Since 2004, Fenix Light has been manufacturing quality lights ranging from flashlights and headlamps to lanterns and bike lights.

There are many folks who ride their bicycles at night for various reasons. Whether on-road or off-road, there is always the need to see the path ahead of you. During the day, it’s wise to have a really bright strobe light so others around you can see you coming. 

Enter the BC21R V2.0.

The original 880 lumen BC21R was released some years ago. Besides the main light, it also had two red lights at the side. However, there were several complaints about this older version. The main ones were:

  • Plastic construction – does not dissipate heat causing the light output to step down;
  • Rubber mount – stretches and perishes over time;
  • No helmet mount.

With the launch of the new light, now called the BC21R V2.0, the folks at Fenix have kept all of the good features and added a bunch more, as well as remedying all of the complaints from the original. In a nutshell, it offers:

  • 1000 lumen output
  • Removable 18650 LiIion battery
  • Built in USB Type-C charging port
  • Dual Distance Beam System
  • Battery level indication and low-voltage warning
  • All-metal heat fin; IP66 rated protection
  • Quick-release bike mount compatible with Fenix bicycle light helmet mount

The increase from 880 to 1000 lumens means that there is now better coverage of the road ahead. The dual distance beam system means that the areas both near and far are illuminated. They do this by graduating the top half of the front lens that refracts some of the light down towards the front wheel, allowing the rest of the light to illuminate the roadway.

When you do not need all 1000 lumens, sequential taps of the on/off switch will cycle through the different output settings of low, medium, high and turbo. In any of these modes, a double tap of the switch will put the light into strobe (alternating high and low output) mode. On a fully charged battery, runtime on Turbo is published as being 2 hours, and on low at 50 hours. 

Many lights today are sealed units. Once the battery stops taking a charge, the light would have to be discarded. The removable battery means that, once it reaches end of life ,it’s a simple matter of inserting a new 18650 battery. Also, should you be on a really long ride and find that the battery starts going flat, you could stop along the way and swap out the battery for either another fully charged one or two CR123 batteries. 

At any time, you can tap the on/off button, which will light up an indicator to tell you the current state of charge of the battery. This same indicator will flash red when it’s time to recharge the battery.

To prevent damage to the LED light source, temperatures are monitored and, if the light gets too hot, the output is reduced. This is not ideal when you are out on a ride on a hot evening. By changing the head from plastic to metal with cooling fins, however, the light will now remain cooler, allowing for full output for longer periods.

Instead of a stretchy plastic mount like on the older model, Fenix has now gone with a proper clamp type mount. This is secured to the handle bars using a thumb screw; and then there is a quick release that allows the light to be attached or removed from the clamp with ease. Two different-sized rubber inserts for the clamp ensure a good fit on different diameter handle bars.

A bonus of this type of quick release mechanism is that the light is now compatible with the Fenix helmet mount should one wish to mount it there. Also, should you wish to use the BC21R V2.0 as a handheld flashlight or to stop it being stolen, no tools are required to remove it from either the bike or helmet mount.

So how does the BC21R V2.0 perform in real life?

It puts out a very concentrated spot-like type beam optimised for distance. The lens setup ensures that most of the light is below the horizon where it needs to be, which also makes sure that it does not blind oncoming motorists. 

The light will start getting warm to the touch when stationary or when hand held. However, when cycling, the cool air passing over the finned head does keep the light cooler.

Being a single 18650 battery light, a ride of longer than about 90 minutes will see the light starting to reduce output. It’s the tradeoff of size vs run time. Therefore make sure that, if you’re going to need the full 1000 lumen output for an extended period, to carry a spare battery with you.

The older model cost $75, and the good news is that Fenix appears to have maintained this price even with all of the extra features of the V2.0 model. This places the BC21R V2.0 in the mid- to high-range of  single battery lights. Given the features and multi-use applications it’s pretty good value for money.

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