Gadget has updated its Five Question User Test for consumer technology. First through the gate is the Audio Motion Wireless LightBulb Speaker system. These could be the first truly wireless speakers, but there’s a catch, writes SEAN BACHER.
Ask anyone who has set up a home entertainment centre and they will most certainly say the worst part of the whole exercise is positioning the speakers and their associated cables.
The problem is that when positioning speakers, especially the ones that need to be behind the listener, you are always hindered by the cables. And, once the speakers are positioned in the appropriate spots, it is always a pain trying to hide the unsightly cables.
Many manufacturers have boasted that they have “wireless”” speakers. Although the speakers receive their signal wirelessly, they still need an electrical outlet – instantly making them non-wireless. Other manufacturers have designed their speakers to run off batteries, but then you’d better start saving, as batteries are expensive. Then there are the rechargeable wireless speakers, but here you can expect the speakers to spend more time in their docking or charging bases then around you.
Finally though, there is a speaker system that is truly wireless, although there is a catch. It comes in the form of the Audio Motion Wireless LightBulb Speaker system. The speakers are distributed by Tier One Electronics who also own the intellectual design: they bought the idea from another company and own the rights to manufacture the product ‚ ultimately transforming one company’s fantasy into another’s reality.
We put the Audio Motion Wireless LighBulb Speaker System through the new Gadget Five Question User Test and see how well a fantasy has been turned into reality.
1. Ease of use (including set-up)
As the name suggests, the speakers come in the form of light bulbs, which means they need to be fitted into a light-socket, which is where they get their power. That means, while they do not come with any cables, they still use a direct power supply. Technically, they are wireless, but not plugless.
However, the absence of cables and the lightbulb format should make for a quicker and more aesthetically pleasing set-up.
Easier said than done. I found the speakers to be too big to fit in any of the standard recessed down-lighter ceiling sockets in my house. I did, however, find a couple of bedside lamps had larger lampshades that allowed me to screw in the speakers.
Once in, the speakers worked like normal light bulbs. Flick on the lamp and the built-in LED in the speaker lights up as brightly as a 40-watt light bulb.
However, in order for them to produce sound, the included docking station needs to be plugged in ‚ preferably near a home entertainment centre. The docking station sends a wireless signal over a 2.4GhZ wireless connection ‚ or Wi-Fi. But, unlike Bluetooth or infra-red, it does not need to be anywhere near the speakers ‚ merely in the vicinity.
With the docking station plugged in, the speakers are ready to rumble. The station is able to connect directly to an iPod Touch or iPhone and has an auxiliary input that will accept most MP3 players.
Setting up the speakers and docking station is really a no-brainer. In fact, the instruction pamphlet is a mere A5 page with pictures. The only foreseeable problem in this department is that the speakers may not fit in every socket. Before you invest, check that the light socket destined to be transformed into a sound socket conforms to the E27 size standard.
2. General performance
To get things going, no software needs to be loaded nor does anything have to be paired. The docking station automatically picks up the Audio Motion LightBulb Speakers and pairs with them. Lights illuminate on the docking station, letting you know that the speakers have been correctly paired and are ready to work.
Once an MP3 player is connected to the docking station, the volume is controlled from the docking station. Should an iPod Touch or iPhone be connected, the docking station will also be able to skip and search through the stored music.
The included remote control not only manages this skipping and volume, but also turns the LED light on and off: great for listening to music during the day when you don’t need the light.
Tier One Technologies has also boxed two Edison/bayonet converters in the package ‚ which in themselves are great gadgets to have around the house. How many times have you bought a bayonet light bulb, only to get home and realise you actually need an Edison or screw-in type? These converters let you screw in or clamp the Audio Motion speakers into almost any fitting ‚ size permitting.
The Audio Motion docking station took the cake here. Any MP3 player we found was able to be hooked up to the docking station seamlessly. Our iPods and iPhones were even charged while docked. The fact that the docking station also controls the light in the speaker was a great bonus ‚ and an electricity saver.
3. Does it add value to your life?
Listening to the Audio Motion LightBulb Speakers sounds exactly like listening to music from a standard speaker. The only difference is that it is a little more difficult to determine the source of the sound. Tell a friend the sound is coming from your lampshade or ceiling and you may well be asked what you’ve been smoking.
At maximum volume there was no trace of distortion. However, the older beside lamps being used for the test were not built to handle rattling light bulbs, and the connectors started to loosen. But newer light fixtures with tighter fittings should handle the vibrations without any problem.
I did notice an issue when connecting the Audio Motion Wireless LightBulb Speakers into a series of down-lighters. The entire circuit needs to be on in order for them to work. This means that, in many instances, you could end up with six or more normal lights burning away during the daytime while you have the Audio Motion speakers pumping tunes ‚ not good for the electricity bill. That said, up to eight speakers can be paired with one docking station.
Using the speakers in standalone lamps works well, though. Should you put them next to your bed, you will have the benefit of both a bedside lamp and powerful hi-fi with just one power cord going to the lamp.
Great sound quality and a hidden sound source are all definite pluses. Add to this that you can pair eight speakers to a docking station and we have a clear winner. Eight speakers working in unison will put many sound systems to shame.
Unfortunately, the inability to isolate and power just the speakers is a limiting factor.
The way the Audio Motion Wireless Audio LightBulb Speaker system does away with cables is highly innovative. The designers have taken a stock-standard fitting found in any house and turned it into a speaker powerhouse without the need for additional fixtures or installations.
The ease with which the speakers connect to the docking station, combined with the brilliant use of older technology, could quite easily make the Audio Motion Wireless LightBulb Speaker system one of the most innovative speaker arrangements on the market.
5. Value for money
The system, including two light bulb speakers, the base station, remote control and two Edison/bayonet converters, retails for around R3 599. This is little expensive, considering you can get a more powerful surround sound system for half the price.
However, the Audio Motion Wireless Lightbulb Speakers are not about power, they are about aesthetics and anything that looks sexy and is easy to use comes at a premium. Nevertheless, the price counts against the wireless speakers.
Total score: 74%
Overall, the Audio Motion Wireless Audio LightBulb Speakers are a great, innovative idea. It is a clear sign of what is achievable in the wireless sector and an indication of what we can expect to see in sound innovation.
The Audio Motion Wireless LightBulb Speakers score 74%, which makes them an above average product.
* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher
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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
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.
- To find your nearest stockist visit https://www.fenix-store.com/.
Hisense adds AI-cameras to handsets
Hisense has entered the AI-camera space with the Infinity H30, aimed at the mid-range market. BRYAN TURNER tests the new camera technology.
Click below to read the review.
While many know Hisense for its TVs and appliances, it has an impressive lineup of smartphones. Its latest Infinity H30 smartphone packs a serious punch in the mid-range market, including features like a low-bezel screen and AI camera.
Out the box, the phone comes with the usual charger, charging cable and earphones. There is a surprise in the box: a screen protector and a clear case. A nice value-add to the already affordable smartphone.
The polycarbonate plastic body feels premium, especially for a device in this price range. It has a colour changing body, depending on the angle at which it is held. The colour of the device we reviewed is called Ice Blue, and shimmers in darker and lighter blues. Aesthetically, this is a big win for Hisense.
The 6.5″ screen is a narrow-bezelled FHD+ display with good colour replication. Hisense is known for creating colour-accurate displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy in its smartphones. The shape of the display is interesting, taking some design notes from Huawei’s Dewdrop display with what Hisense calls the “U-Infinity Display”. It makes the phone look really good.
On the rear of the phone, one finds a dual-camera setup with fingerprint sensor. On the bottom of the phone, there is a speaker, a USB Type-C Port and a headphone jack. The speaker’s placement on the bottom isn’t optimal and the sound is muffled if one accidentally covers the single speaker area.
The 4,530mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing an online game every hour) until it reaches 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only power feature of the device; it runs on the latest Android Pie operating system, which includes AI power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery.
It is a little disappointing to see the device came with some pre-installed games. Fortunately, one can uninstall them. Hisense makes up for this by issuing Android updates and security patches as the come out. This, coupled with the MediaTek Octa Core processor, provides a good user experience for playing games and multi-tasking.
The H30 has a whopping 128GB of on-board storage, and it can be expanded even more with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service.
The 20+2MP rear camera configuration is good at taking shots on Auto mode, but pictures can be better after figuring out all the camera modes available. There is a professional mode for those who want to be extra creative with their photography. It also includes a baby mode, which plays various noises to make a baby look at the phone for a better picture. The AI mode can be enabled to make full use of the processor in the device, and fif the camera mode to be selected based on scenes photographed.
The 20MP front camera performs equally as well. This camera is the reason for the U-like shape at the top of the screen. The camera app has beauty-face filters, for those wanting a slimmer face or smoother skin.
Overall, the Infinity H30 is a prime example of a good phone in an affordable price range. The camera is very capable, and the AI processing helps what would otherwise be a regular camera. The aesthetically pleasing colour saves the day, and makes this mid-range device look like a high-end flagship. The device is retailing for R5,499 from most major carriers.