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Product Reviews

The flashlight reinvented

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Two new LED flashlights from Chinese company Klarus prove that the torch is no longer merely a tube with batteries, writes JOEL DORFAN.

Klarus Lighting Technology based in Shenzhen, China, is one of the newer flashlight innovators and manufactures to take advantage of what LED’s have to offer to the handheld flashlight industry.

The flashlight is no longer just a tube with some batteries, a lamp and a switch. LEDs combined with electronic circuitry have allowed the flashlight to become a really useful tool.

Long runtime and low output, shorter runtime and high output, strobe modes and many more functions are now possible out of a single product.

Boost circuitry now allows the use of a single battery to power lights with enormous output. This means no longer having to leave the light at home or in the car.

Klarus have used the latest generation of Cree LEDs in two new lights: the XP-G2 and XM-L(U2). The RS1A will give you up to 210 lumens (100m beam distance) and the RS11 up to 620 lumens (160m beam distance). The AA battery form factor of the RS1A makes it easy to carry in jean’s pockets, with the larger 2xCR123 form factor RS11 allowing for easy jacket pocket carry.

Klarus have included features in these two lights that would appeal to the everyday user. For one thing, it has a body mounted switch rather than a tail cap switch. By doing this, they have left the real estate at the rear of the light available for the charger connector.

As versatile as these lights have become, this is not really a one-size-fits-all. You would still need to decide what the primary purpose of the light will be, choose the appropriate product whose primary function suits your need and then have the other functions as a bonus.

Law enforcement officers may require a light that always comes on as bright as possible the first time it is turned on without fiddling through modes and a tail cap switch (Klarus XT series).

The home user may want a light that comes on in a lower mode but then be able to ramp up the brightness as required.

Whereas maximum output is important, LEDs with electronic switching are now able to give you really low output as well. This is useful in the middle of the night when you just want a little light without waking up the family or when you need really long runtime in the event of a power outage. The RS1A will give you up to 68 hours and the RS11 up to 215 hours on a single fresh battery.

These two RS series lights from Klarus have an innovative charging setup. Both lights come with a charging cable that has USB plug the one end and magnetic plug the other end. The magnetic plug automatically locates snapping into place at the base of the light. Many products these days will charge using a standard USB port, so why should flashlights be any different?

To charge the battery you plug the cable into any USB power source. This could be a USB port on your computer, cell phone charger or the USB receptacle in your car.

Lwet’s see how it does on the gadget Five Question User Test:

1. Is it ready to use?

Neither light comes with a battery. To make use of the charge function you will require a rechargeable AA battery for the RS1A or a protected 18650 LiIon cell for the RS11.

Both lights will run on primary cells, which for the RS1A are standard alkaline AA batteries and for the RS11 2xCR123s. This is a useful feature should you run out of charge and not be able to recharge the cells.

Both lights come with detachable pocket clips. This is a great idea if you don’t like pocket clips. However,I found them both to be a little flimsy and failed to grip the pocket positively. They are also located quite far from the tail cap, not allowing for deep pocket carry. They do both however come with lanyards and a decent cordura pouch that can be worn on the belt or just used for protection for bag carry.

2. Is it easy to use?

The lights have 4 modes. High, medium, low and strobe. The user interface to change modes can take some getting used to.

The RS1A has a single button on the body. A momentary press and release will cause the light to come on and then go off. Hold the button down for just over half a second and the light will stay on.

Once on, if you then hold down the button the light will move to the next mode. You then need to release the button and then hold it down again to move to the third mode. Double click the switch at any time to access the strobe mode.

The RS11 has two buttons on the body: A larger raised front button that will act exactly the same as the button on the RS1A to access the 3 brightness modes: and a second more recessed button to access the strobe mode.

Both lights have last-used memory feature. This means that whatever level you had the light set on (for longer than 3 seconds) when you switched the light off, will be the level that the light will come on in next time you turn it on.

The manual that comes with both lights is adequate but changes need to be made to explain the operation of the lights more accurately.

3. Does it deliver on its promise?

With the exception of the slightly fiddly user interface mentioned above, both lights are excellent. Machining and anodizing are perfect. They will both handle some fairly harsh use and continue to function flawlessly. Both lights are rated IPX8 waterproof to 2m.

Beam pattern and throw are outstanding for any light let alone for lights of this size. Both lights tail stand perfectly, allowing the light to be bounced off the ceiling for more flood-like application. The stainless steel bezels on both lights are easily removed allowing for a slightly more slim lined and less aggressive look.

4. Is it innovative?

There are many up and coming flashlight manufacturers, but Klarus are the first to have the magnetic charging feature. No external DC sockets means nowhere for dust or water to get in. USB chargers have become so common that providing you have the proprietary charging cable, you should always be able to find somewhere to plug it in.

Many rechargeable products use a proprietary battery. These two lights will even run on standard primary cells easily available from your nearest battery store.

In all of their higher end lights, Klarus have gone to a lot of trouble to include an easily accessible strobe mode but, at the same time, have found ways to prevent accidental activation.

5. Is it value for money?

At a suggested retail of $74.95 for the RS1A and $116.95 for the RS11, these lights are not cheap. However if you look at all of the features on offer, you are getting a lot of light for you money, especially if you factor in the fact that they are both rechargeable.

* Klarus Lighting Technology have appointed Klarus Lights USA as their distributor in the USA. They carry stock and provide excellent levels of service both pre and post sales. Their contact details can be found at http://www.klaruslightusa.com. To find a dealer in your country contact Klarus Lighting Technology at http://www.klaruslight.com/

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Nokia 9 PureView pioneers new camera tech

Nokia packed five camera-lenses into its latest high-end flagship, but does more lenses mean better pictures? BRYAN TURNER took it for a test run.

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Nokia is not new to the high-end mobile photography market. In 2012, it led Mobile World Congress (MWC) with its 41MP Nokia 808 PureView. This year, Nokia returned to MWC with its next PureView handset: the Nokia 9 PureView.

Instead of pushing megapixels, the mobile device maker chose to focus on intelligent exposure and sharp focus quality. It achieved this with a set of five cameras on the rear of the device – the most ever on the back of a handset. All of the lenses are 12MP f/1.8 lenses, and three of them are monochrome. The five lenses work in tandem to blend the best parts of a captured image. This is achieved through software image blending, which has been trained to know what’s good and bad about the image. 

Why monochrome? 

Lighting is dramatically improved with a monochrome sensor. About 2.9x more light can be captured with a monochrome sensor when compared to a conventional sensor. Huawei showed off the advantages of integrating a monochrome camera with the P9. 

Why three monochrome lenses? 

Detail can be captured at three different lighting settings, one to absorb a lot of light, one to absorb a little less light, and one to absorb very little light. These photos can then be blended into one great photo, without the user having to worry about setting the camera’s exposure manually.

The monochrome mode captures photos in crisp detail, while giving an authentic dramatic monochrome photography feel.

Only five lenses have been mentioned so far but the back of the device sports seven holes. The sixth hole is for the flash and the seventh is for the depth sensor. This sensor captures the depth of an image, so autofocus can be a little sharper and focus depth on bokeh images can be adjusted after the picture is taken. This adjustment feature is especially useful when a subject’s hair has been “bokeh’d out”.

Click here to read about the other features of the Nokia 9 PureView.

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Product Reviews

Bose Portable: quality at a price

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The Bose SoundDock Portable looks great and performs well, but SEAN BACHER finds the price doesn’t justify the better sound quality.

Since its inception in 1964, American-based audio specialist, Bose, has built a name synonymous with quality. Along with that, it has built a reputation of being more expensive than many of its competitors, but not deterring many from making the expensive investment. The mini sound speakers are quite often used in boardrooms, bars and restaurants around the world and offer crystal-clear sound that rivals most speakers twice their size.

Testament to the Bose sound quality is that it is used as the standard audio system in luxury cars like Audi, BMW and Mercedes, and according to Wikipedia, Bose products can be found in many military and NASA applications.

It is therefore not surprising to find Bose accessories compatible with smartphones. One example is the Bose SoundDock Portable. A portable docking station for iPhones and iPods that works off rechargeable batteries.

We put the Bose SoundDock Portable through the Gadget Five Question User.

1. Ease of use (including set-up)

Although the Bose SoundDock Portable, comes with instructions, they are not needed and in most cases, it will be ready to operate the minute it is removed from the box and an iPhone or iPod is plugged into it.

If the batteries on either the phone or docking station are flat though, the charger needs to be plugged into it before it can be used. You don’t need to wait for the batteries to charge fully before using it.

Bose has taken the minimalist approach with the SoundDock as on the right are two touch-sensitive Volume buttons and that’s it. No Power or other controls. The included remote is also very easy to use. It uses standard Play, Pause, Volume and Skip buttons, all well labelled.

The front of the docking station is made up of a silver grill, below which is the retractable iPhone dock. Although the casing around the connector is designed to accommodate an iPhone’s protective skin, it was not big enough to for the bumper I had on my phone, which meant I had to take the phone out of the case every time I wanted to plug it in.

On the plus side though, unlike many other portable docking stations, the Bose will charge a docked phone even if it is just running off battery power.

The Bose SoundDock Portable’s ease of use along with its elegant design cannot be faulted. But its dock connector counts against it.

Score: 18/20

2. General performance

The two front facing speakers offer crisp sounds and when the volume is cranked up all the way the SoundDock does not distort at all and is deafeningly loud.

At the rear is 3.5mm jack, allowing you to connect non-Apple phones, MP3 players and other audio equipment.

According to Bose, the 1 900mAh rechargeable battery pack will offer up to three hours of music at a maximum volume a different approach to rating battery life as most other vendors rate operating times at ‚”typical listening volumes‚”. I have been using the SoundDock on and off and not at full tilt for the past week without having to plug the mains adapter in yet.

This is however a good thing. Although the Bose SoundDock Portable is elegant and well made, Bose didn’t pay to much attention to the adaptor. It is a bit bigger than two cellphone chargers placed next to each other. It monopolises all the other electrical outlets, when plugged into the wall, meaning you need a dedicated plug for when you want to charge the battery.

The Bose SoundDock Portable provides a beautiful sound, its battery life is great, but the giant-sized charger is a complete let down.

Score: 12/20

3. Does it add value to your life?

Unlike many docking stations that are designed for bedside listening, the Bose SoundDock Portable is powerful enough to offer good sound in an average sized dining room or lounge.

Weighing in at just under three kilograms, it is not the lightest of them all, but the rear, recessed-handle makes carrying it fairly easy. (A carry bag is available as an optional extra.) Overall, it is a nice addition for a picnic or where an electrical outlet is not available.

18/20

4. Innovation

Sound docks have been around for years, and although the SoundDock offers superior sound, it offers nothing in the way of innovation. In fact, the lack of Bluetooth or any wireless connectivity for that matter is limiting.

13/20

5. Value for money

Much like the die-hard Apple Mac fans that will spend more on a product that performs much the same as cheaper alternatives, you get the same in the audio/visual world.

This becomes especially clear when reading the various reviews posted on the Internet. Reviewers either dislike the Bose SoundDock Portable due to it price, while others like it, saying the sound quality justifies the price.

But at R5 000 for a docking station I would have to agree with the former reviewers. R5 000 is ridiculously overpriced, even though it offers superior sound.

10/20

Conclusion

There is no faulting the Bose SoundDock Portable in terms of elegance and sound, but its clunky charger and high price are complete turnoffs.

Total score: 71%

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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