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Walka 7 A portable novelty

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After trying DStv Mobile’s Walka 7 for a few weeks, SEAN BACHER finds that although it is no replacement for a full-sized TV, the Walka 7 really adds value to a user’s life when on the move.

A few years ago DStv Mobile announced the Drifta, a mobile device that could pick up selected DStv channels and stream them to your smartphone, tablet, notebook or desktop.

The device was certainly innovative, especially considering the slow speeds and high costs of data in South Africa.

However, the device disappointed. There were very few channels available for Drifta users and, although there were no subscription fees for DStv premium subscribers, those without DStv had to pay a monthly subscription. It almost felt as if MultiChoice were merely offering this product to South African premium subscribers as a way to offset their massive monthly subscription fees.

Since then, DStv Mobile has released the Drifta USB, with more channels, the device was limited to desktops or notebooks with USB, and had no Wi-Fi streaming functionality.

Now, DStv Mobile is offering South Africans the Walka 7, a 7‚” handheld device. It eliminates the need for a secondary device like a tablet or smartphone, as it lets users watch TV directly on the device. We put the Walka 7 through the Gadget Five Question User Test.

1. Ease of use (including setup)

The Walka 7 doesn’t need any drivers, nor does it need any kind of setup. However, you do have to phone the Multichoice call centre to have the signal to the device activated. Once the subscription is activated, though, it will work the moment the batteries are charged and the unit is switched on.

Operating it, on the other hand, is a little confusing. It looks and feels like a 7‚” tablet and I found myself tapping on the screen to access different functions much like you would on any tablet. But, in order to keep the price as low as possible, the Walka does not have a touch screen. Instead, all the controls are crammed into the top right corner of the device, making it nearly impossible to use without first turning it around to find out what button you need to press.

More usefully, the Walka 7 includes a stand that lets you adjust the tilt angle of the unit if you’re not holding it.

The Walka 7’s ease of use and seamless setup all count in its favour.

16/20

2. General performance

The built-in battery will run the Walka 7 for around six hours, depending on the signal strength. This is more than enough time to watch a full soccer, rugby or cricket game and is also great for keeping the kids entertained while on a drive on holiday. The battery will also take three to four hours to recharge fully, but it can be connected to a computer’s USB output for trickle charging.

The screen, which offers a maximum resolution of 800×480, is still not the greatest of quality, but is a vast improvement on the smaller Walka. It doesn’t offer a wide viewing area, so it won’t do well when a few people want to watch it at the same time. That said, the Walka 7 is great for personal viewing while on the go.

Also, the bigger screen means that you should be able to get a bigger picture by changing the aspect ratio much like you would do on your LED TV. Although the Walka 7 offers this feature, stretching the picture just distorts it as DStv Mobile uses the DVB-H broadcast standard, at a resolution of 320×480.

I found that watching at the default 320×480 resolution was not perfect, with much of the screen pixelating or updating at a slower rate than the rest of the screen.

The Walka 7 did however offer decent sound: it was clear and didn’t distort even when cranked up full-blast.

Once the Menu, Channel, Power, Aspect Ratio and Volume buttons situated on the top of the unit were worked out, navigating the various on-screen menus was easy. It is very well laid out with the menu items easily identifiable.

The great battery life counts in the favour of the Walka 7, but the substandard screen an area where DStv Mobile should have focused will sometimes make watching TV on the move more of a irritation than a pleasure.

Score: 12/20

3. Does it add value to your life?

Since the original Drifta I have always believed that DStv Mobile has aimed the device at the sports enthusiastic. Although there are now various mobile bouquets available for the Walka 7, including a variety of news and infotainment channels like Discovery, there are no dedicated movie channels.

At home, the Walka will feel like a novelty device, but it really begins to serve a purpose when on the move. I should add that my colleague Arthur Goldstuck swears by it as an ideal way of following breaking news when he is working at his desk. So it does depend on your priorities.

Score: 16/20

4. Is it innovative?

The Walka 7 follows in the footsteps of the Walka 3.5‚” device and, though it offers a bigger screen, the controls are very similar and there are no additional functions that could be labelled as innovative. However, the idea of using the popular 7‚” tablet format for a mobile TV device does score points.

The idea of being able to extend your DStv subscription to any part of the city or country where there is a DVB-H signal represents a compelling value proposition for existing premium subscribers and, while not new on this device, continues to surprise, since it works in most urban environments in South Africa.

Score: 15/20

5. Is it value for money?

As a device to use at home, the Walka 7 is not worth the R900 especially considering that you can watch high-definition channels on a much bigger screen.

It is however a different story for when you don’t have access to a TV. Being able to watch that important rugby match or keep up to date with late-breaking news definitely warrants the R900.

The additional R50 that non-premium subscribers need to pay each month is also value for money considering the additional channels that have been added.

Score: 16/20

In conclusion

Total score: 75/100

Since the original Drifta was launched, DStv Mobile has introduced a number of additional mobile channels. While this is a step in the right direction, the Walka 7 is not a great device for watching TV as your main entertainment option. Those using the Drifta and streaming to a tablet will get better sound and a better picture quality, as their device will usually offer better specifications than that of the Walka 7. However, it is a fun option for keeping up with sports and news while in the office or on holiday.

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @SeanBacher

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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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Product of the Day

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.

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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.

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