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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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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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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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