Categories
Technology

S6 wireless charging pad review

Having given a little bit of background to wireless charging technology, it’s now time for me to review Samsung’s wireless charging pad.

The Good

Galaxy S6 wireless charging
My Samsung Galaxy S6 wirelessly charging on the S6 Qi charging pad

So what’s good about Samsung’s wireless charging pad? It’s a wireless charging pad! It can wirelessly charge your phone!!!!! Providing it’s an S6 of course.

The proximity of the sensor is pretty good, you get the best (fastest) charge by putting the phone – without a case – centrally on the pad. That said, my phone charges perfectly well when it’s in its case, and you can lift it up about an inch in the air, and it will still charge – just a little slower.

The pad is reasonably small and very well designed. Being plastic, it doesn’t have the same quality feel to it that the S6 itself has, but it is still aesthetically pleasing, lighting up blue when your phone is charging, and green when it hits 100% – just like the LED on the S6 does.

The pad has a safety feature built in to stop overcharging, meaning that once your phone hits 100% charge (some people report this is closer to 90%, but for me it’s been 100%) then it stops emitting power.

When I’m at my desk, my phone sits next to me, so I’ve just got it resting on the pad now instead. I can still pick it up and use it as frequently as I like, without damaging the pad or the battery.

It couldn’t be simpler to use, it really is as easy and placing your phone on the pad and so long as its reasonably central, it will charge.

The Not-So-Good

My first S6 charging pad shock came when I realised it doesn’t come with any leads. ‘It’s wireless charging, why do you want leads?‘ you may be shouting, but unless it were battery powered (which it isn’t, because wireless charging is too inefficient to make a battery powered version effective) you need to plug the pad into a power source.

Wireless charging pad fully charged
The S6 on Samsung’s Qi charging pad, showing the green, fully charged lights

Samsung’s recommended retail price for the pad is £40 GBP (or a slightly cheaper $50 USD in the States) and yet that doesn’t include a mains plug, or a micro USB charger. The only other thing that comes in the box is a hefty multi-language instruction leaflet, reminding you not to throw the pad off a cliff, strike it with a hammer or take it for a swim. I’d rather they’d saved the paper personally.

Being wireless, the pad doesn’t charge as fast as a wired connection, and is nowhere near the speed of a fast charger. For some people this is a major gripe, but it doesn’t really bother me. I know that it’s going to charge slower, but it’s also going to be more convenient to use. If my phone’s nearly dead and I’m going out in an hour, I’ll turn it off, plug it into a fast charger and I know that by the time I go out, it’ll be pretty much fully charged. If however my phone is nearly dead, but I’m at my desk all day, I’ll leave it switched on and on the pad, knowing that if I need to use it at any point, I can simply lift it up, without having to fiddle with that annoying micro USB.

Something to be aware of is that you’ll probably need to plug the charging pad into a mains socket, rather than a USB port on your computer. I was hoping to power the pad from my PC, which the first time I used it seemed to work okay – it just charged a bit slower – however from then on it’s not managed to squeeze quite enough energy out of the USB port and down the wire into the pad. As a result the charger keeps disconnecting, meaning my phone keeps dinging and bonging to let me know that it’s charging, not-charging, charging, not-charging – you get the picture.

Is It Worth It?

So is Samsung’s wireless charging pad worth a purchase? Well that’s a tricky one to answer. If you have a phone which is wireless charging compatible, charging wirelessly is undoubtedly a useful feature. If money is no object for you, most certainly run out and get one – or get your butler to buy one for you online.

Had the pad included a mains power plug and a micro USB lead I would say yes. It is £40, but for that you get a ready to use wireless charging pad. The fact that for Samsung has chosen not to include a means to power the pad, means that I think this has to be more of an individual decision. I’m sitting on the fence on this one. A great product, it looks good and is convenient to use, but it’s under-accessorised and overpriced.

Finally, I must say a thanks to Mobile Fun who sent this S6 charger to us for review. We were discussing the review just after 5pm and the pad was delivered ready for the review by 11am the next day – that’s super fast delivery!

Categories
Science Technology

How does wireless charging work?

This is my two hundred and fiftieth (writing it out in full looks better than 250th) article on Technology Bloggers! It’s taken nearly four and a quarter years to get this far, but here I am, still blogging away. 🙂
That’s an average of 5 posts per month!

Not that anyone’s keeping score, but Jonny is hot on my heals now with 165 – just 85 behind me!

Finally, wireless charging on a mainstream mobile phone has arrived. Samsung’s Galaxy S6, S6 Edge and S6 Active all come wireless charging ready. Unfortunately we aren’t yet at the stage where your phone can wirelessly charge in your pocket, you do have to buy a wireless charging pad and have it sit on that, but it’s a step further than we have ever been before. This article gives an incite into the technology behind wireless charging, and then in my next article I’m going to review Samsung’s official wireless charging pad.

Wireless Charging Technology

Tesla coil wireless power
A Tesla Coil being used to wirelessly power a light bulb

The capability to power things wirelessly is not a new phenomenon. Way back in the late 1800s, Nikola Tesla was using his Tesla Coil to power things from across the room. You might have done a similar experiment in science lessons at school, using a Tesla Coil to light up a light bulb.

The reason it’s taken so long for wireless charging to become mass market is because compared to wired charging, it is hugely inefficient. Wireless charging wastes a lot of energy as heat, meaning less is used to actually power the device. Wireless charging also takes longer than wired power, and as such is much more expensive.

Plugging my phone (the Galaxy S6) into a standard micro USB port will charge it from flat in around 2 hours. Plugging it into a fast charger takes just over an hour for a full charge. Charging wirelessly from flat takes over 3 hours. That’s 3 hours of electricity being used, compared to 1 in a fast charger.

Wireless charging has also taken a while to become mainstream because of problems with proximity. Tesla could power a light bulb from across the room, but that wasn’t controllable. If he had 2 light bulbs and only wanted to power one, he had no way of stopping power reaching the other. With so many different devices and radio frequencies about today, it is essential that wireless charging works without interfering with any other signals – for example your mobiles 4G signal. As such wireless charging has a very low proximity range. My S6 quite literally has to be on or within an inch or two of the pad to charge. A range of 1 meter would be fantastic, however that could fry other bits of tech, or ruin the magnetic strip on my credit cards.

Despite over 100 years in the making, wireless charging is still in reasonable early stages of development. It is a great idea, and when it works, it is super convenient and very useful, but still has a long way to go.

If you want to find out more about how wireless charging works, I recommend this YouTube video as a good place to start.

Categories
Gadgets Reviews

Wireless speakers battle – HMDX Jam Vs JBL Flip mini review

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Years ago the thought of having a speaker system that you could carry around with you without any wires was alien. The days of big bulky Hi Fi systems that take up half of your room are long gone; there is a new kid on the block, the wireless speaker. This has revolutionised the industry and now allows anyone, no matter what their budget, to share and enjoy their music with friends and family.

The first loud speaker was invented by Johann Philipp Reis in 1861, when he installed it into his telephone. Alexander Graham Bell patented his first electric loud speaker as part of the telephone in 1876. This then changed the way we could listen to sound and thus a new industry was born in the form of speakers. Technology has come a long way in such a short space of time and now we have a wide range of wireless speakers to choose from. Below are two of the leading players in the market.

HMDX Jam Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

HMDX Jam Bluetooth Wireless SpeakerIf you are looking for an ultra-compact wireless speaker that packs a punch, at an affordable price tag, you can’t go far wrong with the Jam. This speaker can be used with a range of devices including smartphones, tablets, MP3 players and laptops.

With it having up to 30 feet range it makes it perfect for a host of situations whether in the house or down at the park. The HMDX Jam Bluetooth wireless speaker available from Superfi can run up to four hours when wirelessly connected to a Bluetooth device. It can also have a wired connection via its stereo mini jack connection with up to 12 hours playback. This is the perfect speaker if you want top quality sound without having to break the piggy bank.

JBL Flip Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

This speaker is slightly higher in price but you also get a lot more for your money. It has an impressive 5 hours of wireless playback due to its rechargeable Lithium Ion battery. The JBL Flip Bluetooth wireless speaker available at Superfi also comes with a built in microphone with a call answer button, mening it doubles up as a hands-free calling system. Don’t be fooled by the Flip’s diminutive dimensions, this little gem punches way above its weight. It has an integrated bass port and two twin 38mm drivers which provide a powerful crisp sound with outstanding clarity. The Flip is definitely at the higher end of the market, but if you have a little bit more money to spend you won’t be disappointed with this investment.JBL Flip Bluetooth Wireless SpeakerWireless speakers are a fantastic way of playing your entire music collection on the move without the discomfort of ear phones. They are the perfect addition for any social occasion and there compact design makes them easy to transport. To put one of these speakers above the other one is an impossible task. They are both at different ends of the market. The one thing that makes them the same, is they offer outstanding value for money, whichever one your budget can stretch to.

Categories
Computers Internet News

Using White Space for Internet Coverage

Google launched an interesting experiment this week, offering free “super” wi-fi connection to the Internet for several schools in Cape Town South Africa. What is interesting about that you might ask? Well they are using the unused frequencies in the broadcast TV spectrum.

White Space diagram
A diagram of a white space network

The TV broadcasting frequency spectrum is currently divided between many channels, but between each channel there is a gap, a frequency space, often known as “white space’, and the hope is that this space can be used to broadcast high speed wireless Internet access. This experimental system is not without it doubters though, TV companies are not keen because they think there might be interference in their picture, so what better than a small experiment to try it out?

We can all imagine how this experiment might revolutionize Internet use though. In the countryside where infrastructure is lacking but TV is visible the companies could offer a service. In the city where cables are all in use they could do the same. One great advantage is that low frequency signals can travel over long distances, so the coverage potential is massive, and they penetrate buildings and other natural barriers much more efficiently than other frequencies currently in use.

Here in the US many telecommunications carriers have been complaining that there is not enough bandwidth for them to keep up with consumer demand, and so the Federal Communications Commission has been trying to free up spectrum space. They approved rules in 2010 about the use of such white spaces and databases have been set up to monitor spectrum use to see how it can be improved. Google are one of the leaders in this database organization too, as this article explains.

Experiments are being conducted here too, with this article describing how the system is being used in a small North Carolina town, and results reported in the UK claim that the system can deliver 16 megabits per second over 10KM (see Christopher’s comments on this related article for an explanation of what that means), but this is a delivery similar to what we know as 4G.

Potentially great improvements in coverage might be just round the corner through a more efficient use of an already existing infrastructure.

Categories
Internet

How to get the most from your fibre optic broadband

While fibre optic internet coverage continues to grow, internet prices are continuing to decrease, meaning it’s never been a better time to upgrade your internet. That being said, if you intend on shelling out on fibre optic, its best you consider how you can ensure you make the most of what you pay for.

Upgrade your wireless router

If your internet supplier has not already provided you with a new wireless router, you may find the need to upgrade to make the most of your new high speed internet. Older routers on the whole tend to be around 50% slower than newer models, meaning investment is paramount if you want to make the most of your fibre optic connection. There is a huge array of routers on the market, with many different features. It’s advised that you go for a dual band router if you have many devices on your network as it will ensure a better connection that is less prone to interference.

Use an Ethernet cable

If you’re after the highest internet and data transferral speeds, connecting via an Ethernet cable is by far your best option. Wireless data is transmitted at a snail pace when compared to a cabled connection, which now has speeds of up to one gigabit on some routers, so really cuts down on the benefit of fibre optic broadband. Though far from practical, having a wired connection will enable you to really make the most of your internet connection.

The end of an Ethernet cable
The end of a red Ethernet cable – the colour has no significance, red just makes for a more vibrant image!

If you own a desktop, setup your router nearby so you can always have a wired connection for your PC. If not consider hiding cables in the wall throughout your home so you can have high speed connectivity throughout your home. If done right, it can even make your home more attractive when it comes to selling it!

Set up a media server

Modern hard drives now have functions which enable them to be used and accessed over your network, meaning you don’t need it to be plugged directly into your computer for it to work. Not only is this highly practical, it also allows multiple users to access information at the same time, without the need of cables.

Splash out on modern technology

Many modern devices now have some form of use for wireless internet, so splashing out on the latest devices will mean you can really make the most of your fibre optic connection. Many consoles such as the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3 will allow users to stream content from the internet or computer onto the TV. With a high speed connection, you can have many devices operating at full pelt without feeling like your connection is being throttled.

Categories
Computers Reviews

Which new printer is best for you?

A printerAs with everything from televisions to cameras to computers, printer technology evolves and improves with every year. Printer manufacturers release new models every calendar year that offer new features, improved capabilities and, in some cases, fixes for problems that have plagued users in earlier models.

In 2012, printers are faster than ever before, providing crisp and clean images and text. Still, they manage to print more quickly and use less ink, making them so much more efficient. Other trends this year include larger formats and wireless capabilities. Here’s a closer look at some of the top printers of 2012, for all possible budgets and printing needs.

HP Envy 110 e-All-in-One

Want a printer that is environmentally friendly while also providing high-quality printing? Then this is your printer. The world’s only PVC-free printer, the Envy inkjet printer, is also Energy Star certified and offers green features like automatic two-sided printing and an ink cartridge recycling program.

In addition to the low environmental impact, the Envy offers quick and quiet printing and produces lab quality photo prints and crisp documents. And in addition to the wireless capabilities, the Envy has built in AirPrint capabilities, meaning you can print from your iPad, iPod touch or iPhone. Best of all, the Envy is affordable, just around $200.

Canon Pixma MX432

Are you working from home? Do you need an affordable machine that prints, scans and copies? Then the Canon Pixma MX432 might be a good option for you.

Costing about $100, this sleek machine does everything you need for a low price. While this inkjet has a slightly slower speed than some other comparable printers, it provides excellent photo printing and includes wireless and AirSoft capabilities for convenient printing on the go.

HP Officejet Pro 8500

If you need fast and high-quality printing plus the capability to scan, copy and fax, then this is the model for you. One of the most user-friendly printers on the market, it boasts a large LCD screen that allows you to set your preferences with just the touch of a button.

For an inexpensive all-in-one (this model runs just under $300) the HP Officejet prints quickly, with about 15 pages per minute in black and white, 11 pages per minute in color, both with professional-looking resolution and quality. The drawback to this model is that it does not have wireless capabilities, but you can scan directly to e-mail or print from a memory card.

Epson Artisan 835/Epson Artisan 1430

If you print lots of photos at home, then the Epson Artisan 835 is definitely a printer to consider. Unlike other inkjet printers that use four color ink cartridges plus a black cartridge, the Epson uses a six cartridge system.

The two extra ink colors, light magenta and light cyan, allow the Epson to print photos with a greater range and depth of colors, meaning that your snapshots look professionally printed. This printer is more than adequate in other areas as well, providing crisp black and white printing at nine pages per minute, plus scanning, faxing and copying capabilities. This printer costs around $300.

If you would rather have greater photo printing capabilities than multiple functions, consider the Epson Artisan 1430. This printer is geared toward the photographer, printing gallery-worthy prints up to 13” x 19”. With a price tag of less than $300, this printer is far more affordable than other wide format models, making it the ideal choice for amateur photographers or craft enthusiasts who want to print larger photos and documents.

The Artisan 1430 also includes wireless capabilities, plus Epson Connect, which allows you to print from your smartphone, tablet or other mobile device.

Printers have come a long way from the slow and inefficient dot matrix models of the early days of home computing. The best model for you depends on how you plan to use it; if you plan to print mostly documents, look for a model that prints quickly and efficiently, while a photo printer should provide high-quality color prints.

If you take lots of photos or do work on a mobile device, choose a compatible printer that allows you to print directly from your device. Test a few models, compare the quality and make the right printer decision for you; if nothing else, there will plenty of new models to choose from next year.

Categories
Business Gadgets Technology

Technology and the future of work

Technology is always changing and advancing the way we live our lives, unless you are a luddite and live in an Amish community that is! Some people oppose technological change, and I respect them for that, but personally I embrace it – techie all the way!

Technology is likely to improve the way we do business significantly in the near future, but how? In this article I am going to write about some of the latest and greatest technology which is going to revolutionise the way we work!

Portable Laser Keyboards

Okay, so you may be thinking that we already have keyboards that are pretty portable, you can get role up ones that you can take almost anywhere. The problem with these is of course, they do take up space, and often they cannot connect to your smartphone or tablet.

The future solution to this problem is already here: The Magic Cube. The Magic Cube is a super portable wireless laser keyboard, which has been developed by a company called Celluon. It is basically a little box which can project a laser keyboard onto any flat surfaces, and then works out what you are typing by where your fingers break the lasers.

A wireless laser keyboard called the Magic Cube
The Magic Cube – a wireless laser keyboard

This is no ordinary keyboard though, it can connect via Bluetooth to most smartphones, laptops, tablets and desktops, so wherever you are, no matter what your device, if you have your Magic Cube, you have a keyboard!

Hand Motion Technology

In the very near future, we will be able to control screens using our hands, and not by touching the screen (that technology already exists) but by simply waving a hand in the air.

The 2002 film Minority Report featured futuristic hand motion technology where detectives could push images off to the side and bring up more content just by waving their hands in the air. This was in the movie, because the film makers heard that the technology was being developed.

Better Integration

In the future we are likely to see much better integration of all technologies. Mainly thanks to the likes of cloud computing and improvements in wireless technology, it should become easier and easier to transfer files from device to to device.

Apps

Smartphones and tablets have and are still revolutionising the way we do business. Smartphones and tablets have significantly improved the way we do business and communicate, but it is the apps that you can download onto them that are likely to significantly change the way we do business in the future.

We already have apps that can scan and store your business cards, store details on your asset and save your important documents, but in the future you can expect many more effective, impressive apps. Some examples of apps which we may see developed in the future (or that are being developed now) are the likes of more powerful, real time translators, high performance graphic design apps, apps which make paying, transferring and receiving money much easier, human quality text to speech apps, and many more.

QB Robots

A US based company called Anybots have created a very cool little robot called QB, which uses the latest in wireless technology to create a portable webcam, so when conference calling, you almost feel as though you are in the room (thanks to your movable position) with your colleagues.

Anybots QB Robot
The head of one of Anybots wirelessly controlled QB robots – notice the webcam eyes and screen inbuilt into the head

The robots have freedom of movement, so they can go anywhere in the office. On the head section of the QB, there is a webcam, so that you can see what the robot sees, and a screen, so you can be seen by those in the office.

QB means that you can be anywhere in the world, and yet still check up on those in the office, meaning that working out of the office is so much easier than ever before! QB could also help to significantly reduce the costs to businesses of travel, as fewer employees will need to be on the move.

3D Printing

3D printing is a new technology, which some critics say will be as big a revolution as the internet! 3D printing will allow firms to print products to order in store, bringing huge savings to firms in terms of transportation. Some predict that by the end of the decade, 3D printers will be a common household object, where we can print things, in 3D out of a whole range of different materials. I plan to write an article in the near future about 3D printing, so stay tuned!

UPDATE: I have now written that article, and it can be found here: 3D printing – a revolution on the horizon?

So, the future looks very exciting, but what do you think of it? Have you heard anything that I haven’t?