Sunday, December 21, 2014

Plantronics BackBeat PRO: Wireless Headphones Review

Plantronics is getting serious in quality audio headphones with the recent launch of the BackBeat PRO in Singapore. Having reviewed several Plantronics products over the months, I am happy that Plantronics now have headphones that satisfy the listeners who enjoy the Plantronics kind of audio quality.


As the name suggests, it aims at offering professional-grade audio quality to the consumers. And this one headphones alone has all the features that any on-the-go music lovers will ever need. It's like the swiss army knife of headphones. How so? Let me list them down.


Wireless? Check.

The BackBeat PRO connects wirelessly to your device via the latest Bluetooth 4.0. It even supports Class 1 Bluetooth, meaning it can connect up to 100 metres with devices supporting Class 1. In comparison, the standard distance for most devices is 10 metres. Not many devices come with Class 1, but it's still a swell feature for those who do. A fantastic reason to get the BackBeat PRO.

Pairing is also made easy with NFC. Just tap the device to the BackBeat PRO to initiate pairing.

Wired? Check.

If the BackBeat PRO battery runs out, which is like impossible (unless you forget to charge it), you can use it with a wired cable with in-line mic for voice calls.

Battery Life? Check.

The BackBeat PRO can play music for 24 hours straight! If I need to watch Star Wars marathon, I would be glad this headphones could last through the 6 movies in one charge.


Active Noise Cancellation? Check.



The inclusion of active noise cancellation (ANC) allows you to isolate ambient noise and let you enjoy music even at lower volumes. The BackBeat PRO ANC work effectively in reducing low-frequency humming noises. It does not eliminate high-frequency sounds, neither does it kill human chatter. While it is not the mot effective ANC I've reviewed, it is still a good feature to remove the irritating rumbling sounds of airplanes, trains, buses.


Listen to ambient mode without removing headphones? Check.



If you need to listen to ambient noise, say, when ordering food at the counter, just press a button and the BackBeat PRO activates OpenMic(TM) to let you hear your surroundings. You can even adjust the sensitivity of the mic to increase the volume of the surrounding sound. Hmm, thinking aloud, it is a rather cool feature to eavesdrop. Finally, I can have Batman's hypersonic hearing technology! Well, almost.


Music Controls? Check.



The BackBeat PRO uses a large fly-by-wire dial that goes around the right speaker circumference to let you control the volume, which is so much sleeker than the 2-button rocker. Skipping tracks is controlled on the left ear. Press the huge round button on the left speaker to manually-pause tracks, and the right speaker to take calls.

Answer Calls? Check.



You can pick up calls or make calls with the BackBeat PRO without ever touching the phone.

Music auto-pause? Check. 



STAR FEATURE! Plantronics is seriously pampering us music listeners. Imagine: all you do is to take the headphones off your ears, and the music pauses automatically! Place it back to your ears and the music continues where it's left off.

Comfort? Check.



The BackBeat PRO is heavy, but feels comfortable on my head. Its large ear cushions cup over your ears so you feel no strain against the ears. The speakers can be twisted 90-degrees inwards so when you remove them and wear it around your neck, they can turn towards your body and not stick out like a neck brace.

Protective case? Check.

The included pouch is made of tough nylon on the outside and purple velvet material on the inside, ensuring your precious headphones are well-protected.


Audio quality

With the ANC turned off, the BackBeat PRO delivers sparkling crystal treble, more open sounding bass. When the ANC is turned on, the bass immediately sounded compressed, less reverberating, and lacks roominess, although it becomes cleaner and more detailed. I prefer listening with ANC off, as it produces a more natural sounding warm bass and less processed treble. If you are listening to loud tracks, I find the ANC offers little effect to eliminate the surrounding noise.


Waterproof? Who are you kidding?

I have never heard of any on-ear headphones that can battle the elements. The BackBeat PRO is no exception. Get an in-ear headphones like the excellent Plantronics BackBeat GO 2 for your active lifestyle, but keep the BackBeat PRO for your passive moments.


Conclusion

The Plantronics BackBeat PRO is every inch an awesome multi-functional headphones. It's got loads of practical features, the buttons and knobs are well-placed, I can easily access them without looking. The headphones feel so comfortable even after long hours of use, the ANC eliminates some ambient noise, its battery life is jaw-dropping long. There is no noise leak, so you can turn up the volume in libraries.



Retailing in Singapore for S$379, available at all good electronics stores.

Specs


  • Speakers: 40mm dynamic drivers
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth v4.0 + EDR - A2DP for audio streaming, AVRCP for music controls, Hands-free v1.6 for wideband, and Headset v1.2,
  • Wireless Coverage: Up to 100 meters/330 feet from phone or tablet with Class 1 Bluetooth
  • Audio Codec: aptX® low latency codec, AAC codec
  • Multi-Point Connectivity: Simultaneously connect two Bluetooth devices (2H2S)
  • Noise-cancellation: Controllable Active Noise Canceling (ANC) plus Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and dual microphones
  • Wired: 1.2m 3.5mm cable with in-line control
  • Power: Up to 24 hours of listening time, Up to 21 days standby time, Up to 180 days in DeepSleep mode
  • Charge Time: Up to 3 hours
  • Weight: 340 grams
  • Others: NFC Pairing, Voice Alerts
  • In the box: BackBeat PRO headphones, 3.5mm audio cable, USB charge cable, premium pouch




Reviewed by Chester Tan
Rating: 4.3 of 5

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

OPPO N3 or R5 Contest: It's Yours to Win!

Gadgets with unique selling features always get me excited. OPPO has announced 2 new smartphones and both have features you won't find anywhere else. What are they? OPPO R5 is the thinnest smartphone ever, at 4.85mm, and it's so tough, you can use it as a hammer. Check the below video! OPPO N3 is the first smartphone with auto-rotation camera lens.



They have such good specs, I really don't even need to ask for a review unit to decide that I WANT ONE! And so I'm gonna win one of these, or BOTH of these, smartphones, without paying a cent. FREE!

And so can you! Just do what #OPPOSG wants you to do: share a post on your Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, about the new smartphones.


"If I had the #OPPON3, I'd snap a photo of..."


"The #OPPOR5 is thinner than..."

Your post must contain the hashtags of #OPPOSG and the product that you want to win.

What are you waiting for? Contest ends on 31 December 2014!

OPPO N3 (Image courtesy of OPPO Singapore)


(I don't get paid to promote the contest, but if you ask me why I'm so enthu about sharing, read the first sentence.)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Gift Guide 2014

This is the first time I have created a Christmas Gift Guide for my blog readers, because in recent months I have reviewed a handful of really excellent products that don't break the bank, that are affordable as gifts this holiday season. In case you feel extravagant, I have also included my recommendations for pricier items.

All these products are personally reviewed over the past months. Prices indicated are recommended retail price, so the street price could be lower. For each product, there is a link to the actual review article, so do read on for a more detailed coverage on why I like the products.

Below S$100


TOP PICK! Logitech K480 Multi-Device Wireless Keyboard (S$59)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/10/logitech-K480-bluetooth-keyboard.html


This is the best gift that you can ever give to someone who owns more than 1 device, which is practically everyone. Just this one keyboard is all he/she needs to use with many devices. And even ladies love this! Go read my review to be convinced!



Logitech X300 Mobile Wireless Stereo Speaker (S$99)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/12/logitech-x300-wireless-stereo-speaker.html


I apologise for keep recommending Logitech products, but the truth is that their products are reliable, practical and affordable. In addition, I have personally reviewed them and therefore they make it to this list. The X300 has a practical design of angled speakers and a pleasant audio quality that easily fills the living room with music. Another of my favourites for gifting. In fact, I actually did buy this for gifting!



Logitech M235 Wireless Mouse (S$29)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/04/logitech-2014-colour-collection-m235-wireless-mouse.html

After using this for more than 6 months, I have to say that the wireless response is as good as wired. The colours are attractive, I'm sure you can find one that fits your recipient. The size is small for ladies hands, but if you prefer a larger size, there are other Logitech mice models to choose from.



Mi In-Ear Headphones (S$20)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/06/mi-headphones-best-overall-value.html


As my review turns out, this is the best value earphones ever. Give this to anyone who loves music, provided you manage to buy one through the website. So good, I bought one for keeps.


Mi Power Bank (S$14)
http://www.mi.com/sg/mipowerbank10400/

I did not write a review for this product, but I bought one myself and it is a premium-designed power bank made of aluminium casing, at 10400mAh for just S$14. Again, good luck in getting one from Mi website.


Piano Spa 7 (S$19)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/12/piano-spa-7-new-album-by-chester-tan.html


This is my latest piano instrumental CD album. I produced this 30-track album, now in its seventh series. This album features local singer-songwriter Bevlyn Khoo's original piano compositions, her first time writing this genre. Available in CD at Popular, HMV, That CD Shop, or downloads via iTunes.


$100-300


Jabra ROX Wireless (S$168)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/05/jabra-rox-wireless-review.html


This is one of the best sounding wireless in-ear headphones I have tried. So good that I bought over the review unit. That is, until I tried the next Jabra earphones, which is...


Jabra Sport PULSE (S$298)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/10/jabra-sport-pulse-wireless-earbuds.html


If the recipient is a fitness enthusiast, then this is the best gift for him/her. Solid sound quality, built-in real-time heart rate monitor, weather-proof. I too bought this review unit over.


Sony SBH80 (S$158)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/07/sony-sbh80-wireless-stereo-bluetooth.html

This earphones audio quality is not as boomsy as the Jabra ROX, but this scores high points from me for its comfort. The earbuds weigh next to nothing, and the neck band does not move around at all. It also has buttons on each side of the cable for dedicated controls.


Soundblaster ROAR SR20 (S$199)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/05/sound-blaster-roar-sr20-wireless-speaker-review.html

This is the best value wireless speaker for 2014. If you want a great quality speakers for less than S$200, this is the one to get. But if you have a budget of S$300, then I will recommend...


Bose SoundLink Mini (S$299)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/01/bose-soundlink-mini-bluetooth-speaker.html


Whenever I publish a speaker review, someone would ask me, "How does xxx compare to SoundLink Mini?" My answer would always be: cannot compare. The kind of subwoofer bass it delivers is beyond physics. If you needed a portable speaker with the kind of Hi-Fi subwoofer feel, this will satisfy you.


ASUS Zenfone 5 (from S$199)
http://store.asus.com/sg/category/B3178

I did not review the Zenfone 5 variant, but after experiencing the Zenfone 6, I have the same conclusion. It has excellent build quality and reliable UI performance. I already recommended to a handful of my peers and they have bought this instead of Xiaomi Redmi, which may be cheaper but does not work as reliably.

$300-600


ASUS Zenfone 6 (S$329)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/07/asus-zenfone-6-review.html

This is a 6-inch beauty, one of the best-built value-for-money 6-inch smartphone.


Bose QC20 Noise-Cancelling Earphones (S$499)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/02/bose-qc20-noise-cancelling-earphones.html


I was never a fan of Bose, until I reviewed some of their latest audio products this year. The QC20 has such amazing noise-cancelling features that I have never experienced before. It sounded exactly like a sound-proof room. It is expensive, but it is worth it. Get this for your globe-trotting friends who needed a sound-isolating earphones to save their sanity on the plane.


ASUS Padfone S (Phone S$449, Tablet Dock S$199)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/10/asus-padfone-s-lte-review-great-value.html


I have reviewed the Padfone series devices since its first version. With the latest Padfone S, you can finally own this amazing innovation at a lower price. This the gadget to get for your friends who need to work on both a phone and a tablet.



$600 and beyond

OK, if you have a budget for more than $600, you probably won't need a guide because the sky's the limit. But there is this one product that I must mention, that I personally really like.


B&O Beoplay H6 (S$648)
http://musicphotolife.blogspot.sg/2014/05/beoplay-h6-headphones-review.html


If there was an audio product which I could indulge in without regard on the price or rationality, this would be it. With spectacular treble delivery, these cans are for instrumentals, vocals, orchestral, elevating your listening enjoyment. This is class.




Happy Shopping!

I hope you find this guide useful for your shopping. If I were to receive any of these items for my Christmas, I would be elated. Similarly, these are the items I would buy for gifts, especially the below-$100 items.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Piano Spa 7: New Album by Chester Tan and Bevlyn Khoo

After 3 years since Piano Spa 6, I have finally released a brand new 30-track piano album.



For the longest time, James Kang from Warner Music Singapore has been urging me to continue producing the Piano Spa series. Finally, in late Dec 2013, I said yes, but not before I found a collaborator.

While working on the last Piano Spa album in 2011, I met Bevlyn and developed a mutual appreciation for each other's talents. So, while planning Piano Spa 7, I asked her if she would be keen to write piano music.

Photo: Chester Tan


Bevlyn is an experienced songwriter who understands the musical style that I was looking for in Piano Spa 7. Her compositions are melodious, catchy, and it has been a great delight producing her songs.

This album has a few special elements that I would like to mention.


Track Listing

Instead of splitting the tracks based on artists which I did for previous albums, I mixed both artists tracks across all 3 CDs. Rather than random or patterned assignment, I allocated the tracks according to the alphabets of her name. This means B is for track 2, E is for track 5, V is for track 22, and so on. Since there are 2 Os, I assigned the last track of the album, track 30, to her.


For James

A long time friend, Joyce, spoke fondly of her dad, James, who was a great fan of my music. He passed away in 2012. I dedicate the song, Leaving James, in memory of him, for his loving family.


Melody and Brad

When I heard of the successful proposal by Brad to good friend Melody in Venice on March 2014, I was inspired to write the song, Our Promise to Love, based on the famous Italian opera aria "Nessun Dorma", the most romantic and passionate classical song of all time.

Melody is the subject of my numerous portraiture works a few years back, and I am heartened to watch her grow out of her teens into maturity and grace, and now a successful influencer of beauty and lifestyle.

Album Out Now

I have been composing for the Piano Spa series since 2005, producing over 100 tracks in 5 albums. I enjoy writing piano music because I find solace in writing them. Every song describes a part of my life, and each Piano Spa album is my music diary. Piano Spa 7, available in iTunes and in stores (Popular, That CD Shop, HMV).  

Piano Spa 7 Track Listing

CD1
  1. Moonlight Waves 
  2. After the Rain 
  3. Don’t Say Goodbye 
  4. Gentle Giant 
  5. Alone Again 
  6. The Lost Memory 
  7. Devotion of the Heart 
  8. The Piccadilly Waltz 
  9. On The Seventh 
  10. The Final Dedication    
CD2

  1. After All 
  2. Dusty Road to Beijing 
  3. I Hear Your Heart 
  4. August 
  5. Ripples of Life 
  6. Lost in My Sorrow 
  7. Our Sunken Prayers 
  8. Sweet Bed 
  9. Living a Lie 
  10. Breathing 
CD3

  1. Winter Sun 
  2. From Now On 
  3. Chiffon Stars 
  4. By The Esplanade 
  5. Hush Hush Birdland 
  6. Our Promise To Love 
  7. Leaving James 
  8. The Hesitant Road 
  9. Together Apart 
  10. Wonder World    
All tracks composed, arranged and performed by Chester Tan except the following: CD1 tracks 2, 5, 8, CD2 tracks 1, 2, 4, 5, CD3 tracks 2, 5, 10 composed by Bevlyn Khoo, piano arranged and performed by Bevlyn Khoo, additional arrangements by Chester Tan. 

iTunes digital album is available in the following countries: Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Laos, Macau, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.
Bevlyn Khoo, Chester Tan. Photo: Philip Sim

Visit the official website http://www.piano-spa.com/ for a complete listing of previous Piano Spa albums.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Magnat Carrier, Magnat Board, Magnet Stickers: Review

The Magnat team from Hong Kong contacted me to review their latest innovation. Magnat is a newly launched brand, offering storage solutions to carry your devices and belongings in an organised manner using magnets. The products are designed in Singapore and Hong Kong, assembled in China.

The Magnat range of products are:

Magnat Carrier

This is the flagship product. I'd like to see it as more of a premium laptop case than a normal sling bag. Inside the full-unzipped bag, there is a padded slot which fits a 12-inch size tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Note PRO 12.2, or 11-inch ultrabook laptops. You will also find several compartments to store other small loose items.



The star feature of the carrier is the interior board fitted with patent-pending magnetic technology. This board allows you to stick your metallic belongings onto it, and stays in place when you open up the carrier. The board has a velvety surface so that your belongings will not be scratched by it. Can you imagine without the magnetic board, all these items would be kept inside a zipper compartment, running the risk of scratches due to items rubbing against one another?



For items that do not have metal parts, you can use a Magnat sticker (the carrier comes with a free pack), or just stick some metal on it, like paper clips or SIM card slot pin, though these are less effective due to the small contact area. You can also use other magnets to hold paper items just like a notice board.



I find small items are more effective in keeping in place. You might want to position heavier or larger items at the lower part of the board. Also, items with large metallic surface areas stick better. As much as I find it a novelty to stick as many items as I could on the board, things will not stay in place permanently. Say, if you throw your carrier around, or drop your carrier, items may move out of place.



The Magnat Carrier is travel-friendly, allowing you can hook it through the luggage handle. It comes with a detachable padded sling. I expect the bag to be larger, but I think the current size is most appropriate, as it is not really a messenger sling bag. You also wouldn't want the bag to be so big that compromises the firmness of the carrier.




The Magnat Carrier comes in 7 colour combinations, and priced at US$79.90.

Magnat Board

The Magnat Board is a standalone product that works just like the Magnat Carrier board. It is larger and like the Magnat Carrier, has a velvety surface to protect your belongings.


I can't really use the board to store items in a haversack or a sling bag because the moment I pull out the board, items with weaker stick will drop out of the board and into the bag. However, I find it useful to keep things in place in hard briefcases or travel luggages. It's also useful for the table top as I keep metallic items in place, for instance, prevent screws from rolling whenever I do some minor handy work.


You can choose from 6 colours: green, grey, orange, purple, rose, turquoise. Priced at US$53.90


Magnat Sticker

If you want your item to stick on the Magnat board but is not metallic, you can apply the item with the Magnat Sticker. It's really strong and can hold most items under direct contact. If there is a material in between the board and the sticker, it becomes less effective and the item could still fall off the board.


Each pack of Magnat Sticker costs US$5.

Conclusion

After owning Magat products, it changes the whole mindset of the belongings you want to carry around. My current namecard holder is made of leather, and I would be looking out for a metal card holder so that it can stick to the board. Similarly, I will now tend to carry pens with metal parts.

Magnat products will help you organise your items better, especially if you have a lot of small items that tend to get lost inside your bag compartments. In the case of the Magnat Carrier, you would want to stick your tablet or computer accessories like cables and USB flash drives for convenient access, plus stationery like pens and paper clips. On the flip side, if you don't have many things to stick around, then it might not seem to be that useful.

The manufacturing quality is good for this first-run (they are hand-assembled), so if you are keen to get one for yourself or for gifting, you can save 10% with this coupon code chestertan-btfs5t2e (valid till 31 Jan 2015) when you purchase from the Magnat website.





Reviewed by Chester Tan
Rating: 4 of 5


Disclaimer: The products are provided for review without the need to return

Monday, December 08, 2014

Logitech X300 Wireless Stereo Speaker Review

I recall the euphoria when I first heard the Logitech Mini Boombox Speakers. Then I reviewed the UE Mobile Boombox, which I thought sounded similar to the former. This time round, I took on the Logitech X300, which comes with a few design improvements to make the product stand out among the competitors.


It's not just about the audio quality

Let's be realistic. You cannot expect audiophile quality from small speakers. What it offers is an attractive unique design, tough rubbery coat and rigid speaker grille that screams durability. The X300 pumps audio via two front-facing angled speaker drivers and two side-facing passive subwoofers. The result is a more filling sound compared to the usual blocky speakers.


And just like the UE Mobile Boombox, you will find 3 buttons on the top of the speaker to control volume and for Bluetooth pairing. You can also use 3.5mm audio cables to play music if your device does not support Bluetooth.

It's really about the audio quality

Let's also be realistic. You cannot expect a consumer to part money for an audio product that does not sound good enough. Without any audio equalizer adjustment, the X300 delivers a warm open sound, with reasonable bass and shy treble. Run it through a graphic equalizer (I used Poweramp for Android) and the potential is unleashed. Boost the 100Hz and 12KHz should do the trick to bring out the hidden bass and treble sparkle. Highly recommended if you don't fancy the flat sound.

Compared to the Mini Boombox and UE Mini Boombox, the X300 produces less distortion. Where I have experienced buzzing frequency playing piano tracks on the earlier speakers, I get no such annoyance on the X300. I am also getting louder volume from the X300 compared to the UE Mini Boombox, but when it gets too loud for the X300 to handle, its internal audio processor kicks in, resulting in occasional suppression of volume. I noticed it occurring frequently when I apply custom equalizer.



The major quibble I have is that the power button is hard to locate, indicated only with the power icon flushed with the surface. I would have preferred a hardware button like the UE Mobile Boombox. Some people might be put off by the relatively short battery life, but it's convenient to charge using standard micro USB.


Conclusion

At S$99, the X300 performs within expectations relative to the product price point and design characteristics. I am surprised as how good it can sound when I apply custom equalizer settings, as the speaker can well handle the increased bass and treble boost. This speaker is a great companion for listening music or watching movies from your portable devices. It is loud enough for closed-door events, and is a splendid product as gifts for your music-loving friends (I did buy one myself, ready to be wrapped up for gifting).

Specs

Dimensions: 69 x 152 x 71 mm
Weight: 335g
Battery life: 5 hours
Wireless Connectivity: Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, 10m wireless range
Wired Connectivity: 3.5mm audio cable
Voice Profile: Bluetooth-Hands-Free Profile (HFP1.6)




Reviewed by Chester Tan
Rating: 3.9 of 5

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Sony SmartBand Talk SWR30 Review: More Band, Less Watch

What have you been doing with your life? Let Sony SmartBand Talk help you log it. The SWR30 is basically a SmartBand with Talk features, a hybrid of a fitness band and a full-fledged smartwatch. The strap feels really comfortable against the skin and it felt next to nothing when I wear it. The device is waterproof and dustproof with IP65 and IP68 rating, so you can wear it while you bathe or swim and most certainly when you sleep.




It has a 1.4-inch E-ink display which doesn't require backlight to see the screen, though I'd wish it had an optional backlight which I could activate in the dark, similar to what digital watches had. A drawback of E-Ink display is ghosting, where the previous screen appears faintly. The device automatically refreshes the display by "flashing". The big plus point is that you can see the display in any lighting conditions during the day.



As the name suggests, The SWR30 has talk features, which means it has a speaker and mic, supporting HD Voice quality. Speaker quality is sufficient for indoors but not so audible outdoors. With Voice Control app installed, you can even speak to the SmartBand Talk to retrieve some information. Its commands are limited to time, weather, schedule, set alarm and timers, calls, unread messages. The app seems to be able to recognise local accent, although uncommon words will not be recognised My daughter had a fun time playing with this feature.



Its built-in accelerometer and altimeter sensor will detect the type of activity you are doing (walking, running, stationery, etc.), and stats will be presented in the Lifelog app. The Lifelog app also tracks activities that you do on the phone, including how long you use the Internet, listen to music, watch video, what photos you took. With the latest firmware update on 29 Nov, sleep tracking is supported.


Analysing the statistics offers me an insight of my daily activities and usage behaviour. From the collage below, you can see that I do not spend much time on watching video, and do not play a single game on my phone. The browsing activity is skewed due to the app monitoring the HTC BlinkFeed background updates.



The SWR30 works with all Android devices. Once you install the SmartBand Talk app from Google Play Store, you can customise and sync the settings to the band. There are apps which you can install, albeit limited. As of now, it is not possible to change the watch face. The interaction with the band is limited to hard-tapping the device. Mind you, there is no touch-screen capability, it merely detects the touch impact to change the display.



Like any decent wearable device, it notifies me of any notification from the paired device when my phone is not with me. But the only purpose of the SmartBand Talk is to alert you of events. It does not store notification history. After a while, the event will disappear from the device, without any indication that you ever had any notification, and neither is there any notification list to retrieve. So, if you happen to miss out any incoming notifications on the SmartBand Talk and ignores it, you will not be able to see from the SmartBand Talk moments later what events you have missed. You have to refer to your smartphone. This certainly creates some insecurity, as I have indeed experienced missed notification while on the move, as I did not feel the vibration on the SmartBand Talk.



The advertised battery life is 3 days per charge, but over the review period, I am consistently getting just 1.5 days. The battery indicator is embedded in the activity details page, and if you missed the low battery indicator, there is no other indication on the watch face. Once I was caught off-guard when the battery level dropped to 5%. Fortunately, it takes less than an hour to give it a full charge. 20 minutes is all it takes to fill it above 50% which could last you an entire day. The SmartBand Talk can be charged using the standard micro USB cable: no need for any dock!



Conclusion

I have enjoyed wearing the Sony SmartBand Talk throughout the review period. I find that it offers 2 main purposes for me: to track my activity, and to notify me of my smartphone events. I like how light and comfortable it wears on my wrist. I don't fancy using it to make calls, as it is just too flashy and I lose privacy of conversation over the speakerphone. The other installable apps merely provides some geek factor to the device, as the functions are extremely limiting given the device uses E-ink which is essentially monochrome, is not touch screen, and does not support any scrolling to display more information than it can fill within the display. There are potential for Sony to update the firmware to improve on some features. For me, I would love to see some on-screen indicator that I have missed notifications, and the ability to see a brief list of the notifications I have missed from the device.

You will enjoy the SmartBand Talk if you want a fitness band but not a full-fledged smartwatch. Sony faces intense competition from the other more established fitness brands, who are starting to incorporate basic smartwatch functions similar to SmartBand Talk, but the latter might be able to win some votes if Sony can update the core capabilities to improve on the smartwatch functions.


Specs

Screen: 1.4in e-paper 288x128
Processor: 32-bit ARM Cortex-M4
Battery: 70mAh
Connectivity: Bluetooth, NFC
Compatibility: Any device running Android 4.4+, requires Smartband Talk app
Dimensions: 47.5 x 22.3 x 9.5mm
Weight: 24g
Water & Dust Resistance: IP65 and IP68
Wristband length: 232mm for S/M, 255mm for L
Colours: Black, White, Red, Blue, Pink, Lime
Recommended Retail Price: S$228



Reviewed by Chester Tan
Rating: 3.6 of 5