3 New Gadgets

PC Show is over, but the shopping isn't. After the LCD monitor purchase, I went on to grab 3 more new gadgets for the past 7 days. So allow me to narrate my 'exciting' shopping adventure.

Last Tue, I decided to buy a pen tablet for photo-editing. I had enough using the mouse to do photo touch-ups and was convinced that a pen tablet gives me better control after borrowing one from a colleague. Instead of the costly Wacom brand that is undoubtedly an excellent tablet - for professional graphic illustrators - I settled for the cheap Taiwan-brand Genius G-Pen 450. I managed to find the cheapest at Mediapro at the Sim Lim Square 5th floor, selling for $62. There was only one piece left, so I took it.

When I got home, I found that the stylus pen's battery leaked badly. Even after switching the corroded battery, it failed to work. I thought to myself: what an idiot. Seeing only one piece is an obvious indication that it's probably been on the shelves for such a long time.

The next day, I went back with a colleague and was hoping they would refund on the basis that they had no replacement stock. But they said no and would order from the supplier and I had to come back again to collect it when the stocks arrived. I grudgingly left, but not before noticing a media backup device. So a while later, I brought my colleague back to the shop to show him that device, but then he caught his eyes on another device:

This generic-brand device is the size of a 2.5" HDD casing and plays media files straight from the device to TV or VGA. At $62, it sounded like a good deal. I thought: since it's the same price, why don't I exchange for this device and buy the pen tablet at another shop so I don't have to come back to Sim Lim again. So my colleague and I both bought it.

As for the Pen Tablet, I miraculously found another shop a few units away selling for $4 cheaper. And it's a clean set. How lucky I could get, I thought.

Anyway, my colleague agreed to pass his 40GB HDD to me, so I left the multimedia HDD player in the office since I can't test at home. That evening, my colleague SMSed me saying that his HDD player didn't work. Next day, we tried in the office using the VGA-out port via the office PC, and it worked. So we wondered what could be the problem. At the same time, he passed me his HDD and I quickly went to install in the HDD casing, but found the HDD corrupted with gibberish files and folders. I brought the HDD back to my colleague and he too tried to re-format it, but the HDD refused to complete the format.

All these problems led us to think:
1. Is the AV-out port faulty?
2. Is the HDD player's interface faulty causing it to corrupt the HDD content?

Not taking chances, my colleague went to Sim Lim that same day lunch to exchange for another item, while I decided to monitor the situation. I left my HDD with my colleague who went home to try to re-format again.

Next day, he told me that he still could not get the player to work with his TV. I prepared for the worst. I went home, plugged in the TV, and true enough, the display flickers. Then I looked at the remote, spotted the TV/VGA button, pressed it, and PRESTO! Clear image. Tried the video playback - works. Tried the MP3 files - works.

After 3 days and $62, I got a device that totally works.

Over the weekend, we watched Bee Movie with it. And I have a dozen more DivX-encoded movies waiting to watch. If not for this player, I would have to convert them into DVD formats so that I could play on the TV screen (my wife dislikes watching on my PC screen). I also didn't have to purchase a HDD recorder that will set me back by $600 - although with that I could also schedule and record TV shows. But I will come to that in a moment.

Throughout the above ordeal, my colleague mentioned to me about this multimedia storage viewer called Vosonic VP8860. The selling point is the ability to view camera RAW images. I had been contemplating getting a simple electronic image viewer, not unlike the currently-popular digital photo frame, so that I could show Mayenne's photos we took regularly to parents - rather than printing them out. The other advantage is that I can backup CF cards on the go during assignments, so no more out-of-memory situations. The other less-compelling reason is the media player functions like music, video, something that I won't do on the go because I'm not really a TV buff.
There was a feature which left me thinking: AV-input. In photography, there is a term called tether, which means you hook up your digital camera to a computer and you can practically control the camera on your computer, as well as providing instant download of shot images to the computer for instant review and scrutiny. Although VP8860 cannot do instant download, it can allow viewing of playback images on the digital camera. In other words, if the art director for the photoshoot wanted a shot-to-shot review, he could do that by simply hooking up the VP8860 to the digital camera, and it will mirror all the information displayed on the camera's LCD screen. That could be a simple solution for image review.

So anyway, I wasn't quite ready to purchase it because of the price-tag of $599 (250GB HDD). But all that changed when I so happen to find a seller letting go of it at 20% off the retail price. $500 for a 2-week old VP8860 which he bought at the PC Show.

And so I bought it, and instantly loved it.

RAW image viewing is fast, clear, and sharp. CF backup on Sandisk Extreme IV is 9 minutes for a 4GB card (Transcend 120X 4GB took 18 minutes, however). AV-input via D300 works. I can record Cable TV programmes, set record schedule and the device wakes up at an instant. I can listen to MP3 and radio, which really is not the main purpose since my mobile phone does the same job at a fraction of its size.

So the main selling points to me are the RAW and JPG viewer, and memory card backup. The secondary fun-factor points are AV-input live view and recording, video and music playback.

There you have it. 3 new gadgets over the past 7 days.