Sunday, February 26, 2012

Netflix on LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 Review

There seems to be a lot of interest on the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box ST600 based on the number of hits I'm getting for that particular blog entry so I thought that I would write a few separate blog entries for each of the services that I use it for... and even though I have a few electronic gadgets that I've tested/used, I'm at a lost of topics to write   ;-)

As of this review, the firmware/software on the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box is ST 8.79.198.

One of the main reasons that I purchased the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box was to try Netflix and after trying it, I can definitely say that Netflix works very well with the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box. With my internet connection (the speed varies dramatically but the average speed is ~2 Mbits/s download), the pausing/buffering happens very rarely once the movie or television show starts.

After selecting the movie or television show, the video starts after approximately 30 seconds (based on the internet connection speed) and rarely buffers/pauses during playback of the video. Based on my experience, I would say that it pauses less than 5% of the time which is far better than the results that I've gotten with using this box to watch some YouTube videos.

The Netflix's video and audio quality using this LG box is very good. Since I have an unlimited download/upload internet connection, I set my Netflix video/audio settings (done on the account settings page after logging onto your Netflix account on your computer) to "Best quality (up to 1 GB per hour, or up to 2.3 GB per hour for HD)". I've seen some of the Netflix offerings in HD and the video/audio quality is very good with this box.

Excluding Netflix content (which has nothing to do with this box), I only have 3 negative comments regarding using the box to watch Netflix content. The first negative comment that I have regarding watching Netflix on the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box is that the search feature is very limiting. You can only search based on the title of the television show or movie. You cannot do a search based on the actor or actress. The second negative comment that I have regarding watching Netflix on the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box is that sometimes you will not be able to watch a particular television show since the entire episode listing for the television show will be blank. I'm not sure if this is because Netflix is doing an update but within a few hours, the television show episode listing is back to normal and you will be able to re-select the episode that you want to watch. The third and final negative comment that I have regarding using the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box to watch Netflix is that sometimes after stopping, you will not be able to continue from where you left off and you have to start at the beginning of the video again. This seems to happen more with television show episodes than with movies. It is a minor inconvenience since you can easily fast forward to the point where you left off and continue watching from that point onward.

Speaking about fast forwarding, when fast forwarding, you get a preview of the video (no audio) so you are able to estimate where you want the video to start. You also get a "time bar" on the bottom of your screen so you can also use this to estimate what point in the video you want it to start.

The interface when selecting a movie or television show using the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box is very similar to what appears when you select a movie or television show on your computer. You are presented with what you recently watched, the top ten items that Netflix assumes you will like based on what you've previously watched/rated, some of the genre categories, some selections based on particular movies that you've liked, etc.

All in all, I'm very satisfied with the video/audio quality that I get with the LG Smart TV Upgrader Box when  I am using it to watch Netflix.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fido Nokia CS-18 Internet Stick Review

I've been using a Fido Nokia CS-18 for a few months and I thought that I would take a few minutes to write about it. Previously I was using a Novatel Wireless MC950D and I thought that I would upgrade it even though there was nothing wrong with my Novatel Wireless device.

The Nokia CS-18 is an HSPA+/HSPA/UMTS device (850/1900/2100 MHz). It is also compatible on the GSM/EDGE network at 850/900/1800/1900 MHz.

As an HSPA+ device, it is rated for 21.6 Mbps download and an upload speed of 5.76 Mbps. In terms of real-life performance, I did get 10 Mbps download once. However, most of the time, I get performance that is only slightly better than what I would get with my older HSPA device (Novatel Wireless Ovation MC950D).

The Fido Nokia CS-18  comes with a USB Extension cable (CA-175) and a guide. You can view the online user's guide *HERE*. Excluding the obvious speed difference between my old Novatel Wireless MC950D device, another difference is that the CS-18 supports the insertion of a MicroSD card. According to the documentation, it supports a MicroSD card up to 32GB.

The device is nice. I prefer the SIM insertion of my older Novatel Wireless device over my Nokia CS-18 device. The MC950D allows for easy SIM insertion and removal whereas with the Nokia CS-18, you must lift a small lid/lip in order to insert the SIM card (and then close this small lid/lip). On the Nokia CS-18, I do like the fact that the USB cap/cover is attached to the internet stick via a small cable which prevents the cover from becoming lost.

In terms of speed, I do notice a slight speed improvement between my Novatel Wireless device and my newer Nokia CS-18 using the same SIM card in the same device and in the same location.

One of the reasons I decided to upgrade was because the CS-18 is compatible in my 3G/4G wireless router. I also expected a larger increase in performance but this didn't turn out to be true. However, I believe that the performance issue is due to my location since I get unreliable coverage where I'm located.

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vonage Mobile Review

I've been using Vonage Mobile on my iPhone 3GS and on my Samsung Nexus-S for a few weeks (after it started being available to Canadians) and I thought that I would write a mini review of the application.

The application does not require that you are a "regular" (landline VoIP) customer. For both applications, you install the program from either the Apps Store (iPhone) or the Android Market (AndroidOS).

For both platforms, after the Vonage Mobile application is installed, the user is required to accept the terms of service. You are then prompted to enter the phone number that you want to associate with the program (in terms of outgoing call display). The default phone number is the phone number for your mobile although you can change the number to another mobile or a regular landline phone. After entering the phone number, the Vonage system sends an SMS to the phone number with a 6 digit confirmation number which you are prompted to enter into the appropriate box. If you don't receive the 6 digit confirmation SMS for whatever reason such as if you decided to use a landline phone number, you are prompted to have the Vonage system call the phone number and give you the 6 digit number. This is what I did for my landline phone.

After confirming the phone number entered for the Vonage Mobile application, the program imports the contact list from the phone. In my case, the contact list is from Google contacts for all my devices. This makes it easier for me because I only have to change/add/delete a contact in one of my devices (or directly on Google Contacts) and the devices will automatically get the updated information. Because I'm using Google Contacts for my phone's addressbook, this is where I noticed a difference in how the program worked on my iPhone 3GS and my Nexus-S. For my iPhone 3GS, only the contacts which were directly listed in my iPhone 3GS were available to me on Vonage Mobile's contact list. However, for my Samsung Nexus-S (and I'm assuming for all AndroidOS devices), Vonage Mobile's contact list not only included the contacts which I saw on my phone itself (which are imported from Google Contacts "My Contacts") but also included the Google Contacts from "Other Contacts". Some people might prefer that the "Other Contacts" is imported but for me, I didn't like it.

I tested the call quality over WiFi and 3G/3.5G/4G (I'm not referring to LTE) and I would say that the call quality is decent (I would say comparable to Skype). I would use the program for short calls (under 5 minutes) over the cellular data network but I would not use it longer due to the latency which can sometimes get annoying. Over WiFi, I find the call quality to be a lot better. Vonage Mobile's call quality (like all VoIP) is largely dependent on the quality of the internet (speed, latency, etc.). Because of this, depending on your cellular network carrier's data network, the latency problem might not be as annoying to you.

The outgoing call display number does work (and displays the phone number that was confirmed initially).

Please note that Vonage Mobile does not allow for the accepting of calls. You can only use this program to make calls and to send messages to people who have this program on their device. The messages sent use the data network (or WiFi) and does not use the carrier's SMS network which can save costs for people who don't have SMS/text plans.

As of the date that I'm posting my review, Vonage Mobile offers 3000 minutes per month for free to call landlines and mobiles in  Canada, the US, and Puerto Rico. I'm not sure how long this offer will remain but it is probably a good idea to give the program a try given that it is currently free and you can make 3000 minutes per month in free calls (whereas Skype charges per minute unless you have a Skype monthly plan).

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Samsung Nexus-S Review

I've been using my Samsung Nexus-S for approximately 1 year now and here is my thoughts on it. When I purchased it, I had used a Sony Ericsson x10 mini so I was familiar with the Android OS and interface. At the time that I'm writing this review, my Nexus-S is running Android version 2.3.6.

The first thing that I like about the Samsung Nexus-S is that it is factory unlocked regardless of which carrier it is purchased from. That means as long as the carrier supports the band for the particular version of the Nexus-S, you can insert the SIM card into it and it will work.

In Canada, there are basically 2 versions of the Nexus-S so you have to be careful when purchasing one. If you purchase one from Fido (like I did), it will fully work with Rogers, Bell, Telus, Koodo and any of the MVNOs that use their networks (such as Petro Canada Mobility which uses the Rogers network). If you purchase one from Videotron or Wind, it will work with Fido, Rogers, Bell, Telus, and Koodo BUT the data will max out at EDGE speeds since this model doesn't support the 3G network that Rogers, Bell, Telus, & Koodo use. That being the case, if you purchase one from Rogers, Bell, Telus, Koodo, or Fido, it will NOT WORK on Videotron or Wind at all except in roaming mode because Videotron and Wind don't have a 2G network to fall back on.

I find the Samsung Nexus-S to be very responsive. During the 1 year that I've been using it, it has never rebooted on me. I rooted it initially but then after accepting an update, it obviously returned to the unrooted state and because I was only using 1 program that required root, I never bothered to root it again.

I find that the back facing camera takes pretty good pictures (better than my Blackberry Bold 9700 which I use primarily as a data device). It connects to my wireless routers without any issues. If you like Android, chances are, you will like this phone. I've never used my front facing camera so I can't really comment on it.

The only negative comment that I have about this phone is that the earphone jack is on the bottom of the phone. I guess that it could be worse... it could have been on the side of the phone (like it is on my Blackberry Bold 9700). The good thing about it being on the bottom of the phone is that when I place it in my pocket, the bottom of the phone is at the top and when I remove the phone from my pocket to make/receive a call, it is at the correct orientation to do so. With my iPhone 3GS, when I remove it from my pocket, after listening to music, I have to flip the phone somewhat. I guess this is why Samsung decided to have the earphone jack on the bottom of their phones including the Nexus-S. For me, I have a belt case for my phones and I just like the earphone jack to be on the top of my devices. For people who put their phones in their pockets, I think that that earphone jack on the bottom works out better for them.

All the programs that I've tried on my Nexus-S work properly and without any problems. The 2 programs that I use the most on it is "Netflix" and "SlingPlayer Mobile". Both work seamlessly on it. I've also used "Beautiful Widgets" and this also works very well on it as does "Angry Birds".

If you have any questions/comments regarding this blog entry, please don't hesitate to leave a comment in the comments section.