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  1. Hardware Review: Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 Wireless Computer Headset

    by , 03-11-2013 at 10:52 AM

    What is it?

    The Andrea Electronics WNC-1500 is a Wireless Computing Headset featuring digital audio enhancement and noise cancellation.

    The Verdict:

    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



    What’s in the box?

    The WNC-1500 Comes with the headset, a 2.4ghz USB adapter, USB charging cable, a convenient carrying case, and an instruction manual. Software is also available for download from AndreaElectronics.com


    Description:

    Andrea Electronics is widely known in this community for the stellar series of Superbeam USB microphones. When installing a automotive PC, the Superbeam was the best available option for hands-free audio communication for a very long time. The quality of the Superbeam bundle has been reassembled into a wireless audio headset named the WNC-1500.


    Each part of the WNC-1500 package has been considered for fit and finish. The headset itself is extremely comfortable, which each part of the headset which touches your ear cushioned more than adequately with genuine leather. The attached microphone with included pop filter rests away from the face but in ideal position for vocal clarity. Microphone placement was considered not only for clarity, but it stays out of the way during video conferencing for the most part. The headband is also cushioned and does an excellent job of securing the headset speakers comfortably. Being wireless, the device is made to be mobile, and consideration was certainly made to keep the headset snug without being painful.


    The WNC-1500 comes with a convenient set of controls on the right earbud. Included buttons are for volume control, music playback next/previous track, power, and configuration. The buttons are raised with a firm press, but unless you use the headset often, you may find using conventional computer controls more friendly. I find myself hunting for the proper control through trial and error too often.


    The most endearing feature of the WNC-1500 set is the audio quality. Its crystal clear that in it's out of the box form, the headset is made for verbal communication. Despite being wireless, I could effectively speak and listen as if using a landline form of communication. There was simply no static or filtering noises with callers, and they never reported issue in response to my end. Andrea calls it "military grade acoustic noise cancelling technology", I'll just say it does the job and then some. The headset does just enough to filter ambient noises locally as to not disturb what your ears are hearing through the 40mm speaker drivers. By default, the headset doesn't thrill in regard to music or gaming enjoyment, but the included software has a 10 band graphic equalizer to aid in this regard. Despite this, I still felt at times that the headset muffled the audio experience while gaming at its most ideal setting. The virtual surround sound feature was lacking.

    The WNC-1500 is powered by a built in lithium-ion battery. Simply plug in the WNC-1500 with the included USB cable and it will charge fully and relatively short time. The LED indicator on the headset will indicate when charging has completed. During testing, I observed battery life in the 5-7 hour range, more than enough for one sitting. The wireless range too was outstanding as audio clarity would hardly be affected until I was some 40 feet from the USB adapter. This far exceeds any bluetooth headset I've used to date.

    The Positive:

    • Terrific audio quality and noise cancellation
    • USB rechargeable
    • Comfortable design and secure
    • Fold away design and included carrying case means the headset will go where you do
    • Excellent battery life and range

    The Negative:

    • Not immersive sound for gamers
    • Must use device manager to enable/disable the USB adapter as your primary sound card


    The Verdict:


    The WNC-1500 is an excellent option when looking for a wireless communication device for VOIP. Communication was crystal clear in a variety of busy environments. The headset is very comfortable and provides a secure fit allowing for a pleasant listening experience.



  2. Hardware Review: Pittasoft BlackVue DR400G-HD Driving Recording Device

    by , 03-22-2012 at 08:35 AM

    What is it?

    The BlackVue DR400G-HD is a high-definition audio/video recording device with built-in GPS & accelerometer. Video is recorded for playback on an included 16GB micro SD flash drive.

    The Verdict:

    The BlackVue DR400G-HD improves over competing video recording devices I've tested with a brighter more vibrant capture and a smaller footprint.



    What’s in the box?

    The DR400G-HD comes with the high-definition camera, a 16GB micro SD card with adapter and USB dongle, a windshield mount with adhesive, a 12 meter cigarette lighter power plug, 3.5mm to composite audio/video cable, and a 3.5mm to composite video cable. Wire looms and instruction/installation manuals are also generously thrown in.


    Description:

    A few months back I did a review on the Rupel iVox102H driving recorder system. One of the negative points for the device was the size. The iVox102H stood out like a sore thumb though no matter where it was placed on the front windshield. Enter the BlackVue DR400G-HD. Similar in technical specifications, the DR400G-HD is a sleek and visually appealing driving capture device, sitting at a fraction of the overall length and size of the competitor. The DR400G-HD definitely improves on the competitors footprint, but can it stand toe to toe in regard to the one area that matters most, video quality?


    Simply put, the answer is a resounding "yes". In fact, in similar conditions, the DR400G-HD replayed my driving sessions with more color intensity and brightness. The technical specifications on the box indicate the camera sports only a 2mp chip, but it appears that despite the size and weight difference between these two units, the DR400G-HD sacrifices nothing on video quality. The size of the unit has no effect on the angle of view either, giving a nice full windshield view. The size savings comes from the lack of a proprietary solid-state hard drive for the BlackVue. Instead, the DR400G-HD utilizes your every day micro SD card, found in most modern smart phones and handheld electronic devices. Simply install the side card into the slot on the DR400G-HD camera housing, provide 12v power, and the device records away. A small hitch in the ease of installation is the difficulty sliding the tiny micro SD card into the camera for people with left-hand drive vehicles. The card slot is on the right hand side of the unit when it faces outward towards the windshield, and if the camera is mounted in the ideal position (behind the rear-view mirror) it becomes quite the chore to insert/remove the card. Most users may opt to simply uninstall the camera from the included mount instead, which can be easily done with a simple press of the lock button.


    Another knock on the competing iVox102H was the bright light emitting from the device when powered. Sadly, the DR400G-HD triples the number of lights, and even causes the record indicator to blink continuously while powered. Thankfully, these lights can be switched off in the settings menu in the cameras playback program. On top of the visual feedback with the lights, the DR400G-HD also utilizes voice prompts indicating when the device is powered and recording is started. These too can be turned off via the settings menu.

    In speaking of the program, I must state, like the iVox, the BlackVue camera stores its companion playback application on the storage medium. That means the playback application can be run from "any" computer. A somewhat disappointing omission in regard to this application is it can not be run on a 64-bit windows system. Hopefully the software team is working on a fix for this.


    Once running the software application does a great job of allowing users to playback video with accompanying GPS mapping and accelerometer feedback all indicated. Users can select different dates and times to watch, and all files can easily be backed up to a larger external storage medium. This is somewhat important because in my week with the device I've filled up the 16GB card several times over with the video at its highest quality setting.

    The audio capture is a bit muddy, especially when music playing in the background, but its still easy to pick up the conversation of people in the front and rear of the car.



    The Positive:

    • Superior video capture quality
    • Sleek and small means it doesn't stick out on your windshield
    • Auto-power on/off
    • Captures GPS and accelerometer data and uses it for event detection
    • Included software gives you all the video information in a nice GUI
    • Parking mode set automatically by accelerometer feedback


    The Negative:

    • Muddy audio capture
    • Software is not 64-bit ready
    • SD card installation is somewhat a chore based on location of slot on the camera


    The Verdict:

    The BlackVue DR400G-HD improves over competing video recording devices I've tested with a brighter more vibrant capture and a smaller footprint.