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LITB Labs – A Reflective Rundown

As this week is my final week at LightInTheBox, I thought that I would take this opportunity in the LITB Lab to sit back and reflect on all the great (and not so great) tech that I have encountered during my time at LightInTheBox and choose my favourite product from the last 12 months. Over the last year I’ve seen it all from high-end Android tablets, to cheap and cheerful MTK cell phones and everything else in between. There have been a number of pieces of tech that are worth a mentioning and I thought I would give a reflective rundown here.

The Ouku Tab

The original Ouku Tab proved you could get a fun and functional Android tablet for under $150. The Ouku Tab really felt like a good quality tablet and it soon became a hit with the LightInTheBox customers. With its unique design, respectable specifications and superb (glitch free) usability the original Ouku Tab and the Ouku Black are still one of my favourite products offering as they did incredible value for money.

The i-Helicopters

Next up we have the i-Helicopters, which landed at MiniInTheBox at the end of summer. These little gadgets are quite possibly the most fun thing you can use your iPhone (or Android phone) for. I certainly had a whale of a time flying various versions of these flying machines around the LightInTheBox offices here in Beijing. And with Christmas just around the corner I’m sure these cool little gadgets will find themselves in stockings all around the world.

Malata Z Pad

The Malata Z Pad stuck out like a sore thumb in the tablet category when it arrived at LightInTheBox, largely thanks to its $600 price tag. However despite this high price tag I really liked this Android 2.2 tablet. Yes the Malata Z Pad came at a price, but it when you took a closer look you could understand why. Packing a 10 inch capacitive touchscreen, an NVIDEA Tegra 2 dual core processor, 16GB built in memory and 1080p HD video playback, the Malata Z Pad was something a little bit special.

PVP Gaming Console

The PVP Gaming Console, which made an appearance in the LITB Lab a couple of weeks ago (and has remained on my desk for some at work classic gaming ever since) is certainly worth a mention as one of my favourite gadgets of the year. Loaded with a whole bunch of classic Sega Megadrive/Sega Genesis games, the PVP Gaming Console offers a retro gaming experience that will instantly take you back to those worry-free days of the early 1990’s. In fact I think you’d be pretty hard pressed to find a more fun gadget for $39.

The Othello Tab

This brings us to my final and favourite piece of tech from the last 12 months and for those of you who read the blog regularly this might not come as any surprise…the Othello Tab. When the Othello Tab was released on LightInTheBox it was our first tablet to have a capacitive touchscreen and got many people in the office excited, not mentioning any names (Andre). However there was more to the Othello Tab than just its 7 inch multi-touch capacitive touchscreen, it also came with a 1GHz Samsung processor which allowed for a silky smooth, lag-free user experience. The Othello Tab also looked great, with its simple clean lines and the black bezel flush with the touchscreen. Eight months on and I’m yet to find an Android tablet on LightInTheBox that I like more than the Othello Tab and at under $190 you get a hell of a lot for your money.

LITB Labs – iHelicopter (Android Edition)

With Christmas fast approaching we’re taking a look at one of the latest gadgets that everyone is talking about and what a fun gadget it is. The brand new range of radio controlled i-Helicopters recently landed on MiniInTheBox.com and we’ve been putting them to the test around the office ever since. You may have seen these before for iOS devices (iPhone, iPod, iPad) but the latest of these fun little flying machines are now compatible with both iOS and Android devices. All you need to do to turn your Apple or Android device into a flight controller is plug in the small adapter, download the app from the App Store or the Android Market and its chocks away!

When I first heard about these i-Helicopters for Android I wondered whether they would work as well as the previous exclusively iOS only helicopter. But these i-Helicopters worked brilliantly with both Android and iOS devices. I was concerned about how well it would fly, how easy it would be to control and how fragile it would be. Needless to say going into my maiden flight I was fairly cautious, particularly due to the number of civilians milling about the office where an out of control helicopter has the potential to cause some amusing carnage.

However I needn’t have worried about my previous concerns and no civilians were harmed during my many flight hours around the office (although a number of plants found themselves receiving an abrupt trimming at the hands of the fast moving rotary blades).

I was using a Samsung Galaxy S as my flight controller and I was seriously impressed; firstly about how easy the i-Helicopter was to control and secondly with how responsive the controls were. I was flying it around a fairly small area and after only a couple of minutes flying the i-Helicopter I was able to control it pretty well. On the touchscreen of your chosen Android device, the controls are nicely set out and very simple, on the left side you have the control for moving up and down and on the right side a joystick for moving forward, backwards and left to right. It’s that simple.

The i-Helicopter gets off the ground and flies very well, much better than I expected and if you get it outside you can have a lot of fun. If you are feeling daring you can fly along close to the ground or get it up to 20 ft and cruise about up there. When it comes to the fragility of the aircraft, although it appears rather delicate and flimsy, it took a number of crashes and collisions (from less skilled pilots than myself) and maintained a perfect working condition. This is not to say that this fun toy is indestructible, but I think breaking it through normal use would be quite difficult.

To summarize, the latest range of R/C i-Helicopters at MiniInTheBox are fun gadgets that give you something a little different and novel for your Android or iOS device. If you’re looking for a serious flying machine then these probably won’t be for you, but for anyone looking for an interesting and fun toy, that won’t break the bank, then I’d certainly recommend one these i-Helicopters.

Prices for the Android compatible i-Helicopters start at just $44.99 on miniinthebox.com.

LITB Labs – Tech Showdown

This week in the LITB Lab we have three QWERTY Android phones battling out in a Tech Showdown for the title of “Best QWERTY Cell Phone”. If like me, you enjoy the feel of a physical QWERTY keyboard under the thumb and find typing texts and emails on a touchscreen keyboard fiddly slow and frustrating, then this is one Tech Showdown that you’re definitely going to want to check out. All three phones in “The Showdown” come with Android OS, a resistive touchscreen, cost under $140 and of course pack a physical QWERTY keyboard. So let’s get physical and find out which of these three great phones is top of the best of the bunch.

Poseidon

First up we have the Poseidon which was the first QWERTY Android phone to appear at LITB a couple of months ago. The Poseidon comes with Android 2.2, an adequate 2.6 inch touchscreen, a rear-facing 2MP camera, a QWERTY keyboard and it’s the cheapest of the three contenders, priced at just $114.99 (for the silver model). For me the Poseidon is the best looking of the three phones, with an up to date, funky and contemporary style that I think looks fantastic. The 2.6 inch resistive touchscreen on the Poseidon works well and the QWERTY keyboard is spaced out very nicely, making it a breeze to type those long emails and texts on. Inside the Poseidon lies a 416MHz processor and 256MB RAM that is just about enough power to keep the Poseidon working smoothly. Overall the Poseidon is a fantastic handset for the price and is very much worth considering if you are in the market for a stylish and funky QWERTY phone.

Tango

Next up we have the Tango which is the newest QWERTY phone to arrive at LITB and unlike the Poseidon and the Pandora, it comes with the slightly more up to date Android 2.3 OS. The Tango phone also comes with a slightly small 2.4 inch touchscreen, 416MHz processor, 256MB RAM, front and rear facing cameras, a QWERTY keyboard, three color options and is priced at $129.99. Out of the three contenders, the Tango is probably the handset that has the most universally appealing style, with a sleek, clean and slim design and of course the three color choices. However the keyboard on the Tango felt a little cramped and finicky in comparison to both the Pandora and (especially) the Poseidon. The 2.4 inch resistive touchscreen (although it works well) also causes the Tango to fall behind the other two contenders, as it simply feels too small. That said the Tango is a decent handset, it comes with Android 2.3 and has a design that a lot of people will like.

Pandora

Finally we have the Pandora, the most expensive of the three QWERTY contenders at $139.99. The Pandora comes with Android 2.2, front and rear-facing cameras, a 2.8 inch resistive touchscreen, QWERTY keyboard, 416MHz processor and 256MB of RAM. Although the most expensive of the contenders, in my opinion the Pandora is the least visually appealing, with its classic, almost retro design that is reminiscent of some older Nokia handsets. It comes with the largest touchscreen of the three and it works smoothly and the physical keyboard is a lot easier to use than that of the Tango. The front and rear-facing cameras are a big plus on the Pandora, with the rear-facing camera being a decent 2MP. Overall the Pandora is a solid handset and feels great in the hand, but it loses out to the other two when it comes to style and price.

The Winner…

Those are the three contenders, but there can of course only be one phone with the title “Best QWERTY Cell Phone” and the winner of this Tech Showdown is the Poseidon for its cool looks, good sized screen, well laid -out keyboard and its $119.99 price tag!

All three phones are currently available at LightInTheBox.com!

LITB Labs – Starlight HD2 (Android 2.3)

This week in the LITB Lab I’ll be putting one of LITB’s newest high-end Android Smartphones through its paces and seeing if it performs as great as it looks. The Starlight HD2 certainly has the look and feel of a serious handset and the specifications aren’t too shabby either. With a 4.3 inch capacitive touchscreen, Android 2.3, dual-camera and 3G connectivity the Starlight HD2 has everything that you could want from an up to date smartphone.

The Good…

There is a lot to like about this phone and I’ll start with the obvious, the large 4.3 inch capacitive touchscreen. The touchscreen on the Starlight HD2 is fantastic and is without a doubt the best 4.3 inch screen that I have come across on a Chinese cell phone. The display is bright and clear, it’s extremely responsive and unlike some of the phones that I’ve seen with large screens, the screen on the Starlight HD2 doesn’t lag. For playing games, web-browsing and watching movies the large 4.3 inch screen really comes into its own.

The large, intuitive touchscreen isn’t the only impressive feature of the Starlight HD2, the Android 2.3 OS works beautifully on this device and includes useful features such as Wi-Fi hotspot, which allows you to tether your Starlight HD2 to your laptop so that you can use the phone’s 3G internet to connect to the internet via your laptop. This brings us on to the 3G connectivity of the Starlight HD2, which I found worked really well, simply by inserting my 3G enabled SIM card.

The Starlight HD2 also comes with front and rear facing cameras. The rear facing camera is a respectable 3.2MP with which I was able to take some fairly decent snapshots with and you can use the front facing camera for video chatting applications that are available for download from the Android Market.

The Bad…

There really isn’t much to say when it comes to the bad aspects of the Starlight HD2. The only really flaw that this handset has is the battery life, which can range between 4 – 8 hours depending on usage of 3G, video playback, talk time, game playing etc. Most smartphone users will know that battery life is one of the universal drawbacks to these devices, but most will admit it’s a sacrifice worth making. Other than that there are no other major negatives, the price could be seen as a drawback because at $249.99 it is a little on the pricy side, but I feel that this would be somewhat clutching at straws to consider price as a negative as you certainly get your money’s worth with the Starlight HD2.

The Summary…

The Starlight HD2 is a superb 3G Android smartphone that is ideal for anyone looking for a larger screen. The 4.3 inch capacitive touchscreen is the crowning feature to an overall excellent phone. If $249.99 is within your smartphone budget then I would certainly recommend that you give the Starlight HD2 some serious consideration.

The Starlight HD2 is now available from LightInTheBox for $249.99.

LITB Labs – Awesome Apps 2

Welcome to our latest LITB Lab installment, Awesome Apps! Here we will showcase some of the most popular apps you can download from Android market to your cell phone or tablet.

ap•pli•ca•tion   [ap-li-key-shuhn]
noun
Application software, also known as an application or an “app”, is computer software designed to help the user to perform specific tasks. Examples include enterprise software, accounting software, office suites, graphics software and media players.

Sleep-as-an-Droid

Category: Lifestyle
Publisher: Petr Nalevka
Requirements: Android 1.5 or above + 1.53MB free space
Price: $1.49

If you’re like me and have trouble getting out of bed in the morning then Sleep-as-an-Droid is an app that could definitely help you. This app tracks your sleep and wakes you gently whilst you’re in a light sleeping phase. I’ve been using this app for about 8 months and it does make a huge difference to how you feel waking up. The Sleep-as-an-Droid app certainly curbs the grogginess and leaves you feeling far fresher in the morning. It has loads of cool features too, such as; nature sounds, sleep graphs and sleep/talk recording. It also gives you the option of using Airplane mode during sleep tracking, turning off all those potentially harmful wireless signals. For me this is a must have app for all Android phone owners and is well worth the $1.49. Head over to Android Market now to download the 2 week free trial and see if it works for you.

Pumpkins Vs Monsters

Category: Arcade and Action
Publisher: RunnerGames.Studios
Requirements: Android 1.6 or above + 8MB free space
Price: Free

With Halloween just around the corner Pumpkins Vs Monsters seems to be a fitting game to be playing on the bus ride to work at this time of year. The aim of the game is to keep the monsters out of your pumpkin patch by strategically hurling pumpkin combos into the fast approaching monster assault. The game is lots of fun on Android phones and even better on the larger screens of the Android tablets. There’s a whole load of different levels and you can even save up coins that you can use to upgrade your weapons to create an arsenal so strong it would keep even the most tenacious monsters out of your beloved pumpkin patch. Overall Pumpkins Vs Monsters is a fun game to pass the time on a bus or train and what could be more entertaining than slamming monsters in the schnoz with pumpkins!

Advanced Task Killer

Category: Productivity
Publisher: ReChild
Requirements: Android 1.5 or above + 97KB free space
Price: Free

This simple application is a must have for all Android owners. Due to Android’s capability to run multiple applications at once and multi-task, you’ll sometimes find that you could have a lot of apps running at once, which will of course slow down your Android device. With Advanced Task Killer you can simply shutdown or “kill” all the apps running in the background with one click. Advanced Task Killer is a great tool for keeping track of what apps are running and keeping your device nice and quick.

LITB Labs – Fusion Android Phone

This week in the LITB Lab we’re checking out the latest low-cost Android phone available on LightInTheBox, known as the Fusion.

The Fusion Android phone comes with Android 2.2 OS, which has a hardly noticeable, but nicely functional UI overlay that I found actually improved on that of the stock Android 2.2. Usually when it comes to the Android I prefer the stock Google build, but every now and then the developers get it right (HTC Sense being the most notable example) and the developers of the build that is present on the Fusion phone did a great job.

The screen on the Fusion phone is a 3.5 inch resistive touchscreen, which I know could disappoint many people reading this. However despite being resistive, the touchscreen on the Fusion phone is pretty responsive and delivers a decent experience when navigating around the device. In fact it failed to give me any real frustration and is a long way from the resistive screens we used to see on the Chinese cell phones 18 months ago. The only slight niggle I had was with the “Home”, “Menu”, “Back” and “Search” buttons that are located along the bottom edge, but got used to them soon enough once I had worked out they required a little more pressure to be applied.

In the hand the Fusion phone feels well-built; looking and feeling better in the hand than the $139.99 price tag would have you believe. It comes with sleek rounded edges and really does have a very stylish look to it. On the rear side you’ll find a 2MP camera with which I was able to take plenty of snapshots. There’s also a 0.3MP camera located on the front so you can take those all important profile pictures for Facebook and your various other social network sites.

With the MTK6516 processor it certainly isn’t the fastest Android phone in the world, but it can cope with most of the tasks you would require from your Smart Phone on a daily basis. At $139.99 the Fusion phone provides a stylish and functional Android phone that won’t leave a dent in your wallet and for the casual user would be worth the money. If however you’re a more serious phone user, who really likes to put their cellphone through its paces, then you should probably opt to spend a little more money and buy a phone with a bit more power.

The Fusion phone looks great, performs well and is available at Lightinthebox.com for just $139.99!

LITB Labs – Tech Showdown

This week in the LITB Lab we’re taking a look at three of our favorite Android tablets competing for the title of “Best Sub $200 Android Tablet” and we want you to pick the winner.

Battling for this title the Supremo, the Incheon and Othello Tab. All these Android tablets come with a 7 inch capacitive touchscreen, Android 2.2 or above and all cost less than $200.

Supremo

First up for consideration is the new kid on the block…the Supremo. The Supremo has a sleek clean cut design that is very hard to find fault with. The Supremo is not going to win any awards for its design, but it certainly won’t be making any enemies with its classic style. Inside there is an adequate 800 MHz Cortex A9 processor and 512MB of RAM powering this machine, which leaves you with a smooth and almost lag-free user experience. On the downside there is no in-built camera on the Supremo, so if you a person who loves taking snapshots, this may not be the device for you. At just $188.09 the Supremo is definitely a worthwhile contender in this “Tech Showdown”, providing an excellent user experience, in a sleek and stylish design.

Incheon

Next up we have the Incheon, the only tablet in the “Tech Showdown” running the Android 2.3 operating system. The Incheon tablet isn’t the best looking tablet in the world, largely thanks to the slightly chunky bezel, but what the Incheon tablet lacks in style, it makes up in performance and features. The Incheon has a 1GHz processor that keeps the tablet running smoothly, even with a number of applications running at one time. There is very rarely any lag, allowing your fingers to fly around the tablet quickly and comfortably. The Incheon also comes with a built-in camera and the Android 2.3 OS will be considered by many to be a huge plus over the other two contenders. At $165.99 the Incheon is the cheapest of the three Android tablets, but performs like it should cost a lot more.

Othello Tab

Finally we have the Othello Tab and the old favorite with the tech fans at LightInTheBox, a tablet that many people around here have a large soft spot for. The Othello Tab looks great, so good in fact that it has been adopted by Pierre Cardin for their stylish entry into the tablet market. The Othello Tab also has it going on inside as well as out; packing an excellent Samsung 1GHz processor and 256MB RAM means that lag is virtually non-existent. With the Othello Tab you also get a built-in digital camera, which is ideal for taking snapshots and videos. For me the only negative that I would have for the Othello Tab, would be the weight, as it’s slightly heavier than you’d expect, but this would not stop me from buying one. At $199.99 the Othello Tab is the most expensive contender but sometimes you get what you pay for and it would be my pick everyday of the week!

You’ve heard what I have to say about these Android tablets, now it’s your chance to tell us what you think. Which one would you choose? And which one deserves the title “Best Sub $200 Android Tablet”?

LITB Labs – The $100 Android Phone!

In the LITB Lab this week, we’re taking a closer look at the latest low cost Android offering from LightInTheBox. The Neo Android cell phone comes in a compact design with a 3.2 inch resistive touchscreen, an in-built camera, Android 2.2, Wi-Fi connectivity and an impressively low price tag. The Neo is the lowest priced Android cell phone on LITB at just $99.59, but can this sub $100 handset really deliver a decent user experience? Let’s find out.

The Good…

First up is the compact design of the Neo, which I personally find rather attractive. It has a 3.2 inch touchscreen that I know some people will find insufficient, but I found that it was large enough to perform the usual smart phone functions including web browsing and mobile gaming. However if you’re looking for an Android phone to spend a lot of time watching videos on, then you may want to go for something a little bigger. Of course the price is worth mentioning again here, $99.59 is a fantastic price for an Android 2.2 cell phone and allows you to get a taste of Android without having to commit to a lengthy contract or spend a lot of money. The in-built camera is a nice feature for a handset of this price and is good enough for taking snapshots of you and your friends.

The Bad…

The resistive screen isn’t as responsive as the capacitive screens you find on many phones, but then it isn’t as expensive either. With a low priced product there is always going to be a trade-off between price and features, however the Neo’s screen seems to be a worthwhile trade-off. Obviously I would take a capacitive touchscreen over a resistive any day of the week, but the Neo’s resistive touchscreen is responsive enough to avoid any real frustration. The Neo is also slightly underpowered with the 460MHz processor and this can cause some mild lag if too many Apps are running simultaneously. However thanks to the smaller screen the Neo gets away with the lack of power and generally runs pretty smoothly.

The Summary…

Overall the Neo is a solid little handset and when you take into account the sub $100 price tag, it’s certainly hard to beat. The Neo is an ideal choice for anyone who wants an Android phone without it costing an arm and a leg. The Neo can do everything you would want from an Android Cell Phone, it won’t blow your mind like a Samsung Galaxy Nexus S, but it certainly won’t disappoint either. At $99.59 the Neo is worth every penny.

The Neo is now available at Lightinthebox.com!

LITB Labs – Tech Showdown


This week in the LITB Lab we’re taking a look at three of our favorite Android Cell Phones competing for the title of “Best Cell Phone Under US$ 200” and we want you to pick the winner!

Battling for this title are the Ouku Horizon 3G, the Starlight HD and the Griffin. All these phones come with Android 2.2, capacitive touchscreens and all cost less than US$ 200!

OUKU HORIZON 3G

First up for consideration is our very own Ouku Horizon 3G. This popular handset comes with dual SIM card slots, one of which can support 3G SIM cards, meaning that you can get online almost anywhere. The Ouku Horizon 3G also has a 3.5 inch capacitive touchscreen, a fast 600 MHz processor as well as front and rear facing cameras. The clean cut simplistic design is hard to find fault with and I found this phone to be a solid all-rounder. At just $179.99 the Ouku Horizon 3G has features and functions that you’d expect from a much pricier handset and certainly provides value for money.

STARLIGHT HD

Next up we have the Starlight HD… This substantially sized handset packs a massive 4.3 inch capacitive touchscreen making it the ideal choice for those who subscribe to “the bigger, the better” philosophy. The Starlight HD runs Android 2.2 and comes with a rear facing camera. Unlike the Ouku Horizon there is no 3G internet, only Wi-Fi. But when it comes to media, the Starlight HD is surely the pick of the bunch, thanks to the 4.3 inch display, which is superb for watching TV shows and movies. At $199.49 the Starlight HD is the most expensive of the three choices, but it will win over many fans with its large HD display.

GRIFFIN SMARTPHONE

Finally we have the Griffin …The Griffin is the cheapest of the three cell phones at just $169.74, but don’t let that low price tag fool you as the Griffin certainly packs a punch. Like the other two competitors the Griffin comes with Android 2.2, a capacitive touchscreen, a built in camera and Wi-Fi connectivity. The Griffin Android phone has a sleek and stylishly curved design that’s sure to be popular with a lot of people. And the unique design on the back panel is one of the most interesting I’ve seen on any handset. As one of the cheapest capacitive Android phones on the market, the Griffin manages to pull off the fine balancing act of style and value.

You’ve heard what I have to say about these phones, now it’s your chance to tell us what you think. Which one would you choose? And which one deserves the title “Best Sub $200 Cell Phone”?

Tell us what you think by commenting on the Facebook post or leave a reply in the box below.

[ LITB Labs ] i-Helicopter

This week in the LITB Lab we’re taking a look at something a little different. We have one of the latest gadgets that everyone is talking about and what a fun gadget it is. The brand new range of radio controlled i-Helicopters landed on MiniInTheBox.com last week and we’ve been flying them around the office ever since. These fun little flying machines are cleverly controlled using your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, all you need to do to turn your Apple device into a flight controller is plug in the small adapter, download the app from the App Store and its chocks away!

When I first heard about these i-Helicopters I must admit I was somewhat skeptical about; how well it would fly, how easy it would be to control and how fragile it would be. Needless to say going into my maiden flight I was fairly cautious, particularly due to the number of civilians milling about the office where an out of control helicopter has the potential to cause some amusing carnage.

However I needn’t have worried about my previous concerns and no civilians were harmed during my many flight hours around the office (although a number of plants found themselves receiving an abrupt trimming at the hands of the fast moving rotary blades).

I’ll start by talking about the controls. I was using a (borrowed) iPhone 4 as my flight controller and I was seriously impressed; firstly about how easy the i-Helicopter was to control and secondly with how responsive the controls were. I was flying it around a fairly small area and after only a couple of minutes flying the i-Helicopter I was able to control it pretty well. On the touchscreen of your chosen Apple device, the controls are nicely set out and very simple, on the left side you have the control for moving up and down and on the right side a joystick for moving forward, backwards and left to right. It’s that simple.

The i-Helicopter gets off the ground and flies very well, much better than I personally expected and if you get it outside you can have a lot of fun. If you are feeling daring you can fly along close to the ground or get it up to 20 ft and cruise about up there. When it comes to the fragility of the aircraft, although it appears rather delicate and flimsy, it took a number of crashes and collisions (from less skilled pilots than myself) and maintained a perfect working condition. This is not to say that this fun toy is indestructible, but I think breaking it through normal use would be quite difficult.

To summarize, the new range of R/C i-Helicopters at MiniInTheBox are fun gadgets that give you something a little different and novel for your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. If you’re looking for a serious flying machine then these probably won’t be for you, but for anyone looking for an interesting and fun toy, that won’t break the bank, then I’d certainly recommend one these i-Helicopters

Prices for the i-Helicopters start at just $38.29 on miniinthebox.com.