Hands-on review of the JLab Pro-7 7” Android tablet

IMG_8202As more and more people migrate away from desktop computers to mobile devices, a growing segment of low-cost tablets is beginning to emerge based on customer demand. Just as netbooks were cheaply made low-cost computers with little innovation, some manufacturers of low-cost tablets decided to address this segment by cutting component cost to the bare minimum. Amazon appears to take a different approach by basically selling the tablet hardware at a loss in hopes of making up the losses in future apps, music, and movie sales.

This hands-on review is for the JLab Pro-7 which has decidedly taking the cost cutting approach. Google “Allwinner Boxchip A23 Dual Core Cortex A7 1.2GHz Processor” and you will find hundreds of no name low cost tablets based on this chip, mostly selling for about $50 to $80.

As part of their Black Friday 2014 offering, Staples will be selling the JLab Pro-7 for an substantially reduced price of $39.99. There is no argument that a $40 Android tablet is an incredible achievement. Despite the low price, this is a fully functional Android tablet running Android KitKat 4.2.2 and capable of playing 1080p HD videos. However, this low price comes at a cost in the form of a low quality screen and missing gps and Bluetooth connectivity. Surprisingly, it does come with a microSD card slot so the paltry 8 GB of storage can be expanded up to 32 GB more.

The poor 7” display with 1024 x 600 resolution (170 ppi) makes it unsuitable for use as a primary tablet for most people but it’s ideal for use as a backup tablet or children’s tablet. At 1/2 inch thick, it’s not going to win any thinness contest.

Jlab Pro-7 tablet compared to Apple IPad 1

 

Specs:

  • Allwinner Boxchip A23 Dual Core Cortex A7 1.2GHz Processor
  • 7” display, 1024 x 600 resolution (170 ppi)
  • 512MB DDR3 system memory
  • 8GB with micro SD slot for up to 32GB additional storage
  • Webcam: 0.3MP Front Facing Camera
  • Integrated speakers
  • XP/Vista/Win7/Win8 & Mac OS 10.4 or later
  • Android™ 4.4 KitKat
  • 2400mAh Li-Polymer Battery
  • 1 Year warranty
  • Dimension approximately 7.5” X 4.5” X 0.5”
  • Weight approximately 7 ounces/200 grams

Pro:

  • Incredible value at $39.99
  • Android KitKat 4.4.2 installed
  • Supports multiple user profiles
  • Include microSD card slot with support up to 32GB
  • Usable battery life with 3-4 hours in usage
  • Good Wi-Fi connectivity and speed
  • Good build quality for price point

Cons:

  • No GPS
  • Poor screen with glare and very poor viewing angle at roughly 10 degrees making it unsuitable for reading or extended usage
  • Screen has slight blue color cast
  • Single tiny speaker on rear sounds like those found in low-end phones
  • No Bluetooth so it won’t work with wireless Bluetooth speakers or other Bluetooth accessories
  • No HDMI out
  • Unusable 0.3 megapixel (640×480) camera unless you pretend it’s 2007
  • Poor standby time lasting less than two days

Notes:

  • Time fails to correct for daylight saving time if automatic time zone is selected even though the correct location is set. Easily corrected by manually setting time zone.
  • The glare from the screen is internal and not from the glass so it will be present even when the tablet is used indoors.

At $40, there really is no comparison to any other tablets but that’s just the Black Friday price. The regular price is $70 so how does it compare to the Amazon Fire HD 6 which sells for $100? Well the Amazon Fire HD 6 is an inch smaller and about the same thickness. The Fire HD 6 also boast a much higher resolution screen with Gorilla glass and offers better battery life.

In the end, the JLab Pro-7 is a steal at $40, not so much at $70. If you’re in the market for a primary mini tablet for around $100, go with the Amazon fire HD 6 or one of the other larger Amazon Fire versions.

 

Jlab Pro-7

Amazon Fire HD 6

Price $40 sale/$70 retail $99
Resolution 1024 x 600 resolution (170 ppi) 1280×800 (252 ppi)
Screen size 7 inches 6 inches
Battery life 3-4 hours 7-8 hours
Camera 640×480 .3 mp front only 640×480 .3 mp front + 2 mp rear
Storage 8 GB + up to 32 GB SD card slot 8 or 16 GB + Amazon cloud
Dimensions 7.5” X 4.5” X 0.5” 6.7″ X 4.1″ X 0.4″
(169 X 103 X 10.7 mm)
Weight 7 oz (/200 grams) 10.1 oz (290 grams)
OS Android™ 4.4 KitKat Forked Android KitKat
Apps Google Play Store Amazon App Store
Power management None Yes
Freebies None worth mentioning Unlimited cloud storage
30 days free Kindle trial

 

 

 

 

There may be reasons not to install Facebook Messenger App but permission should not be one of them

My own research confirms that the Facebook Messenger app for Android actually request one permission less than the main Facebook Android app.

messengerFacebook has begun splitting out messenger from the main Facebook app. Although Facebook Messenger has been available for many months, Facebook began notifying users this week that the chat feature will be phased out and the only way to receive Facebook messages will be to install the Facebook Messenger app.

Anything Facebook does is usually accompanied by a slew of misinformation. In this case, the Internet is abuzz with talk of insidious and over reaching permission requests, much of it attributed to this article posted last year by Sam Fiorella. But as the Washington Post points out in this article by Caitlin Dewey, Facebook Messenger App is no more invasive than any other app.

My own research confirms that the Facebook Messenger app for Android actually request one permission fewer than the main Facebook Android app. So if you are already using the Facebook app, you reveal nothing new in adding the Facebook Messenger app.

There may be reasons you may not want to install Facebook Messenger but privacy and permission should not be one of them if you already use the Facebook app. As to why Facebook wants to break out Messenger, I can only speculate that breaking out Messenger gives them the ability to develop this app much more quickly and efficiently without affecting the main Facebook app. The mobile market is moving toward messenger services such as WhatsApp which Facebook bought in February 2014 for a staggering 16 billion.

For those who use Facebook Messenger much more than Facebook, having a dedicated app will use fewer resources which should translate to better battery life, lower cpu usage, and faster response times.

What can you do if you don’t want to allow these permissions? Well you can still use Facebook on your mobile browser. Just uninstall the Facebook apps and you’re good to go. Of course, you’ll lose many of the features like full integration with your phone.

To see a list of Facebook Android App permissions, go to Google Play, search for the Facebook App and click the green install/installed button. To see a list of Facebook Messenger Android App permissions, go to Google Play, search for Facebook Messenger and click the green install/installed button.

 

Facebook Android App Permissions Facebook Messenger Android App Permissions
Device & app history:Allows the app to view one or more of: information about activity on the device, which apps are running, browsing history and bookmarks
Identity:Uses one or more of: accounts on the device, profile data Identity:Uses one or more of: accounts on the device, profile data
Contacts/Calendar:Uses one or more of: calendar, contact information Contacts/Calendar:Uses one or more of: calendar, contact information
Location:Uses the device’s location Location:Uses the device’s location
SMS:Uses one or more of: SMS, MMS. Charges may apply. SMS:Uses one or more of: SMS, MMS. Charges may apply.
Phone:Uses one or more of: phone, call log. Charges may apply. Phone:Uses one or more of: phone, call log. Charges may apply.
Photos/Media/Files:Uses one or more of: files on the device such as images, videos, or audio, the device’s external storage Photos/Media/Files:Uses one or more of: files on the device such as images, videos, or audio, the device’s external storage
Camera/Microphone:Uses one or more of: camera(s), microphone(s) Camera/Microphone:Uses one or more of: camera(s), microphone(s)
Wi-Fi connection information:Allows the app to view information about Wi-Fi networking, such as whether Wi-Fi is enabled and names of connected Wi-Fi devices Wi-Fi connection information:Allows the app to view information about Wi-Fi networking, such as whether Wi-Fi is enabled and names of connected Wi-Fi devices
Device ID & call information:Allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call Device ID & call information:Allows the app to determine the phone number and device IDs, whether a call is active, and the remote number connected by a call
 Facebook Android App Permissions  Facebook Messenger Android App Permissions

 

Sandisk Extreme 32GB vs Sony 64GB SD card

The Canon 70D DSLR camera supports a minimum SD (UHS-I) card speed of 20 Megabytes/sec to utilize burst mode shooting and record full 1080HD videos.

 

 

The Canon 70D DSLR camera supports a minimum SD (UHS-I) card speed of 20 Megabytes/sec to utilize burst mode shooting and record full 1080HD videos. When choosing SD cards, it’s often difficult to determine what speed will meet the minimum requirements as the cards often tout the maximum read speed under ideal conditions. The more important number is the write speed since that is what will limit the performance of the camera. Some play it safe and recommend 90 MB/s cards but those are expensive and overkill unless the objective is to speed up transfer of image/video from the card to the computer.

 

This test compares the read/write performance of the SanDisk Extreme 32 GB SDHC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card 45MB/s SDSDX-032G-AFFP against the Sony 64GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 R40 Memory Card (SF64UY/TQMN) transferring data between card and computer. The tests were done using a Transcend Information USB 3.0 Card Reader (TS-RDF5K) to remove any bottlenecks from a USB2 channel.

 

Test conditions and disclaimers

  • Transfer speeds from a card to the computer is not indicative of performance in camera.
  • Transferring one large file like a video file is faster than transferring the same amount of data comprised of many small file such as jpg file. (The test uses a 500 mb file)
  • Many factors such as USB channel, card reader, and HD speed contribute to transfer speeds. This test uses an Intel i5-4670K Haswell cpu in an Asus H87M-Pro Motherboard.
  • Testing transfer speed by copying files in Windows is not accurate since it is influenced by Windows cache and HD performance. This test uses HD Tune which transfers random data from memory.

The Sandisk is rated for up to 45 MB/s. As indicated in this screencap, it performs at 46 MB/s read and 38 MB/s write.

Sandisk-32-gb-file-USB3

 

The Sony is rated at up to 40 MB/s. Actual speed is 46 MB/s read and 20 MB/s write barely meets the 70D’s minimum requirement.

Sony-64gb-file-USB3

 

USB 2 performance in computer

But what if you have an older computer or laptop limited to USB 2. Here is what you can expect for card to computer transfers. Of course, in camera performance is not affected.

 

Sandisk – 28.7 MB/s read, 24.7 MB/s write.

Sanddisk-32-file-USB2

 

Sony – 28.8 MB/s read, 19 MB/s write.

Sony-64gb-file-USB2

 

Conclusions

Although the tests were done using the Sandisk 32 GB card, the 64 GB card in the same family should have the same performance. The SanDisk Extreme 64 GB SDXC Class 10 UHS-1 Flash Memory Card 45MB/s SDSDX-064G-X46 is just under twice as much as the Sony card. If you want faster transfer times to the computer, choose the faster Sandisk card.

 

But wait! What about in camera performance?

Test #1: High speed shooting test shooting RAW. Sandisk recorded 20 frames before filler the buffer slowing down. Sony recorded 17 frames before slowing down. Presumably, the Sandisk is able to flush the buffer faster allowing more frames to be recorded. If high speed shooting is important to you, the Sandisk outperforms the Sony card once again. The Sony card is not slow by any means and will work just fine for most shooters.

 

Test #2: Slow cards will cause the camera to stop recording video. In tests performed on both cards at 1080 @ 30fps and 720 @ 60 fps, both cards recorded w/o incident.

How to remove isearch.fantastigames browser hijacker

Isearch.fantastigames/### is a browser hijacker that is currently making the rounds. It cannot be detected or removed by popular malware scanners such as MalwareBytes or the free virus scanner Avast

Isearch.fantastigames.com/### is a browser hijacker that is currently making the rounds. It cannot be detected or removed by popular malware scanners such as MalwareBytes or the free virus scanner Avast. Part of the problem is that the hijacker shows up in many forms under many different file names making it difficult for scanners to detect. To compound the problem, Google Chrome’s browser sync option will actually propagate this browser hijack to all your other computers that run Chrome under your Google login.

The sure sign you have this hijacker is your browser opening a new tab with the url Isearch.fantastigames.com/### where ### is a number like 440, 465, 439 or some other number.

The removal of this hijacker is very difficult and must be done manually. There are dozens of varying methods so this article will cover the most obvious. To undo the changes this hijacker has inserted into your browser, you must manually check your browser settings.

Chrome

  1. First make sure you have closed Chrome on any computer where you have logged in under Google if you have Chrome browser sync turned on.
  2. Open Chrome, click the three horizontal bars on the top right. Go to Settings.
  3. Click Manage Search Engines and delete anything your down recognize. Your default will usually be Bing or Google. Check below under Other search engines and remove all unwanted entries there as well, especially anything that resembles isearch.fantastigames.
  4. In Section 2 under On Startup, look under the section  
  5. Click Set Pages and remove all unwanted entries.
  6. Now close this and open all the Chrome browsers where you have Google Chrome sync turned on. It should inherit the new settings. If you have a problem with this re-emerging, try turning off Google Chrome sync, updating the settings for each browser on each computer and then turning Chrome sync back on. If Chrome sync is not acting as you expect, check to make sure you have Settings checked under the advance sync settings section.

Firefox

If you won’t mind losing all your Firefox settings and add-on, the simplest method to remove this hijack from Firefox is a Firefox browser factory reset.

The Reset Firefox feature can fix many issues by restoring Firefox to its factory default state while saving your essential information. Note: This will cause you to lose any Extensions, Open websites, and some Preferences.

To Reset Firefox do the following:

  1. Go to Firefox > Help > Troubleshooting Information.
  2. Click the “Reset Firefox” button.
  3. Firefox will close and reset. After Firefox is done, it will show a window with the information that is imported. Click Finish.
  4. Firefox will open with all factory defaults applied.

Internet Explorer 9

  1. Launch Internet Explorer 9.
  2. On top menu, please navigate to Tools > Internet Options.
  3. On General tab, proceed to Change search defaults and click the Settings button.
  4. You will see a list of search providers. Select your desired search provider and click the button Set as default to replace isearch.fantastigames.com.
  5. You may now remove isearch.fantastigames.com from the list.

Other steps

Now that you have reclaimed your browser, take the following steps to try to eradicate this hijacker from your system. It’s not a comprehensive list since there are so many variants of this hijacker but it’s a start. First create a restore point so you can roll back any unintended changes to your Windows computer.

    • Uninstall any unknown programs.
    • Press Control-Alt-Del, start task manager,  look under Process and end isearch if you see it there.
    • If you’re comfortable with editing your registry, you can look up and and apply some of the many suggestion on the web but proceed carefully since you can be removing something you really need. Use Ctrl F and search your registry. Any entries matching  isearch.fantastigames.com can safely be deleted. Make sure Chrome is closed before modifying the registry.

Do you have any other suggestions? Feel free to suggest them in the comments. BTW, buy a Mac is not a helpful suggestion.

Products at MacWorld 2013 that made me go Hmmmmm

There were some notable and interesting products at this year’s show but this article is not about that. That will come later. This article is about products at MacWorld that made me go ‘Hmmmmmm’.

MacWorld 2013 concludes today at Moscone West convention center in San Francisco. It’s been years since I’ve attended MacWorld and my impression of the show has not changed much over the years. It’s light on any real announcements and has a kind of flea market feel to it due to exhibitors directly selling their products on the show floor. While there were a few big companies like Seagate, Western Digital, HP, and Seenheiser there to simply show their product lines, there were also lots of smaller companies hawking their goods and taking payments.

Continue reading “Products at MacWorld 2013 that made me go Hmmmmm”

It will be illegal to unlock your smart phone after January 26, 2013

The Librarian of Congress ruled in October of 2012 that certain actions involving mobile phones were illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

Unlocked Samsung Note IIThe Librarian of Congress ruled in October of 2012 that certain actions involving mobile phones were illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The rules were revised to state that while it is legal to jailbreak smartphones, it is illegal to jailbreak tablets and illegal to unlock phones without permission from your wireless provider. A 90-day window was put in place that allowed consumers to purchase a phone and unlock it, however that window closes on January 26th. Note that jailbreaking is different from unlocking. Jailbreaking opens the phone up to run additional software. That will still be legal for smartphones after January 26th. Unlocking removes the restriction tying a phone to a particular carrier freeing the user to use a carrier of their choice.

 

However, the deadline is meaningless to some. For example, both Apple and Verizon sell unlocked iPhone 5s for a hefty unsubsidized price while AT&T will unlock a phone once it is out of contract. In any case, if you want to legally unlock your smart phone, now is the time to do it legally.

Nokia Lumia 810 and 820 review

Nokia managed to implement Windows 8 Mobile into a sleek, modern handset that’s comfortable to hold and use. The use of tiles makes one handed use of the phone easy and efficient.

Nokia is making a big gamble by choosing Microsoft Windows 8 Mobile as the OS for their line of smart phones. The fate of this once dominant player in the mobile space is tied closely to the success or failure of the Windows OS. By most accounts, adoption of Windows 8 has been less than stellar but Microsoft and Nokia marches on. Whether you like it or not, Windows 8 is here to stay and Windows 8 Mobile is a serious contender. It’s not the juggernaut that is iOS or Android but there may be a niche for a third mobile OS.

Continue reading “Nokia Lumia 810 and 820 review”