Cool Tech Reviews

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May 27, 2008

Amazon cuts Blu-ray movie prices in half


If you have a Blu-ray DVD player and want to pick up some films at a bargain price, check out Amazon’s summer 50% off sale on what appears to be 116 different movies.


Posted at 6:30 pm. Filed under Amazon, Bargains, Blu-ray, Companies, Storage

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May 26, 2008

So what are Panasonic Evolta batteries good for?


On May 24th Panasonic held a publicity stunt for their Evolta alkaline batteries involving a toy robot powered by two AA Evoltas climbing a 530 meter rope hung off a cliff at the Grand Canyon. Since it took 6 hours and 45 minutes, I don’t think robot rope climbing is going to become a spectator sport anytime soon, but it made me curious as to what Evolta batteries really are good for.

Looking at the specs from when Evoltas were announced in January, one claim is that they store more power than prior batteries which was apparently the point of the robot rope climbing.

The new battery cell has a discharge performance almost 1.3-2 times higher than that of the company’s existing alkaline battery cell. When compared, based on the discharge modes set by JIS and ANSI, it is the longest-lasting AA battery cell in the world, the company said.

In a comparative test conducted by the company using two AA cells, EVOLTA could flash a strobe light 277 times, while the existing alkaline and oxyride battery cells could set off 203 and 255 flashes, respectively.

Oxyride batteries are a variant of alkaline also from Panasonic designed for high-drain digital devices. However, even compared to ordinary alkalines, the numbers are closer to 1.3 than 2 in discharge performance although as always your mileage may vary. As for cost:

There is no manufacturer’s suggested retail price, but the expected market price for both a pack of four AA cells and a pack of four AAA cells will be about ¥590 (US$5.57). A pack of two D cells and a pack of two C cells are expected to be about ¥570 and ¥420, respectively. The prices will be approximately 15% higher compared with the existing alkaline battery cells, the company said.

So nominally you would be getting somewhat more power for your buck from Evoltas. Still, I find that these days a much more economical alternative to alkaline batteries for most of my gadgets is Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) rechargeables. You have to recharge them yourself, of course, and you have to rotate your spares since the shelf life isn’t great (although they are working on that problem), but you more than make up for their initially higher cost with the repeated reuse.

However, the real advantage to Evoltas may well be in shelf life:

The recommended use period for all models of EVOLTA was prolonged from 5 to 10 years because the battery life was extended.

I recently had a number of Ray-O-Vac alkalines that I bought cheaply at a local store start to leak after about 3 years on my shelf. If Evoltas really do last approximately 10 years, then they would be perfect for stashing away for emergencies or whatever, and that sounds like the best argument for paying extra. For frequently replaced batteries, I would still recommend rechargeable NiMH.


Posted at 12:12 pm. Filed under Batteries, Brands, Companies, Evolta, Panasonic

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Samsung announces 256GB SSD


I see that I haven’t mentioned solid state drives in nearly two years, but it is one area where technical advances are coming hot and heavy as indicated by yesterday’s announcement by Samsung of a 256GB SSD which could be shipping in products by the end of 2008:

Samsung late on Sunday promised what it says is a breakthrough in solid-state drives with the launch of its first 256GB SSD. The drive offers twice the capacity of the Korean firm’s previous 128GB SSD but is also much faster. The 256GB edition reads sequential data at 200MB per second, twice the rate of the original model, while also seeing an even greater increase in write speeds: where the earlier drive writes at 70MB per second, the new SSD writes at 160MB per second.

The big question of course is the cost and while Samsung isn’t quoting prices yet, there is some good news:

Rather than use costly single-level cell (SLC) technology, the company has managed to develop a multi-level cell (MLC) storage drive that transfers as quickly as the best SLC storage while costing much less to produce than past SSDs. Improvements to the storage controller have also extended the longevity to as long as SLC drives, giving the 256GB drive longevity as good or better than some rotating hard disks.

SLC and MLC refer to how much information can be stored in one flash memory cell. A multi-level cell stores more than the single bit in a single-level cell providing a greater areal density and lower cost per bit.

Samsung expects its new drive to be sampling for computer manufacturers by September and shipping to those clients by the end of the year; this applies to both a 2.5-inch drive for more traditional notebooks and a 1.8-inch drive for ultraportables and other much smaller devices.

No customers have been announced, but it will be interesting to see who jumps on board and how inexpensive these beauties really are.


Posted at 10:59 am. Filed under Companies, Samsung, Solid State Drive, Storage

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