Cool Tech Reviews

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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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January 3, 2006

Skype partners roll out the hardware at CES

The International Consumer Electronics Show starts Thursday, but to get ahead of the cloud of press releases some vendors have “launched” early and Skype is no exception. Their big news isn’t with Skype’s base VoIP service, but with the hardware partners they have signed up – Alliances with Creative, D-Link, IPEVO, Kodak, Netgear, Panasonic, and VTech Illustrate Skype Market Leadership.

The emphasis seems to be mostly on integrating Skype with normal phone equipment:

VTech USB7100 Phone – availability of the previously announced VTech USB phone, expandable with up to four handsets and allows users to view their online contacts. It’s dual line for both Skype and regular telephone service and has cordless handsets.

D-Link Skype USB Phone Adapter (DPH-50U) – a Skype phone adapter that enables the use of Skype on a traditional phone.

The D-Link Skype USB phone adapter (DPH-50U) lets users accept both regular telephone and Skype calls from the same phone for added flexibility. When consumers are talking on a traditional telephone line and receive an incoming Skype call, they can easily switch lines to take the Skype call or vice versa, just like a typical call-waiting feature.

Conference calls can also be connected between ordinary telephone lines and Skype. For added convenience, the D-Link Skype USB phone adapter includes a lighted display to indicate whether an incoming call is from a traditional telephone or from a Skype user.

Panasonic – a cordless telephone product that interfaces directly with Skype, allowing users to make and receive Skype calls and traditional calls using the same device

As its initial offering, Panasonic plans to launch a Skype compatible cordless telephone product that will enable select Panasonic cordless telephones to interface directly with Skype. With the new product, consumers will be able to make and receive Skype and traditional calls using the same Panasonic cordless phone.

There are also the more usual Skype phones:

Creative Skype Internet PhonePLUS – a standalone phone that enables anyone to make free Skype calls over the Internet without a PC connection. (That’s all the details so far.)

IPEVO Fly-1 Cordless Handset and Xing Speakerphone – PC and Mac compatible IPEVO Fly-1 cordless Skype USB handset and an IPEVO Xing Skype USB speakerphone.

FLY.1 is a USB cordless handset with a speakerphone that works exclusively with Skype. It is designed to integrate the Skype experience with the operational familiarity of a telephone. The cordless handset offers portability and enables communication using Skype away from the user’s PC or Macintosh through a wireless USB dock.

The Xing USB speakerphone is the first device from IPEVO designed for business teleconferencing using Skype. The cross-shaped device is designed to sit atop a desk or boardroom table allowing for multi-user participation through four separate speakers. The device is not restricted by a phone jack, allowing for increased mobility and user convenience.

And some items that are hard to categorize:

NETGEAR – a new communications device to be unveiled at CES on Wednesday, January 4th and no details have been revealed.

KODAK Photo Voice – a beta version of the first Skype certified online photo sharing service.

Eastman Kodak Company and Skype™, the global Internet communications company, announce the availability of the latest innovation in digital storytelling ― KODAK Photo Voice ― that combines live voice and online photo sharing. The beta version of KODAK Photo Voice, the first Skype certified online photo sharing experience, is now available as a free download at

“Today’s families and social networks are scattered around the globe. Staying connected through photo sharing remains an important element in maintaining closer personal relationships,” said Sandra Morris, general manager of Consumer Imaging Services at Kodak. “Traditional social gatherings that once took place around the radio, television or telephone are now happening around the computer, mobile phone or camera. KODAK Photo Voice marks the next step in this evolution.”

KODAK Photo Voice is a brand new way to relive memories, empowering two people to simultaneously view a customized slideshow, and to reminisce and react to each picture. Imagine if Grandma could see pictures from her grandson’s first day at school while he narrates every moment of the experience over Skype. Perhaps an old roommate could share detailed photos and recount stories of his new life in London, as his friend back home in California reacts to each picture.

Sorry, but this last one seems like a solution in search of a problem, but it is free.

Update 1/04: They had some trouble with the demo, but Netgear announced a Skype WiFi phone:

The NETGEAR WiFi phone will make mobile Internet telephony a reality for Skype users. Unlike other devices that must connect with a PC, NETGEAR’s Skype WiFi phone will work wherever a consumer is connected to a wireless Internet access point — be that in a home, office, cafe, open public hotspot, or any open municipal wireless access point being deployed worldwide.

The NETGEAR phone is pre-loaded with Skype’s software, ready out-of-the-box to use with a wireless network. All a user needs to do after turning on the phone is enter a Skype username and password. The Skype software pulls up the user’s full contact list, displays the connection status on the phone screen, and allows the consumer to connect to any other Skype user for free. The phone will also allow users to connect to non-Skype users with the SkypeOut™ feature. More information on NETGEAR’s Skype WiFi phone, including pricing and availability, is planned for the first quarter of 2006.

In addition to the Skype Wifi phone, NETGEAR and Skype also announced that the NETGEAR RangeMax Wireless Router (WPN824) with Smart MIMO technology, a 2006 CES Innovations Design and Engineering Award honoree and the industry’s #1 selling MIMO-G product, will be equipped to optimize Skype.

The phone seems similar to the Accton Skype phone and the UTStarcom Vonage phone I’ve mentioned previously.

Posted at 7:44 pm. Filed under Companies, Creative, D-Link, Internet, IPEVO, Kodak, MIMO, Netgear, Panasonic, Skype, VoIP, Vonage, VTech, Wi-Fi

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