Highlighted by the Mobile Barbarian yesterday and recieved by email from Viliv today is news that Viliv have released a software patch to allow the simultaneous use of BT, 3G and Wifi on the X70 EX 3G. Previously this had been disabled in software but now you can 3G route and BT call (tested OK via a BT headset in and outboud) to you hearts content!
I spent some time last night testing four 3G-capable devices for both speed and reception on three different provider networks from my desk in my office here in Bonn, Germany just a few kilometres from the global head-office of T-Mobile. The results are very interesting with the Mifi being a great all-rounder and the X70 surprising with some very high-end speeds. The Viliv S5 was disappointing. I was even surprised with the results from the different providers.
Update: Some reports are coming in (see comments) that the 3G on the S5 brings in good results. It’s possible I have a faulty unit here. Maybe a poorly soldered antenna. If anyone else has an S5 and can do comparisons with other 3G devices, please let us know your results. Thanks.
With an average of over 3 bars (from 5) reception, the MiFi reported the best reception of all devices. This result should be taken with a pinch of salt because of course the ‘meters’ aren’t calibrated between devices but the MiFi certainly felt strong. I’ve used the Gigabyte Touchnote many times in extreme 3G situations now and it too is strong and returned a consistent 3-bar reception level at my test desk. Its difficult to pick a winner between the two because as you move towards the edge of a cell, the Touchnote is likely to be the better performer with it’s bigger antenna. The X70 was reliable too showing strong 2-3 bar reception figures on the fastest technologies. The one disappointing result was the Viliv S5 which consistently failed to attach to 3G networks. Reception quality is clearly much lower on the S5 than all other devices.
The speed tests were done using Speedtest.net over a period of about 3 hours. Remember that results very over time, weather conditions, cell load and position but by remaining at my desk for all tests I was able to get a feel for the speeds of the devices and, important for me, the quality of Internet service from the three providers I tested. The Mifi was used in hotspot mode.
Download Test results:
Upload Speed results:
The Mifi appears to be limited in it’s ability to download when used in hotspot mode (not tested in USB modem mode) although the 1mbps figures are quite acceptable and the reception appears to be excellent. There could be an issue with the early firmware too so we’re getting this checked out through Mobilx.eu, the reseller. Overall though, the MiFi looks like the best all-round 3G device out of the test with stable figures across the board. The X70, with it’s HSPA modem showed the highest download scores and in one case, Speedtest recorded 4mbps download over the Fonic / 02 network. It couldn’t quite reach the high speeds on the Vodafone network. This could have been due to the load on the Vodafone network or the slightly less sensitive antenna. The Touchnote download speeds were also very good but highlight the limits of its HSDPA modem which can only support 384kbps upload speeds. For general use though, the Touchnote is very good and I’d rather have high quality reception than extreme upload speeds. Unfortunately, the Viliv S5 I have here just wasn’t capable of getting consistent 3G results. Standing near a window helped but that’s not the point of the test. In the given scenario the Viliv S5 wasn’t able to complete any of the Speedtest results within a reasonable time and the built-in antenna made no difference to reception quality.
As for providers, clearly Fonic, who use the 02 network, are the best in my office area but in general, I don’t use 3G in my office area! I have been testing these networks for a long time though and have been impressed with the 02 data network in Bonn and Cologne. As a result, I’m thinking of cancelling my low-end T-Mobile data contract (my Vodafone data contract has already been cancelled) and getting an Alice 19.95 Euro unlimited 7.2/1.4mbps pre-paid broadband card. Alice use the same network and as I’ve tested Skype with it, I’m pretty happy that it’s a nice open network. (although it does use a different APN to Fonic so there’s a risk there!) 20 Euro per month for 5GB (and then unlimited over GPRS) looks like the best deal in Germany for me at the moment. Given that I can use 5 devices with the Mifi and that the Mifi is proving to have great reception and acceptable throughput, I have to ask myself whether I really need 3G built-in to any of my devices now.
Clearly the MiFi reduces the need for built-in 3G so like me, you’ll have to ask yourself if it’s worth it to look at 3G-capable UMPCs any more. The MiFi doesnt cost much more than a built-in option, is flexible, is easy to use, saves UMPC battery life (close-range Wifi takes less power than 3G in most cases) and it mobilises up to 5 WiFi devices on one 3G contract.
Update: Finally, after seeing that JKKMobile got over 2mbps download on his MiFi, I tested and tested further. I did, once, mange to get a 2.38mbps average download speed, again, on the Fonic/02 network. Note the fantastic ping times of 65ms. Clearly the MiFi is geared towards reliability, stability and reception quality rather than speed. In my opinion, it’s the right balance.
Dynamism have just announced a special pre-ordering offer for all three of the Viliv X70 EX models.
Express Model Pre-Order Special:
Free Upgrade to 1.3GHz from 1.2GHz
Free Car Kit
Free Leather Pouch
Free Matte Filter
Premium Models Pre-Order Special:
Free Spare Standard Battery
Free Car Kit
Free Leather Pouch
Free Matte Filter
To be honest, the X70 was good value without this special offer but this makes it even more irresistible. The car kit and leather pouch are excellent quality. I haven’t tried the matte filter but as the X70 has a glossy screen I’d say its going to be worth having too.
The Viliv X70 EX Premium Air has a long battery life, reasonable processing power and built in 3G so it didn’t take me long to start messing about with it as a mobile broadcasting solution and that’s the focus of Version 6 of my mobile reporting kit. Live video.
I spent some time testing different webcams, microphones and configurations and have come up with a 2KG setup that will allow you to do live, mobile broadcasting over Ustream with reasonable quality. The total cost of the solution is under $1000 and the setup can not only be used for live streaming but can be used as a complete Ultra Mobile live blogging solution.
What I’ve done is taken the X70 EX and the car kit. I’ve mounted part of the car kit onto the leg of the tripod so that the UMPC can be clamped in. It provides a sturdy screen at a good height when sitting on a chair in, say, a conference room. The X70 EX has Wifi and 3G included. The 3G is HSUPA capable which puts it in the 1Mbps max upload class (assuming you have the right coverage)
I’ve added a 4-way USB hub to the X70 and then plugged in a Philips SPC900 webcam (manual focus) and Samson USB mic. The Philips cam has been chosen because the drivers seems to be very efficient and can produce 20fps VGA framerate while still doing automatic white-balance. Many other solutions I’ve tried including the built-in cam, drop to below 10fps and lower when using the automatic white balance features. Auto-focus would be nice, as would optical zoom and a quality sensor and optics but for the price, the Philips cam does well.
One of the ‘tricks’ I use on the live video sessions is to avoid the use of the browser-embedded video capture software in the ‘flash’ control panel. The CPU requirement is high, the quality is poor and there’s very little control. Instead I use the standalone Flash Media Encoder (FME). It’s an application that takes audio and video inputs and allows you to stream to a media ‘relay.’ More details on this can be found here. On a desktop machine it can be used to broadcast very high quality VP6 or H.264 encoded video but on a UMPC is can be used to fine tune the broadcast for a good balance between quality and CPU load.
Unfortunately you can’t control the end-user stream with the FME so you still have to run the Ustream Broadcast Console. The wonderful advantage of this is that you don’t have to run the broadcast console on the same PC so you have three options.
1) Run the broadcast console on the same PC – Not recommended as it takes a lot of valuable CPU and doesn’t do much except start and stop the broadcast (unless you want to add text and links overlays.)
2) Run the broadcast console on another PC. This could be on another laptop that you have with you or on a remote desktop machine that you access via a remote desktop solution.
3) Get someone else to handle the broadcast console on a remote machine, anywhere on the internet.
The Ustream broadcast console automatically detects that you’re streaming via the FME and allows you to switch directly to that stream. If the stream drops out it gives you the option to drop back to a local video source. It takes some playing with to understand the architecture but its very flexible once set-up.
After doing some testing with various settings I settled for a total 550kbps average broadcast bandwidth by using the VP6 encoder at 500kbps with a 20fps VGA (640×480) frame rate and size. For audio I used a 48kbps MP3 audio track. If you’re broadcasting music, you’ll want to pump this up to 96kbps or more.
550kbps is a good rate for 3G broadcast on HSUPA. 50% utilisation is a reasonable expectation although you must expect to get some frame loss as the quality of 3G services varies wildly based on usage and position.
This broadcast was recorded by Ustream at their servers (not at the source) while broadcasting over Wifi. It gives you a good idea of what the end user will see.
It’s re-sized to 80% of full frame size.
Once again, this is not recorded at source, it’s what the end user is likely to see. I hope it streams OK for you for the Ustream server and apologies for my appearance!
640 x 480 is arguably too big for web-embedded broadcasting but if possible it’s worth doing as when you ask Ustream to record the stream (a single button press on the broadcast console) they’ll be capturing better quality that you can use and post-process later. If you find the upload bandwidth isn’t available though, switching to QVGA and dropping the bitrate to under 300kbps, 15fps, is going to work in most situations.
Using the solution for one-man live photo / text blogging.
To do live video and live photo and text blogging on the X70 EX might be asking a little too much but if you’re not into doing live video, here’s another possible arrangement. Using a Canon Digital Camera (possibly others too) you can replace the video camera and then use the Canon Remote Capture software from the PC. Doing this forces an immediate transfer of the image to the PC where you can drag it into LiveWriter or your favourite blogging software (I prefer LiveWriter as it does some nice image re-sizing) and update a live blog. With a USB keyboard plugged in you can type your text as you go along too.
The X70 EX will run for about 4 hours over 3G in this setup. That’s one 30wh battery powering the cam, mic, 3G and PC. It’s amazingly efficient. If you need more power though, get the X70 EX car kit which has a car adaptor in it. You can then run the solution from a 12V car battery or general purpose Li-Ion battery. You can even use a 24w solar panel to keep the whole system topped up for a whole day’s broadcasting. If you’re using 3G, make sure its a true flat-rate connection!
The solution is very mobile when in use. By grabbing the neck of the tripod, the unit stays well balanced when walking. You’d need to find a good USB mic solution that could be mounted to the tripod but this shouldn’t be very difficult. I can see myself having some fun with this a IFA in Sept as I walk around the booths!
I’d like to find a higher-quality USB web camera with, if possible, built-in white balance, auto focus, brightness etc. Maybe even zoom and an LCD preview screen. I’m wondering if there are any digital cameras or digital video cameras that can be used in this way. If anyone has any information on this, please let me know.
I need a new keyboard. My Samsung Ultra Mobile USB keyboard appears to be broken so I’m looking at the Aisonic 800M right now. The integrated mouse control is a must-have but can I find one anywhere? Nope. I’ve written to the manufacturer to see if I can buy some samples.
The Ultimate Live Reporting Setup?
While I was thinking about keyboards, I thought about just using my netbook with Synergy keyboard and mouse sharing over a Bluetooth PAN. The advantage of this setup is that you have one keyboard, two PC’s, two screens and the ability to live stream, run the broadcast console AND live blog using a USB-connected camera. It would add 1-2KG to the setup (netbook + cam) but wow, you’d be the ultimate one-man band live blogger!
As an alternative to using the X70 EX on it’s own, you could use a netbook or, for more processing power and the ability to connect a web-cam, a digital cam and to do live video and simultaneous live blogging, a full power laptop. You won’t be able to mount the netbook on the tripod so you’ll lose a lot of mobility but as a laptop solution it should work fine. Choose a 3G-capable laptop with a good keyboard. Something like the Samsung NC10 3G or Eee PC 1000 GO range which offer good battery life too. Overall though, with the car mount, the 12V charger, the built-in 3G and light weight, I think the X70 offers one of the best solutions for mobile use.
As for streaming platforms, Ustream works well but I’m looking to try out Livestream.com soon. They have been working in the Ultra Mobile space recently (and demonstrated a mobile internet streaming solution at Computex) so maybe they have some good ideas. Their basic ad-supported streaming service is, like Ustream, free.
Previous versions of the ultra mobile reporting kit.
In about an hour I’ll be getting together online with with Sascha and JKK for the Computex round-up podcast. If I’m able to set it up, i’ll broadcast it on the /live channel but if not, don’t worry because the podcast will go up almost shortly afterwards. Update. We didnt get the podcast done due to network issues out in Taiwan. We’ve rescheduled for tomorrow.
I will be on the live channel afterwards though and JKK will join me this evening for a more formal session where we’ll both be talking about the new Viliv X70 EX Premium AIR and Viliv S5 Premium Air. That’s planned for 2100 CEST but it will also be recorded.
My full X70 EX Premium Air review is ready (I’m waiting for the battery life test to finish but its clearly the best 7” tablet UMPC ever) and that will probably be posted this afternoon so keep an eye out for it.
We look forward to seeing you on UMPCPortal.com/live later.
I’m testing a Viliv X70 EX right now. It’s an impressive UMPC with a ‘traditional’ Slate form factor designed around a 7” screen but with so many improvements over the 2006 Origami devices, you’d hardly believe it was in the same product category. Remember how we wanted SSD, 1024×600, SD card slot, GPS, Webcam, 5hr+ battery life, HD video decoding and a quality design? Well you’ve got it right here with the X70 EX. I’m testing the Premium Air model which has the 32GB SSD (it’s fast!) and a built in 3G modem. Read the full story