Monday, October 28, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Tab 3: Move On, Nothing to See

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 7.0 is a 7" mini tablet that attempts to compete with the iPad Mini and the Google Nexus 7, but at 60% of the price. Thinking that it might be good option for a family member who needed only email, web and a camera, I picked one up at Costco for $179.  The short story is that it falls short on almost every relevant front; the camera shoots poor quality photos, the screen resolution is poor compared to other tablets, the battery only last seven hours, and the user interface leaves much to be desired. With Apple, Amazon and everyone else seeming focused on screens, I find it odd that the Galaxy screen design hasn't been updated since their last design three years ago.

There's always a warning sign when dealing with disasters like this, and in this case it was reading Samsung's sales pitch where they start off by talking about how it had the "best hand grip" of any product (see sales pitch). 

You can see a video review of this device below and there are also several blogs comparing it to the iPad Mini, Kindle HDX, Galaxy Tab 3 and the Google Nexus 7 (mini tablet reviews).

I'm a big fan of many Samsung devices and this tablet is a huge disappointment. Even at below $200 there's no way I can recommend buying one when there are so many better options out there. Only those who rate "hand grips" over all other features would want this device. Re-stating the obvious, save your money and stay away.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Duracell Quantum Batteries: Unnecessary for the 99% of Us

Recently I checked out the new Duracell Quantum battery which came out this summer.  Advertised as the "world's most advanced Alkaline battery" with the longest battery life and featuring an on device battery tester. It sounded like the latest and greatest.  At roughly twice the price of a regular brand name battery and three times the price of a generic battery, I researched it online to see if it made sense to pay the premium.  After a ton of internet searches I couldn't find any scientific studies that mentioned exactly how much better it was. I found this very odd and could find nothing even on the Duracell site.  All I could find were tons of references about how Duracell was giving away a million of these batteries to First Responders which began to sound more and more like marketing speak (Duracell Quantum for First Responders announcement).

So I decided to test the new Quantum batteries against existing batteries to see if they are worth the additional cost. The result: Save your money and do not buy the new Duracell Quantum batteries!

I view Alkaline batteries as commodity items which have changed little in the last 100 years; I tend to buy whatever is available or on sale, and have zero loyalty toward any brand. With three kids and a ton of toys, I go through batteries by the case and fill more landfills than I should. To keep up with the demand, I typically buy large packs of generic AA and AAA batteries at Costco or other discount stores. I am aware of higher end batteries such as the Energizer E2 but never considered buying them since they are expensive and are not geared toward general usage. 

There are many kinds of battery tests and some specifically say "better for point and shoot cameras" or "battery operated flash". Plus, many of the comparisons, like the one below, compare the amount of flashes and the recharge time. But seriously, how many people are using these types of devices? And does the average guy on the street really care if it takes 4 seconds or 7 seconds for his flash to go off?  Some studies rate batteries on how many years they can last in storage without losing charge or leaking. Most of us are neither emergency workers nor outdoorsmen, so this is also irrelevant.  I just want to know which battery is going to power one of my son's toy trains for as long as possible without needing a replacement.

I decided to consider everyday devices where I use batteries. Flashlights, remote controls and toys. In the interest of saving time I sacrificed some scientific integrity and scratched "remote controls" off the list; it would take me months to analyze battery usage in remotes.  I started with a simple flashlight tests; I have three brand new Duracell battery operated flashlights which are rated, per Duracell, to run for an hour at maximum illumination on three AAA batteries.  I used three types of batteries for my test, Duracell Quantum, Duracell CopperTop and Costco's Kirkland brand. Here are the results:

Duracell Quantum:
Lasted 2 hours 1 minute.
Cost: Roughly $1/battery ($21.94 for 20 on Amazon)

Duracell CopperTop Regular: 
Lasted 2 hour 24 minutes.
Cost: About $.57/battery ($11.99 for 20 on Amazon)

Costco Kirkland Brand:
Lasted 1 hour 20 minutes.
Cost: $.38/battery ($18.22 for 48 at

In all three cases the flashlight dimmed in the last 15 to 20 minutes and the time I measured was until the flashlight was effectively useless in a dark room. Looking at the results, the winner by a landslide was the Duracell CopperTop and NOT the Quantum. It lasted significantly longer than the Quantum and twice as long as the generic.  At less than twice the price of the generic, its a no-brainer. It doesn't make any sense how Duracell's latest and greatest battery got outperformed by their base model. 

And by the way, the highly touted "Power Meter" feature is a useless gimmick. All it's good for is to tell if a battery is fully charged or discharged.  I ran a toy non-stop until it was almost dead and the battery power still showed that the battery had 75% charge.  A re-calibration is in order.  

The Duracell Quantum might be your battery of choice for the few folks who still use a battery operated flash, want a battery that can sit in storage for 10 years or have money to burn. The rest of us can stick with the good old CopperTop or commodity batteries.