26 March 2010

Replacing the N800

For a device which, for the better part of 18 months was my main way of accessing and listening or watching podcasts, I blogged very little about the Nokia N800. Sadly, with the arrival of the Toshiba TG01, I decided that it was time for it to find a new home, and it has, courtesy of eBay, flown the coop.

Of course, this means that the TG01 had to be repurposed to this role. But could it live up to the standards of the N800? Well the answer is both a 'yes' and a 'no'. First of all, the TG01 just doesn't have anywhere near the same kinds of speakers of the N800. I don't mind the loss of stereo sound, but I do mind that the Toshiba can't really crank up the volume enough. I don't need it to be too loud, just loud enough to overcome the sound of frying something in the kitchen or splashing about in the tub. The TG01 can't quite achieve this. The other major issue is the lack of a built in stand. I looked on line for a case which has this as part of the design, but they were nowhere to be found. Instead I have taken to using a bit of blutack to stick the stand which came with the TG01, a weird 3-way folding contraption, to the back of the phone. It works but is hardly cosmetic. I guess the best thing is that it works in both landscape and portrait where the N800 could not.

So, what do I use now as my pod catcher? Well, the one I have settled on is BeyondPod, which has two great features. The first is automatic seeking and downloading of podcasts. This means I never have to check manually and all the latest material is there for me to watch when I want. It also has a great automatic delete function, which I have set to remove podcats older than three weeks. This is essential as I have an 8GB card in there which is surprisingly little capacity. I am still sticking to downloading the versions of the podcasts formatted for the PSP as the resolution is fine, but some shows just don't come compressed that way, such as the Engadget Show. There was some trepidation the first time I played this on the TG01 - would the Snapdragon processor hold up? - but it all seems to run fine at the encoded frame rate. Of course the file is totally massive, and, for my purposes, unnecessarily so.

The other amazing program is myPlayer, a great riff on the BBC iPlayer, but which supports most of the U.K.'s on-line TV channels as well as the one from the Beeb. Now, in this case the resolution does matter, as what comes through is blocky and pixelated, and now and then there are limitations to the speed at which it streams. This can lead to the odd glitch in playback.

Finally, the Snapdragon processor really comes into its own when myPlayer is combined with my pair of bluetooth speakers. I have, in the past used an HTC Magician to try to stream audio, and this worked fairly well. The N800 does not have the BT audio profile so could not connect to the external speakers. But the TG01 handles the combined streaming of video into the device via Wifi, decoding and displaying the image on the screen, and transmitting the audio out via bluetooth to the speakers without a hitch. Amazing! To a certain extent it also mitigates the disadvantage of the poor built-in speakers.