So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Aiptek Mini Pocket DV 8900
- A panoply of assorted peripherals, small, low price
- Very little included memory, weak video recording, poor battery performance
A wide range of accessories, extensive functionality and a low price don't make up for the overall poor performance of this device.
Price$ 369.00 (AUD)
Although the DV8900 is primarily billed as a digital video camera, it's really a whole lot more, with support for music, voice recording and still images too. Unfortunately, the phrase 'jack of all trades, master of none' springs to mind, as none of its features are implemented all that well.
Though there is an element of style to the design of the DV8900, this is offset by plastic casing and poorly implemented controls. Things don't get much better having turned the unit on, with a confusing navigational menu and badly laid out interface. However, what the DV8900 lacks in style it more than makes up for in sheer number of extras. When we received the DV8900 we were mildly impressed by the range of paraphernalia that fell out of the box. Aiptek has strived to include every conceivable accessory with headphones, a remote control, an AV cable, a tripod, a lanyard, a carry case and even a cleaning cloth. Admittedly, they aren't all very good: the tripod's feet fell off before we'd even used it and the glittery lanyard is straight out of Barbie's world. To their credit though, we've never seen such a vast range of bundled accessories.
Unfortunately, when it came to actually using the DV8900 we were disappointed. Firstly, video performance is well below par for a dedicated video camera. The 640x480 video is equivalent to that produced by a still digital camera at best, with poor resolution and grainy footage. With no optical zoom, the camera is limited to only filming close range subjects. There is a digital zoom, but it does an appalling job at enhancing the image and is of little help. The camera's sensor is also of a poor standard, failing to accurately depict colours and performing poorly in low light. There is a night mode, which certainly makes the image much brighter, but the corresponding drop in frame rate makes the inclusion of this feature almost worthless. On the up side, videos are encoded in ASF format, which most media players can read.
Things don't get much better when taking still photos. We were fairly skeptical of the manufacturer's claims that the DV8900 could take 10 megapixel photos, after all this is far from a high-end device. Looking more closely at the specifications reveals that the sensor is in fact 5 megapixels, meaning that image interpolation is being used. Even sticking to the native 5 megapixel resolution, images are nothing to write home about. Our main problem was the camera's slow shutter performance, leading to many blurred shots. The addition of the flash hardly helps matters either, as it is barely able to illuminate two feet in front of the camera. There are some redeeming features, however, with all the usual camera options such as exposure adjustment, panorama mode and burst mode included. Aiptek take things further with obscure features such as "strobe warning". When we switched this on, we were impressed to see that the camera would warn us when an obstruction, such as a finger, was in front of the flash. We were wondering how the camera managed this until we realised all that was happening was the camera warned us every single time we wanted to take a photo, regardless of any obstructions or not. Not such a clever feature after all.
The inclusion of an MP3 player was one feature that we thought especially interesting, as it means one less device to carry around. Unfortunately, the implementation of this feature is mediocre, so we won't be hanging up our iPod headphones just yet. The included headphones are poor, with an almost complete absence of low frequency sound, to the point where bass is barely noticeable. Things aren't improved by using the included equaliser either, which seems to simply make all music sound slightly louder. A second problem is the poor battery life, the DV8900 barely lasting two hours in our tests. Battery life probably isn't helped by the large flashing blue light that continually pulses when listening to songs. Apart from the battery issue, the light is incredibly annoying too, and we couldn't see any way of turning it off. Our final complaint is the choice of supported formats, or lack thereof. The DV8900 will only play MP3s. However, while many elements of the MP3 playback are disappointing, there is something that is done right. Unlike the DV8900's other features, Aiptek has implemented an intuitive menu for music playback, making selecting songs a breeze. Voice recording is also a welcome inclusion, though in this regard, like many other features, the performance of the DV8900 is no better than average.
All four features are victim to the same lack of included storage. At just 22MB, the device is barely usable without the purchase of extra memory. The DV8900 supports SD cards, so expanding the storage space shouldn't be a problem. Regardless, it is still an unwelcome additional expense. Overall, although the idea behind the DV8900 was nice, there are just too many problems to make it a worthwhile purchase.
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