Thursday, 7 January 2016

Leagoo Elite 1 review

I bought the Leagoo Elite 1 Android phone from gearbest. I figured the low price (around £80) was worth the risk of either the phone not arriving, or being unusable.

The specs are impressive for the price:
  1. Dual Sim (or Single sim + micro SD card)
  2. 1.3 GHz quad core
  3. 3 GB ram
  4. 32 GB Internal Mem
  5. High res 5" IPS display
  6. Fingerprint reader.
  7. Looks like an iphone.
  8. 16 Mpix camera
  9. Android 5.1
There were some nice details in the packaging, it comes with:
  1. Card tray removal tool (like iphone)
  2. screen protector
  3. charging cable/charger
  4. USB OTG cable (not tried yet) for connecting external usb devices.
  5. earphones

First impressions:

The Good

  1. Standard Android.  Only minimal "crap ware"
  2. 100% English out of the box (other android devices I have bought from gearbest have been 90% Chinese)
  3. Fingerprint scanner is good.  Not as slick as that on the 6s, but close enough.
  4. General UI speed good.

The Bad

  1. Doesn't recognize the Samsung 64GB Evo micro SDXC card. 
  2. No user manual, no link to one.  Only a 2 page "quick start guide".  It should come either on the phone as a pdf or similar, or at least a QR code on the quick-start guide.
  3. Cant figure out how to use the "custom button" on the side of the phone. It would be great to use this to take pictures, but there doesn't seem to be any way to configure it.  You can set the long press action of this button to start a particular app, but that seems to be it.  What a waste of a potentially great feature.
  4. Camera  below iphone 5c quality, at least in indoor lighting.  This is to be expected - I have yet to find any phone which matches iphones for cameras.
  5. The tab switcher button is missing.  There is no way to see what tabs you have open in chrome. On Samsung phones, this is the button in the bottom left, and it brings up the apps and tabs as near full screen thumbnails to flick through.  On google phones it is the square icon at the bottom right.  There is no equivalent on this phone.  There are 3 "hardware" buttons at the bottom of the phone, the left brings up the menu (on some apps), the middle is the home button (and fingerprint reader), the right is a back button.  Sadly, there seems to be no way to get back the lovely tab view of running apps and open chrome tabs we know and love.  The nearest is to hold down the home button for several seconds, which brings up a small line of application icons (no thumbnails), which only have a few letters underneath (the first 10 letters of the website URL), so are fairly useless to find the tab you want.  This makes using chrome on this phone a frustrating and unproductive experience, if you are someone who uses a lot of tabs.
  6. No Giro.  you can't use it in cheap VR headsets.
  7. The home screens consist by default of 2 pages of application icons and a blank page.  Simple. but there are two more non editable pages - one to the left of the home pages with a large record player as some kind of full page music player which only shows the name of one track, and at the other end, some kind of full screen cut down camera app.  Both are firmly crapware, and useless for me. The problem is it is not possible to remove either of these two screens, and the really get in the way.
  8. There is no way to synchronize your outlook contacts on a PC with this phone.  Samsung comes with Kies at least.
  9. Frequent crashes and problems. Sometimes when booting, gives "UI Service has stopped". Other times, it wont unlock, it says: "Please, don't shelter RED ZONE (shows me upper zone of my phone with indicators and speaker) or press Volume+ and Back button"


This is a good phone for the money, especially if you need dual SIM. The lack of any way to see your tabs in chrome, or get thumbnails of running apps, is a disappointment, as is the lack of support for the 64GB Samsung Evo micro SD card and lack of documentation.  Lack of giro shows where they have cut corners, but this will not affect most users.

Although it is great value, and not a bad Android phone, I wont be replacing my trusty battered iphone 5c with it as I had hoped.

It would have been a great phone with stock android.


They are generally a good company - easy to order from. They let me cancel one order without issue, and returned the money.  Their technical support is poor - you are more or less on your own for after sales service.  Beware of their "user reviews" for products on their site.  They are blocking bad reviews. I left a poor but fair score and review of a tablet, with valid reasons and observations.  They never showed this, and my score was not added to the overall product review score. They only publish good reviews, so this is why all their products have such high user scores.   I guess censorship is part of the Chinese way.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

PNY 128GB Turbo USB 3.0 Flash Drive

Price: £35
Source: Ebay
Formatted capacity: 119GB
Format: Fat32
Files and SW on device: None

Reading a large file from the drive gave a sustained 100MB/s.
Writing a large file to the device gave a sustained 50MB/s

For the price, this is a fast USB drive.  I liked it so much I bought two.

Crystal results:

Monday, 31 December 2012

Yamaha RX-A820 AV Amplifier Review

Model: Yamaha RX-A820
Purchased: 31/12/2012
Price: £799 from Richer Sounds, Newcastle.
Speakers: B&W 685 Cinema package (685 Front,686 rear, ASW610 Sub, HTM62 Center)
TV: Samsung 40" B650
Previous Amp: Deneon  AVR-1802
Speaker Cables:  QED Silver XT (could not detect a difference when upgraded to this from cheap 2.5mm core speaker cable from HW store)
DVD/CD player: Play Station 3.
Experience Level: Above average?

There are no HiFi shops within 200km radius of where I live at the SW tip of Spain.  I wanted an Amp which supported HDMI, AirPlay and Spotify, and, ideally, sounded better than the current aging amp.  So I did my homework and settled on the Yamaha RX-V673 for £450 from Richer Sounds.  I ordered it over the phone and went to UK to pick it up.  When I got to the shop, and they heard I had the B&W 685's they said the RX-A820 would be a better match.  I had about 20 minutes to decide.  I listened to them both in their audition room, and did a brief Google for reviews, then bought the RX-A820 and flew back to Spain.


  • The A820 picked up my internet connection (via cable) automatically and I was able to play a radio station in a couple of clicks.
  • Internet radio is operable without switching on your TV, i.e. just using the amps display and the remote.  This is surprisingly nice feature.  If only it remembered what you played last instead of having to tediously search each time you switch it on.
  • In the Richer Sounds show room, this unit (with a stereo source) sounded better than the RX-V673.  More wow factor, separation and clarity.  The 673 was a bit dull by comparison.  However, neither unit was properly setup - both were out of the box.  Back at home, movies sound much more coherent and exciting than the old Denon.  Had to crank the sub to the max to hear it properly though.
  • ipad/iphone app is a nice, but limited (e.g. you can view radio stations, but not mark any as favorite or bookmark them, no access to setup features etc.)
  • After some hunting through menus, I found how to enable HDMI control to allow the amp remote to control the TV and the TV remote to control the PS3 etc.  This control feature should be enabled by default, not hidden away.  Works well though - TV remote controls PS3 and AMP etc.
  • Airplay works flawlessly out of the box - no configuration required. 
  • Supports lip sync - correcting the lag between audio and video when playing back from some sources.
  • Supports Bi-Amping using the second zone outputs. 
  • As a hidden bonus, the devices magically appears as a "media device" on any windows pc connected to the same network.  Clicking on this gives you a clear web page which gives you remote control and some basic setup features.  Sadly, it doesn't show you the MAC address, which is what you need to setup a vTuner account.


  • No Spotify, only Napster.  The RX-V673 has Spotify, and costs half the amount, and is slightly older. The sales guy assured me that the RX-A820 supported Spotify.  It doesn't.  This is a huge showstopper for me, as its the service I use all the time on my PC.  Spotify premium has better bit rates and audio quality than Napster (320kbps vs 64-128, allegedly) and is cheaper.  I would not dream of using Napster on a £2000+ stereo system.  Oh, and Napster is not available in Spain.
  • 10 minutes after plugging in for the first time, it started doing a network ROM update when I thought I said no. Rom update should not be pushed on you like this.
  •  Rom update failed for no obvious reason (I have rock solid internet), which rendered the Amp inoperable (ROM Error) on switch-on until manual USB update was made.
  • All HDMI & all rear RCA sockets are poor quality - no gold plating which all my cables are inter-connects are.  The sockets will be rusty within 2 years in my damp environment. 
  • You can't use your Wii with this. It doesn't support anything other than 480i, even using the 720p component source input, and it looks terrible compared with directly plugging the WII into my TV.  It will upscale Video in and HDMI in, but downscale any Component in to 480i/576i.  However, it will pass through 720p component, so this may be an option if you want the audio through the amp and can get an additional component cable from your amp to the TV (the avoidance of which is the whole point of using a single HDMI cable).  Apparently, this feature was available on the older Yamaha amps.
  • Only two optical inputs.  I need 4.  The old Denon had 4 digital inputs.
  • No printed manual, only a CD.  Many laptops now don't have CD drives.  If it came with a manual, I would have read it cover to cover before using it.   So to use this unit requires that you have a PC or MAC with a CD drive.  I have to read the manual in a different room to the Amp, which is a pain.
  • Remote only works +/- 30 degrees from head on.  Most of the time I have to stand up and move to get the remote to work as my amp is not directly in front of me.  However, this is somewhat mitigated by the fact that with the HDMI entabled on all devices, the key functions can be performed on any remote.
  • When I connected a stereo source, e.g. CD played through PS3, or my Flac collection over media server, it only outputs to 2 speakers (i.e. 2.0, not even using the sub).  On my old amp, I had a mode which cycled between all the different speaker modes, incl. 5.1, dolby, 2.1, 2 etc.   Interestingly, there are lots of DSP modes, such as "Munich Hall" and "7 channel", but these all say "Not Available" when selected, even with direct mode etc. switch off.  According to the manual, pressing the "Music" button on the remote should cycle through sound programs but it doesn't - it just says "Not Available".  I did find this statement in the Manual "When you playback audio signals with a sampling rate of higher than 96kHz, the straight decode mode is automatically selected".  I think this means the amp cannot do any surround modes with any source which is not low quality.  How come my old amp which cost half the amount supported this?   I have raised a support request to Yamaha to find out how to get multi-channel output from a 2 channel input.  After 2 weeks,I got a mail back saying they too so long to respond to my request, they assume I have already found the solution so are closing the ticket.   After weeks of searching I found an answer.  In the PS3 you have to change the music (not sound or DVD/BD) output frequency settings from 176.4 kHz down to 48 kHz (see end of post).  Now I can at least use the sub woofer with CD playback.  However, I guess that means my 96 kHz flac files are worthless.  I had a similar problem with DVD playback not using the SUB in most (but not all) of the DSP modes.  This took more work to fix, and required matching exactly the right PS3 output formats to those supported by the amp (see later).
  • 4k up scaling - I will never need this.
  • USB only supports FAT 32 which doesn't support files over 4GB (i.e. HiDef movies), and is limited to 2TB.    Unfortunately, all my media drives are NTFS, which came out exactly 20 years ago.  I would not have dreamed that Yamaha would not support this, and it is a show stopper for me. 
  • The volume knob on the front has a mind of its own.  Its like setting the temperature on an old shower.  Turn it one way and its too hot, the other and its too cold. Im guessing the knob is turn rate sensitive but only in one direction, so it frequently way overshoots, and trying to turn it back overshoots the other way.  Not a showstopper, but annoying none the less.
  • Not earthed (no 3rd pin on kettle lead).  With Spanish electrics and children, this is a significant worry.
  • Does not support browsing network based music servers by folder.  I have a lot of music on my Twonky media and other servers, perfectly arranged by folder (e.g. one called "cafe del mar" with 20 folders underneath for my 20 CDM albums.  Instead this shows up as nearly 300 individual artists and albums.  Much of it was ripped more than 15 years ago, and does not have tags.  I have a lot of compilations, which itunes will not group into a single album (despite setting the compilation flag and group compilation settings in itunes), so browsing my collection is painful.  My TV supports browsing by folder, so is perfect, but I need an amp which can do this.
  • 5 Feet.  The 5th foot is rather pointless and gets in the way (I have uneven floors). It doesn't seem to unscrew.  Only a marketing team could make a 5th foot a feature.
  • It only has 4 "scene" modes, which are basically pre-configured inputs and outputs and sound settings.  They are "BD/DVD", TV, NET and RADIO.  There is no mode for what I do most of the time - listen to CDs.  This means I would have to manually set the sound settings, turn off enhance etc. every time I listen to a CD, or hijack one of the scenes for this, and manually set that.  They should have at least one "custom" scene mode in addition to these 4.
  • The Internet radio system is good, except one flaw.  You cant set your favorite (i.e. bookmark) stations via the remote control, Amp front panel or iPad app.   It is apparently possible via website if you create an acount then enter the mac address which is ridiculous.  You can register FM radio favorites with a button, why not internet radio favorites?  As there are probably tens of thousands of radio stations to wade through, the lack of this option is mind boggling.  It doesn't even remember the last station you were playing requiring tedious navigation each time you switch on the amp.
  • The AV remote also has a section for controlling your TV.  You enter a remote control code for your TV.  Unfortunately, the codes are only on he CD (not website), and when you search the codes, it lists 41 different codes for Samsung TV.  There are no indication of which model TV requires which code.  You have to try all 41, one by one & test it. 
  • Internet radio does not show bit rate or quality on the TV menu, front panel or iOS app.   This is a real showstopper, as you cannot chose the higher quality radio (or even lower quality if you are getting dropouts).
  • No indication of source format.  My old amp had LEDs for DTS, Dolby Digital5.1 etc.   This allows you to quickly diagnose input problems.  The A820 has nothing like this.  The only way you know you are listening to a two channel input is that either:
    • it wont use the sub-woofer in any of the DSP modes or
    • It wont allow anything except stereo playback


Once I figured out how to get anything other than "straight" 2 speaker mode from CD input, I tried various DSP modes with my favorite test album: Gish by Smashing Pumpkins.  NOTE: I am 45, and certainly don't have golden ears (Brass ears?).
  • In straight mode, the result is OK, and better than the Denon, but not spectacular.  I would not invite anyone to listen.  The Drums are punchy and clear, but the voice is somewhat distorted and unclear.  The grungy guitars, which many amps turn into an un-listenable mash, are coped with.
  • Pure Direct.  Same as straight to my ears.
  • Dolbly II Music.  Didnt sound good, just like Dolby on my old amp. I dont understand why anyone would use this. Doesn't use the Sub for some reason.
  • Neo 6 Music.  Worse than Dolby, but does use the sub.  Sounds flat.  Its like listening to an mp3 version of the track - poor definition and general lack of clarity.
  • Hall Modes.  Various camber effects.  All a waste of time to my ears.  Does anyone use these?
  • 7 Channel (but with 5.1 speakers)  The only improvement over 2 channel straight. This really adds depth and excitement to the music, without loss of coherence or clarity.  This is what I use all the time, for music, from any source.  I wish I could remove all other DSP modes from the list to save time.  This mode is a big improvement over the equivalent on the Denon.
  1. I only set the front 2 speakers to Large in the setup.  I have no idea if this is correct.  As Yamaha don't respond to support requests, there isnt really anyone to ask how to setup the system. Are B&W 686's large or small?
  2. My rear speakers are directly behind the listener, not to the sides which is the recommended setup.
  3. I have my sub on nearly max volume.  I could have used the sub adjust in the Amp menus to boost it.
  4. I didn't use the mic. based auto-setup.  I don't really have one place I sit.


There are too many show stoppers to recommend this amp.  Yamaha have chosen a random mix of forcing you to use old technology on one side (e.g. FAT), and not allowing you to use older technology on the other (no support for Wii).

Show stoppers are:
  • No Spotify. 
  • No gold plated connectors.
  • Wii video much better quality when connected direct to TV.
  • no NTFS support
  • No button to make mark radio station as favorite.  Doesn't remember the station you were playing.
  • ROM update failure + dead machine should not happen in this day and age.
Good features:
  • Easy to use internet radio and airplay.
  • Zero configuration network setup.
  • Sounds good.
  • Child friendly features (lock settings, set max volume) (but no earth)
  • Mobile control app

I regret this purchase, and if I lived in UK, would try and swap it for the cheaper and better featured RX-V673.  Now I need to go and buy something which supports spotify, and NTFS media.

ROM Update Failure.

Within 10 minutes of switching on the am, it asked me if I wanted to do a firmware update.  I selected what I thought was no (its not clear), but it did the update anyway.  After about 15 minutes it said "ERROR 2000!" which is never a good sign.  Nothing responded, so I had to switch the unit off. On switching on, it simply says "ROM ERROR".   There was no interruption in the internet - I have 100% rock solid internet and had several connections (including VPN) open at the same time without issue, and am using a wired cable (cat 6) direct to the ADSL router.

Googling, I see that one can try manually installing a ROM via USB. It can be downloaded from here:

Taken from the downloaded instructions:

Recovery method using USB method:
  1. Unplug the AC power cable from wall outlet.
  2. Insert the USB thumb drive which has the firmware data stored inside, into the USB port located on the front panel.
  3. Press and hold the PURE DIRECT key and keep it pressed while you plug the AC power cable back into the wall outlet again.
  4. “ USB UPDATE ” will appear on the front display. Then, release the PURE DIRECT key.
  5.  The update will start automatically.
  6.  When “ UPDATE SUCCESS ” appears on the display, firmware update is completed.
  7. Power off the receiver and remove the USB thumb drive.
  8. Confirm updated firmware version.

PS3 and Surround Sound

If you use the optical (Toslink) cable between the PS3 and Amp, you get 5.1 surround sound automatically.

If you want 5.1 (or better) with your movies through HDMI on the PS3, you need to make some changes.

  1. Set the ouptut to HDMI, not optical:
    1. Settings->Sound Settings->Audio Output Settings->HDMI 
  2. Change audio output format from Auto to manual.
  3. Tick as many of these as you dare (I have them all checked)
    1. Dolby Digital 5.1 Ch.
    2. DTS 5.1 Ch.
    3. AAC
    4. Linear PCM 2Ch. 44.1 kHz
    5. Linear PCM 2Ch. 88.1 kHz
    6. Linear PCM 2Ch. 176.4 kHz
    7. Linear PCM 2Ch. 48 kHz
    8. Linear PCM 2Ch. 96 kHz
    9. Linear PCM 2Ch. 192 kHz
    10. Linear PCM 5.1 Ch. 44.1 kHz
    11. Linear PCM 5.1Ch. 88.2 kHz
    12. Linear PCM 5.1Ch. 176.4 kHz
    13. Linear PCM 5.1Ch. 48 kHz
    14. Linear PCM 5.1Ch. 96 kHz
    15. Linear PCM 5.1Ch. 192 kHz
    16. Linear PCM 7.1Ch. 44.1 kHz
    17. Linear PCM 7.1Ch. 88.2 kHz
    18. Linear PCM 7.1Ch. 176.4 kHz
    19. Linear PCM 7.1Ch. 48 kHz
    20. Linear PCM 7.1Ch. 96 kHz
    21. Linear PCM 7.1Ch. 192 kHz
Warning: it does say if you chose modes the AMP doesn't support, you may damage your equipment.  The A820 manual says this, which implies all modes are supported:

  1. some posts say that you should only select Dolby Digital and DTS, and leave all the LPCM unchecked. Other posts say you should leave it on auto (which doesnt seem to work for me), other posts say you should only Select the LPCM options (and leave the DD and DTS unchecked).
  2. Another option is to change the output type to bitstream under:
    1. Settings->Video Settings->Audio outoupt Format->Bitstream (Direct).
  3. I do not know which is better for this amp: bitstream or PCM. I am guessing if you select bitstream,it bypasses all the LPCM options.  Some people say that the PS3 has better decoder than most amps, and to not use the bitstream option, except it doesnt support true HD.  If anyone knows the answer let me know.
Stereo Playback.
To use any mode other than "straight", which uses only your front two speakers, not even the sub, you need to lower your music output frequency to the minimum in the music settings. This is because the A820 cant handle the higher frequencies with any DSP or surround mode, not even 2.1.  Set it to this:
    Settings->Music Settings->Output Frequency->48 kHz

Interestingly, my old cheap Denon had no such difficulty with the higher rates.

Further reading:

Monday, 2 April 2012

Hitachi Touro Desk 3.0

Capacity: 2GB
Cost: £85 from
Interface: USB 3.0/2.0
Included: External Drive, PSU, USB 3.0 Cable.
Format: NTFS

Here is the performance from CrystalDiskMark 3.0.1:

This is faster than my WD caviar black 750 GB 7200rpm internal SATAII drive.

I bought this drive for the purpose of doing Windows System Images as a weekly backup strategy.
However, when you try, you get the error:

   The backup failed.
   The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error. (0x8007045D).

I can do a system backup no problem with a Verbatim 2GB USB 2.0 drive, and also with a WD 1GB usb 3.0 HD, so the problem is not with the PC or OS (Windows 7 Pro 64 bit).

Looking at the Drives  Properties->Security tab, I noticed that the device owner was  long number, and my user had no write permission.  Interestngly, I could create directories on the drive, but I could not copy any files to the root of the drive.

The first thing I tried was to take ownership of the drive.  This failed with an error saying that the permissions would be left in an inconsisten state.  So I ran this:

  chkdsk /R D:

This takes many hours, and results in the following:

Microsoft Windows [Version 6.1.7601]
Copyright (c) 2009 Microsoft Corporation.  All rights reserved.

C:\Windows\system32>chkdsk /R d:
The type of the file system is NTFS.
Volume label is Hitachi.

CHKDSK is verifying files (stage 1 of 5)...
  256 file records processed.
File verification completed.
  0 large file records processed.
  0 bad file records processed.
  0 EA records processed.
  0 reparse records processed.
CHKDSK is verifying indexes (stage 2 of 5)...
  290 index entries processed.
Index verification completed.
  0 unindexed files scanned.
  0 unindexed files recovered.
CHKDSK is verifying security descriptors (stage 3 of 5)...
  256 file SDs/SIDs processed.
Security descriptor verification completed.
  17 data files processed.
CHKDSK is verifying file data (stage 4 of 5)...
  240 files processed.
File data verification completed.
CHKDSK is verifying free space (stage 5 of 5)...
  488250271 free clusters processed.
Free space verification is complete.
Insufficient disk space to fix the attribute definition table.
CHKDSK aborted.

The drive is empty with 2GB free, so its not clear what could be done about this.

However, now the drive at least shows me as the owner.  I edited the security permissions, and gave everyone full control:


However, I still get the same error when trying to do a backup.

Next step is to reformat, using the default block size of 4k.  After this, the permissions are fixed, and the properties reveals that "SYSTEM" is the owner.

 However, same error when doing backup.

The response from Hitachi was that the drive (and most other large drives) use 512E (i.e. 4k physical blocksize and 512 logical block size), and that MS dont support this for windows backup tools.  They point to this article:

Reading this clause:

If you are using a logical sector drive of a size other than 512 bytes, Windows system image backup and restore operations may fail, and you receive the following error message

One of the backup files could not be created.
Details: The request could not be performed because of an I/O device error.
Error code: 0x8078002A

The key here is that the drive IS using 512 logical block size (i.e. sectors), so the statement that MS backup doesnt support 512E is false.