Saturday, July 31, 2010

Clear TPU iPhone 4 Case from ebay

Note: Photos taken back before powersupport iPhone 4 screen protectors were released. What is shown here is my iPhone 4 with a modified powersupport anti glare 3gs screen protector. I even punched my own hole for the front facing camera. That's why it looks so ghetto and doesn't quite fit right.

- I picked this case up for $5 shipped from ebay. It was a US seller so I got it in 3 days.
- It has a good feel. I really do like TPU cases. Fit, finish, and cut are pretty good. It's a little more flimsy than the belkin grip vue. The bottom is just slightly deformed and the center top bulges out just a tiny bit. But overall it's not half bad.
- All the buttons are easy to press.
- The back is completely clear. This is what happens when plastic meets glass:

Yup, it's a bubbly watery looking mess.
- I went ahead and did the sharpie trick. I wasn't sure if I needed to but it's not like I was going to return this $5 case.

You can't even tell once the case is on.
- It can potentially interfere with screen protectors. If you are careful you can take a dremel to the lip and sand them down just a bit. It seemed to help.

Recommended. For $5 you could do a lot worse. I like the feel, the buttons work, it was dirt cheap. I'll stick with this case until iSkin comes out with theirs unless I like the freebie case (I went with the Belkin Shield Micra. Hopefully they fixed their button issue) I get from apple which won't arrive for another month.

UPDATE: 8/3/2010
- Monoprice just got some back in stock for about $3 shipped. They should be very similar if not exactly the same as the one I reviewed here.

UPDATE: 8/21/2010
- I got the monoprice case in. It's very similar to the ebay case but it's a bit thicker. Also, it doesn't quite fit as well and the case can arrive a bit deformed. It's ok for the price but IMO the ebay one was quite a bit better.

LifeGrip Silicone Case for Apple iPhone 4

- This is the "free" case from that cnet talked about. I use the word free loosely because they are obviously making a profit from the $3.73 shipping they charge. Still, it's a pretty dirt cheap case...too cheap....way too cheap in this case.
- It looks like crap; it feels like crap. It's very flimsy. It has a slightly baggy fit. The cut outs are mostly in the right place. The mute switch cut out was a bit off. It attracts lint like crazy. It will invert your pockets. The bottom is almost entirely exposed.
- At least the buttons are easy to press.
- It makes a great theft deterrent. Your phone will look so ghetto and nasty that nobody will want to touch it let alone steal it. If Gray Powell had put the iPhone 4 prototype in this case I'm sure it would have been safely left at the bar or thrown out with the dish water.

Not recommended not even for "free"

Belkin Grip Vue iPhone 4 Case

Note: Photos taken back before powersupport iPhone 4 screen protectors were released. What is shown here is my iPhone 4 with a modified powersupport anti glare 3gs screen protector. I even punched my own hole for the front facing camera. That's why it looks so ghetto and doesn't quite fit right.

- $25 at best buy. It was one of the few cases available at launch.
- Your basic TPU case. I really like the feel. It's pretty sturdy yet has just the right amount of flex to it. It doesn't pick up any lint or invert your pockets.
- Looks great, thin, sturdy, offers pretty good protection. The entier case is clear except for the frosted back. I like the frosted back. Trust me. You don't want a clear back. When plastic meets glass it ain't pretty. You'll get this watery air bubbly looking mess.
- The cut and fit is really good. You may need to do the sharpie trick. I didn't bother.
- It may interfere with the screen protector and cause the edges to bubble. It happened a bit on my phone but not so much on my wife's.
- Buttons are WAY TOO HARD TO PRESS for power and volume. I never got use to it. It bothered me enough that I ended up returning the case. I would have kept the case if it wasn't for this one major issue.

Not recommended due to the button issue. Other than that it would have been a great case though a bit on the pricey side.

iPhone 4

- Why another iPhone? I'm surrounded by android users so I got to try out the Google Nexus One and the HTC Evo 4G quite extensively. There were several things that really impresses me about android especially the ability to side load apps (can we say free tethering) and tight integration with google services like goggles, voice, and navigation. As far as apps go they are catching up and rather quickly though they are still missing some key media apps. They still don't have anything close to something that works as well as air video. But in most key areas they are pretty much covered except for one. I'm a gamer. Heck it's in the tag line of this blog. I love my portable gaming and well that's one area that android is way way way behind iPhone. The top tier games just aren't there. I don't know if it's just iPhone's momentum in this segment or it's more of a development technical issue with android but android lack of big AAA titles is a huge drawback for me. So until/if android ever catches up in that department and has same day releases with iPhone for big games like Street Fighter IV, nova, Final Fantasy Chaos Rings, GTA Chinatown, Resident Evil, etc I'll stick with my iPhone. Besides, it is an iPhone, it is the best phone, it's 3g and has the wifi's, and I got the one with the bigger G B's. Of course I can't say I wasn't a bit envious when I was recently at a baseball game with a friend and he was pulling 1.8mbs ( app) on his evo over 4g while I was struggling to get 200kbps but that's more the carrier than the phone itself. I guess it helps when you are sharing a cell tower with only 10 other people.
- So I picked up two 32gb iPhone 4's. I decided to sell our existing two 32gb iPhone 3gs's through (see what I did there gazelle? I didn't even hyperlink your site because I'm still kind of pissed at you) again. The day after the announcement of iPhone 4 I went ahead and got my quote locked in at $304 per phone (perfect condition, all accessories). That quote is good for 30 days (they are very strict on the 30 days). I figure I'll just preorder day one from, have them shipped to me, and still leave me about a 2 week window. Well as you know preorder came and everything went to crap. I tried all day and couldn't get the preorders in until 10pm that night. Suffice it to say I didn't get a day one ship day. I didn't get the phones that Thurs but they did come in the following week on tues and wed. So I immediately shipped the 3gs's to gazelle that thurs (a week after launch) and it got there in time. Current used value of the 3gs had dropped a ton down to $168 at that point so I really wanted my original quote. Unfortunately, they did not agree with my quality assessment which IMO is complete BS. The day I opened my 3gs I literally took it out of the box, slapped a powersupport anti glare screen protector on it, and stuck it into a case. The screen itself hasn't ever even been touched by human hands! I never dropped it. It was IMO in perfect condition. They claimed minor scratches on the back side and a small crack near the mute switch. Whatever. I think their definition of perfect is unrealistic (as in it still has to be shrink wrapped is my guess). Still, they offered me $277 each instead, and I took it. What else was I suppose to do. It was still matching current ebay prices. So if you use gazelle just a bit of a warning. Just make sure you are happy with their "good" rating price b/c you will NEVER see that "perfect" price. Other than that things went smoothly and they payed through paypal promptly.
- Pricing on the iPhones was another issue. We didn't qualify for the cheapest price because we were both upgrading only 1 year into your 3gs contracts. My wife's phone qualified for the $499 price. My phone on the other hand didn't qualify for any discount. That's right. I had to pay the full $699 price. The reason they explained is since my wife's phone was the main line and mine was the add on family line, the bulk of the monthly charges was on her phone therefore qualifying her for the $499 price earlier than mine. On the bright side I have zero commitment on my line now (where's that verizon iPhone?). This also means next year I would qualify for the fully subsidized price of $299. So $499 every year on the wife's and $299 then $699 every other year on mine. The math still works out to an average of $500 per year if you upgrade every year. Don't forget you can recover at least half of that if you sell your old iPhone.
- I highly recommend purchasing from apple vs at&t. First, last year I ordered through at&t and the sim cards were totally screwed up, and we had issues activating them. This year I had no issues activating. Also, if you have to exchange the phone you'll have a better shot at the apple store holding some stock to do that. AT&T won't have anything.

- I HAVE NO ISSUES WITH THE ANTENNA. I just spent $1200 on iPhones. Why would I not use a case? There are only two articles you need to read about antennagate:
Like my high school AP chemistry teach use to say: "Units are your best friend." Bars have no units. Without units they are pretty meaningless especially when comparing between different phones that use different dB brackets. Those above articles have the hard dB numbers.
- The phone has rebooted twice while syncing now (syncing daily for about a month now). Nothing catastrophic has happened but it is a bit unnerving. Hopefully it gets sorted out in a patch (either itunes or iOS).
- That's pretty much it. I haven't had any real issues so far. It has been working great.

- Retina display is best summed up by my wife: "It's so sharp it cut my eyes."
- 512mb for more multitasking fun (yeah yeah yeah set of background services exposed through their api, blah blah blah, you know what it covers all my use cases that I care about, and if it helps battery life then I'm all for this flavor of "multitasking.")
- It's zippier thanks to the A4 but it doesn't feel as big of a jump as it was with 3g to 3gs.
- LED flash, front facing camera, facetime, 720p video, gyroscope - all very nice upgrades.
- Battery life definitely seems better than 3gs.
- Speeds vary greatly from market to market and location to location but my best over 3g was 3.2 mbps down and 1.3 mbps up ( app). HSUPA rocks. It's kind of amazing that my phone upstream speeds are twice as fast as my home dsl.
- All existing 3gs accessories seem to work (chargers, sync cable, composite av cables)
- I did some more testing with the composite av cables. Air Video and dropbox also work with tv out. SlingPlayer, cnn, revision 3, g4, hulu, do not.

- I just got my powersupport crystal film set. Yes they are pricey at $20 for two sheets but they are hands down the best screen protectors you can get. In the past I went with anti-glare because I liked the feel and it was very resistant to finger prints. I went with crystal this time because I wanted nothing to get in the way of that awesome Retina display. They are even easier to apply now. The backing is partitioned into 4 pieces. You can remove a center strip only, position and stick that part on, then peel off each additional section and stick it down. I have to say the look and feel is great (not tacky like invisible shield). It's almost like it's not even there.

Highly recommended. Yeah sure the glass back is a bit stupid too IMO. But guess what. STICK IT IN A CASE and all the problems go away. Heck Steve Jobs is giving you a free case. Take it, use it. You hate cases? Then don't buy an iPhone 4.

Virgin Mobile MiFi 2200

- It's for those of us poor saps stuck in the US with iPhones and refuse to give up our unlimited data plans and don't plan to jailbreak (and missed that flashlight app by 2 hrs).
- $150 from best buy
- Performs pretty much just like their previous usb modem: Same sprint evdo 3g network and coverage, same speeds, same pricing plan, same great pay only what you need when you need it.
- 4 hrs of batter life on a charge. I tested this, and it indeed does last 4 hrs.
- It's a complete router with a ton of settings on it's built in little web server config pages.
- Setting up couldn't be easier with the wpa password printed on a sticker on the back along with the ssid (you can of course change all this if you want to).
- Range was good (covered my entire house).
- It does get pretty darn hot.
- The best part is the freedom you get with this thing. Having no wires or anything sticking out of your laptop is awesome. Not needing any kind of drivers (no OS specific dependencies) is even more awesome. Having it be a mobile wifi hotspot which you can use with a variety of devices (up to 5 at a time) like: nintedo ds, psp, ipad, ipod touch, iphone (take that stupid wifi only restricted apps aka evil at&t) is the most awesome-ist. On a recent road trip we rubber banded the mifi to the back of the car rear view mirror for really great signal reception. My wife surfed the entire time on the macbook pro this way.
- I tried iPhone 4 facetime over mif and it works! The video stuttered once in a while but I was surprised by the quality.
- It comes with an AC adapter charger and a usb cable (mifi uses a micro usb port). The problem is once you plug it into a laptop it tries to go into tethering mode which then shuts down the wifi hotspot part of it. I found that you can charge it from an external battery pack like the Just moble gum pro and still continue to use it at the same time. Another option is getting a cable that only charges (no data) so that way you can charge it off of your laptop's usb port but still use it as a hotspot. I little research came up with 2 possible options (neither which I have tried): Best Buy Rocketfish ($15) and a retractable one from 3gstore ($15).

Highly recommended! It's a neat little device. I've always wanted to own a mifi device ever since verizon got one but I was not going to pay a huge monthly fee for something I would only use a few times a year. Virgin mobile comes through again with the right product coupled with the right pricing structure (except for that annoying 30 days your minutes expire thing though).

UPDATE: 10/14/2010
- So they updated their plans. Now there are only two: $10 for 100MB for 10 days or $40 unlimited data for 30 days. The unlimited is quite reasonable but I kind of miss the $20 for 300MB for 30 days.


- I picked one up from newegg when they were on sale for $100. (UPDATE: That model might be discontinued now. Here is one that seems similar.)
- My current main server was maxed out on drives (5 hdd and 3 optical).
- I wanted a cheap but speedy solution to further expand my storage space. This was mostly for media that was already archived so redundancy/raid wasn't import.
- The key thing I wanted out of this was esata port multiplier.
- The case/fan is very quiet. I can't hear it over my PC at all. I threw in a 2TB seagate 5900 rpm and a 2TB samsung 5400 rpm drive. Drives are barely warm to the touch.
- Drive installation was a snap using just a few thumb screws. Install the drives from bottom to top.
- The pcie 1x card that came with it was: SiI 3132 CN, bios r7.5.07. You can grab the latest bios and drivers from here. 7.7.03 were the latest ones at this time. I flashed the "r" version (update: flash the "b" version if you don't need raid which is what I'm using now.  Monoprice also sells the cards for around $13). The cool thing about how you flash the bios update is you do it right from device properties (device manager, storage controllers, siI 3132, flash bios tab). That is way slick. No need to mess with any bios flash utilities.
- I didn't even bother to install the drivers. If you just want 4 extra drives you don't need to. Though I am burning through a lot of drive letters. If I run out I can simply start using ntfs volume mount points.
- Performance was exactly what I expected. With one drive going I got around 88 MB/sec which is what I expected from these slower spinning hard drives. If I hit both drives at the same time I get around a combined total of 150 MB/sec. From what I understand that is a pcie X 1 bottleneck.
- The esata card has two ports so I still have one port free. I can easily drop in another one of these raid towers for another 4 drives in the future.
- I would stay away from RAID on these cheaper software based raid cards. Performance can be quite unbearable.

Highly recommended! For $100 it's hard to beat. You get full sata speeds if you only hit one drive at a time and even 150MB/sec is plenty for what I need if I happen to hit more than one drive (which is rare in my situation). This totally demolishes the performance of cheaper NAS systems like the dlink 323 (which btw still costs more). If you already got a pc on 24/7 and don't need raid this solution is a no brainer.

UPDATE 4/29/2012:
Power supply blew on it.  A spare one seems to be $60 so I'm not sure if it is even worth it.  I've contacted support to see what my options are.  Luckily, I had a second one and was able to get things back up and running.  I also decided to flash with the "b" for base version of the 7.7.03 bios.  After a reboot you will need install the BASE version of the driver.  After another reboot my drives came back up just fine.