The Maxell brand may once have been synonymous with recording media like cassette tapes and CDs but it has now branched out into all sorts of consumer tech markets. Gizmag took the opportunity to take a closer look at two new wallet-friendly Android tablets making their debut at IFA 2012 in Berlin. We were also introduced to its Digital Soundbar TV Speaker, AirStash wireless USB device and Vibrabone earphones.
Maxell's AirStash is described as a wireless flash drive with media streaming and two-way wireless document transfer capability. The pen-drive-shaped device comes supplied with either an 8 or 16 GB SDHC card which slots into a card reader on the opposite end to the USB plug. Digital media stored on the drive can be streamed to up to three Wi-Fi-enabled devices simultaneously over its own network, and documents can be securely shared with up to eight people at once. It benefits from an included Li-pol battery that's claimed to be good for up to seven hours between charges.
Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to get up close and personal with the 2.1 channel Digital Soundbar TV Speaker at the Maxell booth at IFA but was told that it packs a 30W subwoofer and four 10W front speakers. The attractive-looking 2.1-inch (54 mm) high flattened box with downward curving at each side is a good fit for TVs up to 42-inches, there are touch control buttons on the top surface and a remote for on-sofa sonic tweaking.
The frequency response is given as 40 Hz to 20 kHz and the total harmonic distortion as 1 percent (1 kHz, 1W). Both analog (3.5 mm AUX in and RCA) and digital (optical in, HDMI in and out) connections feature.
Moving onto the tech I actually got to try for myself at Maxell's IFA booth, first up are the Vibrabone earphones. Maxell says that mobile gaming is brought to life and the hybrid bone conduction technology allows you to actually feel the music.
Using two tracks from my own digital music player (Ain't Nothing Wrong With That by Robert Randolph and Another Way To Die by Disturbed), I compared the audio delivery from my favored earbuds, some quality noise-canceling earphones and the Vibrabone. I usually have my player's volume set quite low but the instructions called for the output level to be increased, and I can see (or rather hear) why.
At twice the volume level that I would normally choose on my player, with the earphone's volume dial set at around 25 percent and the vibration set to 80, it actually felt as though I was sitting in front of the bass amp, with the kick drum right next door.
That said, I did get more natural and warm sounding thunderous bottom end from the noise-canceling buds set at high volume on the player and low on the earphones but the Vibraphone earbuds do come in at a fraction of the price and don't rely on a rather heavy battery-powered amp to massage the output. While I'm not a mobile gamer as such, I did repeat the experience using my smartphone to play a zombie-tastic first person shooter and got similar audio delivery results.
Maxell also brought two new Android tablets to Berlin, the MaxTab H10 and the MaxTab H8. The former boasts a 9.7-inch IPS touchscreen display at 1280 x 768 pixel resolution, runs on Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) and is powered by a dual core ARM Cortex A9 processor running at 1.5 GHz and an included dual core Mali 400 GPU. There's 4 GB of internal solid state storage (with microSD expansion) plus 1 GB of DDR 3 RAM, an included HDMI out port for onward connection to a big screen TV or monitor, a mini-USB port and a 2 MP front-facing camera module and 5 MP at the back.
The H10 benefits from 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and is ready and waiting for a 3G dongle. The 7800 mAh Lithium battery is claimed to be good for video playback of up to 7 hours or 8 hours of browsing before needing to be recharged, or 310 hours on standby.
At just £169 (US$268), you're not going to get the type of user experience or performance offered by higher end Android tablets like a Galaxy Tab 2 or the latest IdeaTabs and the H10 did suffer from rather poor display brightness, even at its highest setting. Other than that though, it looked to be a good budget offering from Maxell.
Archos is nipping at the heels with its 97 carbon model, though, so it might be worth shopping around before handing over your cash.
The £149 (US$236) MaxTab H8 has the same screen resolution, CPU and GPU as its bigger brother and also runs on Android 4.0.4 but has an 8-inch capacitive touch display and a 0.3 MP webcam to the front and a 2 MP snapper round the back. Its 5000 mAh Lithium battery offers up to 6 hours of browsing or 5 hours of video playback, or 180 hours on standby. As with the H10, the only issue I had during my short demo was the rather dim display brightness.
Both tablets will be available in the UK from October/November (and are yet to appear on Maxell's website).