Sunday, May 18, 2008

Nokia Bluetooth Speakers MD-7W

One of the best things about reviewing gadgets is the chance to play with something you've never played with before. This time we're not talking about a particularly groundbreaking technology, but even so it's still pretty cool.

Though we've reviewed quite a few cell phone speakers, all of the models that we've examined have used a wired connection to the phone. So, we now turn our attention to the Nokia Bluetooth Speakers MD-7W. Simple in form and function, the MD-7W speakers are portable, easy to use, and offer decent audio quality to boost. At $179 they won't come cheap, but we couldn't help but like them.

As cell phone speakers go, the MD-7W speakers are on the larger side. Each speaker measures 4.13 inches by 2.6 inches by 2.04 inches and weighs 5.6 ounces. That means they won't slip into your pocket, but you shouldn't have any problem carrying them in a bag or purse. Thanks to magnets in each speaker, you can clasp them together in a single cube for even easier portability. Also, Nokia includes a carrying pouch for added protection.

Setup is beyond easy. The connecting cable is 15.7 inches, so you're given a fair amount of room to separate each speaker. Yet, we noticed that the speakers were the slightest bit wobbly. You can tip them backward with a gentle push so we recommend that you place them on an even surface.

The only controls are on the right side of the right speaker. There's a volume rocker, a power/pairing button, and a control that activates the 3D stereo-widening sound feature. All of the buttons are large and tactile. Below them are a charger port and a 3.5mm audio jack for the included line-in cable. You can use the cable with a non-Bluetooth phone or a Bluetooth phone that doesn't have a stereo A2DP profile.

To pair the speakers with a phone, you'll need to hold down the power button until the light behind the right speaker grille blinks rapidly. We took just a few seconds to connect our Nokia 5300 Xpress Music, and we were ready to go. The light will continue to blink slowly when music when music is playing; it will flash red when you're turning the power off.

When listening to music, you can adjust the volume both on the phone and on the speakers. The stereo-widening feature didn't make a noticeable difference, but it's a nice feature just the same. When using the line-in cable as an antenna, you also can use the speakers to listen to your phone's FM radio.

When testing with our 5300 Xpress Music, sound quality was quite satisfying overall. The audio was a bit bass-deficient, as is common on speakers of this sort, but our tracks were remarkably sharp and clear. What's more, the audio has a lot of warmth and was without any tinny effects. Besides the 5300, the Nokia Bluetooth Speakers MD-7W are compatible with other Nokia phones or most other handsets with a stereo Bluetooth profile. As mentioned earlier, you can use other phones with the speakers, but then you're not really getting your money's worth.

The MD-7W speakers run on four AA batteries (two in each speaker). If you're near an electrical outlet and want to save battery life, you also can power them with the included wall charger. Just be aware that the charger will not power rechargeable batteries that are in the speakers. That would be a nice, though not necessary, feature to have.

Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (Xbox 360)

Serving as the prequel to id Software's legendary Quake II, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars is the ultimate online team and objective-based experience, delivering a new depth of multiplayer action to next generation consoles. Set within the epic Quake universe in the year 2065, the game pits the Allied troops of the Global Defense Force (GDF) against a sinister new Axis – the marauding, technologically advanced Strogg - during their initial invasion of Earth.

Brand new to the console environment, gamers choose to play offline or online modes as Human or Strogg in one of five unique character classes. Employing an arsenal of weapons, vehicles and deployable armaments, players engage in an action-packed test of skill and coordinated teamwork through a series of combat objectives. Persistent character growth and achievements reward players for teamwork, while clearly defined mission and class objectives guide new players to meaningful contributions on the battlefield.

Based on the critically-acclaimed PC game developed by Splash Damage, Nerve Software and Underground have collaborated with id Software to optimize Enemy Territory: Quake Wars for the console environment (Xbox 360 and PS3), creating an intuitive experience that allows console players of every skill level to jump into a match and make a valuable contribution to the overall mission. Enemy Territory: Quake Wars brings id Software's new MegaTexture graphics technology to consoles for the first time, delivering large outdoor battlefields of unrivaled detail.