• Find out how to use WhatsApp like a desktop messaging app! Now available for iOS.
Walkabouts

Harvey Norman Year-End Clearance: What to Expect

Harvey Norman is running some year-end clearance sales across its stores now. Over the past two days, I explored three Harvey Norman outlets: Funan, Millennia Walk and Suntec City.

Funan

At Funan, Harvey Norman has been running its demolitian clearance sales for a few weeks now, but the prices just got updated last weekend. Most of the prices are lower now, and you can catch some decent camera deals there. For example, the Panasonic GX7 goes for about $700 or $800, quite a reasonable price for its specs.

Millennia Walk

If you’re looking for a cheap tablet, Millennia Walk has a wide selection of them, starting from $199. Performance is generally mediocre though. If you’re willing to pay $300 and up, you can get yourself a decently performing Lenovo or Huawei tablet.

On the Windows front, tablet-laptop hybrids running the old Z3735F are rather competitively priced now. The Lenovo Miix 300 with 2GB RAM and 64GB eMMC goes for just $399. The Acer Switch 10 with a 32GB eMMC + 500GB HDD with 2GB RAM goes for $449.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a beginner mirrorless camera, try the Sony Alpha a3000 with the 18-55 kit lens, which goes for just $399. It’s a pretty dated model, though, but Harvey Norman has been known to give further discounts if you so much as open your mouth, so try bargaining it down!

Suntec City

If you walk further down to Suntec City, you’ll find really great netbook deals. There are a few sets of Acer netbooks (running Intel Celeron) going for just $250–quite a steal! It’s no powerhouse by any means, but it makes for a great device to bring around in libraries, study areas or coffee joints, if that is your thing.

Deals & Offers

Clearance cameras at Courts

Seems like Court’s newly revamped website allows you to check stock availability for certain products.

There are lots of clearance mirrorless cameras going at very cheap prices.

For example, the old Olympus E-P3 Micro-Four Thirds is going for just $199 (though I saw it at $179 the other day at Tampines Mall; display set). The Nikon V1 goes for just $229 and the Sony NEX 5RL for $299.

Deals & Offers

Sony SLT-A57 Digital Camera – $399

sonyslt

If you’re looking for a cheap DSLR (to be exact, DSLT) camera, the Sony SLT-A57 has got you covered.

It’s a three year old camera, but specifications are still pretty decent (for the price): a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor, Full HD video recording at 60fps and a flip down screen. The A57 uses the Konica Minolta/Sony A mount.

The A57 is sold on Court’s newly relaunched website here.

By the way, if you’re wondering the reason behind the lack of updates this year, it’s because I’m shifting my focus towards a new project.

Coupons, Sales, Fairs & Shows / Deals & Offers

Megatex 2015 Expo – Worth a Christmas trip down?

Valid from: 18 December 2015
Valid till: 27 December 2015 (EXPIRED)
megatex

If you’re interested in tech gadgets or electronics (and are looking for something to fill up your Christmas itinerary), you may be wondering if the Megatex Expo is worth a trip down. Megatex 2015 bills itself as “the last (exhibition) show of 2015” and offers stock clearance on various items. I decided to see for myself on Wednesday evening, and you may find out more below.

What’s there?

If you’re going there expecting something the size of the recent SITEX show, you’re in for a huge disappointment. For one, Megatex 2015 occupies just half a hall whereas traditional IT shows easily fill up two to three halls at the Expo. On the other hand, it’s quality, not quantity, that matters, right?

Before heading down, you might want to look at the floor plan to see if your favourite brands are there:

megatexfloorplan

I headed down on a Wednesday evening, where the crowds were thin and you had the luxury of stopping by the various booths, caressing the products on display without being squeezed. I wonder if it’ll be the same this weekend.

Above you can see some of the products being sold there. From what I saw, there are laptops, desktops, televisions, the occassional media streaming box, and home appliances including refrigerators, electric fans and the such. Only the higher-end televisions seem to be sold there, so you may be out of luck if you’re trying to score a bargain. There’s an occassional deal or two for laptops and desktops though.

And then there are cameras…

I’ve been a little obsessed with cameras lately, so I went to check out the prices of some of the cameras on sale. The six main brands are strategically located in a cluster at the middle of the hall, so checking them out shouldn’t be much of an issue.

There’s a particularly good deal that stands out here: the Olympus E-PL6 twin lens kit (14-42mm and 40-150mm) for just $498. Put in perspective, for under $500, you have a perfectly capable camera that lets you shoot wide-angle all the way to telephoto shots of birds or even the moon.

Fujifilm’s line of mirrorless camera is also going for a rather attractive price, from $599 for the X-A1 series. Though, if you need a twin lens kit, you can get the X-M1 at $699 (leave a comment with your contact details to find out more).

Sony cameras are still selling for their usual price, though.

Find out more in our gallery below.

Conclusion

There are some pretty attractive prices available at the Megatex, so if you’re hunting for an affordable camera, laptop or desktop, or other home appliances, you may want to make a trip down. However, moderate your expectations!

There’s also a furniture sale and a Metro sale going on at the other halls at the same time, so you might want to check them out at the same time.

Retailer Reviews / Walkabouts

MINISO: Perfect for Xmas gift shopping

miniso

If you’ve read the news or your Facebook feed recently, you may have heard of this new Japanese retail chain MINISO which opened its two flagship outlets at Plaza Singapura and HarbourFront Centre recently. Imagine my surprise when I searched the entire Plaza Singapura the other day and couldn’t find the shop at all. And if you do a quick search on Google you’ll find that MINISO is a plain ripoff of Uniqlo, MUJI and Daiso. Despite claiming to be a Japanese brand, it seems that in truth, it’s just a cheap Chinese knockoff, so much so that their Japanese website seems to be simply translated into Japanese using Google Translate. Add this to a basically non-existent Facebook page and nary a mention on social media, you can’t help but wonder if MINISO actually exists.

But it does. I was walking past City Link Mall the other day and chanced upon a MINISO outlet. It’s very strange, because nowhere on the news or the Internet did anyone mention anything about a MINISO outlet at City Link Mall. Piqued by curiosity, I decided to check it out…

Better than Daiso?
A MINISO power bank. Hope it doesn't blow (literally).
A MINISO power bank. Hope it doesn’t blow (literally).

Daiso showed us that $2 can actually go a long way. I love walking into Daiso outlets whenever I chance upon one, for you would usually come across the occassional useful item that you never thought existed. Or that you can get iPhone screen protectors and laptop cases for the lowly price of $2.

However, $2 can only get you this far. Here, MINISO steps in to fill the gap for those who are willing to spend just a little more to get something more useful.

For example, one of their pricier items is a 10,000mAh power bank at a rather affordable $27.90. Daiso could never offer you a power bank for $2, much less one that can charge your phone multiple times before expiring.

Of course, at $27.90, I would rather get a Xiaomi power bank which is not only cheaper, but probably safer. But I’m just stating this as an example.

So… you mentioned christmas gift shopping?

Before I get too carried away, let me explain why I feel MINISO is perfect for this Christmas gift-giving season. Well, first, virtually everything here is under $30, so it would fit into the budget for most Christmas exchanges. The average price of most items ranges around $5 to $10, so even if the Christmas exchange budget is capped at $10, you can end up buying something useful other than a mug, which, let’s face it, no one wants to get for Christmas.

What’s available?

Check out our gallery below to get an idea of the things you can buy at Miniso.

Deals & Offers

Lazada 10/12 sale – Selected picks

Valid till: 10 December 2015 (EXPIRED)
Google CHromeCast
(Image Source: TechRadar)
(Image Source: TechRadar)

The first-gen Chromecast sells for just $34.90 (U.P. ~$40-$50) today! Grab yours now.

 
Philips 32″ LCD TV

Philips 32If you’re looking for a 32″ telly, consider the Philips 32PHA4100, which sells for just $239 today. Short of going for an Akira, it’s probably the cheapest TV money can buy.

 
Razer BlackWidow 2014

Or, if you need a full-sized mechanical keyboard, consider the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth 2014. Sure, it doesn’t have RGB lighting like its Chroma brethren, but $139 is a pretty competitive pricing for a mech keyboard with backlighting. Grab it now.

Shure SE215
(Image Source: Shure)
(Image Source: Shure)

There’s no warranty on these, but from $99.90 for the clear/black versions and only $109.90 for the blue edition, there’s substantial savings to be had as this IEM usually goes for nearly $200 at retail. Grab it here.

Stack with these…

Pay with DBS and you’ll get 12% off, capped at $30. Use MasterPass and you’ll get 8% off, capped at $25.

Coupons, Sales, Fairs & Shows

Sony Alpha 5000 Mirrorless Camera – $349

Valid till: 06 December 2015 (EXPIRED)
(Image Source: Sony)
(Image Source: Sony)

The Sony Alpha 5000 mirrorless camera has since been superseded by two newer models, but at $349 shipped from Korea, it’s still a great bargain nonetheless, plus you won’t have to deal with GST. Note that there’s unlikely to be any warranty from Sony Singapore.

Only six pieces left as at the time of writing, so hurry now.

Notes: Six pieces left as at time of writing.
Coupons, Sales, Fairs & Shows

SanDisk Ultra II SSD – 512GB (US$110) / 1TB (US$200)

sandiskultra2Looking to switch from HDDs to SSDs? Consider this SanDisk Ultra II SSD from Amazon. From only US$110 for 512GB (~S$160) and US$200 (~$300) for 1TB, it’s really cheap for so much storage. 1TB SSDs typically go for about at least $550 these days. The only caveat? No warranty. But you might find it worth the risk!

Free shipping is provided via Amazon and it ships within 2 to 4 weeks.

Deals & Offers / Product Reviews

Thermaltake TTsport Poseidon Z Review

DSC_8652

My first foray into mechanical keyboards was in the form of the Filco Majestouch 2. Back then, Filco was the king of the hill, and there weren’t many options to choose from.

Unfortunately, despite mechanical keyboards supposedly being able to last a lifetime, my ‘E’ key started failing on me a few months back—sometimes, keypresses wouldn’t register. I brought it in to X-treme Solution at Sim Lim Square to see if they could fix it; unfortunately, it seems there was some problem with the PCB that they claimed couldn’t be fixed cheaply.

Filcos are supposedly still the best out there, and in fact, the price has increased by $20 since four years ago. However, I wasn’t that keen on spending so much money again on what is essentially the same keyboard. The Majestouch 2 hasn’t been updated all these years…

So I looked around Sim Lim Square hoping to find something affordable. X-treme Solution sells a Ducky for just $99, but I didn’t quite like the feel of that keyboard, plus the fact that you get a Ducky logo in place of the Windows key.

I went back to Tec-Drome, the place where I bought my Filco four years ago, and they introduced me to the TTsport Poseidon Z. While it normally sells for $129, he offered me $114 if I paid by cash. Deal.

I’ve been using the keyboard for two whole weeks now, so I think I’m qualified to write a review about it.

The switch

I should probably say this right off the bat: the Poseidon Z doesn’t use Cherry MX switches. What is uses instead is a Kailh switch; something that looks exactly like a Cherry MX switch, and feels almost exactly the same. Perhaps if I were to use my old Filco and then compare it side by side with this Poseidon Z I would notice the (sutble?) difference, but in daily use the Kailh switches feel the same to me. Mine are the Kailh Brown switches, for the record. I was contemplating switching colours, but after testing Red, Blue and Black, I still felt most comfortable with brown. Of course, mechanical keyboard purists may disagree with me.

What are Kailh switches anyway? Well, it’s basically a cheaper Chinese replica of the Cherry MX switches. Apparently the patent on these switches expired years ago, thus opening up the market to third party clones. They’re currently being used in Razer keyboards, among others. Some people claim that Kailh switches have looser tolerances in that one switch may feel slightly different from the other. This is true to a small extent, though it isn’t at all noticeable in day-to-day typing. Others also claim that Kailh switches are not that durable. That may be true too; in Amazon reviews of the Poseidon Z keyboard as well as the TTsport forum itself, there are several complaints of ‘chattering’–basically when you depress one key, the key repeats itself a few times. I haven’t had this problem yet, but we’ll see down the road.

One mitigating factor is that Thermaltake is confident enough to back this product up with a five-year mechanical switch warranty. This keyboard is distributed by Convergent Systems, a rather reputable distributor in the Singapore tech circle, so that might put a prospective buyer’s mind at ease. At least, it’s one of the reason why I was willing to step out of my comfort zone and try a supposedly inferior switch for a change.

Keycaps and typing experience

DSC_8662The profile of the Poseidon Z’s keycaps are built to a lower profile than the conventional ‘OEM profile’ used on most other mechanical keyboards. In my experience, this lower profile makes the typing experience somewhat more comfortable, and easier to get used to. Most of my time is spent at work typing on a flat, laptop chiclet keyboard (though a Lenovo ThinkPad, nonetheless), so my muscle memory is more attuned to lifting my fingers up just a little before reaching for the next key. Thus, on a conventional mechanical keyboard, if my finger doesn’t lift up high enough, I might end up accidentally striking neighbouring keys instead (and thus, typos). Due to the Poseidon Z’s lower profile, this is somewhat less of an issue, though it still happens to me from time to time.

The keys also slope somewhat differently from typical keys, though I can’t say this is for the worst. In addition, the bottommost row uses some pretty non-standard key sizes, so you will probably never be able to find aftermarket keycaps for these. A custom stabiliser, perhaps inspired by the Costar style used by Filco keyboards, and a non-standard Caps Lock stem positioning means that you probably can’t swap out all those modifier keys on the left and right side of the keyboard (e.g. the Enter key, Shift key, etc.). In fact, if you’re looking for a mechanical keyboard you can customise, this isn’t the keyboard for you. Though you can replace the numeric keys and alphabets just fine (they are standard-sized), the differing profiles means that these keys will be of a different height from the modifier keys.

The keys themselves have a slightly rubberised feel to it. This perhaps explains the water stains in the photo on the left (when I use the keyboard after washing my hands). Hopefully, this rubber coating is durable and does not become sticky over time–something Razer mouse owners can all attest to. The keys are translucent at the point where the letterings are etched so that the backlight can shine through.

Backlight

DSC_8661Speaking of the backlight: I’ve never been a fan of backlights. If i had a way to obtain this keyboard without a backlight option, I would’ve opted for it right away. Unfortunately, the Poseidon Z only comes in either a blue backlight, or the fancy new RGB lighting. Since blue was cheaper, and since I was supposedly able to turn it off, I took the blue.

However, there is just one fatal flaw: if you don’t want the backlight, you will have to turn it off every time you turn on your computer. This keyboard has no memory or profiles to speak of. There are four levels of backlighting, and by default, the keyboard opts for level two. Using the Fn+F11 and Fn+F12 keys (the Fn keys replace the right Windows key, which I take little issue with; I hate it when keyboard manufacturers try to replace keys with no alternatives, such as Ducky with the context menu key), you can toggle down/up the brightness or turn it off altogether. But it always defaults back to level two upon a reboot.

That wouldn’t be a problem if the backlighting was mild. However, the blue LEDs are searing–even when trying not to look down at my keyboard, I experienced a strobing effect in my eyes whenever I moved them.

If you see my photos, perhaps you wouldn’t realise that the backlight is so strong. That’s because I did a little modification to my keys–I punched a hole through some aluminium tape, and slotted it below all my keys (basically I was inspired by this). I’ve tried different types of tape, and aluminium turned out to be the best. It was sticky, yet malleable enough not to affect the feel of the keys one bit. If you can’t stand the backlight, I suggest you do the same thing as well. Now the glow is a pleasant, non-distracting blue, and I can look down and admire the keys without worrying about my retinas getting burnt.

Other features

There aren’t many other features to talk about on this keyboard. There is a row of multimedia keys at the top, which are pretty nifty and saves me from having to use AutoHotkey to emulate them. There is also a Windows lock key at the rightmost edge of the keyboard, which curiously looks like a ‘refresh’ button. There are two keyboard legs as usual, though I think this deserves special mention as they don’t buckle under the keyboard’s weight when you push the keyboard forward. On my Filco, I never ever used the legs because the keyboard was so heavy (and the rubber feet were too tacky) that when I pushed the keyboard forward, the legs folded.

There’s also true NKRO via USB, something that was missing on my Filco. There’s actually conflicting reports of this keyboard being 6KRO or NKRO. Perhaps NKRO functionality was added somewhere between revisions, but I can confirm based on mashing as many keys as I could that this keyboard is NKRO. Though, NKRO may be a double-edged sword if you’re a Mac user: it doesn’t work on OS X.

Conclusion

Despite its searing backlight, non-standard keycaps and the constant fear that the Kailh switches will fail before its time, the Poseidon Z is a pretty competent keyboard for $114. Design-wise, it a nice change from all those gaudy designs you tend to see nowadays. Build quality is great, with no creaking sounds whatsoever when you press down on the plastic (which I experienced on my Filco previously). If you can’t stand the backlight, I suggest adopting the aluminium tape mod which I did. If you need any help, feel free to drop a comment below and I’d be more than happy to assist.

Notes: 5-year warranty on the mechanical switches; fulfilled by Convergent Systems.
Deals & Offers

FrostVPN – just US$19.99 (~S$30) for 3 years

Valid till: 01 December 2015 (EXPIRED)

frostvpnIf you’ve been wanting to sign up for a VPN service, perhaps now is the best time to do so. At just US$19.99 (less than S$30) for 3 years, you can net yourself a decent VPN subscription with FrostVPN in their special Black Friday deal (U.P. US$179.64).

FrostVPN currently operates 40 servers in 12 countries, including Singapore, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, the United States and the United Kingdom. Their six Netherlands server also offer P2P/BitTorrent support. Connection is currently through the OpenVPN client though they claim they are working on their own client in due course.

They’re a pretty new VPN service provider, so they have little track record to speak of, though they claim on their website that they have “over seven years of experience in providing unrestricted, unfiltered, secure internet access”.

Still, for US$19.99, it might be worth it to take the gamble. You can even pay by Bitcoin if you’re worried your personal details may be exposed.

I’ve just signed up for it and it seems pretty decent for now. There claim to offer a 3 day money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied. If you’re still hesitant, there’s also a monthly plan for US$1.99/month or a yearly plan for US$9.99 per month.

As this is a Black Friday promotion, the offer ends 1 December 2015.