Available from: Merconnet
You won't have to have read many of my articles here on Ice to realise my love for all things gadget related - the fact that I'm now on my fifth LCD, the CF card reader article (the other half to my lovely Cannon IXUS V digital camera), etc... So when a nice man (thanks Matt) from Merconnet wrote to me and asked me if I'd like to review a couple of their products I said yes hastily.
In this review I'm going to be looking at the first of two mini databank/PDA's they sent me - the Magic-i keychain. I decided to crash test this for a week before writing anything, to see how well it would perform in the field
- Mini databank including 120 name and phone number memory, clock, calendar,
alarm, fortune teller, casino 7's game and 100 location world time.
- 'Turn key' for fast access and data entry.
- Powered by 2 button batteries (supplied).
- PC connectable via a very clever system explained later.
Approx dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 90/17/28.
The box and its contents.
The Magic-i came packaged in a heat sealed, vacuum formed, plastic container - I always enjoy the challenge of opening these! In this I found:
- The keychain. The unzoomed pictures below are to scale on my 17" monitor.
The main body feels quite robust, is pretty small and very light - I can't say I ever noticed the extra size or weight when this was in my pocket. The LCD has 10 alphanumeric blocks (using a 7x5 pixel font), 12 numeric (7 segment) blocks and quite a number of small picture blocks.
The 'turn key' shown on the right hand-side of the pictures above is used as three separate buttons - twisting forwards, twisting backwards and pressing the 'key' in - this has a nice feel to it and gives good feedback when used.
- A small sticky foam pad; its use is explained later.
- A small manual.
The keychain in use.
Controlling the databank's main functions is very easy. I'll use the name/telephone function as as example. First you press the 'mode' button until the databank displays your desired function (name/telephone, clock/calendar/alarm, world time, fortune teller and lucky 7's game),
(apologies for the poor picture quality, the display is very shiny making picture taking very difficult!)
Pushing the 'key turn' in brings up an options menu for the function (when there is more than one), and twisting the 'key turn' scrolls through the options.
Pressing the 'key turn' selects an option and then in this case letter entry is done by scrolling through the alphabet with the 'key turn'.
It's the first time you use functions like this that you notice the subtle features embedded in this databank - as you scroll through the letters they don't just appear, they flip down from the top of the block and the longer you scroll the quicker the letters fire at you... it's quite impressive (another nice feature is birthday notification: the Magic-i will tell you when your next friend's birthday is and plays a little birthday tune at the same time!).
The other functions of the Magic-i are:
Everything's as you'd expect here.
- World time.
Tells you the time in 100 different cities, an impressive collection!
- Fortune Teller.
A funny little addition - plug in a friend's birthday and you get a reading for his or her's health, luck and love life.
- 7's game.
A little betting game - nothing special but good for wasting time.
It seems that the makers of this knew that PC communication was important and also that most IR headers on motherboards are left unused like mine,
So what to do? Well a cable is out of the question and IR is also out so they employed a very clever system - information is beamed from your computer to the Magic-i using your monitor and a 'magic eye' on the back on the keychain. The Magic-i's software (which you have to download) produces a flashing pattern in a square on your monitor that the Magic-i reads rather like a barcode displaced in time rather than space... very clever! I had some problems using the software in Windows XP, though I've comes to expect this.
The little foam sticker is used so you can hang the keychain in front of your monitor easily when transferring data.
The Magic-i keychain certainly does what it promises on the box. The features it provides for its size are very impressive and it's not expensive. Also. like all good gadgets should, the Magic-i is very good at entertaining friends. Data entry is quick and it is a pleasure to use, and the method for downloading information to it from your PC is quite ingenious.
My only real criticism of this gadget is its part to play in a country (the UK) in which 50% of the population have mobile phones all of which provide similar features. Clearly this was originally marketed in North America where the percentage of the population with mobile phones is much smaller than here in the UK.
I'm going to give the Magic-i a bronze award then - it's very impressive for its price and if you need a small PDA and don't use a mobile you'll surely learn to love it!