Review: New REDFLY C8N Smartphone Terminal serves as a media player too

Summary:The REDFLY Mobile Companion (now marketed as the REDFLY Smartphone Terminal) has served me well for a few months as I have stated in my first and second impressions. In October the price on the original C8 model was dropped to US$199 and then extended until mid-November. With today's announcement we now know that this model will be replaced by the C8N with the new C7 also available for those looking for a lower cost and smaller device. I've been using a beta version of the C8N for several days now and am posting my review below along with an image gallery and video of it in action.

The REDFLY Mobile Companion (now marketed as the REDFLY Smartphone Terminal) has served me well for a few months as I have stated in my first and second impressions. In October the price on the original C8 model was dropped to US$199 and then extended until mid-November. With today's announcement we now know that this model will be replaced by the C8N with the new C7 also available for those looking for a lower cost and smaller device. I've been using a beta version of the C8N for several days now and am posting my review below along with an image gallery and video of it in action.


 Image Gallery:You can check out the new REDFLY C8N Smartphone Terminal in my image gallery.  
Image Gallery: REDFLY C8N with new media cable
 
Image Gallery: Watch a video and work on a spreadsheet
 

Model C8N: The new C8N replaces the C8 so there will no longer be a C8 model sold after stock runs out at US$199. The C8N is exactly the same size as the C8 and has the same eight-inch display and keyboard size. It will be priced at US$299, which is quite reasonable considering the C8 original started at US$499. The media cable is an optional piece of equipment and will be priced at US$19.95. Celio wanted to keep the price as low as possible and give enterprise customers the option to skip the media cable.

There are some minor differences in case design, one major difference in functionality, and some minor differences in the keyboard between the C8 and the new C8N. The N denotes NTSC, the U.S. standard for video. The beta model of the C8N you see in my photos and video is red in color, while the shipping models will be black. The original C8 also had a soft touch, rubberized outer material and the new model has a semi-gloss covering that still feels great to the touch and seems to be of very high quality. The touchpad is also now black and as shown in my photos the beta device does have the new black touchpad. The C8 and C8N are exactly the same size as each other too.

The major improvement in the C8N over the C8 is the new media port found on the rear left side of the device. The media port is a small port that requires their media cable (a US$19.95 optional item) to connect to it and give you connections for your devices. On the end opposite the media port male end you will find a USB female port and female composite (yellow) video port. You can connect your media device to either port or use the USB port as your third USB port on the device.

As shown in my video, I connected an iPhone, Nokia N96, and HTC Advantage successfully. I also tried connecting my Zune 30GB, but I couldn't find the media cable and the Nokia cable didn't work. The video played flawlessly on the 800x480-pixel screen from all devices and should work for any device that has TV out capability. You can also connect things such as a camcorder or digital camera to show off photos and video on a portable display. It is important to keep in mind that many devices, including the Nokia Nseries devices, use the audio jack for TV out functionality and if that is the case then you will not be able to hear anything because there are no speakers on the REDFLY and video only is supported.

In addition to using the REDFLY C8N for media viewing, you can also use it as a large display for giving demonstrations of your mobile device or a specific application. Windows Mobile is supported through the REDFLY driver, but the Nseries devices also appear in all their glory via the media port connection. I tested out remote desktop functionality on the REDFLY and you can see quite a bit on the 800x480 display. With remote desktop working on your Windows Mobile device you really can have a mobile computer/terminal on the road while leaving the PC at home.

I have only been using the new REDFLY C8N for a couple of days and I spent one day testing the battery life with video playing from my iPhone. I discovered I was able to get a whopping 6+ hours of battery life with video playing in full screen mode while also using one of the USB ports to charge up the iPhone and keep it going with video content. I was expecting a much more significant hit on battery life with video playing, but at this rate you could watch 3 movies on your flight with the REDFLY in hand.

Model C7: I have not seen the C7 device so I cannot comment on it or its performance here. The C7 is sized the same as the C8N and has the same new updated keyboard. However it also has a seven-inch display and a smaller capacity and lighter battery with no media port. It weighs less than 1.5 pounds (the C8/C8N is 2 pounds) and is designed to be a lighter solution for those who want the lightest solution possible. The smaller capacity battery provides up to five hours of battery life compared to the reported eight hours of the C8/C8N.

You will see there is a larger bezel around the display since the two models have the same physical dimensions. Due to the smaller display and lower capacity battery the C7 is also priced less than the C8N at US$229.

Same great features: Both of these new models still have two USB ports for charging up your devices and connecting peripherals like mice. There is a VGA port for connecting and giving presentations with your Windows Mobile device. Bluetooth is also still provided and gives you a very easy wan to connect to your REDFLY.

Driver updates: Celio as been working to expand the number of devices supported by the REDFLY and as you can see on the driver support page they now support over 25 Windows Mobile devices. I have also tested it out on a few other devices successfully so you may have good luck with the driver on an unlisted device too. It does work with my new HTC Fuze too.

If you own a current REDFLY you will also want to check and update the firmware on the REDFLY itself if needed. Celio provides you with specific instructions on how to update the firmware.

Availability and conclusions: These two new REDFLY Smartphone Terminals will be available the week of 1 December at www.getredfly.com and through other online retailers who are carrying the device, such as Amazon, WMExperts.com, and Treonauts.com.

In my very first REDFLY article I mentioned I would buy one in a second at US$300 and now that is the price the C8N is coming in at out of the gate with even more functionality. I paid over US$400 for my REDFLY and can easily recommend the C8N at US$299 if you are a mobile road warrior who relies on their Windows Mobile device. I am seriously thinking of giving up my MSI Wind and using a new REDFLY C8N to serve as my mobile writing and surfing tool. While Opera Mobile 9.5 doesn't yet work (Celio is trying to work with Opera on this), Opera Mobile 8.65 does work very well with the REDFLY and Windows Mobile devices.

UPDATE: Ed Hardy posted an excellent review of the new REDFLY C8N and posted some excellent points regarding usage of the device that I didn't fully cover above. When Ed and I last met, he was traveling to New York with the REDFLY as his mobile terminal and is quite a fan of the device.

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Mobile OS, Operating Systems, Smartphones, Software, Tablets, Windows

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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