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Thursday, July 2, 2020

First Look: PAI Sandman Doppler (Beta)

Before I get started, I do have to say: I did get the product at a discounted price because I was willing to participate in the Beta release. I didn't get it for free, but there was an expectation of feedback in exchange.

Here's the start of the feedback. This comprises Day One (it literally arrived in the mail this evening).

It's a bit heftier and bigger than I expected. That's not a complaint. The campaign included the product dimensions, so any failure to measure is my fault, and I tend to imagine things smaller than they actually are when given the physical dimensions of something.

The packaging was really well designed, minimal padding but the product was still well protected from bumps and bruising. No plastic padding either, all cardboard which is awesome. I've seen the original packaging that macbooks come in (the real box, the one that goes outside the shiny white box), and it's the same way: provided you take the time and effort to think about it and design it well, your packaging doesn't need any non-recyclable padding.

The unboxing was straightforward too. I really liked the four steps that make getting started really obvious. Even designing the inner box in such a way that I don't have to try and prise the product out of the packaging; just pull the cardboard tab and it pops right out without fuss.

I found two of what I think are mints in the box which is just kind of weird, I guess... I don't really know what to make of it. I also received a USB-C to USB-C cable which is very weird, because I got the USB-A hub, not the USB-C hub (though I do remember in my conversations with PAI that I mentioned I did have one USB-C device but no C-to-C cables, so maybe it was a result of that conversation? I have no idea.

I had a little trouble getting the screen film off because the pull tab of that was so small and the tab ended up tearing off leaving all the film behind, but it was only a minor inconvenience.

Got it assembled and on my bedside... err... I mean hammockside table without any difficulty. It looks a little goofy because the clock is literally a couple inches wider than the table, but that's not a big deal. The clock is solid enough and the table is weighted enough that I'm not worried about knocking it over.

While assembling it, one of the speaker covers popped back into place which worried me a little, until a couple hours later when I was fumbling with the clock and popped the other one off and easily back on again. No big deal.

Setting it up was a pain in the ass. I don't know if it was my phone (OnePlus 6/Android 10/OxygenOS 10.3.4) or the app or what, but took me probably half an hour to get the bluetooth to connect and stay connected. Several times the app started to move on to the next step and it would lose the connection, and I'd have to sit there for like 2 minutes waiting for it to find it again. Once I was literally just about to type the first number of the confirmation code and it kicked me back a few steps because the connection dropped. And then the code changed which was really reassuring that it's not a totally static number for each device.

Also, about half the time when I'm launching the app, it claims to have no saved devices, but closing the app and relaunching has (so far) always fixed it.

I do like that I can name it. I went with Kai'ckul. If you don't get it, I recommend you look it up. I couldn't resist; I love those books. (And if you've read my other blogs, you probably know the name of my last car, and you should be well aware that such in-jokes are not beneath me.) It also didn't take long for me to switch the color to orange, though I was tempted to leave it as red (and I really like that the default color is red, given how red light has minimal negative consequences in the dark and at night--do you have any idea how difficult it is to find red night lights? It's really difficult!).

I'm not a fan of the in-app manual, because it's impossible to look at the manual, and then follow the directions in the app. It doesn't remember your place in either and you can't switch between them easily. Also the menu button in the in-app manual doesn't work; to go back to the table of contents, you have to leave the manual and then go back into it. Would be nice if there was an in-app option to download a pdf of the manual instead of having to locate the QR code on the box or trying to find the manual on the website.

Additionally, while I appreciate the attempts at humor over the volume and Play/Pause buttons, you shouldn't do that in a manual. It can cause reading issues for some users, and those jokes probably don't translate very well into other languages and cultures.

I don't use Alexa (prefer to limit myself to Google Assistant) but I set up an account for the purposes of trying it out with the Doppler and... it doesn't work. The in-app button to setup Alexa does nothing.

I was able to set up an alarm, but the volume controls have zero affect on the alarm tone previews. That's a big problem. I haven't yet had an alarm go off, that will have to wait until tomorrow, because people are sleeping and I can't afford another volume issue tonight.

I was not able to connect to the speakers for playing music from my phone. Another button that doesn't seem to do anything.

That's all I've got for now. No regrets about going for the beta and dealing with all these things, I would be making all these points anyway, it's nice that this time I'm guaranteed that the brand will actually listen, so it makes for a nice change.

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