Embedded Tiny Basic Updates are Coming

I am in the process of updating Half-Byte Embedded Tiny Basic.  The new Volt function, the Year function and a few other enhancements are on the way.

As with HB Tiny Basic 3, the Volt function returns the system reference voltage:

200 V=VOLT(0)
210 PRINT "Voltage is ",V,".",V%1000

So, if your reference voltage is 4.930 volts, the VOLT function would return:


The code snippet above would return:

Voltage is 4.930

Year(0) simply returns the current year if you have an RTC attached.

Other enhancements will include:

  • Support for limited LED animation
  • MOTOR control
  • Ability to utilize a light sensor to dim the LED array based on lighting in 
    the area.
  • Keypad support

And, one idea I am toying with–and it would depend on the amount of free space left–is some limited support for an LCD screen. I have not yet decided if it would be of the 2×16 variety or something like a Nokia 5110.  Again, it depends on the amount storage that is left.

Tokenizing the language would save a ton of SRAM for your apps, so I am looking into doing this as well.  I have been looking at how others do it and I don’t think It would be very difficult to retro fit it into the language. Of course, I could just start over…

Assembling the NKC 65k Color LCD Shield

Assembling the NKC 65k Color LCD Shield

The NKC 65k Color LCD Shield isn’t difficult to assemble, it is, however a bit time consuming.  The most difficult part of the assembly is soldering the connector board to the LCD itself. You must carefully line it up on both the LCD AND the shield board itself.  More on that in a moment.

To begin, first make sure you have all of the parts. Compare the packing list with what you have. Once you are sure you have every thing, you need to start with the LCD.  Take the very small connector board and, carefully, solder one of the strips to the LCD. You will know where, it’s kind of obvious, but, in case you can’t, on the shield board, look for the outline


LCD Connector Board

of the LCD.  On the component side, you will see several solid tracks that appear to go nowhere. This is what you will have to line up.  Once you place the LCD on the Shield board and line them up…the LCD has a tit that goes through the board on one side, line it up using that. Once satisfied, remove the LCD and continue to solder the connector board to the LCD. When you are done, place the LCD back on the shield, make sure the board lines up and then solder it to the shield board.  Congratulations, this was the toughest part of the assembly.


The official instrucWP_20170201_21_48_05_Pro.jpgtions say to solder the header now.  I would advise to wait. The problem is that the resistors are difficult to solder if you insert and solder the headers first. So, I would solder those outer resistors next.  Those are the 1K and 10K resistors. While you are at it, solder all of the small, .1uf capacitors (the little bright blue capacitors) into place. A few of these are also next to the headers and in difficult spots if the headers go first.

Solder the remaining resistors into place.  The board is clearly marked, so it should be very easy to figure out where to solder them.

The two large 10uf capacitors are polarized, meaning they must be soldered in a specific way. Notice they both have a gray arrow on them, that is the negative side and must be soldered in with the arrow pointing to the negative sign or round hole on the board.C1 would have the gray arrow facing the LCD and C7 has it facing the Max232 Integrated Circuit.

For the large LM317, place in the three holes, flat side facing toward the Max232.  Solder the center pin.  Carefully, bend the LM317 backward so it is as flush to the board as you can get and solder the remaining pins.

If you have a 16 pin, through hole IC socket (one does not come with the kit) I would suggest you use it in the assembly. It is ok if you do not, it makes it easier if, for some reason, you should ever have to swap the chip out.  If you have the socket, go ahead and solder it to the board, paying attention to pin one.  If you do not have the socket, insert the chip with pin one facing the edge of the board. Pin one is where the ‘u’ shape is on the outline of the chip on the board. Once you are satisfied that you have pin one in the proper place, solder the chip to the board.

The only things left should be the headers. An easy way to solder them in is to place them in your Arduino UNO and then carefully place the board over them, making sure the pins penetrate the board. Solder them.


The Completed Board



Wow, you’ve assembled your board.  Now you need to test it.  There is a demo sketch (two of them) on the NKC Electronics web site.  Download them and then up load to your Arduino. If all went well, you see a short demo on the screen.

This is a busy but useful board and a ‘fun’ project. It shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours to assemble and test.  There are better panels out there, but this kit is currently $4.95 and could be useful in a monitoring project, a game or for an at a glance status for one of your project.

Have fun!

Official assembly guideWP_20170201_22_36_47_Pro.jpg

Demo 1 - direct I/O

Demo 2 - using digital read/write

Demo 1 is much faster and is what I would use 
for things that need speed.

Updated Half-Byte Tiny Basic v3

101_3353.jpgI have posted a new version of Half-Byte Tiny Basic v3. You can grab the .ino file here. If you already downloaded v3, download the new .ino file and is should compile in Arduino 1.6.x. I made sure it compiled in 1.6.7 before uploading it.  It is the same as the previous version, except that it has one new function: VOLT(0).

VOLT returns the reference voltage as an integer in the thousands.  Divide by 1000 and get the remainder. You can do so like this:

100 CLS
110 V=VOLT(0)
120 A=V/1000:B=V%1000
Run the code. Say your board's voltage is 4.954 volts, the output would be:

Of course, you don’t need to divide it, you simply use the returned value to get a better reading on an analog pin. Use it to monitor a sensor, etc. TREAD works in a similar way as well.

The next version of the language will include more low level hardware interfacing to make controlling motors and other things much easier.

Please try this version and let me know, via the comments, if you had problems compiling and uploading to your board.  Feel free to comment on the language, what you like, don’t like, etc.  I do listen and have incorporated many suggestions and will credit what ever I use.


Half-Byte’s Embedded Tiny Basic is ready!

Half-Byte’s Embedded Tiny Basic is ready!

The Half-Byte Embedded Tiny Basic is a subset of Half-Byte Tiny Basic. It does not contain the video or PS/2 style keyboard support and, thus, all of the graphical functionality has been removed.  Serial communication is the only way to upload or write Basic programs in this version.  The purpose to provide a quick, easy way to create applications for your devices.

Half-Byte developed a programmable clock using two 8×8 LED Arrays, using the Maxim 7219 chip, an HC-06 Bluetooth module, DS1307 based RTC, DHT-11 temperature sensor and a Half-Byte Console board.  Embedded Tiny Basic runs the device and, via Bluetooth, it is easy to program the clock.  I use Tera Term to connect to the device and can either type in a program or copy and paste one for quick upload.

Embedded Tiny Basic is tailored for these devices, the DHT-11 and the 8×8 LED Arrays, but it would be easy enough to change for what ever sensors you wish.

The download package contains the libraries, documentation and sample code as well as the Embedded Basic sketch.  Arduino IDE 1.6.x and up should work. I have used 1.6.7 and 1.8.1 for Windows Store and it compiled fine.

Embedded Basic Specific Features

  • 8×8 LED ARRAY
    • SCROLL variable or function
    • SCROLL “quoted text”
    • SET column, row, on or off
    • DIRECTION direction (where direction is 1 for left, 2 for right, 3 for up, 4 for down)
    • BRIGHT x (where x is a value from 0 to 15) Controls the brightness of the LED Array
  • CLOCK (DS1307)
    • TIME (displays the time and date on the array)
    • SETTIME hours, minutes, seconds, day, month, year (sets the time and date…all parameters must be supplied.)
    • x=HOUR(0) (returns the current hour to the variable ‘x’, can be any variable)
    • x=MINUTE(0) (returns the current minute to ‘x’)
    • x=DAY(0) (returns the current day to ‘x’)
    • x=MONTH(0) (returns the current month to ‘x’)
    • TEMP (sends the temperature to the array)
    • HUMID (sends the humidity to the array)
    • x=TEMP(0) (returns the current temperature to ‘x’)
    • x=HUMID(0) (returns the current humidity to ‘x’)
    • TONE pin, pitch, duration (sends a tone, specified by pitch, to pin for the duration)
  • TIPS
    • Use IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO xxxx as an interrupt.  This tests the Serial in pin for something other than a -1.  -1 means there is nothing coming in on the serial pin. A non -1 value means the user likely hit a key on the keyboard of the Serial device. Useful for Bluetooth connections over serial, like the HC-06.
    • SAVE your program and it will autorun when the device is restarted. You will have three seconds to interrupt the autorun sequence (pressing a key will do.)
    • Combine statements where possible to save space.
    • Use ? instead of PRINT
    • Every effort has been made to fully debug Embedded Tiny Basic, but there may be some things that have been missed. Please feel free to let us know on the blog via comments of the Facebook page.

Please feel free to share any programs you have written in Embedded Tiny Basic as well as suggestions, tips, tricks, complaints, etc. As stated above, you can do so here on the blog via comments or on the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/eightbitsblog/)


100 SCROLL"   Half-Byte Clock. "
110 TIME
120 SCROLL " Indoor temp is "
125 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 500
130 TEMP
140 SCROLL " Humidity is "
160 SCROLL "% "
170 H=HOUR(0):M=MINUTE(0)
180 IF H=11 IF M>30 IF M<40 TONE 8,1024,2048
200 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 500
300 GOTO 100
500 SCROLL "Done"

Note: line 180 acts as an alarm. If the time is 11:30am, a sound will play for
about two seconds. Lines 125 and 200 checks for a signal on the Serial in pin. 
If it is there, control transfers to line 500 and stops.

Download here.


Accurately reading analog pins, making Half-Byte Tiny Basic do the same and a fix for LiquidCrystal_I2C

temperaturesensor-128-300-225-80While experimenting with a new to me temperature sensor, I was a bit puzzled as to how to read the sensor. It has three pins, voltage, ground and signal. Well, it is obvious on how to connect the pins, power and ground and, since it was temperature sensor spitting out an analog signal, I figured one of the analog pins would suffice. I was correct about that, but, then, I did not know how to interpret the results. There is actually very little on the ‘net about this thing. It is a TMP-01 from OSEPP. Even the OSEPP web page has little on the device. I actually found out how to interpret the device on the SparkFun Galileo page (https://learn.sparkfun.com/…/sik-galileo—part-7-reading-a…)

One thing about Arduino chips (like the 328) have a built in voltage measuring mechanism. Yes, that’s right, it has a built in voltage meter of sorts.

On that page, there is this code:

Example sketch 07


Use the “serial monitor” window to read a temperature sensor.

The TMP36 is an easy-to-use temperature sensor that outputs
a voltage that’s proportional to the ambient temperature.
You can use it for all kinds of automation tasks where you’d
like to know or control the temperature of something.

More information on the sensor is available in the datasheet:

Even more exciting, we’ll start using the Arduino’s serial port
to send data back to your main computer! Up until now, we’ve
been limited to using simple LEDs for output. We’ll see that
the Arduino can also easily output all kinds of text and data.

Hardware connections:

Be careful when installing the temperature sensor, as it is
almost identical to the transistors! The one you want has
a triangle logo and “TMP” in very tiny letters. The
ones you DON’T want will have “222” on them.

When looking at the flat side of the temperature sensor
with the pins down, from left to right the pins are:
5V, SIGNAL, and GND.

Connect the 5V pin to 5 Volts (5V).
Connect the SIGNAL pin to ANALOG pin 0.
Connect the GND pin to ground (GND).


This sketch was written by SparkFun Electronics,
with lots of help from the Arduino community.
This code is completely free for any use.
Visit http://learn.sparkfun.com/products/2 for SIK information.
Visit http://www.arduino.cc to learn about the Arduino.

Version 2.0 6/2012 MDG

// We’ll use analog input 0 to measure the temperature sensor’s
// signal pin.

const int temperaturePin = 0;

void setup()
// In this sketch, we’ll use the Arduino’s serial port
// to send text back to the main computer. For both sides to
// communicate properly, they need to be set to the same speed.
// We use the Serial.begin() function to initialize the port
// and set the communications speed.

// The speed is measured in bits per second, also known as
// “baud rate”. 9600 is a very commonly used baud rate,
// and will transfer about 10 characters per second.


void loop()
// Up to now we’ve only used integer (“int”) values in our
// sketches. Integers are always whole numbers (0, 1, 23, etc.).
// In this sketch, we’ll use floating-point values (“float”).
// Floats can be fractional numbers such as 1.42, 2523.43121, etc.

// We’ll declare three floating-point variables
// (We can declare multiple variables of the same type on one line:)

float voltage, degreesC, degreesF;

// First we’ll measure the voltage at the analog pin. Normally
// we’d use analogRead(), which returns a number from 0 to 1023.
// Here we’ve written a function (further down) called
// getVoltage() that returns the true voltage (0 to 5 Volts)
// present on an analog input pin.

voltage = getVoltage(temperaturePin);

// Now we’ll convert the voltage to degrees Celsius.
// This formula comes from the temperature sensor datasheet:

degreesC = (voltage – 0.5) * 100.0;

// While we’re at it, let’s convert degrees Celsius to Fahrenheit.
// This is the classic C to F conversion formula:

degreesF = degreesC * (9.0/5.0) + 32.0;

// Now we’ll use the serial port to print these values
// to the serial monitor!

// To open the serial monitor window, upload your code,
// then click the “magnifying glass” button at the right edge
// of the Arduino IDE toolbar. The serial monitor window
// will open.

// (NOTE: remember we said that the communication speed
// must be the same on both sides. Ensure that the baud rate
// control at the bottom of the window is set to 9600. If it
// isn’t, change it to 9600.)

// Also note that every time you upload a new sketch to the
// Arduino, the serial monitor window will close. It does this
// because the serial port is also used to upload code!
// When the upload is complete, you can re-open the serial
// monitor window.

// To send data from the Arduino to the serial monitor window,
// we use the Serial.print() function. You can print variables
// or text (within quotes).

Serial.print(“voltage: “);
Serial.print(” deg C: “);
Serial.print(” deg F: “);

// These statements will print lines of data like this:
// “voltage: 0.73 deg C: 22.75 deg F: 72.96”

// Note that all of the above statements are “print”, except
// for the last one, which is “println”. “Print” will output
// text to the SAME LINE, similar to building a sentence
// out of words. “Println” will insert a “carriage return”
// character at the end of whatever it prints, moving down
// to the NEXT line.

delay(1000); // repeat once per second (change as you wish!)

float getVoltage(int pin)
// This function has one input parameter, the analog pin number
// to read. You might notice that this function does not have
// “void” in front of it; this is because it returns a floating-
// point value, which is the true voltage on that pin (0 to 5V).

// You can write your own functions that take in parameters
// and return values. Here’s how:

// To take in parameters, put their type and name in the
// parenthesis after the function name (see above). You can
// have multiple parameters, separated with commas.

// To return a value, put the type BEFORE the function name
// (see “float”, above), and use a return() statement in your code
// to actually return the value (see below).

// If you don’t need to get any parameters, you can just put
// “()” after the function name.

// If you don’t need to return a value, just write “void” before
// the function name.

// Here’s the return statement for this function. We’re doing
// all the math we need to do within this statement:

return (analogRead(pin) * 0.004882814);

// This equation converts the 0 to 1023 value that analogRead()
// returns, into a 0.0 to 5.0 value that is the true voltage
// being read at that pin.


There is more to it. In order to get a more accurate voltage, you have come up with the reference voltage and use it instead of the .004882814 used above.

 This site: https://hackingmajenkoblog.wordpress.com/…/making-accurate…/
 has a really nice explanation and some code to get the reference voltage:
 long readVcc() {
 long result;
 // Read 1.1V reference against AVcc
 ADMUX = _BV(REFS0) | _BV(MUX3) | _BV(MUX2) | _BV(MUX1);
 delay(2); // Wait for Vref to settle
 ADCSRA |= _BV(ADSC); // Convert
 while (bit_is_set(ADCSRA,ADSC));
 result = ADCL;
 result |= ADCH<<8;
 result = 1125300L / result; // Back-calculate AVcc in mV
 return result;
And call it like this:
 unsigned int ADCValue;
 double Voltage;
 double Vcc;

 Vcc = readVcc()/1000.0;
 ADCValue = analogRead(0);
 Voltage = (ADCValue / 1024.0) * Vcc;

Call that function to get your reference and use that where ever you need, such as the temperature sensor.

Making Half-Byte Tiny Basic Accurately Those Analog Pins too!

I am adding a function to Half-Byte Tiny Basic to return this value.
It goes like this:
250 a=VOLT(0)
260 print a,”,”,a/1000
Line 250 gets the reference voltage
Line 260 displays the voltage and the voltage divided by 1000. The returned voltage is in the thousands, so you must divide by 1000 to get the actual value.

Using AREAD in conjunction with VOLT should give you the ability to read, accurately, the analog pins that have some kind of sensor attached to them that does not need a library to read them, like the TEMP-01.

Fix for LiquidCrystal_I2C not displaying the whole string

This also brings me to another issue…the LiquidCrystal_I2C library.  The newer versions of the GCC compiler that is used in the latest versions of the Arduino compiler have a problem: they only display one character instead of the entire string.  I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, but, it turns out, there is a bug in the library.  I found another that corrects the bug and you can download it from here.

Embedded Tiny Basic: build apps for your projects

Embedded Tiny Basic: build apps for your projects

I, recently, embarked on building a useful if not glitzy digital clock. My first idea involved something retro: using four, seven segment, LED’s to look like something from the late 1970’s.  At the same time, I was also playing around with 8×8 LED Arrays, using the MAX7219 chip.  While playing with that, I connected one of my 1307 RTC’s to the array and loaded up a sketch to show the date and time on the arrays.  Then, it hit me…this is a much cooler clock and I can do more with it.

So, I built a prototype using one of my Half-Byte Console boards, minus the video, audio and Nunchucky connector.  Hardware wise, it was really simple…connect the arrays to pins 10, 11 and 12, the RTC to A4 and A5 and, for extra coolness, a BMP180 temp and humidity sensor to the sca and scl on the RTC.  Viola! modify the code to handle the BMP180 and Presto! A cool clock.


Prototype clock for developing Embedded Tiny Basic

I decided to build a second one to take to work.  I thought it might be useful to be able to throw up a custom message to scroll for when, say, I was in a meeting. The more I thought, the more I was convinced this thing needed some kind of control program that would be easily modified from, say, a smartphone and Bluetooth.

Well, I already had the genesis of that control program: Half Byte Tiny Basic.

So, I looked at the source and made a copy.  I then went in and removed stuff I would not need, like all of the graphics statements and functions. I removed the TVOut library, and  all of the video handling code. And TONE.  I miss TONE.

I did not need the Nunchuck code, so it was gone as well.  What was left was a nice, small shell of my control program.  I added the libraries for the 8×8 LED Array (MAXMATRIX) and added statements to manipulate the arrays: SCROLL to display text, SET to turn on or off individual LEDs, and DIRECTION to tell the arrays  which way to scroll the text.  I already had code to handle the DHT-11 temperature sensor, so I left that in (and decided to use it instead of the BMP180) and added T


Random dots on the clock

EMP and HUMID to scroll those values across the arrays, and added code for the RTC.I was going to add a mechanism that would interrupt the running program if a signal from the serial device was detected, but, there was already one there…the IN(0) function. So I left it. I now had a decent little programming language for the clock.  With HB Tiny Basic’s ability to autorun whatever is in the EEPROM, if it lost power, th


Clock, in action

e clock would just start running on its own. Sweet!


The HC-06 Bluetooth module works very nicely. It connects to the serial pins and communicates as if the device were connected directly to the controlling device-a PC or smartphone.  Everything fits nicely into these cheap pencil boxes I picked up from Wal-Mart for a buck each. They are just big enough for the HB Console board and are wide enough for the LED Arrays.  They don’t look all that impressive, until you power up the clock…the bright LED’s shine through the translucent plastic nicely.

Embedded Tiny Basic is useful for giving some level of intelligence to other wise dumb devices.  While you only have about 1K of RAM to use for Embedded Tiny Basic, I think that will be adequate for most things.  There is, currently, no motor control, but it could be quickly and easily added.  The functionality that is there is probably going to be good for quite a few projects.  If not, it can be modified quickly.  I am already seeing where it can be modified, even for just this particular project.  I have a few others in mind, so stayed tuned for those.

In the mean time, below is a list of the additions and a release date for the language is forthcoming.  I need to clean up the code-a bunch-before releasing it and, as well, making sure I have all you will need in order to compile and use Embedded Tiny Basic.

 New statements and function:
  • SETTIME hours,minutes,seconds,day,month,year
    • sets the time and date for the RTC
  • SET col,row,on or off
    • Turn on or off the LED at column, row
  • X=HOUR(0)
    • Get the current hour
  • X=MINUTE(0)
    • Get the current minute
  • X=MONTH(0)
    • Get the current month
  • X=DAY(0)
    • Get the current day
  • SCROLL var or “text”
    • Scrolls whatever is in the quotes
    • If there are no quoted strings, a variable value or number is displayed
  • DIRECTION 1-4 (1 is left, 2 is right, 3 is up and 4 is down)
    • Specifies the direction of the scrolling text, 1 is the default.
  • TIME (sends the date and time to the LED array)
    • Scrolls the current date and time
  • HUMID (sends humidity to LED array)
    • Scrolls the current humidity
  • Temp (sends the temp to LED array)
    • Scrolls the current temperature
  • X=TEMP(0 or 1)
    • Get the current temperature and put it in variable 'x'
    • A zero means use Celsius, a one means Farenheit
  • X=HUMID(0)
    • Returns the humidity to the variable 'x'

Below is the listing for the current “HELLO” app:

100 PRINT “Welcome to Half-Byte LED Programmable Clock”
111 SCROLL “BYTE Clock…..”
112 IF HOUR(0)<12 SCROLL ” Good Morning! ”
114 IF HOUR(0)>11 IF HOUR(0)<18 SCROLL ” Good Afternoon! ”
116 IF HOUR(0)>17 IF HOUR(0)<=23 SCROLL ”  Good Evening!  ”
120 TIME
125 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
130 SCROLL “.   Temp is ”
140 TEMP
145 SCROLL “F  ”
150 SCROLL “Humidity is ”
155 SCROLL “%”
170 SCROLL ”  Hello!  ”
180 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
190 IF RND(99)>50 GOTO 110
200 SCROLL ”       ”
205 O=MINUTE(0)
210 W=15
220 H=7
230 X=RND(W)
240 Y=RND(H)
250 P=RND(W)
260 Q=RND(H)
265 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
300 SET 16+(X),Y,1
310 SET 16+(X),H-Y,1
320 SET 16+(W-X),Y,1
330 SET 16+(W-X),H-Y,1
340 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
350 SET 16+(P),Q,0
360 SET 16+(P),H-Q,0
370 SET 16+(W-P),Q,0
380 SET 16+(W-P),H-Q,0
390 IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600
400 K=MINUTE(0)
410 IF K-O>1 GOTO 110
590 GOTO 230

A note about how the arrays are referenced, using SET.  Embedded Tiny Basic is setup to handle up to four arrays. My clock only uses two, but Basic does not know this, so individual LED addressing has to be offset by 16.  Normally, with four arrays, the upper left LED would be 0,0. In my clock, it would be 16,0 since I am only using the RIGHT MOST TWO arrays, each are 8 across and 8 down.

Some other things to note from the listing above…the line IF IN(0)<>-1 GOTO 600 that is sprinkled through out the program will poll the serial port to see if there is a key press. If there is a keypress, we want to stop execution and goto line 600.  In this case, it just says ‘Done’ and stops. Lines 205, 400 and 410 make up a timer. Lines 200 through 590 just displays a random dot pattern, as a distraction.  We don’t want this all day, so we only let it run for about a minute.  Line 205 records the minute it started and line 400 gets the minute after each pattern is displayed.  Line 410 evaluates the elapsed time by subtracting the start time from the end time. If the result is greater than a one, it goes back to the clock routine.  Otherwise, it displays a new pattern. Lines 112 through 116 determines if it is morning, afternoon or evening.

The Scroll statement is lacking and somewhat buggy. I am working on fixing it, and adding more functionality to it, to make it more versatile, like PRINT currently is. I also want to add a mechanism to the language to allow it to receive messages, via Bluetooth, from, say, a smartphone.  Limited gameplay may also show up in a future release.

Embedded Tiny Basic will be released soon.

Alcatel’s Idol 4s With Windows 10 Mobile

WP_20170103_21_30_52_Pro (2)Ever since I saw the announcement for the Alcatel Idol 4s With Windows 10 Mobile, I’ve wanted that phone.  Well, it is out and I finally bought it.  Why? Well, many reasons, biggest being its ability to support Continuum and its price: $469 from T-Mobile, in the United States.

The current package also includes Alcatel’s VR headset and the phone comes with a smattering of impressive imagery and a couple of VR games, both of which seem more like tech demos than actual games.

The phone is gorgeous, one of the prettiest phones I’ve ever seen, on par with the Apple iPhone 4, which I previously regarded as the best LOOKING piece of hardware.  The Idol 4s looks better.  It’s glass back, metallic rim and a screen that, for now, never WP_20170103_21_31_23_Pro (2)seems to get finger prints. It is just the right weight and the screen is amazing.

The phone sports a Snapdragon 820 CPU, which is a quad core processor running at 2.15ghz.  It has 4gb of RAM and 64gb of storage, expandable with an SD card.  It also features a 21megapixel back camera and an 8 megapixel forward camera.  The camera can be started via a hardware button on the side of the device, a convenient if annoying feature.

The phone ships with a release of Windows 10 Mobile that was a bit behind. It immediately wanted to update to, I think, the ‘anniversary update’ rollup.  Fortunately, it went off without a problem.

The camera, which I had read was a weak point, is actually pretty decent.  In lower light, the colors are a bit washed out, just like the Alcatel Fierce XL I have, but the resolution is excellent and the images still look really nice.  I have not yet tried outdoors at night, but will do so soon.

Perhaps the best thing about the phone…and Windows 10…is the ability to use the device as a deWP_20170103_20_06_00_Prosktop or laptop computer.  That is where this device really shines.  While I had to purchase a USB C to HDMI converter, the converter works great and also sports a spare USB 3.0 connector (for a keyboard or mouse) and a USB C female connector for charging the device while connected.  The HDMI port is 4k capable and is full size, so you don’t need any funky sized connector or adaptor. The particular hub I purchased was from Mokin and sold via Amazon. I paid $23 for the device.

Connecting the phone to the Mokin switched it to Continuum and presented the desktop, as you would expect from a desktop PC.  The phone screen turns into a mouse, though using this instead of an actual mouse can be frustrating as there is no obvious way to ‘click and hold’ to drag things. At least, I have not figured that out yet. A bluetooth keyboard was paired to the deviwp_ss_20170103_0001ce and, bam! There I was, using my phone as a desktop.

Continuum, admittedly, is not perfect. For example, nothing I had on the SD card would work. For whatever the reason, Microsoft is not allowing applications on the SD card to run in Continuum. Also, not every application is Continuum compatible either.  And, protected content will not work in this mode.

Overall, however, Continuum seems, to me, to be the killer feature (until MS introduces x86 emulation to the Snapdragon) for Windows Mobile 10.  I can see carrying just the phone and adapter.  Most places one would need a computer will, very likely, have an HDMI monitor along with keyboard and mouse. Or, you can take the travel size keyboard/mouse.  I can forsee this more than taking my old laptop or even a tablet, though, admittedly, tablets can be just as productive.

61tocr  emL._SL1500_While running Continuum, I was able to run Word, Excel, OneNote, Facebook and take a call…at the same time.  The phone showed no perceptible slowdown at all.

The VR gimmick is just that, a gimmick and really not a reason to buy this phone.  That said, and taking into account the limitation of the screen, it is still rather impressive, at first.  The screen is HD, 1080p.  That’s a problem only because the screen gets split in two to present the left and right images.  This makes things a bit fuzzy and pixelated. However, it is not so bad as to make the experience a poor one.  Quite the contrary, it works well.  Too well, I got a headache and was a bit nauseated by it because my brain knew I was not really experiencing anything, though my eyes said otherwise.

Overall, the Alcatel Idol 4s with Windows 10 Mobile is an excellent, premium phone at a great price…half what most others would cost.  It looks great, works well and is fast.  Windows 10 Mobile needs a little work, but it is, overall, a great operating system and works very well. Don’t let the notion of a poor ‘store’ steer you away. The app system on all of the mobile devices is bad, I don’t care if there aren’t five hundred fart apps.  I don’t even care that there is no Youtube app, the web site works and there are a few third party apps that fill in for what is missing.

I think you’d be satisfied with this phone. I sure am.