Electrical and physical design
The iSweet measures 3"x1.25"x0.8" -- not very large. The lens is situated left of center (facing the unit), and can be twisted to adjust focus. The outer bezel of the iSweet is white, chrome, or clear plastic, which should match just about anyone's Apple computer screen.
The image sensor is a 1/4" color CCD with a maximum resolution of 640x480 at 30 FPS. The only supported connection standard is FireWire, so the data throughput is 400Mb/sec. This is more than sufficient for streaming video. No extra power source is necessary -- electricity is provided via FireWire.
You can mount the iSweet on one of two platforms: a 4" tripod, or a screen clip.
Microsoft Windows, GNU/Linux, *BSD, and Solaris users are out of luck -- the iSweet is designed solely for Apple Macintosh brand computers running OS X 10.2 or later. If you run OS 9 or OS X 10.1, you can use the iSweet if you buy a $20 driver from IOxperts and have a FireWire port in your computer.
The iSweet is compatible with the following software:
- QuickTime Broadcaster
- Yahoo Messenger
|iSweet: attractive, useful, but not durable|
Also included in the standard retail package are a microfiber cleaning cloth, a plastic clamshell carrying case, a faux leather carrying bag, and a poorly written instruction manual in dozens of languages.
Putting it to the test
Assembling the iSweet's physical support systems is an unusually complicated process. Like the very camera itself, the tripod and screen clip seem designed more for style than function. The tripod, when deployed, makes the entire apparatus look like some kind of strange cycloptic alien cyborg, but it does mount and support the camera reasonably well. For some reason I couldn't get the iSweet to screw in flush with the tripod's support; this was annoying and skewed the image slightly, but the tripod's feet can be adjusted to compensate for it.
The monitor clip did not work on most of the LCD screens I tried it on: an LG 19", a nu 17", and a PowerMac Dual G4. All of these screens were too deep for the clip to attach properly. I did get it attached to a MacBook screen, but it was not stable enough for my preference -- tipping the machine to the side, or upside-down would cause the camera to fall off.
No setup is required to use the iSweet with a compatible Mac. The G4 I tested with worked seamlessly with the iSweet in the iChat program, and provided a surprisingly good quality picture with no significant delay between motion and display.
The lens casing on the front of the iSweet can be turned to adjust the focus. In testing this feature, the knob seized up and became unturnable after 3-5 gentle adjustments, leaving the iSweet focused too close to use for iChat. After 10 minutes of operation, the iSweet had accumulated what I consider to be an unusual amount of heat, which suggests that it draws a lot of power for a device of its size.
The included manual is terrible. Aside from being mostly in other languages -- something I really hate when reading manuals -- it's a little Engrishy and does not provide enough information on the setup, use, maintenance, and troubleshooting of the iSweet.
|The complete iSweet package|
Conclusions and manufacturer recommendations
The device being effectively broken after only a few minutes of normal use, I was unable to test the iSweet further. What little I saw of the video display while it was working properly was decent considering the list price, but the quality of manufacture and the narrow focus on form over function has ruined what would otherwise have been an excellent portable consumer-grade computer video camera. It's possible that what I found was merely a manufacturing flaw, but that doesn't change the fact that this device's engineering focus was on looks, not durability. One could argue that a majority of the Apple hardware and software market is based on this philosophy, though, so it's entirely possible that this may be precisely what you're looking for. If you do buy an iSweet, be very careful with it.
Here's what I'd like to see in future revisions of this product:
- Make it work first, then make it pretty. The iSweet I tested broke after a few minutes of gentle, normal use. It also generated a lot of heat, and did not seem to fit properly into the tripod. These are engineering flaws that should have been addressed prior to the addition of the white and chrome plastic. The tripod itself is awkward, and the monitor clip is barely functional.
- Non-Apple support. If you provide hardware interface specifications to the Linux and BSD developer communities, you get free drivers in return, and more potential sales in the future. A video camera that only works with Macintoshes is only potentially useful to a tiny portion of the desktop computer market. That potential could double with Linux and BSD support. And just think of the potential if this could work with Windows Vista as well...
- Hire a good technical writer. The product manual stinks. Why can't each country have its own packaging and documentation? If the manufacturer is too cheap to provide good documentation, then what does that say about the product that goes with it?
|Device support||FireWire-enabled computers running Apple OS X 10.2 or later. Support for previous OS X versions and OS 9 is available through a proprietary third-party driver.|
|Market||Apple users interested in full-motion video, primarily for chat applications.|
|Price (retail)||U.S. ~$130 (Buy one from U.S. distributor Harmonic Inversion Technology)|
|Product Web site||Click here|