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Since its initial development in July 2008, the Saber hand wind digital player has been extensively field tested in many parts of the world. The field testing is necessary in the development of any new equipment, to quickly work out the strengths, weaknesses and possible changes that need to be made.
As the Saber will be used to deliver the gospel in many areas of the world, it's of the utmost importance that it is reliable, easy to use, hard wearing, and practical. The following information is a collection of the feedback that we have received from all over the world.
Ease of use
Operation of the device is simple, and can be easily mastered by people who are not literate and not technical.
The ease of use has been received positively and the majority of feedback has applauded the simplicity. For example, testing in Honduras showed that the village children were able to operate the Saber after a short time.
The Sabers are fast and easy to load, and the controls easy to understand. It has been suggested that a strap or handle would be helpful, and GRN is looking at producing a carry case.
The Saber is now being made with raised buttons on the membrane making it easier to use in low light conditions and for those who are visually impaired. Better documentation is also included with the machine.
"I just came back from a week in Honduras distributing humanitarian aid and working with our churches in remote villages. I took one of the Saber players you sent us for testing and was very impressed with it. The documentation and Saber copy utility worked great and I had my Spanish Bible story set loaded in about 15 minutes. Once there the players were very rugged and easy to operate."
Battery and Generator
The Saber is powered from internal rechargeable batteries. A built in generator allows the machine to be recharged by turning the handle. External power sources, such as AC/DC power packs, solar panels, or batteries, can also be used to recharge the machine.
The hand wind ability is a key feature of the Saber. A few concerns were raised that recharging the Saber manually is tiring, but all of the testing revealed that once fully charged, the Saber played for a good length of time.
A concern to a number of field-testers has been the decrease of battery power when the volume is turned up to its full capacity. As with all batteries, power drains quickly when the output is increased. High temperatures will also result in faster natural draining of battery capability.
The Saber engineers recommend that the unit is charged for at least one minute using the handle, BEFORE USE. If the Saber is being used on full volume, it can be hand wound whilst being played, which will keep the unit playing. If an electricity supply is available, including the AC adapter or the solar panel, the Saber can be played whilst plugged in.
It has become clear that without the use of AC adapters, solar panels or external battery-packs, the Saber will need to be continually wound by hand during operation. At the time of testing AC adapters were unavailable, which meant that adapters needed to be purchased elsewhere, or the recharging could only be done manually. AC adapters are now available, and solar panels will be available mid 2009.
"The Saber proved to be very popular after a brief demonstration. One person even left the Saber on overnight! I estimated it lasted for at least 10 hours of constant use before needing to be charged".
Toughness and Reliability
The Saber player is made to withstand extremes of temperature and conditions, yet consistently provide excellent sound quality.
The testing has confirmed that the Saber performs extremely well in extreme conditions, is rugged and durable, and has an excellent design. A field-worker was very impressed that the Saber did not require the "tender care" that many other players do.
A missionary from Kenya was most excited at the rugged design of the Saber. He reports, "Having a great time here showing off the Saber. Everyone has shown great interest in it. I have dropped it about twenty times so far and it still works great! We are so impressed with the durability." Whilst we certainly do not recommend constantly dropping the Saber, the report was very encouraging.
Volume and Quality
The Saber has an amplifier, speaker and sound box, so it can play at significant volume with good quality. This makes it ideal for use in groups. It handles speech and music equally well.
Field testing the Saber sound quality has provided this report; "Very clear audio. The built in amplifier is powerful and will provide volumes necessary for ministering to large groups. I will be using them in Northern Africa".
All of the feedback has proven the Saber to have excellent volume and clarity. The built in amplifier is powerful, providing great sound quality. This has been extremely beneficial in playing the gospel message to large groups of people.
It has been suggested that an LCD display screen be fitted to show what is stored on the machine. Whilst a notable suggestion, the screen may not be useful to non-literate people, and will require more battery power. While further consideration is being given to a visual display for a future version of the Saber, it is more important that the audio on the Saber includes announcements to tell people clearly where they are. A new version of the Saber Copy utility will give some extra assistance to do this.
GRN engineers are extremely happy with the testing work carried out in many differing parts of the world. Whilst modifications have been made to improve the Saber, they are minor. The majority of the feedback has been encouraging and it is clear to see that the Saber is a fantastic resource for sharing the gospel message.
A Pastor working amongst indigenous Australians in Western Australia had great praise for the Saber. He shares this story, "I first introduced the Saber to 15 voluntary indigenous church leaders at our recent mini-course. The daytime maximum temperatures at the course were about 38-40 degrees Celsius, and the conditions were extremely dusty due to the recent drought in Australia. The course was held in the local women's centre, which has steel-mesh (open air) walls around 30% of its perimeter. So, each afternoon we had to blow out all the dust which had gathered over night and during the day because of the persistent dust storms. The Saber performed particularly well given these extreme conditions."