Archive for October 2017

Gadgets :: October 25, 2017

By Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

You might never think the words toast, wood and portable electronic gadgets have something in common, but sure enough I’m here to tell you they do.

A company named Toast designs and manufactures wood-themed protective covers for almost any portable tech gadget. After installing them on devices including smartphones, gaming consoles, tablets and laptops, you can have a device with an old school or modern look, which I guess depends on how you look at things.

No matter what cell phone or smartphone I’ve used over the years, I have strived to find the thinnest so my device wouldn’t bulk up. The wood toast cover, constructed with real wood veneer, adds only 1/32nd of an inch of thickness. A leather version, made with top-grain American leather, is not too bulky either with a thickness of 0.059-inches.

Toast sticks to your device with a 3M adhesive backing that is removable and does not leave any permanent damage or residue behind.

After testing Toast on my iPhone and MacBook Air, I was really impressed with everything from the look, feel, ease of installation to durability. Each piece of toast is custom-made in the USA with lasers and hands. Custom text can be added ($5) for a nice personalization.

Along with the fashion statement Toast makes, they also provide protection from bumps, scratches and dirt. Toast is not going to save you from drops to the floor, pool or most heavy liquid drops for that matter.

Each cover is different for different devices. For example, a wood cover for an iPhone 7 ($34) has several pieces. The two main pieces are for the back and side, another for the front cover with openings for the display and home button. The last is for small covers for the exterior buttons. As mentioned, the insulation was simple and the results were impressive.

www.toastmade.com prices vary depending on device

I tested and reviewed the Sol Republic Amps earbuds a few years back and thought they were excellent. The Amps Air adds a dimension to the great sound with total wireless freedom.

All too often I have products like these sitting around and when I see how much I like them, I kick myself for not getting to them sooner.

Cutting the cord is common in the tech world and with iPhones setting the standard with no true headphone port, wireless is the only way to go. But in this case you don’t even have a wire connecting each earbud.

Bluetooth makes the sound happen in a set of earbuds, which fit with comfort and produce awesome sound, considering the effort the technology goes through to get the sound in your ears. Four different ear tip sizes are included to ensure a comfortable and secure fit.

My first choice for testing sound devices is with my personal favorite, classic rock, which typically is bass heavy. The Amps Airs handled it really well at any volume level. This was the case even when switching over to blues and big band music channels.

Like any Bluetooth headset, charging is required. You’ll get 3 hours of audio before a recharge is needed. The Amps Air come with a hard cover power case, which doubles as a charging station for the earbuds with it’s internal 2200mAh battery.

There’s also a USB port built into the case for charging your phone. You’ll get about 15 charges for the earbuds before the case needs a charge.

They are water-resistant and even have a multi-function button for controlling music and a built-in microphone for handsfree calls.

www.solrepublic.com $149.99, available in jet black, rose gold, rich teal and deep blue

I saw an item on the Olloclip website that is worth mentioning. The makers of a great lens system to improve smartphone cameras has announced compatibility with the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. The lenses include wide angle, telephoto and macro lenses.

They expect to have an announcement soon about a lens system for the iPhone X.

The multi-lens system with precision-coated ground glass optics is portable, goes on and off with ease and incredibly versatile for still images or video.

www.olloclip.com

Gadgets :: October 18, 2017

By Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Listening to a Tom Petty music marathon is great by itself, making it better in my world was hearing the legendary music on the Soul X-TRA over-the-ear wireless (Bluetooth) headphones.

The headphones’ versatility made it better, including obviously the smooth sound, comfort and the sport design.

The sound is promoted as “Advanced HD drivers and circuitry design for a balanced bass and clear mids and highs,” which I found perfectly clear and low on bass. There isn’t a right or wrong since sound is a personal preference. I like a lot of bass, especially when listening to classic rock and roll so I just added it on my own with an app and the Soul X-TRAs sounded perfect.

I really like the removable ear-pads, which can easily be washed, dried and put back on. I put them to test with a few bike rides and lawn work. After washing the ear pads they looked as good as new.

If you use the headphones during darker times of the day, the dual mode LED lights on the outside of each ear will come in handy as an added safety feature. They can be kept in flashing or still modes.

The life of the rechargeable 320mAH Li-ion Polymer battery is another plus with 24-hours of playtime off a single charge, if you use the LED lights you’ll get about 8 hours. If you need a charge for immediate use, a 15 minute fast charge will give you about 150 minutes of use.

They are constructed with plastic, which gives them a lighter feel and you can fold the X-TRA wireless headphones flat for easy storage in the included carrying case.

https://www.soulelectronics.com $149.99 with an all black finish with a choice of blue or black ear-pads and inside headband accents

Moshi’s new Helios Lite designer laptop backpack is a perfect example of how you can carry your world with fashion and style.

The bag is designed with a slip profile and didn’t even bulk out when I had it stocked up. There’s a bunch of compartments and pockets to help keep everything organized with easy access.

I couldn’t transfer everything from my cinderblock backpack into the Helios Lite and honestly that’s a good thing. But I did get my 13-inch MacBook Air in a padded compartment, iPad, charging cables, papers, travel documents and a whole lot of other accessories (just not everything).

The Helios Lite ($119.95 ) 11.22-by-3.94-15.16-inches before you fill it and even after it’s stocked it really kept an attractive slim design. A magnetic strap keeps it closed and an exterior water-repellent finish is handy.

The bag, part of Moshi’s 2017 A/W bag collection, was designed with colors and fabric details chosen to add texture and character to each bag. Once you see the Helios Lite, you’ll see they were successful in this goal.

Along with the Helio’s Lite, the A/W line includes the Urbana briefcase and the Costa travel satchel in two new colors – Sandstone Beige and Slate Black earth – along with sky blue, and titanium gray.

https://www.moshi.com

August Home, one of the premier makers and designers of smart home automation products and a personal favorite has announced three new products, which feature DoorSense.

The company touts this as the first intelligent, integrated sensor to tell users if their door is open or properly closed. The new feature in the new August Smart Lock Pro ($279), August Smart Lock ($149), and August Doorbell Cam Pro ($199).

All of these smart home products are designed to allow you to monitor and control your doors and locks from anywhere with a smartphone or tablet.

I haven’t tried these products, but in the past I found August products to be nothing short of perfect and I’m confident these will be thee same.

https://august.com

Gadgets :: October 11, 2017

By Gregg Ellman
(@Greggellman)

The amazing versatility of some of today’s newer gadgets is evident after using ONvocal’s OV wearable headphone assistant earbuds.

When you look at a picture of the headset you might think they are just another neckband headset and they are a great headset when you hear about some of its features.

I was asked by an ONvocal representative how I liked the review unit they sent me and I summed it up with “smooth, easy and impressive.”

The OV is an Alexa, Google and Siri voice assistant enabled Bluetooth headset. I’m not an Alexa user but I did easily get the headset talking to Siri for a morning weather report and a few other simple tasks.

With the help of the OV app (iOS and Android) the voice commands are at your control and response is instantaneous. If you’re living in a cave and haven’t joined the technology world of voice assistants, the OV is a great way to start.

The Onvocal site used Born to Run as a voice command music example and sure enough I had it playing on my speaker system in seconds from my playlist. You can also instantly access subscription music services.

The main chore of the headset is sound and the OV does not disappoint. While I’m far from an expert, what you want out of earbuds is crystal clear sound and the OV sound is just as they promote it “tuned to deliver rich, powerful bass, smooth vocals and crystal clear detail.”

For handsfree calls, the directional microphone is built into a small arm boom, which extends from the right earbuds. Answering calls, along with controlling Siri and Google are done with a button on the outside of right earbud.

Ambient sound control is accessed on the neckband and allows you to hear your caller and not background noise. Volume, play, pause and power are also controlled on the neckband.

The Onvocal support page has great step-by-step instructions for setting up the OV, which makes the process smooth, easy and impressive.

The earbuds are attached to a flexible wire, which is attached to a neckband. Everything can be adjusted in specific flex zones for the right fit, but out of the box I was happy how it felt.

https://onvocal.com/ $299

I don’t have children but if I did, you can bet I’d be using the Circle with Disney’s Circle custom Internet monitoring system.

After a simple setup with your home Wi-Fi, the cube-shaped wireless device works with the Circle with Disney app (iOS and Android) to give you full control of your children’s browsing history without the need of putting any app or software on any other device.

Parents see how much time children spend online with smartphones, tablets, laptops and other hardware used for Internet access.

The app has a lot of great customization features, ] including disconnecting devices from Wi-Fi at specific times and reconnecting them at a specific time. Time limits can also be set for apps and programs.

Other customizations can be made for specific individuals with breakdowns in age groups and interests and even turning the Wi-Fi connection off manually. This makes me think how often my mom would have used this feature (if there was Internet at the time) when I didn’t come downstairs for dinner on time.

After using the app for a few weeks, parents can compare the usage over time and maybe even make a connection why grades are going up or down.

One thing I wondered after reading about the Circle with Disney was its own security and I was pleased to see it’s built with end-to-end encryption and ARP (Address Resolution Protocol) spoofing to keep data secure.

The 3.25-inch cube has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which charges via USB. You also may connect it to the Internet with an Ethernet cable.

The settings you set up within the app can also be applied to guests’ (think child sleepovers) devices, which I think is incredibly handy.

A subscription based ($9.95/month) Circle Go feature can be added to extend the parental controls to 4G LTE and another Wi-Fi connection joined away from home.

www.meetcircle.com $99

Gadgets :: October 4, 2017

By Gregg Ellman
(@Greggellman)

The Keyport Pivot is a really cool, modern and customizable tool that is so easy to assemble and use for a variety of everyday tasks . And it fits in your pocket.

The Pivot’s main compartment is solidly constructed of 6061 aircraft aluminum with stainless steel components. Locking screws easily open and then tighten with a screwdriver or coin to keep it securely in place but allow your to add up to nine standard keys, which fold in and out easily. More keys can be added with an expansion kit.

What makes this an innovative and useful device is the add-on modules and inserts. The inserts are added inside the Pivot, while the modules are attached to the outside.

With these options you can add a USB 3.0 drive in sizes of 32GB or 64GB (there is also an 8GB option in USB 2.0). Other choices include pliers, screwdriver, scissors, a pen and the Griffin multi-tool insert, which includes a bottle opener.

You can even add existing tools such as the Griffin Pocket Mini and Klecker Knives’ new line of Stowaway Tools.

The modules, also easily added or removed include a 12 lumen flashlight (powered by a pair of CR1220 watch batteries), a Bluetooth tracking module to pair with the TrackR app to help if the Pivot is missing. If you’re within the bluetooth range the app will ring the module to alert you to its whereabout.

A 2.2-inch pocketknife module can easily be removable for TSA travel,

Another nice security features is the KeyportID. So if you get a Pivot, make sure it’s registered at mykeyport.com since a free 2-year subscription is included. A lanyard and carabiners can be attached.

A d-ring on the end can be used to attach a car remote or carabiners.

Since I had everything attached and of course didn’t want to lose anything, I did watch a very helpful guide video on the Keyport site.

The pivot is $19.99 and available in red, white or silver. You get an extension pack, three spacers and an extra spring washer.

Check the keyport store for a great choice of bundles of modules and inserts or just go a-la-cart. A quick sampling shows a 64GB USB 3.0 flash drive insert is $54.99, a black pen insert is $8.99. The pocket knife module is $19.99 and the mini-flashlight module is $9.99.

The size and weight can vary depending on what you use it for but it starts out 2.975-by-0.580-by-0,596.

www.mykeyport.com

For millennials or anyone desiring to record every step, motion and life moment, the FrontRow wearable camera is a great way to record and even share everything in real time.

The fashionable circular pendant Android-based camera (2.3-by-2.7-by-0.4-inches) can be worn around your neck or attached to whatever you want with a clip. Video records at 1080p (1920 x 1080) up to a frame rate of 30fps.

There are actually two camera. One is an 8 megapixel main camera, which can film up to 2.7K and has optical image stabilization.

The other is a reversible 5 megapixel camera, which is perfect for selfies with a 2-inch circular touchscreen display and can film up to 2K.

Both work for still images, videos and even live streaming to social media since Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are built-in.

Audio is captured in stereo and there’s a built-in 1W mono speaker for playback; there’s 2GB of internal ram and 32GB of internal storage.

A first-person time lapse feature called Story Mode is really cool. This allows the FrontRow to take a photo every few seconds and then combine into a time-lapse video.

The USB 3.0/2.0 Type-C port is used for charging the battery, which will give you about 2 hours of recording and 50 hours of standby.

www.frontrow.com, $399, available in Black or Rose Gold