Gadgets :: April 13, 2016

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

The Flip-Pal mobile scanner (model 100C) does an amazing job of just that, scanning photos, documents and even books on-the-go. The devices stores easily in a computer bag or laptop for ultimate portability.

It’s powered by four AA batteries and works on its own, scanning directly to the included removable SD memory card, without needing a computer.

The scanner also supports wireless Eye-Fi SD memory cards (not included).

The device as a whole measures 1.3 by 10.3 by 6.5 inches and a pass-through scan viewing area is 4-by-6-inches

The SD memory card comes with stitching software to combine multiple scans, which comes in handy since often you’ll be scanning things larger than 4-by-6-inches. It worked well stitching tests of a document and an 8-by-10 photo.

You can choose resolutions of 300 or 600 pixels per inch and both were complete in less than 30 seconds, including time for the scanner to reset itself.

What I loved was being able to turn the scan over to copy photos mounted in glass as well as images from books (copyrights do apply, so always check). The scanner allows you to see through to the scanning area to make sure everything is positioned correctly.

After scanning you can view the results on the built-in 1.7-inch color LCD.

A press release for the scanner had some cleaver uses listed including a baby’s feet and Genealogy hobbyists.

http://flip-pal.com $149.99

For years it seemed we couldn’t get enough TV channels for movies, news or sports. Then recently we’ve encountered the “cut the cable” era, eliminating many of those channels. During that era the ways to get your local TV broadcasts changed dramatically.

The Winegard FlatWave Micro compact antenna is a great solution and costs only $21.99.  As a company representative pointed out, this is a one-time payment with no monthly fees.

The antenna receives local broadcasts from up to 30 miles away. It’s a thick piece of paper measuring 5.25-by-7-by-0.5-inches, which is a long way from the big and bulky rabbit ears my family had on TVs when I was a kid.

The size lets you hide it most anywhere as long as the attached 5-foot coaxial cable is within reach to connect to your TV.

Setup ting takes just minutes. Connect the cable and run a channel scan to see what it picks up; it’s that easy.

It worked at home in the DFW area and since it was small and compact I took it along on a recent road trip and most of the local channels came as if I had the hotel cable TV plugged in.

A few channels did have some static and moving around the antenna seemed to help, working best when I had it against a window.

www.Winegard.com $21.99

A case and a Bluetooth speaker are essential for iPad owners. The slim (14 mm) designed SoundCover folio speaker for the iPad Air brings them together.

The speakers won’t produce the great head banging sound you get from many portable Bluetooth speakers but it’s better than the tablet’s internal speaker.

You must remove the iPad since the touchscreen faces the SoundCover for storage and protection. But once it’s removed and you open the kickstand, the two are synced for use (after the initial paring).

You’ll get up to 15 hours of playback before a USB charge of the 3300 mAh lithium polymer battery is needed. Once the iPad is back in the case it automatically shuts off to save power.

The speaker can be paired with other Bluetooth-enabled devices and has an internal microphone for phone calls, a 3.5 mm direct audio connection and includes a travel bag.

www.Onanoff.com $129.99 in black, gold and gray for the Apple iPad Air 1 & 2 generation

Gadgets :: April 6, 2016

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Portable GPS units such as the Garmin Drive 50 amaze me by how far the technology has come, how well they work and how good they look.

According to Garmin, the four new models of the Drive line are easy-to-use portable navigation devices specifically designed to help increase driver situational awareness.

I took a Garmin Drive 50 along for a ride where I knew there was one of the sharpest curves I’ve driven on along with speed zone changes, commonly know in my language as a speed trap.

Sure enough the warnings came up with banner alerts on the top of the 5-inch resistive touchscreen display and a warning for a red light camera.

The new alerts include warnings for one-way streets, railroad crossings, school zones, sharp curves, speed limit changes and animal crossings. A fatigue warning even comes up on longer trips.

All of this is on top of the features Garmin is known for to  easily get you to your location. These include maps, traffic and the Foursquare POI data base, which  includes millions of places to eat and shop.

Directions from Garmin Real Directions tell you about the streets and landmarks on the way.

Accessories including Garmin baby cam, dash cam and wireless backup camera can be purchased separately and paired with the Garmin Drive series.

www.Garmin.com prices from $129.99 to $349.99 depending on various map regions, navigation features, Bluetooth calling and display size and model, $129.99 for The Garmin Drive 50 as tested.

The Samson Go Mic Connect, a USB microphone, is incredible in many areas.

First and foremost is the recording quality; crystal clear is an understatement.

Once connected to your audio software, all you really do is select the Go Mic Connect as the audio input and aim it at the source of the recording.

It’s made with what Samson calls Focused Pattern Technology. According to the website, this aligns its dual microphone capsules to create a pickup beam that can zero-in on a designated vocal source. This lets you narrow its width for more defined results., which can be really helpful in loud environments.

Active noise cancellation also contributes to the high quality recordings.

Depending on your software, adjustments can be made for features such as  levels and the noise canceling.

I used it right out of the box for a FaceTime call, which I was told made me sound as clear as ever.

A built-in clip lets it easily fit on laptops and monitors or just use the included free-standing base. There’s a mute button on top and  headphone output port and a USB connection on the back for connecting to computers (Windows and Mac) and some tablets.

The small size 4.3-by-0.6-by-3.2-inches, 0.3 lb. makes it portable friendly.

www.indiegogo.com $79 available later this month

The Griffin Survivor Tactical case puts a safe protection on your Apple Watch touchscreen and sides with a stylish covering.

The two-material (Co-molded TPE and polycarbonate) shell forms a covering to protect it from scratches and bumps, while keeping the watch fully functional.

It clips on in seconds, with or without a watchband on the watch. While it’s on, both the retina display and the force touch functions work just like they would if the case was not being used.

If you want to give your stylish smartwatch a change of appearance,  the Griffin ultra thin cases snap on in seconds.

They come in a three-pack (polished metallic, matte metallic and clear in my sample pack) and are swappable for a new look to match any appearance you want or just to change things up.

The poly carbonate cases measure just 0.5 mm thick so except for the shell covering the outside of the watch, you won’t even know it’s there.

https://griffintechnology.com The Survivor Tactical case ($29.99) and ultra thin case three-packs ($14.99) are made for the 38 mm and 42 mm Apple Watch

Gadgets :: March 30, 2016

by Gregg Ellman

(@Greggellman)

 After installing the Honeywell Lyric Round thermostat (2nd generation) it instantly went on my list of gadgets I wonder how I’ve lived without it.

It senses that you’re actually home or close by through your smartphone and geofence technology. This adjusts the temperature from your “away” temperature to your preferred “home” temperature

The Lyric is a rounded device, with a glass front touchscreen.

The installation was simple; you can do it yourself as I did or seek professional help. For the most part, after shutting off the power from the circuit breaker, just match the colored wires from your existing thermostat. I took photos showing how my old one was connected to have a reference.

The app (iOS and Android) walks you through the setup connecting the thermostat to your smartphone and WiFi network.

From there it can be controlled from anywhere. If you’re on your way home, you can easily turn up the heat or AC, or if you left and forgot to turn the heat or AC off, you can do the same. All this adds up to a big energy savings.

The Lyric is so smart, it even adapts to your temperature lifestyle. Inside this 2nd Generation Lyric Thermostat is a HomeKit chip, enabling it to work with the Apple HomeKit.

The Apple HomeKit sits in the background, allowing smart home products to seamlessly work together

Check the Honeywell site for heating/AC system compatibility. A mounting bracketed and hardware is included. A level is even built into the inside plate to ensure its mounted straight.

http://yourhome.honeywell.com $249.99

The Blossom 8 smart watering controller extends your smart home into a low-maintenance smart yard.

Within the Blossom app on iOS or Android smartphone or tablets, you can control eight zones of sprinklers via Wifi.

The controller (6.93-by-6.93-by-1.55-inches) replaces your existing controller and after connecting it to your Wifi, you can set up watering schedules or run it manually.Blossom8_Controller_Cover

Once all the watering zones are connected, the Blossom 8 self-programs your sprinklers based the vegetation or rainfall numbers via cloud computing through your Wifi connection.

According to Blossom, this comes from local forecasts and daily data from thousands of weather stations and satellites.

All this provides the right amount of watering for shaded areas, sunny spots, trees or grass. You can use the set programs or create your own if you think more or less water is needed. In some areas, you’ll have to set up the watering schedule based on local watering restrictions.

The Blossom 8 must be positioned indoors and the installation takes about 15 minutes, assuming you have an existing system in place.

http://myblossom.com available for pre-order for $99, expected to ship in May

The wireless Nyrius smart switch outlet is so smart it even knows when you’re in the room.

It has a pass-through AC outlet to connect an electronic device you want powered on or off. Then pair it via Bluetooth to your smartphone or tablet and download the free Nyrius app (iOS and Android).

What make this outlet stand out from other smart outlets is the near-field proximity control. With this you can set it up to detect when your in the room (with your smartphone or tablet), enabling a light to turn on and off automatically.Nyrius smart switch outlet 2

The app lets you set up a daily schedule, which I set up to turn on my coffee maker at my wakeup time, which was awesome.

You can set multiple timers. iOS devices can support up to three smart switch outlets, while Android devices can handle up to seven.

http://nyrius.com $39.99

Gadgets :: March 21, 2016

by Gregg Ellman
(@Greggellman)

 The PRYSMAchrome is an atomic clock, working as a nightstand alarm clock as well as a weather station.

It measures the indoor temperature and _ more important in my mind _ the outdoor temperature with the included remote sensor.  You also get humidity levels and a weather forecast with icons for sunny, cloudy, rain, etc.

The modern-looking 7-inch LCD shows the time (re-sets for daylight savings), date and even changes colors with changes in the outdoor temperature.

Included is an AC adapter for power; the remote sensor is powered by two AAA batteries. An alarm with the ever popular snooze feature is built-in.

I found the temperature readings to be accurate with the sensor and on the only day in my few days of testing with a significant weather change, the display told me it was raining and sure enough when I looked outside the raindrops were falling.

www.oregonscientific.com $99.99 available in white or gray

Electrohome’s AC powered retro alarm clock is another cool and functional nightstand accessory. Obviously with the title it has a retro look, almost exactly like the wind up alarm clock I had as a kid, except this one isn’t an ugly green.

There are no moving and ticketing hands like my old clock. Instead there’s an LCD with dual alarms, which is handy for waking up multiple people or on different days of the week.

Daylight savings time is also accurately detected to go forward or backwards, depending on the time of year.

It has a battery backup and 20 radio presets (10 AM, 10 FM) for listening or waking  up to.

When the alarm goes off (sounds or radio) a motion sensor lets you wave your hand to activate the snooze and the sunrise lamps. The top-sided lights gradually brighten  starting a half hour before the alarm rattles your brain. Or you can do the old fashioned way of hitting a snooze button on the top.

If you’re like me, the sunrise lamps won’t have an effect since I can sleep with a flashlight directly in my eyes, but my wife wants the room dark for shuteye so this will be effective to get her going.

If you don’t want the wakeup light, you can disable it.

The sensor also acts as a night light. Just wave your hand over it during the night to get the light on and so the same to turn it off.

There’s also a nap timer, sleep timer and displays for time, indoor temperature and date.

Everything is controlled by six front facing buttons, including settings and volume. I read the instructions once to see that each button did, just to be sure, but it’s pretty easy to figure out without the manual.

A CR2032 coin cell battery fits in the bottom in the event the power goes out.

http://electrohome.com $29.99

Smaller and, most important thin, accurately describes the LifeCard compact portable power source.

The compact design (3.5-by-0.2-by-2.1-inches) lets you carry it in your pocket or wallet to easily give a smartphone or tablet an emergency boost.

You won’t even need a cable to connect it to Lightning or microUSB devices since the cable is built-in.

The brushed stainless steel battery has LED indicator lights to display how much battery power remains.

With 1,500 mAh of power, you won’t be able to give your device a full charge, but it will easily give you a needed boost of power when you’re desperate.

www.plusus.com $49.95 microUSB, $64.95 for Lightning, both available in cooper or silver.

Gadgets :: March 14, 2016

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Like many other music fans, my conversion 25 years ago to CDs and then digital music  files put an end to my vinyl listening. But I could never get my self to part with my collection, so it has moved around the country with me, always finding a spot for the milk crate of records in a closet.

My collection came to life recently after Crosley sent me their new C200 turntable.

There’s a quick setup, attaching a few parts and pieces, connecting the needle (Audio-Technica magnetic cartridge) and balancing it to rest on the vinyl properly. A damped die-cast aluminum platter and felt slip mat for the records to sit on drop into place.

This takes just minutes, along with connecting the included RCA cables to your existing receiver.

Once connected and playing, I loved the sound of the needle dropping down to play  along with the clean static noise you get from this type of music hardware.

I actually found myself flipping through my records thinking about what would be the best choice for a first listen and the winner was Boston’s debut album, which to this day is still on my iTunes playlist.

Functionally, it’s a direct drive, high-torque motor with a built-in preamp, has a start stop button, an adjustable counter-weight balanced, hydraulic lift control arm and plays 33 1/3 and 45 RPM records (with the included adapter). 

One thing I did remember during my testing was that decades ago I shed my 45 collection, so much to my disappointment, the 45RPM adapter sat unused.

As for the appearance, I’m not up on how other companies are making the look of turntables but I really like how Crosley kept a vintage look, while also appearing modern with a matte black finish.

While meeting with Crosley company representatives at a trade show earlier this year, they fed me some facts about the vinyl industry making a robust return the last few years. This includes manufacturing, sales and the return of people like me.

www.crosleyradio.com $279

A lot of people stay away from battery smartphone cases to avoid the excess bulk and weight. Moshi’s iGlaze Ion battery case two-piece battery case for the iPhone 6/6s solves that problem since it’s just that; two pieces, which you use as needed.

Your phone sits in a nice looking and thin profile case but when you need the battery boost just attach it to the outer charging case.

Inside is a 2,700 mAh battery, which connects to the lightning port on the iPhone and charges while your phone is still on your desk or held up to your ear on a call.

 

You can keep the battery attached at all times or remove it to eliminate some bulk and weight when it’s not needed.

The battery charges up from any USB power source.

www.moshi.com $99.95

Another great new iPhone accessory case is Pelican’s IP68 Marine waterproof case.

I don’t usually like to put my iPhone in water but since I’m a big fan of Pelican, what the heck. It’s promoted to withstand being submerged at a depth of two meters for up to 30 minutes.

I didn’t go that far but it did get a few minutes in my kitchen sink and it worked to perfection.

Along with the waterproof features, it keeps your phone dust and dirt free. It’s constructed with durable impact absorbing materials and military standards of advanced shock protection for drops and impact.

The scratch resistant coated protector for the LCD is crystal clear for viewing and keeps the touchscreen fully functional.

www.Pelican.com $79.95 for the iPhone6/6S and Galaxy S6, $89.95 for the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus

Gadgets :: March 7, 2019

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Activity wearables are a booming business that helps you track your daily activities, contributing to an active and healthy lifestyle.

Now your dog’s activities can be tracked by attaching a PitPat to the collar of your best four-legged friend.

After it’s attached you download the free PitPat app to your Android or Apple iOS device to follow your dog’s stats.

The app records the activities and sets guidelines for your pet based on its breed  (over 200 choices), age and existing measured activity.

The PitPat measures 1.5-by-1.2-by-.6 inches and weighs 0.42 ounces. It attaches with Velcro to your dog’s existing collar (fit collars up to 40 mm wide and 5 mm thick) and is waterproof (IP67) for quick dips in ponds and splashes.

I attached it to my 12-pound dog, she didn’t really show any reaction. As expected, she didn’t do much while I was working (just as a remote camera showed me years ago) and pretty much spent the day shut eyed.

The goal of the PitPat is to keep your dog healthy for a longer and happy life, just as an activity tracker does for you and me.

If you have multiple pets, the app can support up to three individual PitPat devices. It’s powered by a small coin-sized battery (CR1632) and should last for about a year.

One thing I did wonder was answered on the PitPat site: does the device emit harmful radiation that could harm my dog? And the answer is No, the PitPat uses standard Bluetooth technology, which is perfectly safe for humans and pets.

www.pitpatpet.com $55.48

The Monster Power black platinum 1200 power strip does everything you would expect from a high-end surge protector.

It has 12 AC outlets attached to a 6-foot cord, 2 USB charging ports (3.4amp), provides fireproof protection, noise filtration and cable/satellite TV coax protection.

The main attraction is the power surge protection aspect, which you should use on all your valuable electronics – computers, gaming units, TVs, etc.  A power surge is a spike in your data or power lines, most often caused by weather, but it could also be from heavy usage on the lines or utility company issues.

What really interested me in this device is the power line (PLC) communication, which I was not familiar with.

I spoke with a representative from Monster to explain what PLC is and simply, it’s a communication protocol that uses your house’s existing electrical wiring for electrical outlets to carry and transmits data.

So after you plug you’re existing data into Black Platinum 1200, you send your existing Internet signal to another part of your house for a wired Internet connection.

A great aspect is that you set this up yourself; just plug in the included power line adapter to an AC outlet near your existing modem. Then use an ethernet cable to connect them.

Figure out where you want your computer or whatever needs a wired Internet connection. Then plug the power strip into an AC outlet and an ethernet cable to the ethernet port on the power center.

This replaces the need of a long ethernet cable or it can reach where a cable can’t.

You also get $1 million insurance to guarantee the Black Platinum 1200 will protect the equipment connected to it. Check the Monster warranty for details.

www.monsterproducts.com $199.95

In no particular order, the Marley Chant Sport portable Bluetooth speaker has great sound and great looks.

The Bluetooth sound comes from a pair of speakers (4.5W, 1.75-inch drivers and a  2X passive radiator) inside a 360-degree sound chamber covered by a black mesh grill.

As for the looks, it shouldn’t be a surprise since Marley really put a great emphasis on their product’s appearance.

The outside is made of recycled blended bio-plastic, silicone and recyclable aluminum.  It has an IPX7 water-resistant rating so it can withstand getting caught in a quick rain shower but just don’t take it for a swim, although it will float.

It measures 7.75-by-3.65-by-3.65-inches and is shaped like a water bottle to  conveniently first into a cup holder.

Inside is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, good for about 8 hours of play and a built-in microphone for handsfree calls.

ww.thehouseofmarley.com $79.99

Gadgets :: February 28, 2016

By Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

So how would you like it if someone paid for every speeding ticket you get during the next year?

Well, thats what will happen if you purchase and register a K40 Electronics radar detector.

I’ve used the K40 RLS2 (all-band radar and laser detector with GPS technology) for a while and fortunately for me, I haven’t gotten a ticket, nor have I a pushed temptation with my gas pedal. Never-the-less, this radar detector is packed with amazing features past the Ticket-Free Guarantee program.

It detects law enforcement radar and announces what band and approximately how far is is from you. This includes the newest KA radar band, K band and all the way back to the oldest X Band, which according to a K40 customer service representative is very rare these days.

If you’ve ever used a radar detector you know it goes off for non-police radar sources. To combat that, the Quiet Ride feature is perfect. Through an easy to navigate menu, you can eliminate alerts from anything until you get to the speed you set it to, to make the alerts go off.

False warnings can also be eliminated with the Mark to Mute setting for false alerts, along with alerting you for upcoming school zones, stop signs or traffic lights.

K40 promotes a consultant system, which I called to get some tips and tricks. The rep suggested using the device horizontally (obviously aiming forward) for the best performance.

Another suggestion I really liked is the Wake Up setting to shorten the startup when it’s turned on. This enables quicker departures over time.

Overall there are 13 customized settings, including the brightness of the display, customized audio and visual alerts and mark alerts, which might be highly patrolled by law enforcement.

As for  the Ticket-Free Guarantee program, K40 claims to be the first radar detector manufacturer in the world to offer this program. The full policy on what’s covered or not covered (speeding in school zones etc.) along with the complete policy is on the K40 site.

A windshield mounting bracket with suction cups, a 12V coiled power cord and straight power cord for a custom hardwired installation are included.

www.k40.com $399.99

The PhotoFast iOS card reader is built with a lightning connector that plugs  directly into any iPad or iPhone supporting the lightning connection.

What makes this more than just another device is that it stores a microUSB memory card (up to 128GB) for extended the internal storage capabilities of your device.

Once the memory card is in the reader, it’s essentially plug-and-play to transfer, stream and backup digital images, audio, video, calendars and document files. All this is done through the free i-FlashDrive ONE app, which also stores and backs-up from cloud storage and social media.

This essentially gives the iOS devices the memory and ease of use to get content on and off and even transfer from a non-Apple device.

The app has security features, supports Touch ID and has a lock to keep the tiny memory card secure.

www.photofast.com available with up to 128GB capacity, prices start at $39.99

Sticky Sounds is a mountable speaker for extreme sport enthusiasts.

It’s built with an IPx6 waterproof rating, enabling it to withstand splashes of rain, dirt and dust along with small drops.

You can use it with most GoPro adapters and mounts along with a bunch of third party accessories for mounting on bikes, water accessories, backpacks or most anything you can secure it to.

An internal battery keeps it playing for about 8 hours and is charged via USB, so you can mount a portable battery (not included) for extended use.

You can insert your microUSB memory card full of music to listen to or just pair it to your device with Bluetooth.

After a day on the muddy trails, wipe the speaker with a damp cloth and you’ll be ready for the next adventure.

http://stickysounds.com $48.95

Gadgets :: February 15, 2016

By Gregg Ellman
(@Greggellman)

After getting a review unit of the PolarPro PowerGrip H20 GoPro accessory, my only challenge was getting it into the water this time of year. I enlisted my nephew in South Florida to take it for a test kayaking on an Everglades tour and snorkeling at Lauderdale by the Sea.

The PolarPro PowerGrip H20 is a selfie stick with a depth rating of 99 feet, with a pair of 11-inch extension arms and is compatible with the GoPro Hero3, Hero 3+ and Hero4 cameras.

A live-charge kit/LED light combo can be added to give you a 6700 mAh built-in-battery and 500 lumen LED light. This provides GoPro users with an incredible accessory to help capture images or video in dark areas and with an extended power boost.

The battery will give you use of your GoPro for up to 12 hours, charge your GoPro six times, or your iPhone 6 up to three times.

The PolarPro PowerGrip H20 comes with a pair of 11-inch extension arms and is compatible with the GoPro Hero3, Hero 3+ and Hero4 cameras.

There are dual USB charging ports as well as a 30-inch charging cable with a waterproof backdoor that connects the GoPro underwater housing.

The PowerGrip also comes with 5-inch and 28-inch miniUSB cables, a leash, phone mount, StrapMount adaptor and a PowerGrip skeleton door for live charging your GoPro above water.

The PolarPro PowerGrip H20 got its start with a $1 million investment on ABC’s popular Shark Tank program and then had a successful funding campaign on Kickstarter.

The PolarPro development team set out to create a single accessory to keep the GoPro camera powered all day, while capturing multiple perspectives of video on land and under water.

After putting it through these tests, it’s obvious it this is a must-have accessory for every GoPro user.

www.polarprofilters.com $99.99 for the base model, and $149.99 with the underwater live-charge kit/LED light combo

To the Dewalt 20 V MAX Brushless Blower: where have you been my whole life?

The handheld lawn and garden blower system is battery powered. Once you have a charged battery connected, a variable speed trigger turns it on and off instantly. There’s no need for gas, oil or killing your arm and shoulder with a starter pull cord.

It’s perfect for home use to clear sidewalks of grass cuttings, piles of leaves or whatever you see fit.

The 20V 5.0Ah Lithium Ion battery attaches or removes easily and produces an air speed of 90 mph. It weighs 7.1-pounds and has a 61 dBA noise rating,

I always recommend having an extra battery around, this way you always have one charged and ready to use.

www.Dewalt.com $199 for the blower, $109.99 for the extra battery.

If four USB charging ports are great, Ventev feels that six are even better and I have to agree.

With the new Ventev usbcharginghub rq600 up to six devices can be charged simultaneously. Five ports provide up to 2.4amps each with auto-detect technology. This allows the proper charging for each device.

The sixth port is a Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 port, which will charge compatible devices up to 75-percent faster.

The hub is powered by plugging in the detachable 5-foot power cord and you can position the hub in vertical or horizontal positions.

https://mobileaccessories.ventev.com $49.99

Gadgets :: 2016 February 8

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Thanks to a tip from a reader (Ray) in Palmetto, Fla., who asked me about the Telme2 TosBlue-X device.

With the TosBlue-X connected to a non-Bluetooth TV, you can convert it to Bluetooth device and use a Bluetooth speaker or headphones.

Ray originally told me via email that he was looking for a device like this to add to his TV because, “My hearing is not as good as my wife. Therefore I am looking for a Bluetooth transmitter from my TV to my speakers.”

After testing the TosBlue-X along with the company’s BHX Bluetooth headset, I was happy to inform Ray that they work great.

The installation took less than 2 minutes, including opening the boxes. After opening it, don’t trash the box just yet because the instructions are on the back.

All the cables you need are included; you must choose to have your audio connected using either the standard 3.5 mm or the optical cable, but just one.

The instructions are kind of vague on the either/or part of the audio cables, along with what to do with the USB cable, which was obvious to me but might not be to others; it’s for power so I connected it to an AC/USB power adapter (not included).

If your TV has the optical connection, use that one. If it only has the 3.5 mm port, you have no choice and I used since my TV was mounted to a wall and I didn’t want to remove it.

There’s double-sided tape on the TosBlue-X to attach to your TV; be sure the front part is exposed to where you audio source will be.

I charged the headphones, turned on my TV and hit the pairing button on the headphones and it worked perfect, it’s that simple.

Every time I turn the TV and headphones on and off the connection returns without needing to pair it again. The headphones have padded ear-pads, an adjustable headband and volume controls on the side with the power button.

A charging cable for a specific connection is included.

Thanks for the tip Ray, definitely a great device, which will solve your issue.

www.telme2.com $69.99 for the TosBlue-X, $99 for the Bluetooth headset

ToughTest portable mobile accessories really impressed me when I had my first look at them recently and persuaded me that they are really as tough as advertised.

They inspect the products three to five times the level of typical manufactured smartphone accessories and before even using them you’ll see how durable they are just by the feel.

You might not think there’s a big difference between USB charging cables but after buying cheaply made versions, you can see the difference when you get the company’s ToughTested 6-foot USB cable with lightning connection ($29.99 and also available with a microUSB connection).

The high-speed USB 2.0 cable is made with 4 mm heavy-gauge cables inside a tangle-free jacket. This keeps it from shorting out and becoming useless when a corner bends, gets pressed or caught in a drawer.

A cord manager is included for when the cable is not being used.

The Marine stereo earbuds ($79.99) are IP67 waterproof, which translates dust and sand resistant and tested underwater for 30 minutes under up to 1-meter of water.

They have noise reduction technology, in-line control for answering calls and controlling volume, a stress release cable, sports fit in-ear hooks to keep the earbuds in place and come with three sizes of Flexfoam ear tips.

Use them while fishing in the rain, exercising or anytime in dry or wet environments.

The ToughTest Power Share Pro ($34.99) charges up to three USB devices (sharing 4.2 amps)  simultaneously at a fast rate along with InstaSense technology.

This allows the charger to recognize the device being charged and give it the proper charging for the amperage requirements.

The AC connection prongs rotate 180-degree to ensure it will plug into any wall or power strip outlet.

http://toughtested.com

Thumbtack Study Predicts 2016’s Biggest Wedding Trends

The largest survey of U.S. couples to be married in 2016 finds that couples will spend 20% more on wedding services this year, or $12,189 on average nationwide. Weddings will feature formal and intimate dinners, subtler personalizations, and interactive mementos like social-media friendly cinematic highlight videos.   

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — February 3, 2016 —Thumbtack, an online service that connects consumers with skilled professionals, today released the results of its first annual Thumbtack 2016 Wedding Trends Report. Thumbtack reviewed data from hundreds of thousands of wedding requests to uncover the trends and spending habits of real couples in America.

The study includes statistics on upcoming wedding trends and unveils average pricing for wedding services both nationally and regionally. Full results are available at https://www.thumbtack.com/weddings/#weddingsreport.

“This year we’re seeing couples investing up to 20% more to create a memorable, classic affair,” said Ashley Brasier, Wedding Director for Thumbtack. “The reception is the focus of this extra spending, with couples turning away from themed weddings and instead focusing on finer touches like formal plated dinners, lasercut place settings, and bold floral choices.”

Every year, hundreds of thousands of couples come to Thumbtack looking for wedding professionals across nearly 50 categories of service— from wedding planners and photographers to catererslive bandsfloristshairstylists, and makeup artists. Couples submit requests sharing details like the size of their guest list, their style preferences, and their geographic location, so Thumbtack can match them with the best service providers for their needs.

As a result, Thumbtack’s study reveals a unique look ahead on what will trend at weddings to come this year — not just what happened at weddings last year.

2016’s Top Wedding Trends

The new theme is no theme: Couples are increasingly focusing on small details — not big themes — to set their weddings apart.

  • Highlight videos are hot — Videographers are seeing an 8% uptick in requests for highlight videos, which incorporate personalized messages from guests and are created for social sharing.
  • Laser-cut details are everywhere — Featured on invitations, place-cards, and even place mats, laser-cutting will be especially popular.
  • Cupcakes aren’t going anywhere — 10% more couples will feature cupcakes for dessert in 2016, compared to 2015, showing that this personalized touch has staying power.

2016 couples are upping the ante: This year’s couples are spending noticeably more on wedding essentials compared to 2015.

  • 20% increase in spending — The average couple will spend about $2,000 more on average, with much of that going to a more upscale dinner experience.
  • Formal receptions on the rise — For 2016 weddings, there’s been a 26% increase in couples requesting servers for formal dinner receptions, and a 32% increase in couples requesting plated meals.
  • Traditional tiers — Cakes are also getting taller than ever, with a 55% increase in couples requesting a 3-layer cake this year compared to last year.

Big, bold visuals have arrived: From wedding theme colors to bridal beauty looks, expect 2016 weddings to feature big visuals.

  • Glam beauty — More and more brides are eschewing the “safe” natural and romantic beauty look: there’s been a 75% increase in brides requesting glam hair and makeup, with touches like highlights and contouring and bold lip colors.
  • Beyond natural — Brides plan to go beyond “born with it” in 2016. The data shows a 70% increase in requests for false eyelashes and airbrushing. There’s been a 15% increase in brides planning to wear a classic veil.
  • Bright palettes — Popular colors this year include bursts of reds and bright blues, along with pops of yellow as an accent, and gray neutrals to hold it all together. Metallic accents stay popular this year, emphasizing the glam factor.

The Real Cost of Getting Married

Based on average price quoted for wedding essentials for Thumbtack weddings in 2016

National Averages – Costs and Customer Profile

  • $12,189: The amount the average American couple will spend on essential wedding services in 2016, excluding the venue, dress, and rings, for a wedding with 98 guests on average.
  • 33: Average marrying age of Thumbtack couple
  • 75%: Thumbtack couples who are employed full-time
  • 5%: Thumbtack couples who are students
  • 45%: Thumbtack couples who are homeowners

Top 5 Most and Least Expensive States to Get Married

Most and least states to get married
Top 5 Most Expensive States to Get Married

  1. Connecticut – $17,211
  2. New York – $16,305
  3. District of Columbia – $15,835
  4. Rhode Island – $15,233
  5. Pennsylvania – $14,722

Top 5 Least Expensive States to Get Married

  1. Missouri – $9,031
  2. Nevada – $9,095
  3. Arizona – $9,593
  4. Kentucky – $9,712
  5. Utah – $9,804

Top 25 Most Expensive Metro Areas to Get Married (Wedding Essentials) 

  1. New York, NY — $16,077
  2. Philadelphia, PA — $15,434
  3. Pittsburgh, PA — $14,287
  4. Baltimore, MD — $14,261
  5. Providence, RI — $13,990
  6. San Francisco, CA — $13,734
  7. San Jose, CA — $13,418
  8. Cleveland, OH — $13,416
  9. Washington, D.C.-Northern VA — $13,303
  10. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN — $13,173
  11. New Orleans, LA — $13,089
  12. Boston, MA — $13,028
  13. Miami, FL — $12,923
  14. Los Angeles, CA — $12,709
  15. Chicago, IL — $12,449
  16. Milwaukee, WI — $12,197
  17. Seattle, WA — $12,149
  18. Detroit, MI — $11,819
  19. Memphis, TN — $11,805
  20. Portland, OR — $11,714
  21. Columbus, OH — $11,692
  22. Austin, TX — $11,519
  23. Rochester, NY — $11,472
  24. Charleston, SC — $11,448
  25. Sacramento, CA — $11,349

Regional Differences

  • Northeast and Mid-Atlantic affairs tend to be more expensive: This higher cost is most often driven by formal dinners and a large number of guests. In New York, 33% of couples request plated dinners. In Washington, D.C., 48% of couples request hors d’oeuvres.
  • Midwestern states throw the biggest weddings: Weddings are the biggest in Midwestern states like Minnesota and Wisconsin, where over 60% of couples welcome 100+ guests. The smallest weddings are in destination wedding locations like Hawaii, where 43% of couples welcome fewer than 20 guests.
  • BBQ and Mexican catering vs. Italian and American cuisine: Italian and American food are crowd pleasers at weddings across the country. In fact, there are only two states that would prefer another type of cuisine at weddings – both Kentucky and South Carolina prefer BBQ. Unsurprisingly, Mexican is popular throughout the Southwest, with 43% of couples in New Mexico requesting Mexican food.
  • Pop music reigns at the reception, but country’s close behind: Wedding guests across the majority of the United States (46 states) prefer pop music, but country is a close second choice in several states, including Texas.
  • Vermont braids and Southern locks: Brides across the country love a timeless romantic look. Brides in Vermont prefer to accent their look with braids, while brides in most other locales prefer a half-up / half-down look. Long curly hair is especially popular in Southern states like Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Methodology

The Thumbtack 2016 Wedding Trends report captures data gathered from hundreds of thousands of requests for wedding services placed on Thumbtack. Quantitative trends were gathered from answers to questions Thumbtack asks couples to match them with the best service provider. Qualitative trends were gathered from customer and vendor interviews. Pricing data is based on thousands of price quotes provided by vendors to our customers.

About Thumbtack

Thumbtack is the destination for getting things done — from house remodeling to event planning and more. Each year, more than 200,000 skilled professionals across the country service a growing 5 million Thumbtack projects in almost 1,100 unique categories. Thumbtack wedding professionals offer services in 47 categories. Visit Thumbtack to find wedding photographerswedding plannerswedding officiantswedding DJs and more.

Follow Thumbtack on Twitter and Instagram @thumbtack.