GADGETS :: October 14, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Kingston Technology’s DataTraveler 2000 cvUSB 3.0 encrypted keypad flash drive is not your average flash drive. It might be the best and most important flash drive you can own.

It’s available in storage sizes up to 128GB ($234), which is great but what makes it so valuable is multiple layers of security keeping data safe and secure starting with a PIN when it’s first plugged in. The only thing to put the flash drive out of reach is losing it, but even then the stored data stays hidden since it’s password protected.

An easy to use alphanumeric keypad is built on the outside of the flash drive, which comes preloaded with a password and instructions for changing it to anything 7-15 digits in length. With step-by-step instructions, it takes about 30 seconds to complete the change.

From there the only requirement is to remember the password and in the unlikely event it’s forgotten, the DT2000 can be reset to the default settings. Kingston Brute Force Hacking Detection technology will permanently delete the flash drives content after the incorrect password is attempted 10 consecutive times.

Besides the alphanumeric keypad, there are several other security layers. For one, when working with the flash drive and it’s removed from the computer’s USB port, it automatically locks. When it’s put back in the password is required on the flash drive keypad to unlock it.

According to Kingston, the DT2000 is FIPS 140-2 Level 3 certified, to meet a frequently requested corporate IT requirement. USB 3 speeds are 135MB/s read, 40MB/s write, and with USB 2.0, speeds are 30MB/s read, 20MB/s write.

The owner can set themselves up as an administrator with a PIN and grant access to other users, create read-only or write access, and has a timeout lock mode.

With the included storage sleeve, the DT2000 measures 3.14-by-0.78-by-0.41-inches, offers military-grade 256-bit AES hardware-based encryption, is waterproof and dust-proof (IP57), and has a builtin keyring attachment. Kingston lists compatibility with Windows, macOS, Linux kernel, and Chrome OS Android. also available in capacities of 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB

No matter how good the sound is from computers’ built-in speakers, external speakers bring it to life.  Creative has a budget-friendly solution with the Pebble V3 desktop speakers, which delivers exactly as advertised; louder, bolder, and more powerful than ever.

The Pebble V3 (4.8-by-4.7-by-4.6-inches) is built with a rounded shape but has a flat spot on the bottom to keep it in place. Even with the rounded design, the audio comes directly to your ears with 2.25-inch speakers angled at 45-degrees.

There are several connection options; Bluetooth 5.0, UBC-C, or a 3.5 mm AUX-in. The USB cable to connect the speakers is 53.1-inches long and then a single 4-foot cable connects to a computer. A USB-C to USB-A converter is included.

Whichever connection you choose, they add a great dimension to a computer system; desktop, laptop, or tablet. Even during these work from home days, the sound is a tremendous addition for zoom meetings, student online classes, and even as the day winds down to just stream music.

Creative has engineered with Clear Dialog audio processing to help achieve the precise clarity out of the speakers. I’m not a heavy volume user, but often have to turn the volume up in computer meetings. In this case, I had my medium volume set and it remained that way.

The sound is adjustable with a built-in automated high gain switch for compatible USB-C devices and a manual switch for USB-A. The switch is on the bottom of the V3’s right speaker. $39.99

Sennheiser is celebrating its 75th anniversary with the MOMENTUM True Wireless 2 Anniversary Edition paying tribute to the company’s heritage, and reflects the audio specialist’s longstanding commitment to creating unique listening experiences.

The true wireless earbuds are built with active noise cancellation, have 7mm dynamic drivers with deep bass, natural mids and clear, detailed treble. Audio can be customized to an individual sound with the built-in equalizer and the Sennheiser smart control app.

The ergonomic design lets them fit comfortably with 7-hour battery life. With the included on-the-go charging case, the playtime is extended to up to 28 hours. $299.95

GADGETS :: October 7, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

It’s amazing how much portable power is needed today and Mophie is an industry leader when it comes to putting more than enough into the Powerstation line of pocket-sized devices.

Inside the Mophie powerstation PD ($59.95) is 6,700mAh of rechargeable power, for up to 23 hours of the extended life of a smartphone, tablet or any USB-A or USB-C device. The fast-charging Powerstation PD is built with an 18 watt USB-C PD fast charge. This produces a charge and recharges up to 2.5 times faster.

Priority and charging are a great feature, permitting the powerstation PD portable battery to charge while a device is also connected for charging. Power is sent first to the device and then the battery is recharged.

With dual USB ports, two devices can be charged simultaneously; the USB-C port provides up to 18 watts of power, while the USB-A outputs 12 watts.

Mophie’s Powerstation Plus XL wireless ($59.99) is built for more than a full day of charging. Inside is the 8,000mAh rechargeable battery, which according to Mophie produces up to 42 extra hours for iPhone Xs, up to 11 extra hours for iPad mini 5, up to 7 extra hours for iPad Pro.

There are several ways to get the power out of the battery and the Powerstation Plus XL has three options for charging multiple devices at once.  All this is built into a 2.83-by-5.89-by-0.75-inch, 0.506900-pound battery with a high-gloss top surface and metallic perimeter.

More and more smartphones and earbuds are Qi-enabled, allowing wireless charging. With this battery, all that’s needed for charging is to place the device on the battery’s charging surface and push the start button.

An integrated fast charging Apple Lightning cable means you’ll always have the cable with you, assuming you have the battery. The side of the battery has a thin magnetic compartment door, which snaps open to reveal the cable. When charging is complete, put the cable back in for safekeeping.

And the third changing option is a built-in standard USB-A port. With your cable, virtually any portable gadget can be charged.

Both the Powerstation PD and Plus XL have four LEDs on the side to show the charging status and how much power is left in the battery before it needs an AC charge.

Just last month, Mophie announced a global partnership with TUMI for a co-branded product lineup, featuring five premium technology products designed to keep travelers’ devices powered throughout their journeys.

Focal Sphear Wireless earbuds are exactly as advertised with strong sound quality and comfort.

They are designed with a pair of equalizer modes; neutral, staying true to the original artistic work, and loudness for adapting to noisy environments or listening to low volumes.

As for the sound, that comes from an Electrodynamic sandwich diaphragm on the outside of the earbud. The earbuds themselves are small and along with the included ear-tips choices of three pairs each of silicone and memory foam ensures a perfect fit.

Comfort comes from the spherical lightweight design, which encourages long listening times with no discomfort.  A lightweight in-line three-button remote controls volume, modes, and music selections along with an 8-hour rechargeable battery. An Omnidirectional microphone works great for hands-free calls. $124.27 Black, Blue, Olive and Purple

GADGETS :: September 30, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Smartmi’s elegant 2S Fan is cool, modern, and hip. It’s built with easy-to-use controls to work as a standard pedestal fan but with endless features it takes fans to a new level with a natural breeze feel. The quiet and portable smart home fan has Wi-Fi connectivity, a companion app, and works with smart home platforms, including Amazon’s Alexa.

It arrived in pieces, but don’t be intimidated. It only takes a few minutes to assemble with the included step-by step instructions. 

The seven-blade design goes inside a two-piece white plastic cage, which opens and closes easily. Blades typically build up a lot of dust and dirt so easy access to the blades for cleaning is a plus.

As a fan, it works great. It’s light and portable with a weighted base for stability, and has a quiet brushless motor that runs at as low 29 dB. An AC adapter is included; without the cord, it also runs great with the built-in lithium-ion battery, making it easy to move from room to room. With a fully charged battery pack, the 2S Fan goes mobile for up to 20 hours with the fan speed set to 1.

Manual controls on top of the fan include an on/off switch and LEDs glow green to show the fans’ WiFi status and the four-speed levels. With little effort, the angle of the cage can be manually adjusted.

The smart home features are what makes this fan stand out. With the built-in Wi-Fi connectivity and the Mi Home app (iOS and Android) controlling the fan with a smartphone is a breeze.

Along with turning it on and off, the app has two modes to control the air flow, adjustments for the oscillating and direction angle of 30, 60, 90 and 120-degrees or just adjust the direction to the left of right. 

When choosing the standard (normal) settings, it has 4-speed preset levels or manually adjust the speed in choices of 100 speed adjustments with some running virtually silent. 

According to Smartmi, the fan was designed to simulate natural wind, especially the feeling of a soft, natural, delicately changing air. To achieve this, using the app’s the natural setting creates the effect of natural breezes.

To achieve the natural breeze. Smartmi states on their website, “Their engineers have gathered and analyzed actual climatological field readings to better understand the characteristics of natural wind speeds, turbulence levels, and airflow. By employing state-of-the-art algorithms, they have been able to reconstruct the feeling of a soft, natural, delicately changing breeze down to its finest minutiae.” $129.99

PhoneSoap, maker of the popular smartphone UV sanitizer, has announced AirSoap, a new category for the UV-C sanitizing brand.

AirSoap is an air purifier and does not use liquid, heat or chemicals. Instead, it uses technology to efficiently kill germs and the smallest viruses in a high-energy plasma field. It does this by polarizing airborne particles, trapping them in a filterless graphene system. AirSoap uses washable and reusable collection plates instead of HEPA filters.

According to PhoneSoap, the new system is a revolutionary new air purifier technology, which kills and captures even the smallest viruses down to 14 nanometers. While it’s proven to kill 99.99-percent  of airborne viruses, it hasn’t been tested on COVID-19  since is not yet available for testing. But it has been tested to kill smaller virus’s such as Influenza A-H3N2

Measuring 21-by-10.25-by-10.6-inches, AirSoap is a whisper-quiet, making it suitable for any environment at home or work. $399.99

GADGETS :: September 23, 2020

by Gregg Ellman (@greggellman)

Last week someone asked if I only like true wireless earbuds since I write about them often. I am a fan of true wireless and when you look around, obviously I’m not alone. But there are other great choices, even a style that is a personal favorite.

My preferred style is neckbands, which were popular a few years ago but have kind of disappeared. The earbuds are attached to a short wire on each side of a lightweight bendable band, which sits with an ergonomic comfort on the back of your neck. I always found this style to be convenient; when the earbuds are taken out they safely hang on the wires around on the neckband.

Knowing that, Creative’s Aurvana Trio wireless neckband triple driver earphones with noise isolation had some time around my neck for the past week with great success.

The neckband is great for any listening environment. But what makes these rock is the sound. Inside the triple driver speakers are 11 mm dynamic Bio-cellulose driver and dual balanced armature drivers. This produced great sound for every type of music with deep bass, lows, and highs all sounding right on. Creative echoed my thoughts by calling it audio nirvana for all music genres on their website.

The Bluetooth 5.0, headphones pump out great sound, which features high-quality aptX HD, Qualcomm aptX low latency (reduces audio-visual delay), and AAC audio codecs.

Handsfree calls were loud and clear on both ends, thanks to the built-in microphone with Qualcomm cVc 8.0 noise cancellation technology. Controlling the calls, volume, play selections, activating voice assistants and charging are all on the end of the neckband with physical rubber buttons.

With Bluetooth 5.0, Aurvana has Multipoint Connectivity, allowing seamless connections to multiple devices. Without having to re-establish connections, the headphones will connect to an iPad and a laptop and switch seamlessly between the two, depending on which is needed.

The outside of each earbud is magnetic allowing them to clasp together when you have them out of your ears. This is a great help when you still have the neckband on but the earbuds out. Six sets of silicone and foam ear-tips and a pouch are included. The battery will last up to 20 hours of playtime before a USB charge is needed.

For a personalized audio experience, Creative’s Super X-Fi will set the audio for your ears. Using algorithms with a head and ear-mapping process incorporated after you send images of your ears and head. $99.99

House of Marley’s Smile Jamaica wireless 2 earbuds, part of the Smile Jamaica collection, are a typical typical Marley product, with nice sound and an eye-catching Eco-conscious design, which starts with the packaging.

It is great to see a budget-friendly choice ($29.99) with crisp sound, an appealing design, and waterproof features.

Each Bluetooth 5.0 earbud has a wood finish and recyclable aluminum with a 9.2 mm driver inside and is attached to a braided tangle-free cable. A three-button control is on the cable with a USB-C port for charging.

Other features include an IPX4 rating for weather and water resistance, quick charge technology, and with a two-hour charge you can expect about nine hours of playtime.

House of Marley has always been an environmentally friendly company and announced that the Smile Jamaica headphones have 100-percent recyclable packaging. This means the entire package contents can be put into the single mixed-paper recycle bin.

With the Smile Jamaica earbuds, Marley is equally proud of their construction with a cable design using fibers made of 99-percent post-consumer plastic waste from recycled water bottles, FSC certified wood, and recyclable aluminum housings. $29.99, available in color configurations of black, rasta, cooper, denim, and smile Jamaica green

GADGETS :: September 16, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Earlier this year Nixplay came out with an all-new lineup of their industry-leading Wi-Fi  smart photo frames. Now with better resolution, bigger screen sizes, and advanced functionality, they made a great product even better.

If you’re not familiar with Nixplay frames, you need to be, especially with the holiday shopping season upon us (hint!) With a private username and password, the modern-looking Nixplay frames have Wi-Fi connectivity, displaying digital images and videos you or anyone can remotely upload  to the frame.

Set up is simple. All you need is Wi-Fi and a secure account login with the Nixplay companion app (iOS and Android). Once the account and frame are set up, it’s up to you to share the login information and invite others to stock family memories.

With the app, It’s as easy as turning it on, selecting photos, hitting the upload button, choosing the playlist and send. The playlist is just like a music playlist; you can divide it by family, event, or just keep all the images in one. From the app, you have controls to turn the frame on or off, invite friends to share images, view, and delete the playlists.

Frame sizes start at 9.7 and go up to 15.6-inches with 10.1 (my review unit) and 13.3 in-between. All the frames have a pair of 2-watt speakers for audio to accompany videos.

Each new frame has Nixplay’s patented stand, which is built into the power cord and is now detachable to reveal a hidden wall mount. Now it can be wall-mounted (portrait or landscape) or have it stand on a flat surface.

Inside are 8GB of storage, which is a ton of space for sending cell phone images. The frame is built with an integrated Hu-Motion Sensor so the frame turns on and off automatically when motion is near.

If you want a greater resolution, the new Nixplay 9.7-inch Wi-Fi smart photo frame has a 2K (2048X1536) resolution display with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The 10.1-inch Wi-Fi frame has an HD resolution of 1280X800 with a 16:10 aspect ration. Both the 13.3-inch 15.6-inch have full HD Screen Resolution of 1920X1080 with a 16:9 aspect ratio. There’s 8 GB of storage in each except for the 15.6-inch frame with 16 GB.

The Nixplay app also has a tab for the Nixplay print shop to order prints, cards, and even picture smartphone cases. All this can be ordered directly from the images loaded on the frame or from your smartphone’s camera roll. Subscriptions are available to Nixplay Plus for up to 80 percent off the products. Yearly membership is $49.99 or month to month for $4.99.

Just as Nixplay says, the frames have gotten smarter, working with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Google Photos. A magnetic remote is included. Stored social media albums in Dropbox, Facebook, Google Photos, Instagram, and Verizon Cloud can be uploaded to the frame for viewing.  Smart Photo Frames start at $179.99 to $319.99 (15.6-inch) Wall hardware is included

EarFun Air True Wireless Earbuds are another great, affordable choice with great sound and every added feature you’d want.

Instead of testing the sound with music, I used the EarFun Air Trues for a few NFL games. With the pumped in crowd noise constantly coming up down along with the announcers, I felt like they gave me a great audio experience. After the game I switched to my playlist and just as promised, the crystal-clear sound was delivered along with a nice touch of distortion-free bass. Everyt type of music I switched to had sound with great consistency, without needing adjustments.

The ergonomic fit is a big deal, especially since many earbuds I’ve tried were uncomfortable for long-term use. The EarFun’s kept in place for hours comfortably, the feel was perfect. Having a single earbud mode (one of my favorite features) allows for just a single ear to play at a time. When you take both earbuds out the audio will pause and then resume when they are back in place.

With a budget-friendly price of $59.99, I would say these are far from budget headphones. Especially when you look at the complete list of features, which can double the price of many other brands.

Included is Bluetooth 5.0, a 35-hour battery life with the wireless and USB-C charging case. On a full charge, you should get 7 hours of playtime and an additional 28 hours with the case. Fast charging for 10 minutes will produce about two hours of playtime.

Touch-sensitive controls on the outside of the earbuds were responsive for controlling music selections and calls. For the volume, touch and hold the left earbud to lower the volume, and doing the same on the right side increases it. Inside each earbud is EarFun’s custom-built composite cellulose drivers, with an IPX7 waterproof rating. A 4-microphone system for crystal clear handsfree calls worked great. $59.99 or $49.99 at Amazon, available in black or white

GADGETS :: September 9, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

As crazy as it sounds, Scosche found a way to make a smartphone car mount innovative, fun and really cool. The MagicGrip window/dash wireless charging auto-grip mount is a winner.

I tried the MagicGrip with Qi-enabled wireless charging ($69.95). To secure to a dashboard or window, it has Scosche’s StickGrip automotive-grade adhesive, which is strong. Just as important, it’s removable and reusable if you change the location or vehicle. I know the suction mount is a weakness for many of these types of mounts I’ve tried; I used it in multiple locations, twice a day for a week. Honestly, the last placement was as strong as the first.

What brings out the coolness of the mount is the auto-grip feature where the side arms, which hold your smartphone in place, automatically close after you put your wireless charging smartphone over the powered up charging pad. As soon as contact is made the motorized side arms close with a secure grip. After it’s secured, with full flexibility it can be rotated 360-degrees for viewing at any angle, in portrait or landscape modes or anything in between.

A thermal management channel is built into the charging head for safe charging. The wireless Qi-certified fast charge is compatible with Apple, Samsung and Google devices. A USB-C with a 90-degree angled connector is included along with a USB car adapter and cable management clips.

For even more flexibility and viewing angles, Scosche has the new Extendo range mounts, with a telescoping arm that adjusts from just over 5-inches to just over 8.5-inches with 220-degrees of angle adjustment.

Having the extension arm offers great versatility for vehicles with deeper dashboards, cars, trucks or even a boat’s dash. It’s even handy on an office desktop, kitchen counter or backsplash with full view at any angle.

There are three versions of the new Extendo mounts; MagicMount Pro Extendo Window/Dash Mount ($29.99) magnetic mounting system with powerful 100-percent device-safe neodymium magnets for a secure hold. With the QuickGrip Extendo Universal Window/Dash Mount ($24.99) it has adjustable arms to hold smartphones up to 3.5-inches wide. And the MagicGrip Auto-Grip Wireless Charging Extendo Window/Dash Mount ($69.99), which has the features of the MagicGrip described above with the motorized closing arms along with the telescoping extension arm.

Before I opened Jabra’s new Evolve2 active noise cancellation Bluetooth headphones, I noticed the statement printed on the box referring to them as the best headset for concentration and collaboration.

The over-the-head headphones have 40 mm speakers inside soft memory foam cushions for all day comfort. A discrete retractable boom microphone arm can be tucked away inside the right side.

These days, with more and more workers spending work days on conference and video calls, the need for superior output sound is in high demand. All you need is one member of an online call to have bad sound and you’ll understand, you just don’t want it to be you.

So on a recent Friday night happy hour call with friends on all ends of the country I took my group up a notch, using the Evolve2 instead of my iPad’s build-in mic. The looks and questions I got were why was I wearing a headset but instantly shifted to the superior clarity they heard from me. One friend specifically asked me to message him with the model number, so I guess my demo was impressive.

To hear for myself I had someone use the headset and call me so I could gauge the clarity and for sure it was outstanding. Jabra built the Evolve2 with 10 microphones and what they call an advanced digital chipset. There’s also less background noise on calls with 54-percent more noise cancellation.

When purchasing, the headphones come with USB-A or USB-C charging ports; a charging stand is available ($50). Also choose them optimized for Microsoft teams or Unified Communication.

Oh, and the battery life since it wouldn’t be a great thing for them to need power right in the middle of a call. You’ll get 37 hours battery life with a 2.5 hour charge and with a fast 15 minutes of charging will produce 8 hours battery life.

My real world doesn’t have many online calls but instead a lot of music and with the powerful speakers along with the latest AAC codec my music sounded clear and clean.

On-ear controls worked great and Bluetooth 5.0 allows pairing with up to eight devices with two simultaneous connections. Charging cables, 3.5 mm audio connections, flight adapter and a hard carrying case are included.

So back to the begging with the Evolve2 being the best for concentration and collaboration, I get it. You have all day comfort, top of the line sound coming in as well as going out. $449 in choices of matte black and beige, with a charging stand $499

GADGETS :: September 2, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Anytime I get a new product from Sennheiser, I know before it’s even opened that there’s a near 100 percent chance it’s going to be great. So it was no surprise when I unboxed the brand new, hot off the press Sennheiser MKE 200 directional microphone, placed it on my digital camera, and it worked battery-free in a plug and play manner. The MKE 200 is the latest in Sennheiser’s MKE microphone series, all of which provide quality upgrades to a camera’s built-in microphone.

The compact microphone has built-in shock absorption and attaches to a camera with a cold shoe mount. With the mount, it slides on or off digital cameras’ flash shoes easily, enabling it to work handsfree so the videographer can concentrate on the camera controls. A 3.5 mm cable attaches the microphone to the camera’s audio in-port. 

With the compact size and mounting ability, Sennheiser designed the MKE 200 to work with most any standard digital SLR, mirrorless and mobile phones. With mobile devices, you’ll either have to hold the microphone with the audio cable plugged into the audio-in port or attach it to a bracket (not included) since mobile devices do no have the shoe bracket (typically used for flashes). Along with the cold shoe, there’s a photo industry standard 1/4-20 thread for attaching it to brackets and endless mounting accessories made for mobile devices and cameras.

I tested the mic on some basic street scenes, – kids playing, people taking morning walks, etc. In every situation with the microphone mounted on top of my DSLR, the directional design captured my wanted audio but not unwanted background noise. 

My environment wasn’t windy but it’s good to know, according to a press release, that Sennheiser designed the MKE 200 with an integrated layer of protective mesh inside the housing. This protection is further enhanced by using the included furry windshield when filming outdoors.

With a friendly price point on the easy-to-use microphone, it’s easy to say it’s for an entry level use, which is not restricted to beginners. $99.95, available as of September 1 

I’m sure I could dig up statistics on what percentage of homes have a smartphone video doorbell such as the latest I tried, the EZVIZ DB1. But just looking around my neighborhood tells me this type of home security is a rapidly growing category.

A few reasons for the popularity are the cost, performance and especially the ease of use. With personal experience I can say the simple installation is what typically makes a product like this a make or break in my world and the EZVIZ DB1 is exactly that.

Several things must be in place before installation: Wi-Fi has to be present with a good signal and an existing wired doorbell.

The EZVIZ DB1 includes three hours of free cloud storage for the most recent motion-detected video clips, with more expanded pay plans available. 

Built the built-in microSD memory card slot is a great feature for local storage, which many competitors do not have. Using your own memory cards in sizes up to 128GB is a great supplement to the free storage and any encrypted cloud storage plans you subscribe to.

The 3 megapixel (resolution of 2048-by-1536 pixels) EZVIZ DB1 is built with a 2.2 mm f2.4 lens with a 180-degree vertical field of view and 105-degree horizontal view. It measures 5.11-by-1.8-by-0.8-inches and is built with IP65 weather protection for use in conditions minus 22 up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and night vision up to 16-feet.

With the EZVIZ companion app and the built-in microphone and speaker, viewing and talking with subjects outside the front door can now be accessed 24/7 from a tablet or smartphone. Now, when your doorbell rings or the motion detector picks something up, the app alerts your device  simultaneously. It’s that simple.

The app also allows for customization of the detection area you want covered so it doesn’t alert to to every passing car, for example.

Three mounting brackets are included, each with a slighting different angle when mounted to the wall. Hold up each to the wall before drilling holes to see what angle works best. Depending on your area, you may want the camera facing down to avoid a bright sky or raised up to include a bigger area, or whatever else you requires, one of the brackets should work.

Installation doesn’t requre an electrician, but please first turn off the electrical circuit to the doorbell system and disconnect the existing doorbell. Keep the wires in place because the instructions make it so easy, assuming the wires are there.

Also included with the EZVIZ DB1 is wire, screwdriver and a drill bit (sorry, drill not included) and a simple, well-explained installation guide. Different colored face plates help you match were its mounted. $199.99





GADGETS :: August 26, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Rocketbook has partnered with Panda Planner to launch the Rocketbook Panda, a modern-day pen and paper planner with erasable technology to keep track of scheduling, plans and notes.

It’s easy to say a digital planner is great for students or working professionals, which is true. I think it’s great for anyone, even retires with an active social life. Rocketbook refers to the Panda Planner as the world’s first reusable, digitally connected planner, resulting in the last one you’ll ever need.

In my case, as technology savvy as I like to be, my life is filled with post-it notes, both on my desk and even on my car’s dashboard. And I know it’s not the norm, nor am I alone because I see other friends and family members using the same disorganized analog note taking system, resulting in notes getting lost all the time.

Technology makes it stand out from a traditional planners because it’s built with innovative synthetic paper. This allows you to write smoothly with the included Pilot FriXion pen and when you’re done wipe the page with a damp cloth or the included microfiber cloth.

They have identical timeless versions available in letter size, $37 (8.5-by-11-inches, 32 pages) and executive size, $35 (6-by-8.8-inches, 36 pages). Both are thin, with each page undated and a daily template that helps you customize and to organize your content. It’s divided into annual planning, goals, daily, weekly, monthly, notes and more. Depending on the sections there is dot-grid, lined and blank pages.

Rocketbook’s mission is to help those who still want to hand write but need to get the content into the digital world. With the help of the Rocketbook app (iOS and Android) the Panda Planner connects to any of the major cloud services like Dropbox, Google Drive and iCloud for uploading scanned content.

To do this easily, symbols on the bottom of each page act as buttons for uploading. Once a button is assigned to your chosen cloud service and the page is marked with that icon, the app uploads it to the path you chose. Pages uploaded are also digitally enhanced and cropped for easy reading. Handwriting intelligence makes the panda Planners searchable across platforms.

Once the content is either transferred, expired or just not needed, just wipe the page clean. available in black, dark blue, scarlet and teal

Moshi, a California-based electronics supplier I’ve written about many times reviewing their great consumer electronics has entered the pandemic world with the launch of Moshi OmniGuard.

The washable and re-useable mask comes with three replaceable Nanohedron filters. Each mask features a long-lasting NanoShield anti-bacterial coating, which inhibits the growth of microbes for superior cleanliness and hygiene. Moshi recommends replacing each filter every six weeks but in more polluted regions replace the filter every two weeks.

According to Moshi, the proprietary Nanohedron filters protect against bacteria, pollen, dust, smoke, viruses, pollution and filter out particles even as minuscule as 75 nanometers. The masks provide  99-percent protection against the most commonly found airborne contaminants and have been certified by a third-party laboratory.

The mask features adjustable and cushioned ear loops is available in ocean black and space gray, both in small, medium and large sizes. $39.95

Twelve South has launched one new product and an update to a great one.

The BookBook for Kindle Paperwhite ($49.99) a vintage-inspired one-of-a-kind case made with hand-distressed, genuine leather gives it the feel like a real book. A folding kickstand for hands-free reading is built-in. It is compatible with Kindle Paperwhite 4 (10th Gen, 2019).

One of my favorite Twelve South products, the AirFly Pro ($54.99) is now available in matte black. The pocket sized adapter lets you use wireless headphones with any headphone jack. This includes airplane armrests ports, game consoles, treadmills and TV’s with headphone out ports. I’ve even used it my my first generation iPod.

Setting it up is as simple as plugging the AirFly Pro into a 3.5 mm audio port and pairing it with up to two sets of wireless headphones. 

GADGETS :: August 19, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Outdoor Tech’s Chip series headphones are perfection for getting audio into the ears of skiers. I’m not a skier so I never researched the feature. After seeing a few sets of the wireless headphones, it’s easy to say Outdoor Tech as mastered the technology.

The Chip 2.0 Universal ($142.95) Bluetooth helmet headphones are designed to fit into any helmet that has audio-compatible ear pads, essentially giving you a helmet with built-in audio.

But the first feature I noticed is that they have glove-friendly controls, which totally makes sense. So you guessed it, while its well over 100 degrees today I got out my winter gloves to try Outdoor Tech’s patented 2-button controls.

The controls are standard for any wireless earbuds to adjust volume, music choices and pause to answer calls but how about doing it in freezing cold weather? Sure enough, it was simple with my gloves on and to confirm the difference I also tried the controls on everyday earbuds with my gloves, which were impossible to control.

Each earpiece has a 40 mm driver to produce high-quality sound on or off the slopes. The left and right earpieces are like mini hockey pucks, 2-inch round by a half inch thick and are connected to each other with a thin tangle-free cable. For the most part, they are mini speakers stored in the helmet directly again your ears. And unlike earbuds which go in your ears and block outside sounds, with this design the Chips allow in surrounding ambient noise on the slops, which is a great feature.

For audio testing I was able to rig them into my bike helmet with the help of some duct tape and then off for my ride I went. The audio was crystal clear and the controls are perfect. Knowing these are made for ski helmets and designed to rest on your ears, I actually liked it better than the earbuds I regularly use, which probably tone me out from my surroundings too much.

After my unofficial experiment with the headphones I messaged a good friend of mine who lives and skies regularly in Park City, Utah.

He and his wife are users of Outdoor Tech’s wired Chips while skiing for music and handsfree calls, so they don’t have to dig out a smartphone buried in their ski jacket. 

Late last season they switched to the Bluetooth Chips 2.0 for the same great sound and convenience without dealing with the wire. He confirmed the chips fit in the ear pocket of the ski helmet and produce great sound with the ability to hear ambient sound of the surroundings. 

The Chips 2.0 have a 10 hour battery, and reach a maximum volume of 120 decibels. An IPX4 rating makes them sweat and water resistant. For non-Bluetooth device compatibility use the 3.5 mm audio in jack.

Outdoor Tech takes it a step further with the Chips Ultra ($229.95) true wireless headphones, a totally cable free audio solution. 

Each slick looking Bluetooth 5.0 speaker is just a little smaller than the Chips 2.0, minus the connecting wire and fit into helmets with audio-compatible ear pads. While the sound out of the Chips 2.0 was solid, I thought the Chips Ultra gave me a little more bass.

Each has 40 mm drivers, a built-in microphone for handsfree calls, an IPX4 water resistant rating and are built with the same easy one-touch glove-friendly control on a single oversized button. 

Each has an internal 250 mAh battery, which charges up in the included storage charging case in about two hours. The case itself charges in 2.5-hours. With a full charge, the Ultra’s should get about 13 hours of play and talk time, even in weather down to minus 4-degrees Fahrenheit. 

Outdoor Techs Walkie-Talkie ODT Audio app works either set of the Chips for push to talk walkie-talkie direct communication. This can be with a single skiing partner or a whole group. The app runs in the background, even while the phone is locked.

Outdoor Tech lists helmets audio drop-ins: Bern, Giro, Smith, K2, Anon, Pro-Tec, Bolle and Sweet Protection

Urbanistas, a Swedish lifestyle audio company, has introduced the London ANC true wireless Bluetooth 5.0 earbuds, designed for every day use.

I’m in the midst of testing a few different sets of earbuds and they all have great features. After using the London earbuds a few times, I was really impressed by the sound, looks and many other features.

As referred to above with the Chips headphones, blocking your surroundings isn’t always a good thing. With the London’s built-in active noise cancelling feature, sounds of the outside world can be turned on or off with the push of a button.

The in-ear styled earbuds sit comfortably (multiple sized ear tips included) and come with a USB-C wireless charging storage case with indicator lights. You’ll get about five hours before needing a charge and then case is good for four additional charges.

While testing them, I played around with a few apps to fine tune the sounds of my eclectic playlist from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s but always came back to the default settings. That doesn’t mean you can’t make something a little better, I just liked it right out of the box. All of my decades choices sounded strong and clear, filled with the right amount of bass at any volume level.

Other features include on-ear volume and music control, auto play, access to voice assistants and IPX4 protection. $149, available in black, pink, white and blue

GADGETS :: August 12, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Before I even opened my package from LinearFlux, I knew some of the company’s history, which gave me great insight that their products would be outstanding.

LinearFlux is a California start-up built with solid experience. Founders David Leung and Einstein Galang might not be household names but you should be familiar with their innovative engineering and design prowess with their work at Monster Products. 

A LinearFlux company representative emailed me that together they led the development team behind the hyper-successful Beats by Dr. Dre headphone brand.  Both Leung and Galang hold Engineering degrees, and together they worked in and managed product development, including all engineering and design at Monster Products. Together, they have over 30 years experience in the consumer electronics world.

As for the products, they sent me the Hypersonic true wireless in-ear speakers along with a multi-functional Hypercharger Max 100 watt, 20,800 mAh portable USB battery for testing.

Both were delivered in a colorful, animated, fun, easy to read packages. And while the packaging doesn’t mean the product it top of the line, they did not disappoint. Both the earbuds and battery worked to perfection.

The sound is great, driven by LinearFlux DL01 Immersive Sound Engine tuned to popular HD streaming services by Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora.

The HyperSonic True wireless audio experience are designed to give users the Best Bang for your Boom, according to the website. For $99.98 you definitely get that. 

I immediately loved that you can play just one earbud. Many, if not most of today’s true wireless earbuds are built with auto play, which is a great feature. Take one earbud out and the music or video stops, which in most cases is what you want. I might be the only one on the planet who wants this, but when I’m lying on my side I like just one earbud on the outside. With the Hypersonic, they do that with either ear.

The Hypersonic is a complete kit with a wireless charging case or use the included USB-C to USB-A charging cable. Along with the colorful acid green and stealth black speakers, LinearFlux makes sure they fit not just right, but perfect. Each package includes sport ear hooks, comfort ear shells and three sets of pillow-soft ear-tips. With all that, I guarantee you’ll get a conformable fit.

They have built-in microphone for handsfree calls, Bluetooth 5.0 technology and are IPX7 water resistant, but remember the case is not water resistant at any time. The rechargeable earbuds are good up to 6-8 hours playtime per charge and then an additional 20 plug hours with charging case. If you need a quick burst of sound, just five minutes of charging in the case will give you about an hour of playtime.

Each earbud has touch controls for playing music, selections and one-touch access to Alexa, Google Now or Siri.

The HyperCharger MAX portable USB battery ($79.99) with an ultra-black premium metal finish (5.12-by-3.25-by-1.0-inch, 14.7 ounces) does everything you would want from a portable battery. 

Obviously it charges portable USB devices, but the versatility of charging up to three at once makes it top notch. This includes smartphones, tablets and even something needing high-wattage power, such as the Apple MacBook PRO 16-inch requiring up to 91 Watts of power.

It’s built with a pair of USB-A out ports, a single USB-C in/out, and a microUSB input for charging the battery itself. Auto-detect circuitry will start charging once your plugged in and Tesla-type battery cell technology keeps it charging safe.

A fuel meter shows how much capacity is left. A 30 watt power delivery USB wall charger and a 3-foot USB-C cable is included. 

I’ve had the Sol Republic Soundtrack Pro ANC headphones sitting here on my shelf to review for a little longer than normal, but they are definitely worth the wait. 

The Bluetooth 5.0 wireless headphones have an adjustable headband with super comfortable ear cushions to rest on the outside of your ears. You’ll get an amazing 32 hours of battery life from the 500 mAh rechargeable headphones before a USB-C charge is needed.

When you get them playing, the powerful crystal clear sound with active noise cancellation to block the ambient noise is a perfect combination for tuning out the world and staying in the music mode. 

I typically test headphones like these while flying, but conditions have kept me on the ground so I ventured out with them (and a mask) during a recent grocery store run. These took me a step further in my own world; not only didn’t I pay attention to anyone, the only sounds I mainly heard were from my iPhone Pandora playlist, along with a touch of ambient sounds around me.

Along with the strong, deep bass sound, the Soundtrack Pro headphones have an excellent appearance even when they are just around your neck. They are available in gray, black and champagne colors with a matching color fabric over the 40 mm drivers.

Three-button controls are on the top of the right ear and when the sound and looks are not needed, just fold them up for compact storage. They also feature a built-in microphone for handsfree calls and quick charge technology. $199.99

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