GADGETS :: July 8, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

To the list of all the home improvements people have generated in the past few months, add an easy setup of extending the range of some of your home Wi-Fi smart products. The idea of doing this is great and a company called Lutron makes it a do-it-yourself easy project with a new Caséta Wireless Repeater and Motion Sensor added to Lutron’s Caséta smart lighting control system.

If you’re not familiar with Lutron, you need to be. They design and manufacture automated light and shade controls for homes and commercial applications.

It’s been common over the past few years to put the main controls for Wi-Fi, smart home products and Lutron systems centrally located in your home. That’s the best idea so the signal is strong enough for your TV as well as computers and scattered smart home devices.

At times the signal is still not enough; some new Lutron products help solve the problem so the signal reaches areas like a back closet tucked away in the corner of a house or a unique layout of your home, which has a restroom buried in another corner.

Lutron’s Caséta Repeater ($74.95) placed in your dead zones will extent your existing Lutron system range by 60 feet when placed within 60 feet of a Lutron Caséta Smart Bridge. The Smart Bridge is the central point of the system.  

Setup is easy, there’s no ethernet connection, the Repeater just plugs into any home outlet as long as its in range of the system. Then add it to an existing system through the Caséta App and you’re done. Once installed, scheduling, scenes, Smart Away and more are at your at your fingertips without the use of Wi-Fi.


The Caséta Smart Motion Sensor ($49.95) is perfect for a room needing hands-free control for lights or other products in the Lutron system.

It can be as easy as placed in a room where you want the lights to turn on as you enter or leave a room. That one sensor can control Caséta shades, lights, fan controls or anything within 60 feet.

Think of those hidden rooms, which are critical, hallways, garages or anywhere. With the sensor you get 180-degree field of view so it sees you coming.

Another cool thing is what Lutron calls flexible installation. I call it saving a hole in the wall that I won’t have to patch later. But since the sensor is wireless, it mounts on a flat surface, corner or whereever needed. It’s powered by a battery with a life of up to 10 years.

Another piece of the Lutron system I wrote about last year is the wireless fan speed control ($60.69).

Once installed, you have now turned your simple existing ceiling fan into a wireless smart home-controlled device for turning on and off, speed controls, programable schedules and scenes with other smart home products.

The Lutron smart lighting control system connects with smart home devices like Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant.

www.lutron.com 

Mophie, a ZAGG Brand, recently launched the Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL, which has everything you need to charge today’s high powered, wireless electronic gadgets.

Inside the 10,000mAh battery is Qi wireless charging for input and output, which will work with the latest Apple, Samsung, LC, Google Nexus and other devices with the Qi system built in. With the output, you can charge your device, the input lets you connect it to  any Qi-compatible wireless charging pad for re-charging the powerstation.

There’s also an Apple Lightning input, a USB-C input and outport port and 18 watt fast charging. Thirty minutes should give your device 50 percent of battery life. So whatever needs a charge, this will give it you with style and power on-the-go. It can give devices like an iPhone up to 55 hours of extra use.

Other features include an LED power indicator with four lights to know the level of remaining battery power. With Priority Charging, the powerstation sends power to your device needing charging before charging itself when it’s connected to your charging pad.

The battery can also be recharged through the same Lighting cable that charges Apple devices or through the USB-C port.

www.mophie.com $99.95

GADGETS :: July 1, 2020


by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

I’ve never seen anyone go around showing off their new hearing aid. But often I see people bragging about their new earbuds. The Olive Smart Ear has the appearance and style of a single earbud in but does the job of a hearing aid.

I’ll start off with some information supplied by the parent company, Olive Union, which caught my attention before I even opened the box.

It stated that 48-million Americans have trouble hearing, yet only 1 in 5 who need it use an assisted hearing device to correct for their impairment. Most often, hearing loss begins in just one ear. First comes little things like talking louder than you normally would, keeping the TV at a higher volume, or cupping your ear to hear better during a meeting.

All this sounds very familiar since I’ve witness these situations first hand with family members. So I was excited to give this product a try.

The Olive Smart Ear is built with state-of-the-art design and technology, patented sound technology for outstanding, clear and balanced sounds and is designed to work with hearing impaired with a loss less than 50 dB. They are designed for people who just aren’t quite ready for hearing aids, which by-the-way cost in the area of $2,000 to $5000, compared to $299 for the Olive Smart ear.

Along with a companion App (IOS and Android), it gives you a hearing test for recommended settings and the user-friendly dashboard gives you instant  adjustments from the basic default mode to TV watching and conversations. Feedback can be altered and other controls can easily be customized based on the user and the environment. Crowded restaurants need different adjustments than talking at the breakfast table.

It offers nice sound but what it makes it stand out is the amplified sound. I don’t have hearing loss so I enlisted someone close to me who does. We put ourselves in a normal environment with the TV in surround sound, but not on defining levels. 

With the Olive Smart Ear in one ear away from me, she definitely felt improvement on hearing the TV while still able to hear my occasional conversation.

Olive Union data on the earbud says Total Harmonic Distortion is less than 1.2% in each measured channel, to provide a clear spectrally balanced sound. It’s designed to instantaneously filter out unpleasant, sharp high pitch noises and has a Wide Dynamic Range Compression algorithm tuned to capture 99.8-percent of the sounds within your hearing range without distortion.

Like true wireless earbuds, alone it gives you seven hours of charge and when combined with the included portable recharging case, its good for over 20 hours. 

It’s not something you would wear all day but it’s so small and portable, when it’s needed it can be useful. With 16 channels and a dynamic
range of 96dB, it can only help.

www.oliveunion.com $299 available in white and black

Handy, efficient, all-in-one, power and unique are words I’d use to describe the new EGGTronic Power Bar portable battery.

All-in-one is a great way to describe it since it has two 7.5 watt Qi wireless charging spots, a single 5 watt Apple Watch wireless charging spot and a USB-C powered port with 30 watts of power deliver.

All at once, the 3-in-1 multi-device can charge an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods in the 7.30-by-1.02-by-2.67-inch Apple MFI-certified device, which has 10,000 mAh of portable battery power. The USB-C port can be used with you’re charging cable to power and charge a Macbook, iPad or iPhone. The same port is used for recharging the battery itself.

The four ports can be used simultaneously, but with all being used and especially with a laptop or tablet, the power from the Power Bar is appreciated.

So with all that, its easy to see why a battery like this is probably the most versatile portable batteries I’ve seen. In addition to the battery itself, the package includes a 3-foot USB-C to USB-C cable, a 3-foot USB-C to Lightning cable and a handy USB-C to USB-A adapter tip. Normally you get a single charging cable for the battery itself, instead EGGTronic has really made this a complete package with the accessories.

https://eggtronic.com $149.99

GADGETS :: June 24, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

A door lock has two main features: opening and closing. Lockly, a leader in manufacturing the world’s most advanced smart lock, let me give the Secure Pro Latch Edition a try.

There’s a lot to say about the lock; it has great features, looks, and performs perfectly upon completion. And the instructions Lockly supplied are written in a clear step-by-step, easy to understand format. You will also need the free Lockly app, which does require a security confirmation passcode during setup.

I set out to see how long it would take my wife and I to get the old lock off and install the Lockly. I have little experience in installing locks, just a few other smart locks over the years for testing. If you’re handy, this installation should be no problem using a few of your basic screwdrivers and tools. More if you have to drill new door holes.

For the most part, it took us an hour to get the deadbolt Secure Pro lock hardware installed. This included removing the old one and using the existing hole cut in my door and frame for the Lockly, since they matched. 

To make sure they match, you must go through a series of measurements with the supplied information to ensure holes don’t have to be adjusted or added. The lock adjusts to different existing sized holes and the instructions go over that.

If you follow the instructions, the installation is straight forward, just take your time. This includes the included four AA batteries for power and installing the door sensors. With the hardware installed, the lock is ready to open the door from the outside the old fashioned way, with the supplied keys.

Next was setting up the secure link Wi-Fi hub with the Lockly app (iOS and Android), which does require a few security steps during the setup. The app is critical for setting up the keyless features. A user-friendly dashboard within the app works great for locking and unlocking the door.

The Wi-Fi hub is used for live monitoring with optional notifications sent to your smartphone, setting up voice assistants as I did with Alexa and other control features of the Lockly. The hub is small and plugs directly into any wall outlet within 10-feet of the lock for best performance.

You really don’t purchase a lock like this to use with an actual key, although you can. Have it as a backup, but not as your main choice of entry. 

The Lockly Secure Pro offers several ways to open the lock: keyless with the app, combination, fingerprint, send a single use key to someone else (like a worker) or grant regular access to a family member or close friend and voice assistants. 

After the hardware was installed, we used the next hour and 18 minutes to set up all the other ways to get the lock open and talking to Alexa. Some of the features use the locks built-in Bluetooth and connects it to your existing Wi-Fi (2.4 Ghz).

The keypad is front facing, activated with a tap and has five buttons, four with three numbers in each and an OK button for creating and using access codes. There is a default code supplied but that should be changed right away. 


A nice feature on the keypad has the four buttons with numbers in them move (patented PIN Genie Technology) around every time you use the lock. So each time you go to the lock, the numbers are in a different unique place, so the access code pattern can’t be stolen from a recorded pattern routine.

Up to eight sets of access codes can be stored and deleted when needed.

The fingerprint reader was next to be connected. Being a hot summer day, my fingers were sweaty and I did have to dry them a few times. But after a few tries, I had my thumb and index fingerprint set up and then the same for my wife. Up to 99 fingerprints can be stored.

You have to scan your fingerprint several times at slightly different angles on the reader and you’ll get a beep when the reading has been registered. Now, with both hands full you can walk up to the door and as long as you can free one finger for a few seconds to be scanned, the door will unlock. It’s that easy and secure. The advanced 3D fingerprint scanner is designed to prevent lifted fingerprints from being used.

Next was Alexa (or Google Assistant), which also runs you through a few security steps in the Alexa app. Remember, this is the front door you’re opening, not just turning on a light, so you want this security. After a few minutes, Alexa was unlocking the door.

The lock is loaded with many innovative and handy features, too many to name here. But one in particular I liked and adjusted within the app was the auto-lock timer. The default setting has it lock instantly when you closed the door. Instead, I had it lock after the door was closed for five minutes. You can have it totally disabled, but you’ll have to remember to lock it when you leave.

Access can be granted to guests and workers when you’re not home and even without online access. When you do have Internet access, the lock can be controlled from anywhere.

On the Lockly’s site, they state that they may not have invented the smart lock itself, but they are perfecting it with cutting-edge features such as their patented PIN Genie technology and 3-D biometric fingerprint scanner. After using the lock for a few weeks now, yes they are. And it looks great.

https://lockly.com $299.99

GADGETS :: June 17, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

It’s the perfect time for price-friendly Anker’s updated Soundcore Flare 2 portable  waterproof wireless speaker. 

The sound just rocks with a 360-degree design pumping 20 watt  sound in all directions from the cylinder shaped speaker (3.50-by-3.50-by-6.31-inches).  A cloth grille covers the outside of the speaker, allowing the sound from dual drivers and passive radiators to pass through.

The sound of a single Flare 2 is great, go ahead and get 100 more of them. I’m serious, the Flare 2 is built with PartyCast Technology allowing for 100 Flare 2’s to be synced off of a single smartphone for an incredible sounding socially distant party atmosphere. Add Anker’s BassUp technology and the bass-driven audio is even better.

Syncing 100 speakers is simple. Just pari one speaker via Bluetooth to your music source and the others take 3 seconds each with the press of a button to sync with the first speaker. With any numbers of speakers you choose to sync, make the main one as centered in are area as possible to reach the others efficiently. 

Once you have the audio set, with the free Soundcore companion app the rainbow light show begins with built-in light rings built into the top and bottom of the speaker. The rings create an unmatched Bluetooth speaker atmosphere, pulsing and shining to the beat of your music from the app’s six lighting modes.

A 5,200 mAh Li-ion battery recharges with the included USB-C cable for up to 12 hours of use. The number of hours before a charge will depend on the Bassup technology, volume and light shows.

The speaker is built with an IXP7 waterproof rating, so splashes and even being submerged in shallow water of 3.3-feet for up to 30 minutes won’t hurt. BUT IF water is in the area, make sure the port to expose the USB-C charging port is closed.

Anker has an entertaining video on their site, setting up 100 Flare 2 speakers with placement of eight in each room of a house — all synced with music and a light show. As they mentioned, 100 isn’t really practical, but a half dozen might be.

One of the best parts might be getting all this for just $69.99 each and quick math shows 100 for $6,900.

An Anker representative tipped me off that they are launching a new speaker on the June 21 called Rave Neo, which can be paired with the Flare 2 (and also 100 of them). A few features include a 4-inch woofer, 2-inch tweeter and Bluetooth 5.0. I should have one soon for a more in depth review. The Rave Neo will be available at Walmart and walmart.com for $99.99. 

www.soundcore.com $69

Lump me in the same group of smartwatch fans who primarily use the device for time and fitness tracking. For the most part, every one I’ve tried works great for these features but they are not what you would consider a fashionable time piece.

Enter the Motorola Moto 360 (3rd generation) premium smartwatch, developed and distributed by eBuyNow and powered by Wear OS by Google, making it perfect for features such as fitness, music, ride hailing, dating and mapping apps.

After unpacking the Moto 360, instantly you can see the fashion and style in the watch before pressing a button, by far the nicest and most elegant I’ve seen.

I’m not a hard core fitness person, but I do keep in shape, eating somewhat healthy, counting my daily steps and taking daily bike rides. So getting instant, accurate information, including tracking my heart rate from the built-in sensors with Google Fit during and immediately after workouts is critical and was delivered.  

The watch has a classic look with an ambient mode to have the 1.2-inch circular display made with crystal clear and durable Corning Gorilla Glass 3.

It’s loaded with features including customizable action button, extended battery life (355mAh) for up to up to three days of time. Inside is Bluetooth 4.2 for pairing with a smartphone, GPS, Wi-Fi and it’s water resistance for casual swimming and splashes.

Paying at retailers securely with Google Play is easy and contactless, a critical feature these days. Quick access gives you do not disturb, theater and airplane modes.

According to the Moto 360 site, compatibility is listed with Android 6.0 (excluding Go edition) or higher and iOS 10.0 or higher.  Inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 3100 processor with 1GB RAM and 8GB internal memory. This is perfect for fitness, music, Uber, dating and mapping apps available at The Play Store.

The Moto 360 is paired via Bluetooth with a smartphone and will let you answer calls, but talking has to be done with the phone or connected headphones.

My review sample had a gray brushed stainless steel finish (rose gold and phantom black also available) with a coating for increased scratch-protection. Both 20 mm leather and silicone straps are included and it only takes a second to swap them on or off for water activities. There’s also a large selection of other color bands available for purchase to personalize your style.

Moto 360 has started a promotion (June 1-21) for Father’s Day that marks the device down from $269.99, the regular price is $299.99 after the sale ends.

moto360.com 

GADGETS :: June 10, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

He doesn’t need a tie, a T-shirt or a belt he’ll never wear. What dad does need for  Father’s Day is cool stuff like innovative tools for the grill and new tools for a perfect lawn.

DeWalt’s new cordless tree trimmer and brush blower make some of the most basic home landscaping tasks so simple. The products are additions to DeWalts 200 product line in the 20V MAX System.

Since I knew the DeWalt 20V MAX Pole Hedge Trimmer ($199) would arrive in the coming weeks, I let some trimming grow a little over the last month for better testing. To say it was done quickly, easily and efficiently along with prefect shaping is an understatement.

Along with your arm length, the pole trimmer extends up to a 12-foot reach. So remember, this is for tree trimming, not tree removal.  Using it was a joy – just charge the battery and you’re ready to go. 

Along with extending out, the trimmer has a seven-positing end, which acts like an elbow to positing the trimer in seven positions with a 180-degree range. This made it perfect for trimming the tops of hedges so the trimmings blended with the rounded look they have.

What used to take considerably more time I can now do in minutes and without a ladder. Having the DeWalt trimmer, with the flexible arm makes it so easy to adjust it to what I’m cutting or shaping at any angle. All my trimming was done from ground level, so I didn’t need my wife watching so I wouldn’t fall off the ladder. 

The rechargeable battery works off of the DeWalt DCB205 20 V MAX Lithium Ion Battery Pack and is compatible with DeWalt’s 20V MAX tools. According to DeWalt, the trimmer features a high-output motor that can produce up to 2800 strokes per minute with its 22-inch hardened steel laser-cut blades, making fast, clean cuts. A 1-inch cutting gap works perfect for some thicker cuts.

It can be stored fully extended or fold the trimmer down 180-degrees. A shoulder strap is included, which is handy when your working to control fatigue with the 7.9-pound trimmer and it also assists in storage.

 Along with the rechargeable battery, an AC desktop charger is included.

The DeWalt 20V MAX XR Brushless handheld blower ($199) raises the game from their previous model (DCBL720P1) working at 90MPH, to the new blower (DCBL722P1) hitting speeds of 125MPH with an output of up to 450 cubic feet per minute with the included concentrator nozzle.

The battery-operated tool clears your yard of debris as easy as walking around. The axial fan design maximizes air output and run time with a brushless motor. Carrying is easy with it’s ergonomic designed and light weight (5.43-pounds).

The new blower has a variable speed trigger for control and a handy speed lock for easy and accurate control. Since the motor speed affects the noise level of the motor, it’s nice to keep it at a low speed at times for an easy cleanup in near silence. But it is worth noting, even at full volume, the new blower has a low noise output maximum of 66 dB.

As for the battery life on both of these, after several test runs and charges, I’ve had no problem. The battery life is great but an extra battery is always good to purchase for bigger jobs.

www.dewalt.com 

If your dad is like any in my family, the ideal gift is a great meal, which he prepares on his grill with a new cooking tool.

This year, Cave Tools, improved on an already great product with the updated Cave Tools Meat Claws, now made with an extra sevant BBQ fork to shred and carver for your grilling masterpiece.

The company was started in 2013 with the goal of creating superior barbecue and cooking tools backed by the best customer service in the industry. After dealing with them for several years, I can say first-hand they have achieved these goal.

The extra fork was designed so shredding meats like slow cooked pork can be done easer and with a thinner results from the seven hooked tips. While holding it, the claw is solid, more than twice the weight of every other model on the market so it feels really nice in your hands, according to Cave Tools. 

I know is worked with ease (full disclosure, my neighbor did the cooking and smoking) but I did the clawing. 

They are available in two colors, premium merlot and premium black for $14.99 each and are dishwasher safe.

The Cave Tools stainless steel scraper certainly makes cleaning a grill easy.

The scraper has a handle in the middle to scrape grates for almost every grill on the market. Specially crafted grooves for scraping round, v shaped, or square grill smoker or oven grates are easily with easy from the pocked sized tool

As mentioned above, I put these new tools to the test while my neighbor was cooking and while waiting for the meal to finish cooking, I did make use of the grill scrapers bottle opener on the end of the grill tool. Someone had to stay cool with a cold refreshing beverage while the cooking was being done and obviously test out the functionality of the opener, which worked to perfection.

After a perfect scraping and cleaning of the grill, the Cave Tools stainless steel scraper, it dishwasher safe.

https://cavetools.com $9.99

GADGETS :: June 3, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Does it work? That’s a critical question when thinking about a waterproof case for any electronic device. There’s no second chance. It must work on the first and every try.

So cautiously I tried a few Catalyst waterproof case for several of the latest iPhones. Before I put the phones in the cases, the cases felt solid, yet not bulky. Catalyst is known for making durable products to protect devices in extreme situations.  

I wouldn’t consider my backyard pool extreme, but water is water. So knowing it’s somewhere many others will go this summer, with my iPhone in a Catalyst case inside my swimsuit pocket, I proceeded to jump in the pool. I swam around a little, came up and made a call like I never went in the pool.

Catalyst cases provide full protection against water, drops, dust and dirt. The range of how deep they can be waterproof or dropped depends on the case. I used the Catalyst waterproof case for the iPhone 11 Pro ($89.99) with a waterproof rating of IP68 and constructed with an impact-resistant and scratch-proof polycarbonate, which allows up to 33-feet of waterproof protection and military standard 810G drop proof protections of up to 6.6-feet.

 The case consists of two parts, a back panel with silicone seals, which seals and snaps into the font plate to form a waterproof connection. For cleaning, Catalyst recommends washing with soap and water as well as disinfecting it with 70 percent alcohol.

Using volume controls, the charging port and even the speaker is possible. A waterproof tab protects the Lightning port; fold it out when needed, snap it back when you’re done. For audio, the bottom of the case has patented True Sound Acoustic Technology allowing for perfect  sound to get out and the phones microphones can hear you for perfect calls. Essentially all the phone’s functionality worked as expected.

The back has a clear hard coated covering over the phone’s optical lenses and one of the most critical features to make the phone work perfect is the integrated touchscreen film. A wrist lanyard is included.

You have to have a lot of trust to take your pricey device in water; the Catalyst waterproof cases make that trust easy for iPhones as well as similar products for AirPods and iPads.

www.catalystcase.com prices vary by device

Satechi’s new powerful 108W Pro USB-C PD desktop charger delivers maximum power to most anything needing a charge and is build with the ports people need for today’s devices.

More and more devices, like laptops and tablets, are switching to USB-C so it’s nice to see a company like Satechi understand that and deliver a great multi-device charging accessory a modern charger to address those needs.

It’s equipped with dual USB-C power delivery ports (90W and 18W) and two standard USB-A 3.0 ports (12W).

After unpacking it, with my own cables I had my MacBook and a portable battery charging in the USB-C ports and my iPhone and Jabra earbuds changing in the USB-A ports. 

The compact (4.75-by-1.19-by-3.13-inches) high-speed power bank includes a 4-foot  AC power cord to power the black/space gray charger.

https://satechi.net $79.99

The Kangaroo Water + Climate Sensor is a great device to send you alerts, which could potentially save you a small fortune.

When it comes to smart home devices, easy setup is the key, along with working well and the price. The sensor works with the Kangaroo Security companion app to detect problems and send instant alerts if water is detected in areas it shouldn’t be along with changing temperature and humidity.

Temperature and humidity readings show you a lot, considering if your thermostat is consistent in settings, if the sensor detects a big change, something is wrong. A push notification to your smartphone will alert you of the temperature change or if water as little as 1MM is detected.

The sensor works on its own and does not require a hub, connecting directly to your existing 2.4GHz Wi-Fi.

The 3.93-by-1.65-by-0.7-inch device with a white finish can be put under a sink, appliance, toilet  or anywhere that water might be unwanted. A pair of included AA batteries will keep it running for about a year.

You make the choice, get this for $29 to detect a leak right away, which can probably be mopped up. Or have a flood, call the plumber, get new floors and baseboards. It’s an easy decision in my mind.

https://heykangaroo.com $29.99

 

GADGETS :: May 27, 2020


by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Even with the lockdown starting to lift, our hours at home are more than ever, so what better time to turn some of those great, priceless photos you have stored on your iPhone into a coffee table photo book. Think of vacations, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries or just a selected period of time. Any group of images will work.

Storing photos digitally is the way go compared to the closet full of prints my mom had in shoe boxes.  If you’re like me, you have photos taken over the course of time in your iPhone, which when combined would make a great photo book to give the images a permanent, personalized home that’s easily accessible.

I recently did just that with a Motif, using the photo roll on my iPad, which is synced with my iPhone to produce a hardcover 24-page 11-by-8.5-inch book.

To start the project, the first thing I did was find all the photos for the subject of my book (I chose my first boat as my theme) and put them in their own folder the iOS photo app. 

Next, I got the Motif iOS for iPhones or iPad or the Motif for macOS app for laptop or desktop. Once downloaded, choose the type of book you want among sizes; hardcover choices are 13-by-10, 11-by-8.5, 10-by-10 and 8-by-8 inches. Softcover sizes are 11-by-8.5, 8-by-6 and 8-by-8 inches.

After creating my account, using the app was easy once I selected my photos for the book.  The app connects to your photo folders, where you choose what you want in the book. Overall it’s an easy app to navigate with a user-friendly dashboard and screen shot examples of what all the choices will look like

I let the Motif app organize the images, which took just no time at all. According to Motif, the app uses Its smart technology to select your very best images with optimal focus, clarity, lighting, people, image orientation, panoramas, and more.

In a few steps, the app evaluated image content of my selections and then gave me a screen with all the images and checkmarks for the choices the software thought were best.

I thought the automation gave me a great starting point, but it also allowed for customization so I did change a bunch of things like the order of a few pictures and swapping out a few pictures entirely. The app made it easy to make these changes.


Next was the choice of the book theme; you’ll see samples of each image, how many on a page with different layouts and designs. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s whatever you like and want.

After you choose the book style, it gives you a full layout of the book with the chosen  images.

You can re-crop the images or change them entirely for full customization. Either is simple to do. Other options include adding type or text, background colors, professionally designed themes and patterns to the entire project, all left pages, all right pages or alternating.

The high quality covers can be personalized with a photo and a title on the front and side spine. Overall, I thought the quality of the produce was of high standards including the premium paper and the entire craftsmanship of the album.

A few days later, the book of memories arrived at my doorstep, encased in a protective sleeve.

Motif states on their home page: ‘’Your Best Memories Just Got Better’’. I can absolutely agree after I had my completed book. The only problem is now I have a few more books I need to do, but I have the time.

www.motifphotos.com prices vary based on book sizes

GADGETS :: May 20, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Despite everything else, the summer kicks off this Memorial Day weekend and there’s some great gadgets to ensure your fun in the sun has perfect sound,  is well-charged and even keeps your beverages chilled.

Ultimate Ears Hyperboom is party ready with the most powerful sound I’ve seen from a portable wireless speaker. Yea, it’s big with a 14.33-by-7.5-by-7.5-inches size, but a carrying handling makes the 13-pound speaker portable.

With booming bass, the party-happy speaker has a wide dynamic range to bring music to all ends of your party. During my testing, trust me that my neighbors heard Jimmy Buffet playing loud and clear several houses away.

The USB rechargeable 24-hour battery charges in 2.6 hours and the Hyperboom has  adaptive EQ so it reads the environment and automatically adjusts the sound to fill any space.

With the latest Bluetooth, it can store and remember up to 8 paired devices so playlists can come from many sources. A splash-proof IPX4 lets it sit poolside and the BOOM app lets you customize the sound and more.

A top sided one-touch control button changes the music controls the volume and accesses music services. Covered ports include a USB charge out, optical input, aux input and power.

www.ultimateears.com $399.99

Size wise, the Jabra Elite active 75t true wireless earbuds are small enough to fit in each ear but deliver powerful and simply fantastic sound with innovative features. 

Jabra’s new HearThrough technology lets you use a slider to adjust how much of the outside world you want to hear. It’s pretty amazing how easy and well it worked in different environments. 

The durable earbuds with 6 mm speakers and passive noise cancellation in each side are summer-ready IP57-rated, which actually makes them fully waterproof up to 1-meter so workout sweat and splashes are not a problem. With the included storage USB-C charging case, they will last for up to 28 hours of playback, which is also aided by a low-power Bluetooth 5.0 chipset and an intelligent power management system.

Jabra’s latest technology, Jabra MyControls will allow for full customization in each ear and Jabra MySound creates an innovative customizing experience for the sound for specific users.

Auto power on/off and auto pause music are some of my favorite features and four built-in microphones make them great for handsfree calls. Access to voice assistants are made with a touch of a button on an earbud. There’s also an option (additional $30) to add a wireless charging case.

www.jabra.com $199


Other great gadgets to round out the summer season include the Kanex GoBuddy+. It’s built with a bottle opener surrounded by a USB cable with a standard USB-A port on one end and an Apple certified Lightning ChargeSync cable on the other.

When the cables are not in need it tucks away in the perimeter of the opener. The tangle-free cable extends to 6-inches and a carabiner clip is included for attaching to a belt or backpack.

www.kanex.com $3.99


Pelican Products, yes the same company that manufactures the world’s elite high-performance protective cases, has launched a lineup of rugged-and-ready tumblers specially designed to withstand the rigors of everyday life. 

The new Pelican Dayventure Tumblers are available in three sizes 10-, 16- and 22-ounces ($19.95, $24.95 and $29.95, respectively), with a choice of five colors (black, canyon red, pacific blue, seafoam and silver) with a sweat-proof powder finish. Each will fit 99 percent of all car cup holders and will take care of your beverage’s cold or hot retention.

Each are made with 18/8 pro grade stainless steel, vacuum-sealed and double-walled to withstand the regular bumps and drops of everyday life and to meet the standards Pelican is known for. A built-in loop makes for easy backpack attachment.

www.pelican.com 

Portable power is a must for any season and there’s none more ready for sand, water and adventures than the myCharge Adventure H20 15000 mAh portable charging battery.

With an IP67 waterproof rating, it can withstand dirt and dust as strong as any and water to a depth of 3-feet for up to 30 minutes. The exterior is built with a shockproof  rubber finish and a built-in carabiner keeps it within reach.

The battery has 15000 mAh making it ideal for up to 8 extra charges for the average smartphone battery according to myCharge. It can power wireless speakers, digital cameras, watches or anything else needing some power on-the-go. There’s 2 built-in USB ports and 2.4A of output for power hungry tablet.

Other features include smart-sense technology to ensure device compatibility and safe cell for safe charging.

www.mycharge.com $59.99

GADGETS :: MAY 13, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

With so many professionals switching to work at home lifestyles, Jabra’s timing couldn’t be better with the recent release of the Evolve2 65. The office headset has every feature you’ll need, including outstanding audio quality on both ends of the call.

Jabra has always been an industry leader with their audio headsets’ superior battery life and the Bluetooth Evolve2 65 is no different with specs listing up to 37 hours of use per charge. If that’s not enough for your meeting, I’ll say it for you, you’re meeting is too long, way too long.

Getting a full USB charge for 37 hours of use takes 90 minutes and with the fast charge feature 15 minutes of charging will be good for 8 hours.

The Evolve2 65 is equally a headset to receive audio and hardware with three strategically placed powerful professional microphones in the headset (one in the right ear cup and two in the movable boom arm) for your verbal participation.

Another feature Jabra always incorporates is comfort, which is the case here. The soft memory foam cushioned ear cups mold to your head so they can be worn comfortably for hours.  Inside the headset is a 40 mm speaker for each ear, with audio quality playing music in my ears with the highest standards of clarity or listening to meeting voices I can understand the first time.

The way Jabra has angled the ear cups helps with passive noise cancellation to block out your surroundings. I wore the headphones in and around my house and then outside to expose myself to as different noise environments as possible in a short time. The PNC worked great, just as Jabra calls it to “Soundproof your ears.”

With the free Jabra Direct Software companion app, it’s easy to personalize the headsets music and calls and keep your headset registered for any updates.

I didn’t have any straight forward work conference calls, but I did manage a Zoom call with some friends who felt I would get tossed out of the weekly happy hour if I kept upping the technology game with better equipment like the Evolve2 65’s to make me sound better.  

So then I used it to make a standard call and the first thing I was asked was “did you get a new phone?” In this case I haven’t; it was the headset but that was all I needed to know about the superior quality.

A really cool feature Jabra has added to the headset, a Busylight, can be viewed as a built-in security guard. The red light is built into both sides of the headset, automatically activated and visible from any direction. This warns anyone in your area that you’re on a call if they want to nag you about lunch or something else not worth being interrupted over. The Busylight can also be activated manually with a push of a button.

Bluetooth Pairing is easy, and can be done with multiple devices but only one at a time. The Jabra Evolve2 65 headset is certified for Microsoft teams.

A stereo model is $249, mono is $239. A charging stand can be added for either for $50 more. You’ll also have to specify USB-A or USB-C for connectivity.

www.jabra.com 

Another great device for current quarantine and isolation lifestyles (and even perfect for when we are all set free) is the clckr grip and stand case.

The patented phone stand and hand grip works on flat surfaces in portrait and landscape angles or in your hand with a firm, secure hold.

Overall it’s pretty simple. There’s not a lot to it, yet it works perfect and doesn’t cost much _ a perfect gadget in my mind. Think of a PopSocket, which I never was a fan of, only better. 

You have a choice of several colors and pattern cases and grips available as a package or individually choose from for matching any personality.  The grips can be applied directly to a case or right to the phone with the included clear sticker. 

The cases are drop tested 6.6-feet and are listed as wireless charging compatible. 

www.clckr.com bands start at $14.99, case/band combos $29.95

GADGETS :: May 6, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

True, those incredibly popular true wireless white earbuds are great, but are they the best? If I was going to give another pair, which gives them a run for the money, the nod goes to Sennheiser and the new Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds.

And before I get into details, the Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are available in black and now in white.

I’ve said in this space many times, Sennheiser doesn’t miss on headphones, earbuds or anything with sound quality. And add the Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds to the list; they delivered and exceeded any expectations I had for the compact, portable sound machines.

The second generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum true wireless series produces crystal clear audio from 7 mm dynamic drivers. For days I left the sound as is right out of the box since it seemed perfect. 

Then with the built-in equalizer and Sennheiser’s smart control App (iOS and Android), I tuned the sound for a more personalization to my ears for the variety of my playlists. The personalized sound gives each user an option to make it what works best for them and goes so far as choosing which ear you tap to answer a call (microphones on both ears).

With Active Noise Cancellation technology on, much of the outside noise is blocked so you hear what you want. Specifically, Sennheiser describes it as when greater situational awareness is needed, the Transparent Hearing feature lets you blend in outside ambient sound at a touch, so you can have natural conversations in comfort without needing to remove the earbuds.

The new true wireless earbuds are designed with comfort for all-day use and have improved ergonomics, 2 mm smaller size than the previous model. Wearing them all day was no problem for me; I finally took them out after 7 hours of playback time to give the built in Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries a charge in the portable USB-C charging case. 

With the case, you’ll get a total of about 28 (7 from the earbuds, 21 more from the case) hours of on the go power to keep them playing. One and a half hours of charging will give you a full charge or if your need something faster, 10 minutes of charging will get you and hour and a half of playback. 

Touch controls on both earbuds are customizable to control handsfree calls, music selections, pausing and volume. Voice assistants have a one touch access. On the outside of the slick looking earbuds, with a high-quality metallic finish, is the iconic Sennheiser spin design. On the bottom side are gold-plated charging pins, which make contact with the charging case.

With auto-pause, just take the earbuds out of your ears and the music stops, put them back in and it starts again. 

Four sets of silicone ear adapter sets (XS/S/M/L) are included to ensure the right fit. With an IPX4 rating they are splash resistant.

https://en-us.sennheiser.com $299.95

Charging is just a way of life, home, work, play and even hospital bedsides. Different chargers for Apple Watches are one area that has blossomed into a great variety of accessories,  

When I got my hands on Satechi’s new USB-C Magnetic Charging Dock for Apple Watch ($44.99), I knew it was a winner.

Not only does it fit the bill for charing, but it fits my favorite category of ready for travel with its small compact size. The 1.73-by-2-by-0.45-inches, 0.31-pounds sized charger features an Apple Watch certified charging plate in squared device with a space gray aluminum finish. 

One side has a USB-C connector, which connects to any USB source providing power. Thats it, there nothing to wind up or tie together.

First and foremost, the charing works perfect.  With its USB-C connection built in, it plugs directly into your computer, USB-C tablets, AC wall plug or with an extension cable like the Satechi USB-C to USB-C extension 9-inch cable ($12.99) to give it a little extra reach.

$44.99

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close