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GADGETS :: September 16, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

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.

www.Nixplay.com  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.

www.myearfun.com $59.99 or $49.99 at Amazon, available in black or white

GADGETS :: September 9, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

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.

www.scosche.com

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.

www.Jabra.com $449 in choices of matte black and beige, with a charging stand $499

GADGETS :: September 2, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

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.

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

www.ezvizlife.com $199.99

 

 

 

 

GADGETS :: August 26, 2020


by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

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. 

https://getrocketbook.com 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.

www.moshi.com $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.

www.twelvesouth.com 

GADGETS :: August 19, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

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

www.outdoortechnology.com

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. 

www.urbanista.com $149, available in black, pink, white and blue

GADGETS :: August 12, 2020


by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

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.

https://linearflux.myshopify.com 

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.

www.solrepublic.com $199.99

GADGETS :: August 5, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Ankers new Soundcore Rave Neo isn’t your typical pocket-sized Bluetooth 5.0 speaker after you see the numerous features along with strong sound.

The sound is delivered by a 4-inch woofer and 2-inch tweeter behind a black grill and didn’t disappoint in its debut right out of the box. The sound is what I’d call big time with a perfect bass with the speakers BassUp mode turned on and high volume levels (not enough to annoy my neighbors) listening to Jimmy Buffet lakeside.

With the Soundcore app and the Custom EQ, choose between three presets and a fully customizable EQ profile for perfect music to your ears. 

The Rave Neo has a front-side ring of LED mood lights, creating a nice visual experience and an added night time look. They flash to the sound of the music and if you have synced multiple speakers, the LED’s will also sync. The light modes can also be controlled with the app.

And if that’s not enough, more than 100 of the speakers can be linked with the built-in PartyCast Technology to sync the music. The first speaker connected becomes the primary, which is then the control for the others. 

So if you’re wondering if each individual speaker has to be controlled on its own for power, volume and lights, they don’t. Once you’re in the PartyCast mode, the primary speaker controls them all. Ankers Flare 2 is also PartyCast compatible, enabling it to be paired with the Rave Neo.

When you do have two paired and in True Wireless Stereo mode, they give you stereo sound with music in the left and right channels.

The top panel has the controls for the sound, including one for the BassUp mode. After hearing the added bass, I just left it on. It also lets you choose outdoor and indoor sound modes, which I left on outdoor in my testing.

Other controls are for your basic needs including music, Bluetooth pairing, handsfree calls, light mode and the PartyCast mode. Two mobile devices can be paired to a single speaker, but music can only be played from one at a time.

USB-C and standard connections for power, charging external USB devices, adding a USB storage device with content and a 3.5 mm auxiliary port are on the lower backside. These ports have a cover, when they are exposed keep it away from water.

You’ll get about 18 hours of playtime from the internal battery (varies on volume level) and it charges back up in six hours.

The speaker measures 8.58-by-8.58-by-13.78-inches with a weight of 7.7 pounds and has built-in handle for carrying or hanging. It’s built with an IPX7 waterproof level rating, enabling it to be in water for up to 30 minutes in up to 1 meter of submersion.

www.soundcore.com $99.99

As laptops get small in size one thing thats commonly eliminated is the ethernet port along with switching to USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 connections from standard USB-A. With the Plugable’s 2.5Gbps ethernet adapter connectivity to either is no problem.

Going wireless is not always wanted, especially to get faster wired connection speeds. One end has an ethernet port and the other has a USB connection cable with both USB-C or a standard USB 3.0 with an attached adapter. The standard USB-A adapter slips over the USB-C when needed and remains attached when using a USB-C connection.

The adapter is backwards compatible with compatibility listed with Windows 10, 8.x, and 7, macOS 10.7 and above, Linux Kernel 3.2 and above. It works plug-and-play on most of today’s computers; a driver may be needed with older operating systems.

The pocket-sized adapter supports speeds up 2.5 times faster than the 1Gbps standard when used with Cat 5e cabling.

https://plugable.com $54.99

GADGETS :: July 29, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

I doubt a year ago many people, including myself, would be interested in a portable UVC sterilizer wand to kill invisible bacteria germs. Fast forward to today and we all want one, and Monos has announced the new CleanPod portable and rechargeable UVC LED wand.

So how does it work?  I’ll tell you exactly how Monos explains it: “Ultraviolet C (UVC) light has a very short wavelength and very high energy. Wavelengths between 200–300 nm are considered germicidal, as they are strongly absorbed by nucleic acids. UVC light is proven to be highly effective in killing bacteria and other pathogens, by scrambling their DNA or RNA (their genetic code). Once their genetic code is broken, they can no longer function.”

Using it is simple: Make sure the CleanPod’s  (8.6-by-1.3-by-1.5-inches) internal 2000 mAh battery is charged with the included USB-C to USB-A charging cord, slide open the safety lock and power button. 

Keep the CleanPod pointed and positioned a little over an inch away from the surface you want cleared of bacteria and sweep it back and forth for at least 30 seconds. Since it’s UVC LED, there’s no mercury so it powers up instantly. Pressing the power button again turns it off; a built-in 3 minute timer also shuts it off. 

CleanPod claims to kill up to 99.9% of bacteria living on surfaces and of course we all want to know how it works on killing COVID-19 bacteria. 


Monos supplied me with this statement concerning the current virus. “We have done rigorous testing for the CleanPod and have documentation proving its effectiveness at scrambling and killing the DNA of 99.9% of common bacteria and common pathogens.

“There have been many tests proving the capability of UVC light to kill a variety of viruses and bacteria and companies are now beginning to test UVC light against the coronavirus, as well. Due to the evolving nature of the virus we cannot guarantee the effects on certain virus strains, but Monos is committed to monitoring ongoing tests and will keep our customers updated on findings as we receive them.”

A downloadable PDF of the CleanPod’s official test report is on the Monos site.

This is not a replacement for social distancing, hand washing or any of the other sanitary habits we all need to be consumed with, but the CleanPod is a nice addition to the list The portability makes the CleanPod great for using it outside your home on keyboards, door knobs, in restaurants, shopping and while traveling.

There are safety instructions including a warning to not use CleanPod on skin or eyes with people or animals since the UVC light is harmful to all of them.

A lanyard and storage bag are included.

https://monos.com $90

Trek Bicycle has launched the Bontrager JetWaveCel bike helmet for kids. It’s the first  kids’ helmet to feature WaveCel, a leading technology in the protection against cycling-related head injuries.

Trek’s WaveCel technology goes through a three-step change in material structure to absorb energy and provide protection for heads on impact.

With the technology built into the inside of the helmet, the way it works as described by Trek, the cells flex to produce initial frictional forces, then the cells crumble like a car bumper on impact. Then the WaveCel glides to redirect energy away from your head.

The helmet has a cool-looking skater-inspired design with Fidlock magnetic buckle for quickly, easy and safe on and off. Inside is thick helmet pads, which can be easily removed for cleaning and then reinstalled.

Two sizes of the Jet are available, child (48-52cm) and youth (50-55cm), both have a Dialed Fit System on the lower back of the helmet to adjust it for a comfortable and secure fit.

Each helmet comes with a crash replacement guarantee to provide a free helmet replacement if it’s involved in a crash within the first year of ownership.

A sticker pack for kid-friendly customization is also included.

www.trekbikes.com $100

GADGETS :: July 22, 2020

by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

The resurgence of vinyl records never happened in my house, simply because they never left. If the comeback hasn’t reached your world, the Crosley’s Mini Cruiser and RSD3 turntables are a great way to start.

They won’t play any 33 or 45 rpm vinyl records; instead the portable record player plays 3-inch records. Personally, before I put my eyes on the mini turntables at a trade show I had never heard of them or the 3-inch records. While they aren’t commonly stocked at stores, the pocket sized records are easily found. Just do an online search, you’ll see.

The whole package with the mini turntable and records is eye-catching, some might say cool, other say cute, both with a retro look. 

The Mini Cruiser (5.79-by-8.15-by-3.35-inches) is truly portable. When it’s closed, it has a carry handle like a mini suitcase. This makes it a mini version of the bigger record playing Cruiser record player for 33 and 45’s, also built in a suitcase style.

It’s really amazing when you see them perform with all the features packed inside, including a clear dust cover, adjustable pitch control, built-in stereo speakers, a port to connect your headphones or wire it to a stereo system. There’s also a Bluetooth transmitter to connect portable speakers.

When I unpacked it and a few sample 3-inch records, I can honestly say without asking her, my wife was tired of hearing Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls of Fire being played. I played it over and over at home and took it with us to show off for many friends during socially distant gatherings.


The silver toned RSD3 mini belt-drive turntable, $89.95, is also way cool and will be the talking centerpiece when you display it with a your sound system. It also plays the 3-inch records with sound coming from built-in speakers or use the 3.5 mm auxiliary port for output to headphones or a sound system.

Measuring just 6.16-by-4.50-by-3.25-inches, it’s built with a pre-mounted Audio Technica AT3600 moving-magnet cartridge and adjustable pitch control.

Sound from both of the mini turntable’s built-in speakers wasn’t room filling but don’t get fooled by that. It was way better than I expected and after I connect both to external speakers, they were a listening joy.

Power comes from a microUSB connection or four AAA batteries for the RSD3 and four AA batteries for the Cruiser. For true portability, I used the USB connection with my high powered portable USB battery. Both play the mini records at a 33 1/3 rpm speed.

A nice accessory for the mini turntables is the stylish Crosley mini record carrier case ($29.95), which holds 10 3-inch records. It’s a well made vinyl-wrapped case with metal hardware, a carry handle and rubber feet.

www.crosleyradio.com


We always need more power and when it comes to USB-C devices, the small and powerful Aukey Omnia 100 watt PD GaN charger ($54.99) is the way to go. It’s part of Aukey’s new Omnia line, which includes five chargers with various combinations of USB-C and standard USB ports. 

The charger has a single USB-C port giving you 100 watts of power for charging, producing quick charging for powerful laptops and smaller smartphone batteries. All chargers are not the same, even if they all power and charge your devices. Specifically for the new Aukey Omnia Series, they have Aukey’s latest OmniaChip, which makes use of gallium nitride (GaN) to pack more power into the chargers.

And if you’re one who is on the go, you’ll love the size (2.2-by-2.2-by-1.2-inches), about half the size of the Apple MacBook charger I got with my last laptop purchase. Foldable plugs help with the portability, fold them out when you need to plug it into any standard AC outlet and fold them in when not in use.

https://aukey.com 

GADGETS :: July 15, 2020


by Gregg Ellman
(@greggellman)

Often I read about new security cameras and they seem to have one or two really cool features. Recently, I saw that had Hoop rolled out the Hoop Cam and Hoop Cam Plus, and they seemed to have everything I wanted.

Specifically,  high quality video, face recognition, a companion application for both iOS and Android, custom profiles, GeoFencing (my personal favorite security feature) and storage options for cloud or your own microSD memory cards. And it doesn’t end there, coming for  a really fair price.

Not long ago, setting up any home security system was complex, but not anymore.  Hoop makes it  as easy as it can get.

My setup began with the Hoop Cam Plus by downloading their app (iOS and Android), which included a security code sent to confirm  that you are you.

It then walks you through setting up a profile with simple step by steps instructions in the app for when you are home, away or in high alert. Different settings can be used for day or night, both with notifications.

The app will alert you if a new firmware version is available for the camera; update this if you get the message, it only takes a minute.

Every step I went to within the app was easy, which keeps the average users frustration levels down and in turn keeps the product from being returned. Setting up the profiles and rules was as easy as any camera I’ve setup.

When you do have clips to see, they are in a scrollable list for that day or you can go to a prior day. There’s a lot of great features, including integration with Google Home and Alexa, night vision and motorized 350 degrees motion panning and 45-degree tilting.

The Hoop Cam plus ($79.99) and Hoop Cam ($59.99) both feature 1080p wireless video streaming, night vision, motion-sensing technology and two-way audio from the camera to the app. A big different in the plus adds motorized 350-degree panning, 45-degree tilt.

As mentioned, storage can be done in the bottom side built-in microSD memory card slot with your own card or cloud subscriptions, which start at $12.99 per month for the first three cameras and $1.99 more for each additional camera.

One funny note, when the camera is plugged in for power with the included tangle free microSD cord, the camera looks like it goes through a stretching exercise, just as I do with my neck every morning. It’s really a self-check, but you’ll see.

Now I understand why Hoop is called “your clever little helper” on the Hoop site and boxes. Plus, they look cool –  true it’s a home security camera but with a fun, edgy, modern appearance so it doesn’t make your house look like a bank lobby.

https://hoophome.com Both cameras are available in red, grey and white

If you’re not a Photoshop wiz or just don’t have the time, Vivid-Pix Restore is a great one click software for image restoration of digital images.

It’s really straight forward, select your digital image and the software then gives you nine choices, each with a slightly difference correction of your original image. From there choose what looks best and save it. Batch-editing is also a choice for large quantities.

You can do further adjustments, which I didn’t because I liked the choices the software (Mac and Windows) gave me. But you can adjust the contrast, brightness, color and rotate/tilt. 

Obviously pictures needing to be brought back to life with the software have to be digital files but once you scan in your prints or slides, color or black and white, the results are almost magical.  

Within the preferences you choose the JPG quality, sharpening and other features, which are all done when you do the single click. Images can be saved as JPGs or TIFF format.

Each image takes seconds and what I liked from the dozen or so images I tried Vivid-Pix Restore’s patented AI image restoration on, it didn’t blow out the colors and whites like other auto setting on photo softwares I’ve tried.  Metadata can also be added to the images.

www.vivid-pix.com $49.99, a free trial is also available

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