Archive for June 2017

Gadgets :: June 27, 2017

By Gregg Ellman

snap!pro_feature_lensThe bitplay SNAP! 7 iPhone case system is a solid and affordable way to use the iPhone’s digital photography features to create a true photography experience.

I’ve always maintained a smartphone does great as a camera but still can’t replace the features and quality of a DSLR system. The bitplay system starts with a nice case, which would be great even without the lens system. But if you get the case, you have to get the lenses to make this system rock.

20161112_scenario_features_thumb_restThe case ($49.99) features a great add-on grip for a better ergonomic camera fell. It allows you to hold with one hand in a way so your fingers won’t block the lens. The cases gives you an actual shutter button that works through the volume button, giving the feel of a natural position like you have in point-and-shoot cameras.

It’s built with a dual-layer construction combining soft TPU shock-absorbing inside the case and a hard polycarbonate outer shell.

There’s also a thread to attach a tripod and a wrist strap, which can be upgraded or you can attach your own. You can still use it as a phone with the case and grip attached.

all_in_1_lensesThe lens are interchangeable and screw into the case for a secure hold and are built with pro-level optics for enhanced clarity. The lens system includes a full frame fisheye/macro ($34.99), circular fisheye/macro ($34.99), standard wide angle/macro ($24.99), 3X telephoto ($39.99) and a variety of accessories. There’s also an HD wide angle EF 18 mm lens with cinema optics for $99.99.

lens_fisheyeIf you’re not familiar with the different fisheye lenses, the circular fisheye is exactly that. It gives you a round image, with black filling the edges of the image. The full frame fisheye produces a standard rectangle image, with a curved fisheye effect.

I tested the system at a simple family outing, which I thought would a common setting for people to use the system. I spent the day using the full frame fisheye, telephoto and the 18 mm.

hd_18mm_lensAfter using the lenses for a while and then switching back to just the phone’s bare lenses, I felt like I was missing something. So I went back to using the lenses, mostly the fisheye, since it’s about 3X wider than the existing lens. The 18 mm was impressive with its higher quality optics, enabling you to see very little distortion on the edges.

The 18 mm has a much higher construction quality than the other bitplay lenses. They describe the durable lenses construction: “the lens hood, body and cap are made from reinforced metal with a high-strength dust-proof seal, and our rigorous production process ensures that each lens is optical perfection.”

The system definitely gives you more of a photography feel and enhances the images with the wide and telephoto optics.

The standard fisheye/macro and the wide angle/macro are two-piece lenses. You snap the top optic off to remove the fisheye and the lens becomes a macro.

All of these lenses are constructed with high quality aluminum and include a storage pouch.

The Snap!7 case is available for $49.99, available in white or black for the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 6, 6S, 6 Plus and 6S

Gadgets :: June 21, 2017

By Gregg Ellman

fabriq_stars_frontLast year Amazon allowed third parties access to the Alexa code, enabling production of more voice assistant gadgets.

The latest Alexa voice-assistant gadget to make my morning coffee is the Fabriq portable Wifi Bluetooth speaker. Before the speaker was turned on I was impressed with the size, 3.15-by-3.15-by-3.15-inches, 10.6 ounces and style, portable enough to toss in a backpack and even fit in some cargo pants pockets.

If you’re not familiar with Alexa, she is a personal assistant who can do a growing number of smart home control commands. Just press a button on the Fabriq and the assistant performs your command. It’s really that easy.fabriq_aloha_back

It also works as a standalone device without an Amazon Dot or Echo.

Voice assistant features pop up daily, so if ordering a pizza, adjusting the thermostat or turning on your surround system with a voice command aren’t enough, wait until tomorrow.

Oh, I do have to add that this is a nice sounding speaker (5w) with the great clarity and sound you want. And if you are shopping for a simple, small portable speaker, this would make a great choice.

A few other features of the Fabriq include a 5-hour build-in rechargeable battery, cool exterior fabric finishes, and the ability to connect multiple speakers for a multi-room system with each having Alexa controls. $49.99

starbrick-march-133What got my attention when reading about the new Starbrick Be4 earbuds was that they are made with Beryllium, which the company states is the fourth lightest metal element and four times stronger than steel.

There was also something I hadn’t heard of: they are the newest type of Beryllium earphones and as far as my memory can stretch, I don’t recall hearing about a Beryllium product, known as Be4 on periodic table.

Beryllium in the earbuds lowers the distortion at the highest volume without sacrificing the lows, mids, and highs.

So after these tidbits got logged into my brain, I just had to give them a try. Of course, facts like these can impress me all they want but it’s the sound that counts and that impressed as much as the technology.starbrick-march-55

I used the earbuds in three totally different environments; while biking, watching a movie on my iPad at 36,000 feet and poolside. I came away from all three equally impressed with the sound quality. Obviously I had background noise on the plane, so I just cranked up the volume to compensate. The clarity was consist and sound equally smooth at any level. This was the same while on the streets or poolside.

Starbrick stated, “The earphones’ dynamic driver with Beryllium diaphragm have a wide frequency response and provide a unique soundstage atmosphere.” I’m sure I can attribute my listening success at the variety of locations, volumes and music types to this.

Other features include an in-line mic control for handsfree calls, volume and music selections, a 3.5 mm gold stereo mini jack and choices of black, rose gold and silver. Each Be4 headset is individually handcrafted and subjected to stringent testing to ensure the optimum product every time. $179, available in August

When you have a simple product like the TwelveSouth BookArc, which is designed with an Applye-esque space gray finish to match their high fashion products and it works like a champ — you have a big winner.

The hardware is a vertical stand that turns a MacBook laptop into a desktop computer, assuming you have a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

Once the laptop is in the stand’s silicone slot, everything easily plugs in and you have a fully function desktop system. Plus, it takes up a lot less space vs a desktop computer. The bottom has a cable-catch design, so everything stays clean and organized.12s_bookarc2_macbook_spacegrey_cables_hires

Assuming you have this setup at work, when the day is done, just unplug everything, take the laptop home and you’re off with everything you might need.

According to Twelve South, “BookArc will work with most MacBook models – from the ultra light 12-inch to the new MacBook Pro Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C).” 449.99

Gadgets :: June 14, 2017

By Gregg Ellman

Typically when I unbox a gadget to test, I use it until it does what it’s supposed to or doesn’t do it – either way it doesn’t take that long. But after unboxing the Rova flying selfie, I couldn’t wait for the batteries to recharge and use it again.

The Rova might look like a drone and act like a drone but it’s not really a drone. It’s called a flying selfie, includes a camera and is shaped like a quadcopter. It has a 98-foot communication range, via the Rova WiFi network. Maximum height is 33 feet from launch.

A red button on the Rova gets it flying. Before I used it, I watched a video on the Rova site, where they have it taking off and landing in the palm of your hand. That was the first landing I tried and sure enough, there it was in my hand.

I rarely read manuals or instructions on gadgets (like everyone else) but I did this time and I recommend that to anyone using a flying object since there are safety issues.

It’s not as small and portable as a selfie stick but it’s certainly a lot more fun and provides a far great variety of images.

The camera has a wide angle lens and has image stabilization. Four propellers are enclosed in a polycarbonate frame, which you can use with or without bumpers.

The Rova app (App store and Google Play) controls the device, with settings for 12 megapixel JPEG photos or HD video in 360-degrees (MP4, 1080p@60fps, 1080p@30fps or 720p@120fps). Still images can be taken automatically or with a specific timed interval and there’s a flash built into the camera.

Out of the box it measures 8-by-8-by-1.4-inches and weighs 10 ounces. Included are a hard carrying case, a 16GB microSD card, two lithium ion batteries, charging cradle, USB cable and four disposable bumpers. Each battery is good for about 8 minutes of flight time and recharges in 90 minutes. $299

While the term USB is common in most everyones vocabulary, USB-C might draw some curiosity.

The oval-shaped 24-pin connector cable allows devices to be connected for transferring data and power and is slowly becoming an industry standard for Apple and PC systems. What I really like is there’s no up or down for the connection, like micro USB cables. Instead it’s similar in to the Apple Lightning connection, just plug it in.

This brings me to a new set of USB-C cable accessories from Ventev, which include durable AC wall outlets, car charger and durable, flat, tangle-free cables.

The wallport pd1300 charger ($44.99) has a single C connector, with folding AC prongs for an easy connection and storage. It supports power delivery up to 45 watts.

You get six feet of cable with the chargesync UBC-C cable ($29.99), with the C connections on both ends making it reversible to plug either end into your device or power source. The cables can be used with the dashport pd 1300 charger ($34.99), which plugs into any standard auto 6V (cigarette lighter) port.

And don’t let the new technology or the higher cable prices scare you; once you try them, you’ll see the speed, versatility and the durability Ventev is known for.

Invisible Shield, an industry leader when it comes to protecting the display on many of today’s portable electronic gadgets, has announced a new model for the slick looking Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones with its edge-to-edge HDR display.

The Invisible Shield Sapphire Defense Curve and Glass Curve install in seconds and fit perfectly with or without a case.

According to the company, the Sapphire Defense Curve ($59.99) is infused with sapphire crystals that provide a smooth, glassy feel so you get unbeatable scratch protection. It’s out of the box with EZ apply tabs and provides high-definition clarity along with seven-times shatter protection of an unprotected screen.

The Glass Curve ($49.99) goes edge-to-edge on the existing unprotected curved screen thanks to its meticulously designed composition. Once it’s installed the clarity makes you wonder if it’s there.

Both protectors come with a limited lifetime warranty, so if it gets worn or damaged during the lifetime of your device, you get a new one.

According to a recent press release, “In 2016, adult smartphone users in the U.S. spent about $16 billion repairing or replacing a damaged phone with the average cost being $162.” Knowing that, this is a great investment.

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