Archive for May 2019

Gadgets :: May 29, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

I’ve been grilling for years and love it. I’ve also been cleaning grills for years and hate it. The past few years I’ve used a power washer with good results but it’s still a chore. The Grillbot has been out for a few years but I didn’t now about it, so I’ll assume you didn’t know about the grill cleaning robot either.

Launched in early 1994 as the world’s first automatic grill cleaning robot to make the outdoor cleaning fun, easy, entertaining and even automatic.

Using it is as easy as any other robotic vacuum; just put the Grillbot on your grill, press a button and it cleans away.

Inside is a rechargeable battery to power three strong electrical motors, a rechargeable Lithium battery (AC adaptor included) and replaceable wire buttons. Extra stainless steal, nylon and brass brushes start at $14.95 for a set of three. The brushes are dishwasher safe.

There’s also a smart brain, driven by a CPU chip that controls the movement, speed, and direction of the brushes. An LCD timer can also be set to vacuum at night, when you’re home or anytime. Just set it, it cleans and you’re done. It seems that easy. The LCD also has a battery level indicator.

Grillbot suggests you make sure grill has cooled to 250 degrees Fahrenheit before using the Grillbot. A built-in sensor will sound an alarm and shut the vacuum down if the grill is too hot.

For charcoal grills, allow the flame to die down, open the lid and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. Also make sure the grill’s lid is closed while cleaning. According to Grillbot, it’s designed to work on infra-red, green egg-style, wrought iron, metal, gas, and charcoal grills.

A nice accessory to get is carry case for $19.95 for storage after cleaning. $129,95 but currently on sale for $89.95, available in black, blue, orange and red

We all like to cut cords but the fact is there is sound quality loss when doing so with so many of today’s products. But with the newly introduced Edifier S3000Pro Active 2.0 wireless studio monitor speakers you won’t hear a sound qualify reduction. 

The speakers connect through Bluetooth 5.0 allowing them to be positioned anywhere left and right within range without worrying about connecting the two speakers with cables. Using a proprietary technology, Edifier has crafted one speaker as the lead and the other as the follower in a way that makes the audio from both speakers match perfectly even though they aren’t wired together.

Inside the speakers are a 6.5-inch subwoofer and proprietary planar diaphragm tweeters. They deliver a room filling 256 watts total RMS.

Along with Bluetooth, other input types include line in, optical, coaxial and USB. A wireless remote IR control is great for volume, bass and treble

Sound junkies will understand the total power output provided by Edifier  as R/L (Treble): 8W+8W RMS | R/L (Mid-range and bass): 120W+120W RMS. $799 for two speakers and the IR remote 

Twelve South, one of my favorite Apple accessory companies, has announced updates to their first-ever product; the BookArc for MacBook. By simply switching out a custom insert, their flagship product from a decade ago is now compatible with the latest from Apple.

The BookArc stand holds your MacBook vertically to run it as desktop. Just slide your MacBook into the silicone slot, connect it to an external display, add a full-size keyboard and mouse to enjoy the comfort of a desktop setup.

The newest version of BookArc, which includes the custom fit insert for MacBook Air with Retina Display is available at the Twelve South website along with a list of other device compatibility. $49.99, available in silver and space gray

Gadgets :: May 22, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

We all have our pet peeves and one of mine is bugs. I hate ‘em.  I can have the best company with the best music playing on the world’s best Bluetooth speaker, but when those bugs invade, I’m done.

So when I got an invite to try a selection of Sawyer insect repellents I thought even though it’s not a gadget I typically cover in this space, it can help the effectiveness of the electronic devices we all enjoy.

The Sawyer line comes in bottles, sprays and lotions to protect us from the most basic flying and annoying insects along with those carrying lyme disease, west nile virus and yellow fever among others.

I’m not a camper but I did use it lakeside, which can always generate insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, and flies, especially with all the recent rain. Each product I tried, I’m happy to report, had a direct effect on keeping the music playing. Each one was pretty much odorless and after application did not have a greasy feel.

The 12-hour picaridin spray uses compressed air rather than aerosol so it can be spayed safely while holding it in any direction. It’s also labeled to not harm gear and equipment, but I’d always use caution when spraying electronics or anything with a power source. The picaridin is also available in individual lotion packets.

The premium insect repellent is available in an aerosol or trigger spray for clothing and gear and is advertised to be effective for up to 6 weeks.

I can’t medically endorse this or any other product will refer to this statement on the Sawyer site, “Sawyer’s Entire Line of Insect Repellents has been tested against and are effective on the Aedes Aegypti species which transmits the Zika Virus, Yellow Fever, and Dengue Fever as well as ticks that can transmit Lyme Disease.  Sawyer 20% Picaridin Topical Insect Repellent gear safe and is safe for use on kids as young as six months of age.” 

If you were ever going to get excited about a gadget for wireless smartphone charging, Moshi’s Symbus Q compact USB-C dock with wireless charging is it.

I’m a fan of multifunctional devices for both the usefulness and functionality and the amount of cords and space it saves by combing multiple devices into one.

One goal of the .57-by-2.83-by-1.26-inch dock is to give your laptop a desktop feel with all the ports and connection you’ll need. Any USB-C laptop can easily be connected to an HDMI monitor through the HDMI port, which supports 4K video and digital surround sound output to supported displays.

A pair of standard USB-A ports can connect most any computer accessory or your charging cable for non-wireless charging devices. Speeds with rates up to 5 Gbps, depending on the device plugged in.

The gigabit ethernet port lets you plug in a wired data cable to transfer up to 1000 Mbps.

The top of the Symbus Q dock is equipped for Qi enabled wireless charging, even with smartphone cases up to 5 mm thick, the wireless charging will work.

Everything I connected worked plug-n-play without software or even glancing at the instructions. A status LED glows while using Qi wireless charging.

Apple’s 7.5 W and Samsung’s 9 W fast charging is supported, according to the Symbus Q specs on the Moshi site. Fast charging is also supported for USB-C laptops (up to 60 W).

Plus, it looks great with its aluminum casing, topped with a cushioned, non-slip surface for safe charging. A power cord is included. $164.95

Gadgets :: May 15, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

House of Marley’s Exodus lightweight, over-the-head headphones are the company’s’ first release in their 2019 sustainably designed audio collection and even if it’s the last (which it won’t be) they are off to a great start.

Every time I see a product from the earth-friendly House of Marley, I marvel at the first class looks, environmentally friendly design and craftsmanship, obviously something they put a tremendous amount of effort into. 

The Exodus wireless (Bluetooth 5.0) over-the-head headphones are constructed with FSC certified wood, stainless steel, recyclable aluminum, natural leather, and includes a rewind fabric stash bag composed of organic cotton and recycled PET, according to a recent press release. I’m not a construction/materiel expert, so I had to seek help from Marley on specifics. 

The final product is light, with nothing but padded comfort on your head and ears. Inside the padded ear cups with memory foam are 50 mm Hi-Definition drivers, which deliver the music crisp, clean and clear and bass. Controls are simple, with buttons on the outside of the ear chambers.

They charge in just two hours for up for 30 hours of use with USB-C charging and a foldable design for portability. If you want a direct connection, a resilient braided aux cable is included. There’s also a built-in mic for hands-free comfort.

If you’re not familiar with House of Marley, it is connected to the famous musician  Marley name, who’s vision of great sounding music and dedication to preserving the planet is alive and well.

House of Marley gives back in a variety of ways, including Project Marley. A statement on their site states, “House of Marley is built on the principles of superior quality, sustainability and a commitment to charitable causes. We are driven to enhance lives through great product experiences as well as using proceeds from product sales to support global reforestation through Project Marley.”

As for the name Exodus, I think it’s a great assumption that it came from Bob Marley’s 1977 album named just that; Exodus. $199.99

I never heard of TaoTronics when they approached me about reviewing headphones. They seem to be a relatively a new audio brand that makes some budget conscious but good sounding variety of audio products. 

With their newest model of over-ear ANC headphones, the TaoTronics TT-BH046, you have a great sounding active noise cancelling headphones with a cost-friendly price.

The headphones have a padded, over the head headband and connect the speakers containing dual 40 mm drivers. Audio is clear at all levels, even with my ’70s and Jimmy Buffet play lists. My personal headphone preference is that there’s a good amount of bass but not an overbearing amount. These seem to hit it just right.

A switch controls the active noise cancelling, which reduces low frequency noise by up to 96 percent.

Bluetooth 4.2 connects the headphones to your music lists and a single micro USB 45 minute charge will give  you about 30 hours of playing time.  With hyper speed charging you can get another 2 hours with just a 5 minute charge.

For hands-free calls, there’s a built-in cVc 6.0 noise cancelling microphone. 

As for construction, the headphones seem solidly built, although using them long-term is the true test for that. The pleather earbuds sat on my ears with comfort for hours at a time and with solid construction of metal and plastic, combined with the solid sound, I’d say these are a great deal. $99.99

Gadgets :: May 8, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Twelve South’s PowerPic wireless charger is true to its name – it’s a wireless charger. But like many other cool and innovative products over the years from Twelve South, it doesn’t end there.

The desktop charger is also a wireless picture frame, which can display your device’s images on the smartphones display while the charging is going on, making it a display piece rather than just a phone sitting on the counter. Or, as Twelve South describes it, “See a family photo instead of a phone charger or cable.”

For the system to work, your smartphone must be wireless charging enabled. The PowerPic is built for most any Qi-compatible phone including the latest iPhones, and some Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixels. A list of compatible devices is on the Twelve South site. 

The Qi chargers delivers up to 10W of wireless power and will even work through most phone cases up to 3mm thick. A status light on the back will alert you when charging is complete and with its foreign object detections you’ll be alerted if the charging is being blocked by something in your case (credit card, etc.)

A five-foot USB-C to USB-A (original) cable to go into your USB wall plug/power source (not included) is included to power the frame. After it’s powered up, your 5-by-7-inch frame made from Zealand Pine (black or white) is ready to go.

Using the PowerPic is simple. Place your smartphone in the frame for charging to complete and then you can choose how to display the photos.  Run them through a slide show, have a single image or even match an image you put in the frame with an image on the phone. The possibilities are endless including just putting your phone on for charging or using it as a hands free stand to watch a movie.

On its own without charging a device, you’ll have a stylish contemporary picture frame, which will blend in nicely in any room. You don’t see the charger itself; it’s built into the frame behind the photo.

A metal stand is included, which also helps hide the cable running out of the back of the frame. $79.99

Remo+ has announced (and available now) the RemoBell S video doorbell. 

The smart home device has a wide field of view, high resolution, motion zone customization and a competitive price.

If you have a doorbell, no new wiring is needed. The RemoBell S gets its power from the existing wires, which operate at voltages between 16 and 24 VAC, allowing for faster-responding motion detection. 

For viewing motion recordings captured by the video doorbell, you get three days of free cloud storage; other paid options are available.

According to a recent press release, RemoBell S also features motion zone capabilities. Users can set RemoBell S to send notifications only when movement is detected in their selected motion zone, such as their porch or walkway. This eliminates irrelevant motion alerts from passing cars or pedestrians on the sidewalk. 

In addition, RemoBell S offers 180o vertical and horizontal viewing angles, full HD recording, two-way talk, clear night vision, on demand view from just about any smart device, bank-level encryption, weather resistance, and integrations with Alexa, Google Home.

Power kit and mounting wedges are also included. 


Gadgets :: May 1, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

USB-C has been out for a few years, but many know little or anything about it. My impressions is, if can you switch to it, do so. If anything, it is simple because the plug is easier to use than other versions of USB, thunderbolt, etc. 

Computers, smartphones and tablets are switching and I even managed to switch my wife to a new MacBook Pro with USB-C. Along with the connector, the speeds are equal or most often better than existing USB 3.0 speeds.

Accessories for the USB-C are way easier to find vs. just a year or two ago. The latest I tried from IOGear are the USB-C Docking Station with power delivery 3.0 ($179.95) and the Thunderbolt 3 six-slot card reader. Both expand your work station at home, office or while traveling.

Assuming you have the accessories to use with them, they are essentially plug and play and simplifies your cords, cable, connections and desktop clutter instantly. 

With the USB-C accessories, a single USB-C plug connects to your computer and now gives you a variety of ports and options to dock up to 10 devices. 

With the USB-C Docking Station with power delivery 3.0 you have an expansion dock, giving you a USB-C port with a100W pass-through to charge laptops and 3x USB-A 3.0 ports. Another USB-C port is there for data.

There’s an ethernet port, 3.5 mm audio input, SD/MicroSD memory card reader/writer, video options to support HDMI (4K), Mini DisplayPort (4K) or VGA (1080p) and dual video outputs for  via for mini DisplayPort for up to 1080p @60Hz3.

The bottom of the 13.78-by-2.96-0.39-inch desktop accessory has a silicon rubber pad so it stays in place and keeps the surface scratch-free.

The 8-in-1 USB-C Pocket Dock with power delivery 3.0 ($99.95) is a portable and pocket-sized version, with many of the same features, but not all.  It also has the 100 w  USB-C pass through for laptop charging, connects a VGA or HDMI display, SD/MicroSD card reader, ethernet and USB-A ports. 

It’s built with a rugged aluminum housing and has a detachable USB-C cable with hideaway storage is included.

Check the IOGear site for system requirements and compatibility. 

One of my favorite companies in the tech world always has been Garmin for portable GPS units (and also have an amazing App, which I use often).

Garmin’s DriveSmart 65 and Traffic, if for looks alone, is amazing. It’s built with a 6.95-inch diagonal edge-to-edge display and very responsive multi-touch screen with a 1024 x 600 pixel resultion.

Right out of the box it’s fully loaded to help you drive anywhere with preloaded street  maps. Using it with realtime directions for your destination, getting points of interest, landmarks and even showing where you can get your next meal. The software has TripAdvisor ratings and Foursquare points of interest. Garmin traffic will even suggest alternate routes when needed.

What I liked best is the voice-activated navigation. Just like voice assistants you may have heard of (Siri, etc) speak your commands of where you want to go and the Garmin maps it out. You’ll quickly get used to saying “OK, Garmin.”

You can also set your locations up (while you’re not driving of course) and then have the voice-activated navigation get you there. Bluetooth calling works with compatible smartphones. Driver alerts for school zones, tight turns and speed warnings are always helpful.

With the accompanying Garmin app, smart notifications can be setup. With built-in Wi-Fi, updates can be loaded into the GPS with ease.

A Vehicle suction cup mount, traffic receiver/vehicle power cable and a USB cable along with instructions are included. The DriveSmart 65 will work with the Garmin BC 30 wireless backup camera (sold separately). 

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