Archive for October 2019

Gadgets :: October 20, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

It wasn’t that long ago that you needed a big clunky projector with a complex setup to project a movie outdoors. But no longer with the Nebula’s (a sub brand of Anker) Capsule Max, about the size of an oversized soda can and simple to set up. The small, portable projector can be a mainstay at your own home or dropped into your backpack to take to a friend’s house for movie night.

The high quality 200 ANSI lumen portable will project up to a rectangular 100-Inch picture with what is described on the product website as projected vividly detailed HD image  with a 1280 x 720p resolution in a 16:9 aspect ratio.

After reading the instructions for the setup (I rarely do but felt is was a good idea on this one) everything is pretty straight forward. But there are a bunch of settings and choices during the setup and play modes, which you are clearly explained in the manual. Using a big sheet of white background paper as my screen, I was impressed with the quality and how quickly right out of the box I had the Capsule Max working.

The projector has 1 second autofocus and keystoning technology, which in nutshell gives you a sharp picture from any angle instantly. The keystone correction is listed as auto vertical and manual plus/minus 40-degrees and worked great. However, it’s always a good idea to be as level as possible when setting up a projector. 

It’s recommended you keep the distance between Nebula Capsule Max and the projection surface between 23 inches and 121 inches to get a projection image between 20 and 100 inches.

Android 8.1 is the operating system, which enables you to have access to streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix or YouTube. The instructions point out that copyrighted content from Hulu, Netflix, and similar services can’t be mirrored or screencast. Instead just download and use the apps directly.

In addition, you can connect devices with digital content through USB or HDMI. I played a few TV shows from a USB flash drive and also stumbled across how easy it was to view photo albums. With WiFi (802.11b/g/n/ac) and Bluetooth 4.2 built-in, Airplay and other wireless connections and screen mirroring can be used.

The free Nebula companion app (iOS and Android) gives you easy access to streaming services and lets you can control your selections or use the included wireless remote which has control for volume, selections, lets you navigate on screen menus and lets you easily access mouse key mode. 

The bottom has a tripod thread, which I did use since my tripod has a built-in level.

The rounded projector has the lens on the front and controls for powering it on or off, Bluetooth connections and input ports on the backside. Both the power and Bluetooth have LED indication lights. Volume, navigation and other controls are on the top.

Inside the Capsule Max is a great sounding 8 watt speaker, which can also be used as a standalone speaker in Bluetooth speaker mode.  If you prefer your own external speakers or headphones they can be connected with a 3.5 mm audio cable into the AUX port or via Bluetooth. The remote has quick and easy controls to enter Bluetooth speaker mode

You’ll have about four hours of playtime from 9,700mAh 3.7V internal battery (a little less when using it on WiFi) and a power supply is included. The lamp should give you plenty of viewing with 30,000 hours of life. $399.49

Gadgets :: October 23, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

Like anyone else, I have my favorite companies and Think Tank Photo is certainly one. 

Think Tank Photo was founded by professional photographers and designers to create the most inventive and effective solutions for all photographic situations and since 2005 they have absolutely achieved that goal.

Their most recent product, The Retrospective V2.0 shoulder bag, has been upgraded with some great features while retaining what makes it a go-to bag for many professional, amateur and vacation photographers.

It retains the classic retro minimalist look, lighter and available with a brand new black colorway look.

Security is always a good thing to be aware of, especially when carrying around photographic valuables. The Retrospective V2.0 includes a new zippered opening cover under the main flap, which can be zipped open or close with ease.

While I had my gear on my shoulder and in use, having the bag sit on my other shoulder can make it vulnerable to wandering hands. With the new security, the flap zips shut the contents of the main compartment, which along with a Velcro seal of the main flap gives a nice sense of security along but with easy access when you need to open it.

When I first got my hands on the bag I saw a folded compartment on the side, which got me really curious about its function. Think Tank lists it as a collapsible water bottle pocket, and it works perfectly. But besides a water bottle, I found the compartment handy to access quick items like a flash or memory card wallet when working in the field.

Think Tank has improved its industry-leading Sound Silencer technology on the Velcro closures inside the main flap to ensure the bag opens and closes in silence when needed (think weddings, etc). This keeps the bag from broadcasting that screeching Velco alarming sound while working in a quiet environment.

The silencer flaps can instantly be pulled out of the main flap to cover the Velcro to silence them or tucked away to help keep the bag sealed while using the Velcro sealing.

A dedicated compartment will hold a laptop or tablet up to 15-inches, size dependent  on the model you choose from the five available.

The bag is loaded with other pockets, compartments, handles and removable modular dividers so you can customize the bag to fit your exact camera gear and accessories.  A luggage handle pass-through is on the back.

An adjustable non-slip strap is padded for comfort, a rain cover is included and keys can easily be attached with a carabineer.

The Retrospective V2.0 comes in five models to accommodate specific needs along with laptops and tablets up to 15-inches.  They range from the smallest Retrospective 5 V2.0. $149.75 and holds up to a 9-inch tablet and the biggest is the Retrospective 30 V2.0 $199.75 to hold up to a 15-inch laptop. All are available in black and pinsetone with sand-washed cotton canvas, water-repellant exteriors. 

The world’s first bottle cork speaker with LED lights.  Well, if it’s the first time you’ve heard that, it’s the same for me since it’s claimed to be the worlds first.

It currently on a Kickstarter fundraising campaign, so who knows if it will actually be available for purchase, but they have surpassed their financial goals, so I would expect to see it at some point.

The innovative Cork 2 product transforms any bottle into a speaker and according to parent company Leedeyeon in a recent press release, once corked to an empty bottle, it brings out a superbly rich sound, creating fun discoveries to be had with your friends.

According to the press release, Cork is a focused integration of Leedeyeon’s exclusive top-quality sound technology. Portable in size, it is designed to deliver music in 360° with a Woofer module built inside the speaker and is structured to transfer the sound to the bottle through the lower part of the speaker to render a clear and magnificent sound.

It’s promoted as perfect for travel, outdoor or a house party with great portability and to work with most any bottle; water, wine, beer, etc. Any way you use it I think it’s an innovative product with a lot of potential combining the worlds of many, including myself with a nice bottle of wine (always drink responsibly) and a speaker.

And with the need for stocking stuffers only around the corner…

The Cork 2 Bluetooth speaker and light is not priced yet, but the Leedeyeon Cork 1 speaker is currently selling for $69 on Amazon.

Gadgets :: October 16, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

You have a lot of choices in audio cables for connecting devices to get the best sound and performance. As a shopper, I’ve had this discussion with store employees who often tell me there are no difference between them.

Well, I’m here to tell you first hand from experience there is a difference.

The site, explains how audio cables transmit sound and the importance of audio cables — they provide the connection and the route by which the signal is transmitted.

You can read more about it if you want, but know there is a difference. You might not need the best, but there is a big difference from the top to bottom.

I recently tried a few cables from tech brand Austere’s new portfolio of home theater accessories, including audio and video cables.

As described by Austere, the HDMI-certified cables maximize home theater experience, three lengths including active HDMI at 5.0 m for optimal visual and audio performance.

The Audio cables have pure gold connectors, LinkFit connectors and grounded shields to reduce audio distortion.

I really stay away from putting down a product in this space, simply because I don’t feel like one user should have that much effect on a single product. But I was thrilled when Austere sent me an audio optical cable to test. I’ve gone through a few over the past year that connected my wall mounted TV to a sound bar. One came included with the products and a store brand replacement was offered when I told them about my issues. Neither has delivered what I wanted.

So I unboxed the optical cable sample as fast as possible and got it connected outside the wall for a fast sampling.  A few weeks later it’s still hanging outside the wall and ready to go on the other side since performance has been perfect. 

The optical WovenArmor cable made with Kevlar is flexible and can take some bending and curves and still perform like new (unlike other optical cables I’ve tried, which must remain straight). The Pure Gold connectors fit into my TV and sound bar securely without fear they will come loose.

The new line of cables includes connecting subwoofer cables, Audio Interconnect Cable, Banana Adapters, HDMI and more choices are on the way.

But if you understand one thing, there is a difference.

Prices vary by the type of cable and length, the 6.6-feet optical cable as tested is $39.99, the 16.4-feet V Series Subwoofer Cable is $79.99.

It wasn’t that long ago that you had to spend a lot to get a portable, nice sounding Bluetooth speaker. Often you had to sacrifice some sound quality.

I’ve had the Anker Soundcore Flare Mini, a cylindrical 360-degree speaker playing for a few weeks and it fits the bill for portability, sound and a fair price.

Setting it up and getting the sound going takes just a few seconds if you have it charged. A full charge of the 2600mAh battery should give you about 12 hours of sound.

As for the sound, I’m personally into clarity at decent volumes, I couldn’t remember the last time I blasted a speaker intentionally. With the Flare Mini, the sound was nice, smooth and crystal clear. I always make some adjustments on the sound with other apps but what’s important to me is the sound right out of the box, simply because that’s what almost every user will judge it by.

I poked around with a bunch of different playlists off of Apple Music and the Flare Mini didn’t disappoint. It’s built with IPX7 waterproof protection, which is stated by Soundcore to withstand rain, drinks, and even complete submersion for 30 minutes.

The 360-degree sound with BassUp technology is delivered from 10 watts of power from back to back 5 watt neodymium in a solidly built, portable and backpack friendly 3.4-by-2.8-by-5.6-inch body, weighing just 1.06-pounds.

If you get a Pair of Flare Mini’s, they can be paired with Bluetooth  to a single music source for an all-around stereo sound.

The bottom of the speaker has built-in LED lighting effects, for glowing effect to personalize the lights and sound to your music and party with eight individual LEDs and five lighting modes. $45.99

Gadgets :: October 9, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

What could be more timely than having the Addams Family greet you at the front door during the Halloween season (and in conjunction with the next week’s (October 11) release of MGM’s The Addams Family movie? 

They’re creepy and they’re kooky and now the first family of Halloween is at your doorstep, well, sort of. If you have a Ring Video Doorbell, you can download and install the iconic theme song/ring-chine to play when your Ring doorbell is pressed to activate.

According to Ring, there are two ways to use Ring The Addams Family Chime tone; be alerted on your phone via the Ring app, so your Ring notifications would be the Addams Family tone and set up your Ring Chime to play the tone in your house. 

Open the Ring app and tap the three bars in the top left corner to open the main menu and select devices and then the Chime or Chime Pro on your account. Then go to Audio Settings and Chime Tones where you’ll see a list of tones and then select the Addams Family tone and save changes. The complete and simple instructions are at the Ring site.

I have several ring devices already in use, so in my Ring app I choose my video doorbell and then went to device settings, alert settings and then to app alert tones, which gave me the Addams Family choice along with others including bats, creepy laugh and many others. 

The free Addams family tones will be available through November. 

When a product works as advertised and is affordable, it’s a score in my mind. The new Airtime Pro truly wireless ergonomic stem earbuds from IFROGZ are just that.

They are loaded with great features, but what’s first and foremost in importance is the sound, which is right on. Highs, lows and the right amount of bass is all there broadcasting from 5 mm drivers. I’m not a blasting music kind of guy, I prefer comfort and clear sound, which I’m getting from the Airtime Pro.

With the stem aspect, the extended hardware gives you a little piece hanging down (think similar to Apple AirPods) and gives me a little more secure and comfortable feel.

Controls are built into the earbuds and are accessed with simple taps to play or pause music, control volume, select tracks, answer crystal-clear hands-free calls with the integrated mics on each earbud; three taps will get you in touch with Google Assistant.

They feature USB-C charging with 20 total hours of battery life when you included the charging/storage case. Other features include IPX-4 sweat resistant making them great for yard work, biking or workouts, Bluetooth 5.0 and automatic pairing mode right from the case after the initial pairing.

With iFrogz’s Earbud Tips for Life limited lifetime warranty, if your earbud tips (not the speakers) get worn or damaged, they will replace them. The actual earbuds come with a one-year warranty to cover defective materials and workmanship and IFROGZ will replace or exchange them at no charge. $69.99 available in choices of back, blue or white

Trek Bicycle has announced its most advanced family of electric e-Bikes with the launch of the Allant+.

It’s touted as the perfect e-Bike for commuting in a healthier and more environmentally friendly option or just everyday riding.

Allant+ is available in both OCLV Carbon and Alpha Aluminum frame options and features Bosch Performance Line CX for speeds up to 20 mph or Performance Line Speed motors for up to 28 mph. 

In addition, they include Trek’s exclusive Removable Integrated Battery system, which fully encases the long-range 500Wh or 625Wh Bosch battery within the frame for sleek looks and tool-free, drive-side battery access.

The e-Bikes have a SmartphoneHub controller to transform a rider’s smartphone into their on-board computer. Once riders download Bosch’s COBI bike app they can charge up, make or take calls, listen to music, get turn-by-turn directions, and more, all from the ease of the handlebar. The SmartphoneHub will also display critical ride info even when a phone isn’t attached.


Among the many other features of smart integrated accessories are fenders, a rear rack and automatic lighting systems powered by the Bosch battery. Pricing ranges from $3,599.99 MSRP to $5,999.99 MSRP. 

Gadgets :: October 2, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

You can flip a coin for what’s worse to lose or misplace, your wallet or smartphone. Either can easily set you off into panic mode. Both are valuable and in most cases have irreplaceable content. 

Phones can be tracked and even disabled remotely but what about your wallet? For the most part you depend on finding it wedged in a car sear or hopefully an honest person would contact you after finding it.

Now we welcome to the world the Parliament Wallet ($79) from Ekster, which among other things lets your valuable contents be tracked worldwide. 

Ekster earlier this year called it the “first voice-activated smart wallet to date” in a press release, which I can only speak for myself as it’s the first I’ve seen. In a nutshell I can say it’s a really cool product and I was an instant fan of the performance and the looks.

If it is indeed the first, they did a great job in creating an innovative product for the crowded smart-device category. 

Along with the smart technology features, first and foremost it has to function as a wallet, which it does well. Measuring 0.4-by-4.1-by-2.5-inches with a top-grain leather exterior (available in seven color choices) and sold construction.

It features a credit card holder that can hold up to six non-embossed cards, or a combination of 4 – 5 embossed/non-embossed cards (depending on the thickness of each card according to Ekster.) There’s also room for ID and other cards that do not need the security protection.

Built into the credit card storage area is RFID (radio frequency identification) technology. This protects your credit cards, which now have chips built inside to make using them more secure. 

But credit card fraud also is more advanced and your secure information and data can be lifted right from your wallet without taking the credit cards out via RFID skimming. With the RFID, top grade aluminum is built into the wallet as a wall to protect your information by blocking RFID scans,  

The wallet also features an optional credit card sized GPS tracker ($49), which is loaded with features and is stored in the outside pocket of the wallet. With an app, it connects with the Worldwide Chipolo Lost and Found network, a global lost-and-found community. This allows you to have the app ring it, hopefully showing you the wallet is close but if not, its location will be displayed on a map.

Another nice feature: each wallet GPS tracker has a unique QR code that anyone can scan, triggering an instant notification message to you showing its whereabouts. The tracker is solar powered, so with a minimum amount of light, a three-hour charge can give you up to two months of use.

At least in my case, and I hope I’m not putting a jinx on myself, my wallet is only misplaced, not lost. Typically it’s left in my car but a step to locate it faster than you can look around for it, from your smartphone just ask voice assistants Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant where your wallet is and a map will come up showing you where its located. Now if you misplaced both your wallet and your smartphone, well your on your own.

A push thumb lever is built into a corner of the wallet to access your contents and there’s also a strap to secure cash, for those who still carry that.

Check the Ekster site, theres a bunch of different models, colors and accessories to choose from. 

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