Archive for June 2020

GADGETS :: June 24, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Lockly’s site, they state that they may not have invented the smart lock itself, but they are perfecting it with cutting-edge features such as their patented PIN Genie technology and 3-D biometric fingerprint scanner. After using the lock for a few weeks now, yes they are. And it looks great. $299.99

GADGETS :: June 17, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Anker representative tipped me off that they are launching a new speaker on the June 21 called Rave Neo, which can be paired with the Flare 2 (and also 100 of them). A few features include a 4-inch woofer, 2-inch tweeter and Bluetooth 5.0. I should have one soon for a more in depth review. The Rave Neo will be available at Walmart and for $99.99. $69

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GADGETS :: June 10, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After a perfect scraping and cleaning of the grill, the Cave Tools stainless steel scraper, it dishwasher safe. $9.99

GADGETS :: June 3, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The compact (4.75-by-1.19-by-3.13-inches) high-speed power bank includes a 4-foot  AC power cord to power the black/space gray charger. $79.99

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

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

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

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

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

You make the choice, get this for $29 to detect a leak right away, which can probably be mopped up. Or have a flood, call the plumber, get new floors and baseboards. It’s an easy decision in my mind. $29.99


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