Archive for August 2020

GADGETS :: August 26, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

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. 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. $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. 

GADGETS :: August 19, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

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

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. $149, available in black, pink, white and blue

GADGETS :: August 12, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

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. 

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. $199.99

GADGETS :: August 5, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

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. $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. $54.99

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