Archive for September 2020

GADGETS :: September 16, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Earlier this year Nixplay came out with an all-new lineup of their industry-leading Wi-Fi  smart photo frames. Now with better resolution, bigger screen sizes, and advanced functionality, they made a great product even better.

If you’re not familiar with Nixplay frames, you need to be, especially with the holiday shopping season upon us (hint!) With a private username and password, the modern-looking Nixplay frames have Wi-Fi connectivity, displaying digital images and videos you or anyone can remotely upload  to the frame.

Set up is simple. All you need is Wi-Fi and a secure account login with the Nixplay companion app (iOS and Android). Once the account and frame are set up, it’s up to you to share the login information and invite others to stock family memories.

With the app, It’s as easy as turning it on, selecting photos, hitting the upload button, choosing the playlist and send. The playlist is just like a music playlist; you can divide it by family, event, or just keep all the images in one. From the app, you have controls to turn the frame on or off, invite friends to share images, view, and delete the playlists.

Frame sizes start at 9.7 and go up to 15.6-inches with 10.1 (my review unit) and 13.3 in-between. All the frames have a pair of 2-watt speakers for audio to accompany videos.

Each new frame has Nixplay’s patented stand, which is built into the power cord and is now detachable to reveal a hidden wall mount. Now it can be wall-mounted (portrait or landscape) or have it stand on a flat surface.

Inside are 8GB of storage, which is a ton of space for sending cell phone images. The frame is built with an integrated Hu-Motion Sensor so the frame turns on and off automatically when motion is near.

If you want a greater resolution, the new Nixplay 9.7-inch Wi-Fi smart photo frame has a 2K (2048X1536) resolution display with a 4:3 aspect ratio. The 10.1-inch Wi-Fi frame has an HD resolution of 1280X800 with a 16:10 aspect ration. Both the 13.3-inch 15.6-inch have full HD Screen Resolution of 1920X1080 with a 16:9 aspect ratio. There’s 8 GB of storage in each except for the 15.6-inch frame with 16 GB.

The Nixplay app also has a tab for the Nixplay print shop to order prints, cards, and even picture smartphone cases. All this can be ordered directly from the images loaded on the frame or from your smartphone’s camera roll. Subscriptions are available to Nixplay Plus for up to 80 percent off the products. Yearly membership is $49.99 or month to month for $4.99.

Just as Nixplay says, the frames have gotten smarter, working with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Google Photos. A magnetic remote is included. Stored social media albums in Dropbox, Facebook, Google Photos, Instagram, and Verizon Cloud can be uploaded to the frame for viewing.  Smart Photo Frames start at $179.99 to $319.99 (15.6-inch) Wall hardware is included

EarFun Air True Wireless Earbuds are another great, affordable choice with great sound and every added feature you’d want.

Instead of testing the sound with music, I used the EarFun Air Trues for a few NFL games. With the pumped in crowd noise constantly coming up down along with the announcers, I felt like they gave me a great audio experience. After the game I switched to my playlist and just as promised, the crystal-clear sound was delivered along with a nice touch of distortion-free bass. Everyt type of music I switched to had sound with great consistency, without needing adjustments.

The ergonomic fit is a big deal, especially since many earbuds I’ve tried were uncomfortable for long-term use. The EarFun’s kept in place for hours comfortably, the feel was perfect. Having a single earbud mode (one of my favorite features) allows for just a single ear to play at a time. When you take both earbuds out the audio will pause and then resume when they are back in place.

With a budget-friendly price of $59.99, I would say these are far from budget headphones. Especially when you look at the complete list of features, which can double the price of many other brands.

Included is Bluetooth 5.0, a 35-hour battery life with the wireless and USB-C charging case. On a full charge, you should get 7 hours of playtime and an additional 28 hours with the case. Fast charging for 10 minutes will produce about two hours of playtime.

Touch-sensitive controls on the outside of the earbuds were responsive for controlling music selections and calls. For the volume, touch and hold the left earbud to lower the volume, and doing the same on the right side increases it. Inside each earbud is EarFun’s custom-built composite cellulose drivers, with an IPX7 waterproof rating. A 4-microphone system for crystal clear handsfree calls worked great. $59.99 or $49.99 at Amazon, available in black or white

GADGETS :: September 9, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

As crazy as it sounds, Scosche found a way to make a smartphone car mount innovative, fun and really cool. The MagicGrip window/dash wireless charging auto-grip mount is a winner.

I tried the MagicGrip with Qi-enabled wireless charging ($69.95). To secure to a dashboard or window, it has Scosche’s StickGrip automotive-grade adhesive, which is strong. Just as important, it’s removable and reusable if you change the location or vehicle. I know the suction mount is a weakness for many of these types of mounts I’ve tried; I used it in multiple locations, twice a day for a week. Honestly, the last placement was as strong as the first.

What brings out the coolness of the mount is the auto-grip feature where the side arms, which hold your smartphone in place, automatically close after you put your wireless charging smartphone over the powered up charging pad. As soon as contact is made the motorized side arms close with a secure grip. After it’s secured, with full flexibility it can be rotated 360-degrees for viewing at any angle, in portrait or landscape modes or anything in between.

A thermal management channel is built into the charging head for safe charging. The wireless Qi-certified fast charge is compatible with Apple, Samsung and Google devices. A USB-C with a 90-degree angled connector is included along with a USB car adapter and cable management clips.

For even more flexibility and viewing angles, Scosche has the new Extendo range mounts, with a telescoping arm that adjusts from just over 5-inches to just over 8.5-inches with 220-degrees of angle adjustment.

Having the extension arm offers great versatility for vehicles with deeper dashboards, cars, trucks or even a boat’s dash. It’s even handy on an office desktop, kitchen counter or backsplash with full view at any angle.

There are three versions of the new Extendo mounts; MagicMount Pro Extendo Window/Dash Mount ($29.99) magnetic mounting system with powerful 100-percent device-safe neodymium magnets for a secure hold. With the QuickGrip Extendo Universal Window/Dash Mount ($24.99) it has adjustable arms to hold smartphones up to 3.5-inches wide. And the MagicGrip Auto-Grip Wireless Charging Extendo Window/Dash Mount ($69.99), which has the features of the MagicGrip described above with the motorized closing arms along with the telescoping extension arm.

Before I opened Jabra’s new Evolve2 active noise cancellation Bluetooth headphones, I noticed the statement printed on the box referring to them as the best headset for concentration and collaboration.

The over-the-head headphones have 40 mm speakers inside soft memory foam cushions for all day comfort. A discrete retractable boom microphone arm can be tucked away inside the right side.

These days, with more and more workers spending work days on conference and video calls, the need for superior output sound is in high demand. All you need is one member of an online call to have bad sound and you’ll understand, you just don’t want it to be you.

So on a recent Friday night happy hour call with friends on all ends of the country I took my group up a notch, using the Evolve2 instead of my iPad’s build-in mic. The looks and questions I got were why was I wearing a headset but instantly shifted to the superior clarity they heard from me. One friend specifically asked me to message him with the model number, so I guess my demo was impressive.

To hear for myself I had someone use the headset and call me so I could gauge the clarity and for sure it was outstanding. Jabra built the Evolve2 with 10 microphones and what they call an advanced digital chipset. There’s also less background noise on calls with 54-percent more noise cancellation.

When purchasing, the headphones come with USB-A or USB-C charging ports; a charging stand is available ($50). Also choose them optimized for Microsoft teams or Unified Communication.

Oh, and the battery life since it wouldn’t be a great thing for them to need power right in the middle of a call. You’ll get 37 hours battery life with a 2.5 hour charge and with a fast 15 minutes of charging will produce 8 hours battery life.

My real world doesn’t have many online calls but instead a lot of music and with the powerful speakers along with the latest AAC codec my music sounded clear and clean.

On-ear controls worked great and Bluetooth 5.0 allows pairing with up to eight devices with two simultaneous connections. Charging cables, 3.5 mm audio connections, flight adapter and a hard carrying case are included.

So back to the begging with the Evolve2 being the best for concentration and collaboration, I get it. You have all day comfort, top of the line sound coming in as well as going out. $449 in choices of matte black and beige, with a charging stand $499

GADGETS :: September 2, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Anytime I get a new product from Sennheiser, I know before it’s even opened that there’s a near 100 percent chance it’s going to be great. So it was no surprise when I unboxed the brand new, hot off the press Sennheiser MKE 200 directional microphone, placed it on my digital camera, and it worked battery-free in a plug and play manner. The MKE 200 is the latest in Sennheiser’s MKE microphone series, all of which provide quality upgrades to a camera’s built-in microphone.

The compact microphone has built-in shock absorption and attaches to a camera with a cold shoe mount. With the mount, it slides on or off digital cameras’ flash shoes easily, enabling it to work handsfree so the videographer can concentrate on the camera controls. A 3.5 mm cable attaches the microphone to the camera’s audio in-port. 

With the compact size and mounting ability, Sennheiser designed the MKE 200 to work with most any standard digital SLR, mirrorless and mobile phones. With mobile devices, you’ll either have to hold the microphone with the audio cable plugged into the audio-in port or attach it to a bracket (not included) since mobile devices do no have the shoe bracket (typically used for flashes). Along with the cold shoe, there’s a photo industry standard 1/4-20 thread for attaching it to brackets and endless mounting accessories made for mobile devices and cameras.

I tested the mic on some basic street scenes, – kids playing, people taking morning walks, etc. In every situation with the microphone mounted on top of my DSLR, the directional design captured my wanted audio but not unwanted background noise. 

My environment wasn’t windy but it’s good to know, according to a press release, that Sennheiser designed the MKE 200 with an integrated layer of protective mesh inside the housing. This protection is further enhanced by using the included furry windshield when filming outdoors.

With a friendly price point on the easy-to-use microphone, it’s easy to say it’s for an entry level use, which is not restricted to beginners. $99.95, available as of September 1 

I’m sure I could dig up statistics on what percentage of homes have a smartphone video doorbell such as the latest I tried, the EZVIZ DB1. But just looking around my neighborhood tells me this type of home security is a rapidly growing category.

A few reasons for the popularity are the cost, performance and especially the ease of use. With personal experience I can say the simple installation is what typically makes a product like this a make or break in my world and the EZVIZ DB1 is exactly that.

Several things must be in place before installation: Wi-Fi has to be present with a good signal and an existing wired doorbell.

The EZVIZ DB1 includes three hours of free cloud storage for the most recent motion-detected video clips, with more expanded pay plans available. 

Built the built-in microSD memory card slot is a great feature for local storage, which many competitors do not have. Using your own memory cards in sizes up to 128GB is a great supplement to the free storage and any encrypted cloud storage plans you subscribe to.

The 3 megapixel (resolution of 2048-by-1536 pixels) EZVIZ DB1 is built with a 2.2 mm f2.4 lens with a 180-degree vertical field of view and 105-degree horizontal view. It measures 5.11-by-1.8-by-0.8-inches and is built with IP65 weather protection for use in conditions minus 22 up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and night vision up to 16-feet.

With the EZVIZ companion app and the built-in microphone and speaker, viewing and talking with subjects outside the front door can now be accessed 24/7 from a tablet or smartphone. Now, when your doorbell rings or the motion detector picks something up, the app alerts your device  simultaneously. It’s that simple.

The app also allows for customization of the detection area you want covered so it doesn’t alert to to every passing car, for example.

Three mounting brackets are included, each with a slighting different angle when mounted to the wall. Hold up each to the wall before drilling holes to see what angle works best. Depending on your area, you may want the camera facing down to avoid a bright sky or raised up to include a bigger area, or whatever else you requires, one of the brackets should work.

Installation doesn’t requre an electrician, but please first turn off the electrical circuit to the doorbell system and disconnect the existing doorbell. Keep the wires in place because the instructions make it so easy, assuming the wires are there.

Also included with the EZVIZ DB1 is wire, screwdriver and a drill bit (sorry, drill not included) and a simple, well-explained installation guide. Different colored face plates help you match were its mounted. $199.99





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