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


GADGETS :: May 27, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Even with the lockdown starting to lift, our hours at home are more than ever, so what better time to turn some of those great, priceless photos you have stored on your iPhone into a coffee table photo book. Think of vacations, graduations, birthdays, anniversaries or just a selected period of time. Any group of images will work.

Storing photos digitally is the way go compared to the closet full of prints my mom had in shoe boxes.  If you’re like me, you have photos taken over the course of time in your iPhone, which when combined would make a great photo book to give the images a permanent, personalized home that’s easily accessible.

I recently did just that with a Motif, using the photo roll on my iPad, which is synced with my iPhone to produce a hardcover 24-page 11-by-8.5-inch book.

To start the project, the first thing I did was find all the photos for the subject of my book (I chose my first boat as my theme) and put them in their own folder the iOS photo app. 

Next, I got the Motif iOS for iPhones or iPad or the Motif for macOS app for laptop or desktop. Once downloaded, choose the type of book you want among sizes; hardcover choices are 13-by-10, 11-by-8.5, 10-by-10 and 8-by-8 inches. Softcover sizes are 11-by-8.5, 8-by-6 and 8-by-8 inches.

After creating my account, using the app was easy once I selected my photos for the book.  The app connects to your photo folders, where you choose what you want in the book. Overall it’s an easy app to navigate with a user-friendly dashboard and screen shot examples of what all the choices will look like

I let the Motif app organize the images, which took just no time at all. According to Motif, the app uses Its smart technology to select your very best images with optimal focus, clarity, lighting, people, image orientation, panoramas, and more.

In a few steps, the app evaluated image content of my selections and then gave me a screen with all the images and checkmarks for the choices the software thought were best.

I thought the automation gave me a great starting point, but it also allowed for customization so I did change a bunch of things like the order of a few pictures and swapping out a few pictures entirely. The app made it easy to make these changes.

Next was the choice of the book theme; you’ll see samples of each image, how many on a page with different layouts and designs. There’s no right or wrong here, it’s whatever you like and want.

After you choose the book style, it gives you a full layout of the book with the chosen  images.

You can re-crop the images or change them entirely for full customization. Either is simple to do. Other options include adding type or text, background colors, professionally designed themes and patterns to the entire project, all left pages, all right pages or alternating.

The high quality covers can be personalized with a photo and a title on the front and side spine. Overall, I thought the quality of the produce was of high standards including the premium paper and the entire craftsmanship of the album.

A few days later, the book of memories arrived at my doorstep, encased in a protective sleeve.

Motif states on their home page: ‘’Your Best Memories Just Got Better’’. I can absolutely agree after I had my completed book. The only problem is now I have a few more books I need to do, but I have the time. prices vary based on book sizes

GADGETS :: May 20, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Despite everything else, the summer kicks off this Memorial Day weekend and there’s some great gadgets to ensure your fun in the sun has perfect sound,  is well-charged and even keeps your beverages chilled.

Ultimate Ears Hyperboom is party ready with the most powerful sound I’ve seen from a portable wireless speaker. Yea, it’s big with a 14.33-by-7.5-by-7.5-inches size, but a carrying handling makes the 13-pound speaker portable.

With booming bass, the party-happy speaker has a wide dynamic range to bring music to all ends of your party. During my testing, trust me that my neighbors heard Jimmy Buffet playing loud and clear several houses away.

The USB rechargeable 24-hour battery charges in 2.6 hours and the Hyperboom has  adaptive EQ so it reads the environment and automatically adjusts the sound to fill any space.

With the latest Bluetooth, it can store and remember up to 8 paired devices so playlists can come from many sources. A splash-proof IPX4 lets it sit poolside and the BOOM app lets you customize the sound and more.

A top sided one-touch control button changes the music controls the volume and accesses music services. Covered ports include a USB charge out, optical input, aux input and power. $399.99

Size wise, the Jabra Elite active 75t true wireless earbuds are small enough to fit in each ear but deliver powerful and simply fantastic sound with innovative features. 

Jabra’s new HearThrough technology lets you use a slider to adjust how much of the outside world you want to hear. It’s pretty amazing how easy and well it worked in different environments. 

The durable earbuds with 6 mm speakers and passive noise cancellation in each side are summer-ready IP57-rated, which actually makes them fully waterproof up to 1-meter so workout sweat and splashes are not a problem. With the included storage USB-C charging case, they will last for up to 28 hours of playback, which is also aided by a low-power Bluetooth 5.0 chipset and an intelligent power management system.

Jabra’s latest technology, Jabra MyControls will allow for full customization in each ear and Jabra MySound creates an innovative customizing experience for the sound for specific users.

Auto power on/off and auto pause music are some of my favorite features and four built-in microphones make them great for handsfree calls. Access to voice assistants are made with a touch of a button on an earbud. There’s also an option (additional $30) to add a wireless charging case. $199

Other great gadgets to round out the summer season include the Kanex GoBuddy+. It’s built with a bottle opener surrounded by a USB cable with a standard USB-A port on one end and an Apple certified Lightning ChargeSync cable on the other.

When the cables are not in need it tucks away in the perimeter of the opener. The tangle-free cable extends to 6-inches and a carabiner clip is included for attaching to a belt or backpack. $3.99

Pelican Products, yes the same company that manufactures the world’s elite high-performance protective cases, has launched a lineup of rugged-and-ready tumblers specially designed to withstand the rigors of everyday life. 

The new Pelican Dayventure Tumblers are available in three sizes 10-, 16- and 22-ounces ($19.95, $24.95 and $29.95, respectively), with a choice of five colors (black, canyon red, pacific blue, seafoam and silver) with a sweat-proof powder finish. Each will fit 99 percent of all car cup holders and will take care of your beverage’s cold or hot retention.

Each are made with 18/8 pro grade stainless steel, vacuum-sealed and double-walled to withstand the regular bumps and drops of everyday life and to meet the standards Pelican is known for. A built-in loop makes for easy backpack attachment. 

Portable power is a must for any season and there’s none more ready for sand, water and adventures than the myCharge Adventure H20 15000 mAh portable charging battery.

With an IP67 waterproof rating, it can withstand dirt and dust as strong as any and water to a depth of 3-feet for up to 30 minutes. The exterior is built with a shockproof  rubber finish and a built-in carabiner keeps it within reach.

The battery has 15000 mAh making it ideal for up to 8 extra charges for the average smartphone battery according to myCharge. It can power wireless speakers, digital cameras, watches or anything else needing some power on-the-go. There’s 2 built-in USB ports and 2.4A of output for power hungry tablet.

Other features include smart-sense technology to ensure device compatibility and safe cell for safe charging. $59.99

GADGETS :: MAY 13, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

With so many professionals switching to work at home lifestyles, Jabra’s timing couldn’t be better with the recent release of the Evolve2 65. The office headset has every feature you’ll need, including outstanding audio quality on both ends of the call.

Jabra has always been an industry leader with their audio headsets’ superior battery life and the Bluetooth Evolve2 65 is no different with specs listing up to 37 hours of use per charge. If that’s not enough for your meeting, I’ll say it for you, you’re meeting is too long, way too long.

Getting a full USB charge for 37 hours of use takes 90 minutes and with the fast charge feature 15 minutes of charging will be good for 8 hours.

The Evolve2 65 is equally a headset to receive audio and hardware with three strategically placed powerful professional microphones in the headset (one in the right ear cup and two in the movable boom arm) for your verbal participation.

Another feature Jabra always incorporates is comfort, which is the case here. The soft memory foam cushioned ear cups mold to your head so they can be worn comfortably for hours.  Inside the headset is a 40 mm speaker for each ear, with audio quality playing music in my ears with the highest standards of clarity or listening to meeting voices I can understand the first time.

The way Jabra has angled the ear cups helps with passive noise cancellation to block out your surroundings. I wore the headphones in and around my house and then outside to expose myself to as different noise environments as possible in a short time. The PNC worked great, just as Jabra calls it to “Soundproof your ears.”

With the free Jabra Direct Software companion app, it’s easy to personalize the headsets music and calls and keep your headset registered for any updates.

I didn’t have any straight forward work conference calls, but I did manage a Zoom call with some friends who felt I would get tossed out of the weekly happy hour if I kept upping the technology game with better equipment like the Evolve2 65’s to make me sound better.  

So then I used it to make a standard call and the first thing I was asked was “did you get a new phone?” In this case I haven’t; it was the headset but that was all I needed to know about the superior quality.

A really cool feature Jabra has added to the headset, a Busylight, can be viewed as a built-in security guard. The red light is built into both sides of the headset, automatically activated and visible from any direction. This warns anyone in your area that you’re on a call if they want to nag you about lunch or something else not worth being interrupted over. The Busylight can also be activated manually with a push of a button.

Bluetooth Pairing is easy, and can be done with multiple devices but only one at a time. The Jabra Evolve2 65 headset is certified for Microsoft teams.

A stereo model is $249, mono is $239. A charging stand can be added for either for $50 more. You’ll also have to specify USB-A or USB-C for connectivity. 

Another great device for current quarantine and isolation lifestyles (and even perfect for when we are all set free) is the clckr grip and stand case.

The patented phone stand and hand grip works on flat surfaces in portrait and landscape angles or in your hand with a firm, secure hold.

Overall it’s pretty simple. There’s not a lot to it, yet it works perfect and doesn’t cost much _ a perfect gadget in my mind. Think of a PopSocket, which I never was a fan of, only better. 

You have a choice of several colors and pattern cases and grips available as a package or individually choose from for matching any personality.  The grips can be applied directly to a case or right to the phone with the included clear sticker. 

The cases are drop tested 6.6-feet and are listed as wireless charging compatible. bands start at $14.99, case/band combos $29.95

GADGETS :: May 6, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

True, those incredibly popular true wireless white earbuds are great, but are they the best? If I was going to give another pair, which gives them a run for the money, the nod goes to Sennheiser and the new Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds.

And before I get into details, the Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds are available in black and now in white.

I’ve said in this space many times, Sennheiser doesn’t miss on headphones, earbuds or anything with sound quality. And add the Momentum True Wireless 2 earbuds to the list; they delivered and exceeded any expectations I had for the compact, portable sound machines.

The second generation of Sennheiser’s Momentum true wireless series produces crystal clear audio from 7 mm dynamic drivers. For days I left the sound as is right out of the box since it seemed perfect. 

Then with the built-in equalizer and Sennheiser’s smart control App (iOS and Android), I tuned the sound for a more personalization to my ears for the variety of my playlists. The personalized sound gives each user an option to make it what works best for them and goes so far as choosing which ear you tap to answer a call (microphones on both ears).

With Active Noise Cancellation technology on, much of the outside noise is blocked so you hear what you want. Specifically, Sennheiser describes it as when greater situational awareness is needed, the Transparent Hearing feature lets you blend in outside ambient sound at a touch, so you can have natural conversations in comfort without needing to remove the earbuds.

The new true wireless earbuds are designed with comfort for all-day use and have improved ergonomics, 2 mm smaller size than the previous model. Wearing them all day was no problem for me; I finally took them out after 7 hours of playback time to give the built in Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries a charge in the portable USB-C charging case. 

With the case, you’ll get a total of about 28 (7 from the earbuds, 21 more from the case) hours of on the go power to keep them playing. One and a half hours of charging will give you a full charge or if your need something faster, 10 minutes of charging will get you and hour and a half of playback. 

Touch controls on both earbuds are customizable to control handsfree calls, music selections, pausing and volume. Voice assistants have a one touch access. On the outside of the slick looking earbuds, with a high-quality metallic finish, is the iconic Sennheiser spin design. On the bottom side are gold-plated charging pins, which make contact with the charging case.

With auto-pause, just take the earbuds out of your ears and the music stops, put them back in and it starts again. 

Four sets of silicone ear adapter sets (XS/S/M/L) are included to ensure the right fit. With an IPX4 rating they are splash resistant. $299.95

Charging is just a way of life, home, work, play and even hospital bedsides. Different chargers for Apple Watches are one area that has blossomed into a great variety of accessories,  

When I got my hands on Satechi’s new USB-C Magnetic Charging Dock for Apple Watch ($44.99), I knew it was a winner.

Not only does it fit the bill for charing, but it fits my favorite category of ready for travel with its small compact size. The 1.73-by-2-by-0.45-inches, 0.31-pounds sized charger features an Apple Watch certified charging plate in squared device with a space gray aluminum finish. 

One side has a USB-C connector, which connects to any USB source providing power. Thats it, there nothing to wind up or tie together.

First and foremost, the charing works perfect.  With its USB-C connection built in, it plugs directly into your computer, USB-C tablets, AC wall plug or with an extension cable like the Satechi USB-C to USB-C extension 9-inch cable ($12.99) to give it a little extra reach.


GADGETS :: April 29, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

With the GorillaPod Mobile Vlogging Kit, launched in Joby’s new custom Line, Mobile Accessories for Content Creation at Playlist Live, the tools will be a welcome addition for bloggers, vloggers or anyone wanting to create video content with clear audio and adjustable lighting.

Joby put it a nice way in a recent press release saying the new kit will eliminate any barrier to creativity and share one common theme – the versatility to be situation-proof.

The lightweight (19-ounces) and versitle kit consists of the flagship Joby GorillaPod with the GorillaPod Mobile Rig, Beamo Mini LED and the Wavo Mobile microphone in the kit. 

I’ve used many different-sized GorillaPods over the years and have written about several in this space. The flagship product is a tripod, ball and socket design with rubberized grips, designed to stabilize your camera on just about any surface or object. It sits perfect on flat surfaces or with its bendable legs they can snuggle up to a pole and keep perfectly steady. I’ve used GolillaPods to hold my original iPod in place while flying and to take selfies in the Caribbean and put cameras in remote locations.

With the GorillaPod Mobile Rig tripod (3.1-by-4.7-by-12.9-inches), you’ll have the same options to keep it flat, standing or wrap it just about anywhere, straight up or upside down – with its twistable and gripping legs. 

Your smartphone is held in the GripTight mount, which can be used in portrait and landscape views. To change views, just loosen a screw, change the angle and hand tighten it shut. 

The GripTight mount attaches to the tripod with the GorillaPod ball head, which has an industry standard 1/4’’-20 thread and rubberized grips. Two GorillaPod arms, two cold shoe mounts and a GoPro mount are included with the GorillaPod Mobile Rig for adding or taking accessories on or off instantly.

For capturing crisp clear audio, the kit includes the Wavo portable on-camera microphone, which attaches with a cold shoe mount. It’s built with Rycote Lyre technology to assist in shock absorbing movements for clear sound standing, walking or running. A deadcat cover is included, to help on windy days and remove other unwanted background noise. Camera and smartphone connection cables and a pouch are included with the microphone.

The last piece of the kit is the Beamo Mini LED light, which is the piece of the puzzle many people don’t use, but should. The on-the-go, compact and portable (1.5-by-2-by-2-inches) LED Light will make you or your subjects look great. It has 1000 lumens with 5 steps of dimmable lighting and will last 40 minutes of use at full power, 100 minutes at 50-percent before a USB-C charge is needed. 

The rugged Beamo 5100K light is waterproof up to 30-meters and also has a magnetic backing. With the myJOBY app (iOS and Android) lighting can be controlled remotely if the camera isn’t within reach or you want it adjusted while filming.

When you combine these pieces in the kit, it’s a complete package, you’ll save money compared to buying each piece individually. With little to no setup, the kit  stabilizes the image from the smartphone and adds much better lighting and audio compared to that produced by the smartphone. Use it to get on your next Zoom or FaceTime meeting and you’ll be asked why you look so good.

Joby has bigger kits, tripods, lights and accessories available on their site to work with just about any smartphone or DSLR. $199.95

GADGETS :: April 22, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Did you ever leave your home and wonder if you left with the garage open (like I do often). Even if you have a security camera, which can show if its open or closed, shutting it is another story unless you have one of the newer Wi-Fi garage door openers.

An easy solution to control a non-Wi-Fi enabled garage door is to add the Nexx NXG-200 smart garage controller, which connects to existing Wi-Fi.

Before you order, check the Next website for compatibility with your existing opener.  You must know the manufacturer and model. If that information isn’t available, they show you how to quickly test to determine if the opener is compatible with Nexx Garage, using a small wire, pliers or paper clip (my option).

If it’s not compatible, don’t worry; there is an adapter available ($24.99) to make it work. I didn’t need it for my test but Nexx describes the adapter as an accessory that allows Nexx Smart Garage to work with incompatible garage openers.

Once you have the controller, installation only takes a few minutes. First, download the Next Home app (iOS and Android) and creating a free account. 

Follow the step-by-step instructions, which shows images of the parts to connect. The main power supply of the controller gets plugged into the AC power the garage controller is in and then connected with the included wire, to the same terminals on the garage controller, which you tested for the compatibility. 

The power supply is kept in place with tape, Velcro or cable ties. Plugging in the wire to those two terminals, which takes a second, is the only wiring required and there’s no hub or monthly subscriptions.

After it’s powered up and the proper lights are glowing, use the Next Home app to configure the setup to your Wi-Fi. One problem a lot of people have with smart home devices is the Wi-Fi. The router has to be within range, closer is always better and having it the central part of your home is typically the best option.

The last installation step  the sensor pairing. After it’s paired, the sensor is attached to your garage door with included Velcro to the top middle of the inside of the garage door. A photo showing you the location is in the setup guide.

And just as the instructions say, you are now good to go for opening or closing your garage door from anywhere by just tapping the garage door icon in the center of the app. The app allows sharing of the access or just open the garage remotely upon request for family, friends or workers.

The app also has the option to set up a schedule to open or close the door, along with a timer. Push notifications can be set and sent to a smartphone for alerts when the garage door is opened or closed and if you shared the access you’ll know who is using it. A history log also keeps track of the device history.

The Nexx NXG-200 works with voice assistants Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Siri and SmartThings. 

Just Drive Geofencing technology will tell the garage door to open when you’re in the driveway. Functionality for Geofencing is dependent on the user’s phone system, WiFi network, and individual settings.

For garage door controlling, this is one of the best I’ve tried for many reasons including explaining and showing compatibility before you begin, instructions, installation process and the app, which is simple to navigate and has a user friendly dashboard. $79.99

GADGETS :: April 15, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

I’ve always been one to go lighter, smaller and as portable as possible. The Rocketbook Core portable reusable notebook is a nice addition to my mission.

My school years were during the pen and pencil period, so I can only imagine how handy it would have been during that era. These stay-at-home days where my house chores and shopping lists end up with Post-it notes everywhere, the Rocketbook Core simplifies everything and even lets me save and uploaded the content in PDF or JPEG to cloud services such as Google Drive, iCloud, email and Dropbox to name a few.

But it got me thinking, if I thought it would have been a great benefit during my school years along with today, what would someone currently in school think, so I enlisted an able bodied college student to give it a try during the current home schooling days.

Within a few days she gave it an A+ and especially enjoyed the cloud upload with the reusable notebook. She also pointed out for some classes a  laptop or tablet aren’t needed, making the Rocketbook Core lighter and easier to tote around campus whenever they get back to that.

Appearance wise, at first glance it looks like a traditional spiral notebook, except instead of paper, it uses patented reusable technology consisting of synthetic paper, which you write on. Once you’re done the page wipes clean with a damp cloth for the next use.

Before erasing, uploading the content is a pretty simple step. With the Rocketbook app on your smartphone or tablet, the pages can be scanned for the cloud storage.

Writing is done using any pen from the Pilot Frixion line of markers or highlighters, which all give you a normal writing experience.

The cost friendly Rocketbook Core is available in letter size 8.5-by-11inches with 32 pages for $34 and the executive is 6-by-8.8-inches with 36 pages $32. Both are also availed with a dot grid pattern or lined.

You have eight choices of cover colors, a microfiber cleaning cloth and one Pilot FriXion pen is included with each.

Sure, some smart home systems are more complex than others but overall, most are really easy to set to operate devices in your home. Sure, turning a light on or off is easy. But setting it up on a schedule to do just that, enabling it to be off when you want, not running up the electric meter is just one example.

The latest smart home product I tried is the Vera Ezlo Atom smart home controller hub, part of the Vera controller family.

For the most part, the Atom looks like a flash thumb drive (1.1-by-0.4-by-2 inches) with a standard USB-A connector built on swivel hinge. Inside the Atom is a 160 MHz 32-bit LX6 processor, with NOR 16 MB of flash memory and SRAM 520 KB of RAM. It’s built with 2.4GHz Wi-Fi for connecting to your home network.

For operation, it needs to be plugged into any USB power source and along with the Vera mobile app, it controls smart home devices including light bulbs, thermostats, window sensors, motion detectors, locks and more.

Setting a smart home device intimidates a lot of users, but after using this Atom, I can say this is as easy as can be. If you can download the app and follow simple setup instructions, the Atom is plug and play for the most part. For my test purposes, I had it working to control light bulbs in seconds and then had it connected with a few other Z-Wave security devices I already had planted in my home.

The app has a user-friendly dashboard, which lets you set up new rules for schedules, shortcuts and instant control. 

I have to say, this worked really well and I’d recommend it for first-time smart home users or, if you have existing devices and want to get control of them in one place. It also works with smart home assistants, Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple shortcuts. $29.95


GADGETS :: April 8, 2019

by Gregg Ellman

With an attractive vintage look, Electrohome Birmingham’s retro Bluetooth speaker seeks  to bring back the era of mop tops and mullets from the golden age of rock n’ roll. I prefer to say it reminds me of a hi-fi stereo system my dad had long ago, although I did have a mullet in the past.

While the look takes you back in time, the sound and features are up to date and forward marching. It produces room-filling sound to any play list or can stream any music service with a Bluetooth connection from your smartphone, tablet or computer.

The exterior (9.5-by-13.4-by-7.1-inches) is hand-crafted from engineered MDF wood with a carrying handle built into the top. Producing the sound inside are dual full range 4-inch woofers with an Integrated amplifier (frequency response 60Hz – 20KHz).

To add to the vintage look, controls for adjusting the music, power and volume are all knobs along the top of the front side of the speaker. There’s also a 3.5 mm aux input for a direct connection and USB charging port to connect your cable for device charing.

Working as a Bluetooth speaker is the primary function of the Birmingham but there’s an appealing feature for guitar players when using so they can jam along. Since I have zero musical talents, I couldn’t try it; if you’re a guitar player you can plug into the built-in 1/4-inch input and customize the live sound with the volume and gain control. $149

Rather than having to remember a combination or have a key to open it, the Tapplock Lite uses your fingerprint.

The smart fingerprint portable padlock opens in under 0.8 seconds after being programed with your fingerprint. You can store up to 100 fingerprints for each lock, which are managed in the Tapplock app.

In addition to the fingerprints, you can use the Tapplock app to open the lock with Bluetooth or with a combination used via morse-code.

With the app you can remotely manage the Bluetooth access on any other stored fingerprints. Specific dates and times can be set along with revoking access.

The Tapplock Lite is built with a metal chassis and an IP67 rating, making it perfect for the outdoors since it can withstand being fully submerged in water or even sweaty/wet fingerprints. 

Inside is a rechargeable battery, good for 8 months or 1,200 unlocks. The app shows the battery level and when it needs a charge. A blinking light goes off on the lock when the level is below 10-percent. A nice features allows it to unlock with just an 8-second charge with a portable battery, in the event the locks battery goes totally dead. $39.00 each, 2-pack for $72 and a 3-pack is $105.00

Twelve South’s limited edition AirBag for AirPods and AirPods Pro will store, carry and protect the expense earbuds in a style like no other I’ve seen.

The mini satchel bag can be worn over your shoulder, around your neck or just take the leather strap off to carry it with the leather top handle or just carry it in a purse, pocket or backpack. 

Your AirPods will stay in the AirBag securely when closing the front sided  metal snap button while also allows wireless charging for the AirPods Pro. There’s also an opening for a Lightning cable for charing.

The limited edition AirBag is made with full-grain leather and protects all sides of the AirPod case. $49.99

GADGETS :: April 1, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

For obvious reasons, there’s a lot of spring cleaning going on and I’m no different, with my latest area being my office closet. Here’s a few items I unearthed and felt like they are worth telling you about.

There’s probably never been a better time to use Austere’s Clean and Protect professional quality display cleaner. After unpacking it, I went on a cleaning spree on monitors, TV’s, iPads and smartphones, all now temporarily shinny clean and most important germ-free.

The anti-bacterial, ammonia-free solution is unscented and comes with one of the best, if not the best, dual-textured cleaning cloth I’ve ever used. After it gets used a lot, just put the anti-bacterial micro-fiber cloth in with your next clothing wash.

The cleaning solution (6.8-ounces) comes in a specially designed applicator, which sprays the fine mist evenly to prevent screen streaks and fingerprints. $19.99

The Nimble wireless stand for Qi-Enabled devices worked perfect to charge my iPhone XS but there’s a lot more to Nimble than their great products. 

When you receive a Nimble product, it’s delivered in an Eco-friendly package along with a bag to recycle old electronics back to Nimble for free. They have zero plastic in the  packaging and it all works along with a line on the Nimble site where they state they are “Bridging the gap between your everyday modern needs and those of the planet.”

Back to the wireless charger; it’s covered in an attractive fabric, designed with a sustainable blend made from recycled water bottles and organic hemp. There is a small plastic strip on the front, which is necessary keep your phone in place.

A USB-C input keep it powered with the included cable and wall adapter. $41.96

As with many others, I’m willing to try anything to assist in a better night’s sleep. The iHome Air fan and sound machine looks like a small desktop fan along with producing natural white noise to work as a sleep aid.

The fan has dual speeds and works in an open position to expose the sounds or keep it closed, allowing it to be angled 90-degree to the direction needed.

Twelve built-in shooting sounds of white noise, nature recordings and sleeping sounds are accessed from bottom side buttons. Both the fan and sound can be programed with sleep timers to operate up to 8 hours.

I’ve used other white noise devices with great success. Now with the combined fan for better air circulation, I know sleeping will only get better with the AC powered iHome Air. $58.04

It’s pretty amazing how many features are packed into the Anker Soundcore Wakey Bluetooth bedside speaker and to no surprise they work perfectly.

First and foremost, the Wakey is a beside clock with a front facing display, programable alarms, FM radio station presets and white noise settings. You can set up to 15 individual alarms, with choices from the 10 different built-in sounds.

To me the selling point of the Wakey is the built-in high speed wireless charger for Qi-enabled charging devices. To charge your device just place it on the top side pad. Charging delivers a fast 10 W charge for Samsung phones and 7.5 W charge for iPhones.

To listen to your playlists, connect your device via Bluetooth or directly with an aux cable. Either way delivers great sound from the full-range stereo drivers. $89.99

The Dancing Queen Crossbody Wallet case for iPhone (11, 11Pro, 11Pro Max) is another that has it all. 

As described by the parent company Smartish, when you’re out on the town, on the dance floor or anywhere else and you have no pockets or purse for your smartphone, the Dancing Queen solves the problem.

The leather-like case with high-grip textured sides features a magnetic snap-shut wallet to hold five credit cards plus case, an adjustable and removable wristlet and crossbody straps. The straps have a loop for holding lip gloss.

D-rings on the bottom of the case are for attaching the straps on or off. When the straps are off, the loops do not get in the way. $29.99

The Momentum Meri smart Wi-Fi thermostat is a great way to keep control of your home air systems.  Once installed, your smartphone can be used with the companion app to set schedules or make temperature adjustments on the fly. 

On-screen color touch controls assist with the setup and let you set schedules and adjustments.

According to Momentum, recent firmware updates gave the smart home thermostat improvements to the room temperature sensor. It also added on-boarding flow, so once the device boots up it will walk the user through the Wi-Fi setup, system type selection and pairing to the app. $129.99

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