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

GADGETS :: July 29, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

I doubt a year ago many people, including myself, would be interested in a portable UVC sterilizer wand to kill invisible bacteria germs. Fast forward to today and we all want one, and Monos has announced the new CleanPod portable and rechargeable UVC LED wand.

So how does it work?  I’ll tell you exactly how Monos explains it: “Ultraviolet C (UVC) light has a very short wavelength and very high energy. Wavelengths between 200–300 nm are considered germicidal, as they are strongly absorbed by nucleic acids. UVC light is proven to be highly effective in killing bacteria and other pathogens, by scrambling their DNA or RNA (their genetic code). Once their genetic code is broken, they can no longer function.”

Using it is simple: Make sure the CleanPod’s  (8.6-by-1.3-by-1.5-inches) internal 2000 mAh battery is charged with the included USB-C to USB-A charging cord, slide open the safety lock and power button. 

Keep the CleanPod pointed and positioned a little over an inch away from the surface you want cleared of bacteria and sweep it back and forth for at least 30 seconds. Since it’s UVC LED, there’s no mercury so it powers up instantly. Pressing the power button again turns it off; a built-in 3 minute timer also shuts it off. 

CleanPod claims to kill up to 99.9% of bacteria living on surfaces and of course we all want to know how it works on killing COVID-19 bacteria. 

Monos supplied me with this statement concerning the current virus. “We have done rigorous testing for the CleanPod and have documentation proving its effectiveness at scrambling and killing the DNA of 99.9% of common bacteria and common pathogens.

“There have been many tests proving the capability of UVC light to kill a variety of viruses and bacteria and companies are now beginning to test UVC light against the coronavirus, as well. Due to the evolving nature of the virus we cannot guarantee the effects on certain virus strains, but Monos is committed to monitoring ongoing tests and will keep our customers updated on findings as we receive them.”

A downloadable PDF of the CleanPod’s official test report is on the Monos site.

This is not a replacement for social distancing, hand washing or any of the other sanitary habits we all need to be consumed with, but the CleanPod is a nice addition to the list The portability makes the CleanPod great for using it outside your home on keyboards, door knobs, in restaurants, shopping and while traveling.

There are safety instructions including a warning to not use CleanPod on skin or eyes with people or animals since the UVC light is harmful to all of them.

A lanyard and storage bag are included. $90

Trek Bicycle has launched the Bontrager JetWaveCel bike helmet for kids. It’s the first  kids’ helmet to feature WaveCel, a leading technology in the protection against cycling-related head injuries.

Trek’s WaveCel technology goes through a three-step change in material structure to absorb energy and provide protection for heads on impact.

With the technology built into the inside of the helmet, the way it works as described by Trek, the cells flex to produce initial frictional forces, then the cells crumble like a car bumper on impact. Then the WaveCel glides to redirect energy away from your head.

The helmet has a cool-looking skater-inspired design with Fidlock magnetic buckle for quickly, easy and safe on and off. Inside is thick helmet pads, which can be easily removed for cleaning and then reinstalled.

Two sizes of the Jet are available, child (48-52cm) and youth (50-55cm), both have a Dialed Fit System on the lower back of the helmet to adjust it for a comfortable and secure fit.

Each helmet comes with a crash replacement guarantee to provide a free helmet replacement if it’s involved in a crash within the first year of ownership.

A sticker pack for kid-friendly customization is also included. $100

GADGETS :: July 22, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

The resurgence of vinyl records never happened in my house, simply because they never left. If the comeback hasn’t reached your world, the Crosley’s Mini Cruiser and RSD3 turntables are a great way to start.

They won’t play any 33 or 45 rpm vinyl records; instead the portable record player plays 3-inch records. Personally, before I put my eyes on the mini turntables at a trade show I had never heard of them or the 3-inch records. While they aren’t commonly stocked at stores, the pocket sized records are easily found. Just do an online search, you’ll see.

The whole package with the mini turntable and records is eye-catching, some might say cool, other say cute, both with a retro look. 

The Mini Cruiser (5.79-by-8.15-by-3.35-inches) is truly portable. When it’s closed, it has a carry handle like a mini suitcase. This makes it a mini version of the bigger record playing Cruiser record player for 33 and 45’s, also built in a suitcase style.

It’s really amazing when you see them perform with all the features packed inside, including a clear dust cover, adjustable pitch control, built-in stereo speakers, a port to connect your headphones or wire it to a stereo system. There’s also a Bluetooth transmitter to connect portable speakers.

When I unpacked it and a few sample 3-inch records, I can honestly say without asking her, my wife was tired of hearing Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls of Fire being played. I played it over and over at home and took it with us to show off for many friends during socially distant gatherings.

The silver toned RSD3 mini belt-drive turntable, $89.95, is also way cool and will be the talking centerpiece when you display it with a your sound system. It also plays the 3-inch records with sound coming from built-in speakers or use the 3.5 mm auxiliary port for output to headphones or a sound system.

Measuring just 6.16-by-4.50-by-3.25-inches, it’s built with a pre-mounted Audio Technica AT3600 moving-magnet cartridge and adjustable pitch control.

Sound from both of the mini turntable’s built-in speakers wasn’t room filling but don’t get fooled by that. It was way better than I expected and after I connect both to external speakers, they were a listening joy.

Power comes from a microUSB connection or four AAA batteries for the RSD3 and four AA batteries for the Cruiser. For true portability, I used the USB connection with my high powered portable USB battery. Both play the mini records at a 33 1/3 rpm speed.

A nice accessory for the mini turntables is the stylish Crosley mini record carrier case ($29.95), which holds 10 3-inch records. It’s a well made vinyl-wrapped case with metal hardware, a carry handle and rubber feet.

We always need more power and when it comes to USB-C devices, the small and powerful Aukey Omnia 100 watt PD GaN charger ($54.99) is the way to go. It’s part of Aukey’s new Omnia line, which includes five chargers with various combinations of USB-C and standard USB ports. 

The charger has a single USB-C port giving you 100 watts of power for charging, producing quick charging for powerful laptops and smaller smartphone batteries. All chargers are not the same, even if they all power and charge your devices. Specifically for the new Aukey Omnia Series, they have Aukey’s latest OmniaChip, which makes use of gallium nitride (GaN) to pack more power into the chargers.

And if you’re one who is on the go, you’ll love the size (2.2-by-2.2-by-1.2-inches), about half the size of the Apple MacBook charger I got with my last laptop purchase. Foldable plugs help with the portability, fold them out when you need to plug it into any standard AC outlet and fold them in when not in use. 

GADGETS :: July 15, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

Often I read about new security cameras and they seem to have one or two really cool features. Recently, I saw that had Hoop rolled out the Hoop Cam and Hoop Cam Plus, and they seemed to have everything I wanted.

Specifically,  high quality video, face recognition, a companion application for both iOS and Android, custom profiles, GeoFencing (my personal favorite security feature) and storage options for cloud or your own microSD memory cards. And it doesn’t end there, coming for  a really fair price.

Not long ago, setting up any home security system was complex, but not anymore.  Hoop makes it  as easy as it can get.

My setup began with the Hoop Cam Plus by downloading their app (iOS and Android), which included a security code sent to confirm  that you are you.

It then walks you through setting up a profile with simple step by steps instructions in the app for when you are home, away or in high alert. Different settings can be used for day or night, both with notifications.

The app will alert you if a new firmware version is available for the camera; update this if you get the message, it only takes a minute.

Every step I went to within the app was easy, which keeps the average users frustration levels down and in turn keeps the product from being returned. Setting up the profiles and rules was as easy as any camera I’ve setup.

When you do have clips to see, they are in a scrollable list for that day or you can go to a prior day. There’s a lot of great features, including integration with Google Home and Alexa, night vision and motorized 350 degrees motion panning and 45-degree tilting.

The Hoop Cam plus ($79.99) and Hoop Cam ($59.99) both feature 1080p wireless video streaming, night vision, motion-sensing technology and two-way audio from the camera to the app. A big different in the plus adds motorized 350-degree panning, 45-degree tilt.

As mentioned, storage can be done in the bottom side built-in microSD memory card slot with your own card or cloud subscriptions, which start at $12.99 per month for the first three cameras and $1.99 more for each additional camera.

One funny note, when the camera is plugged in for power with the included tangle free microSD cord, the camera looks like it goes through a stretching exercise, just as I do with my neck every morning. It’s really a self-check, but you’ll see.

Now I understand why Hoop is called “your clever little helper” on the Hoop site and boxes. Plus, they look cool –  true it’s a home security camera but with a fun, edgy, modern appearance so it doesn’t make your house look like a bank lobby. Both cameras are available in red, grey and white

If you’re not a Photoshop wiz or just don’t have the time, Vivid-Pix Restore is a great one click software for image restoration of digital images.

It’s really straight forward, select your digital image and the software then gives you nine choices, each with a slightly difference correction of your original image. From there choose what looks best and save it. Batch-editing is also a choice for large quantities.

You can do further adjustments, which I didn’t because I liked the choices the software (Mac and Windows) gave me. But you can adjust the contrast, brightness, color and rotate/tilt. 

Obviously pictures needing to be brought back to life with the software have to be digital files but once you scan in your prints or slides, color or black and white, the results are almost magical.  

Within the preferences you choose the JPG quality, sharpening and other features, which are all done when you do the single click. Images can be saved as JPGs or TIFF format.

Each image takes seconds and what I liked from the dozen or so images I tried Vivid-Pix Restore’s patented AI image restoration on, it didn’t blow out the colors and whites like other auto setting on photo softwares I’ve tried.  Metadata can also be added to the images. $49.99, a free trial is also available

GADGETS :: July 8, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

To the list of all the home improvements people have generated in the past few months, add an easy setup of extending the range of some of your home Wi-Fi smart products. The idea of doing this is great and a company called Lutron makes it a do-it-yourself easy project with a new Caséta Wireless Repeater and Motion Sensor added to Lutron’s Caséta smart lighting control system.

If you’re not familiar with Lutron, you need to be. They design and manufacture automated light and shade controls for homes and commercial applications.

It’s been common over the past few years to put the main controls for Wi-Fi, smart home products and Lutron systems centrally located in your home. That’s the best idea so the signal is strong enough for your TV as well as computers and scattered smart home devices.

At times the signal is still not enough; some new Lutron products help solve the problem so the signal reaches areas like a back closet tucked away in the corner of a house or a unique layout of your home, which has a restroom buried in another corner.

Lutron’s Caséta Repeater ($74.95) placed in your dead zones will extent your existing Lutron system range by 60 feet when placed within 60 feet of a Lutron Caséta Smart Bridge. The Smart Bridge is the central point of the system.  

Setup is easy, there’s no ethernet connection, the Repeater just plugs into any home outlet as long as its in range of the system. Then add it to an existing system through the Caséta App and you’re done. Once installed, scheduling, scenes, Smart Away and more are at your at your fingertips without the use of Wi-Fi.

The Caséta Smart Motion Sensor ($49.95) is perfect for a room needing hands-free control for lights or other products in the Lutron system.

It can be as easy as placed in a room where you want the lights to turn on as you enter or leave a room. That one sensor can control Caséta shades, lights, fan controls or anything within 60 feet.

Think of those hidden rooms, which are critical, hallways, garages or anywhere. With the sensor you get 180-degree field of view so it sees you coming.

Another cool thing is what Lutron calls flexible installation. I call it saving a hole in the wall that I won’t have to patch later. But since the sensor is wireless, it mounts on a flat surface, corner or whereever needed. It’s powered by a battery with a life of up to 10 years.

Another piece of the Lutron system I wrote about last year is the wireless fan speed control ($60.69).

Once installed, you have now turned your simple existing ceiling fan into a wireless smart home-controlled device for turning on and off, speed controls, programable schedules and scenes with other smart home products.

The Lutron smart lighting control system connects with smart home devices like Alexa, Apple HomeKit and Google Assistant. 

Mophie, a ZAGG Brand, recently launched the Mophie Powerstation Wireless XL, which has everything you need to charge today’s high powered, wireless electronic gadgets.

Inside the 10,000mAh battery is Qi wireless charging for input and output, which will work with the latest Apple, Samsung, LC, Google Nexus and other devices with the Qi system built in. With the output, you can charge your device, the input lets you connect it to  any Qi-compatible wireless charging pad for re-charging the powerstation.

There’s also an Apple Lightning input, a USB-C input and outport port and 18 watt fast charging. Thirty minutes should give your device 50 percent of battery life. So whatever needs a charge, this will give it you with style and power on-the-go. It can give devices like an iPhone up to 55 hours of extra use.

Other features include an LED power indicator with four lights to know the level of remaining battery power. With Priority Charging, the powerstation sends power to your device needing charging before charging itself when it’s connected to your charging pad.

The battery can also be recharged through the same Lighting cable that charges Apple devices or through the USB-C port. $99.95

GADGETS :: July 1, 2020

by Gregg Ellman

I’ve never seen anyone go around showing off their new hearing aid. But often I see people bragging about their new earbuds. The Olive Smart Ear has the appearance and style of a single earbud in but does the job of a hearing aid.

I’ll start off with some information supplied by the parent company, Olive Union, which caught my attention before I even opened the box.

It stated that 48-million Americans have trouble hearing, yet only 1 in 5 who need it use an assisted hearing device to correct for their impairment. Most often, hearing loss begins in just one ear. First comes little things like talking louder than you normally would, keeping the TV at a higher volume, or cupping your ear to hear better during a meeting.

All this sounds very familiar since I’ve witness these situations first hand with family members. So I was excited to give this product a try.

The Olive Smart Ear is built with state-of-the-art design and technology, patented sound technology for outstanding, clear and balanced sounds and is designed to work with hearing impaired with a loss less than 50 dB. They are designed for people who just aren’t quite ready for hearing aids, which by-the-way cost in the area of $2,000 to $5000, compared to $299 for the Olive Smart ear.

Along with a companion App (IOS and Android), it gives you a hearing test for recommended settings and the user-friendly dashboard gives you instant  adjustments from the basic default mode to TV watching and conversations. Feedback can be altered and other controls can easily be customized based on the user and the environment. Crowded restaurants need different adjustments than talking at the breakfast table.

It offers nice sound but what it makes it stand out is the amplified sound. I don’t have hearing loss so I enlisted someone close to me who does. We put ourselves in a normal environment with the TV in surround sound, but not on defining levels. 

With the Olive Smart Ear in one ear away from me, she definitely felt improvement on hearing the TV while still able to hear my occasional conversation.

Olive Union data on the earbud says Total Harmonic Distortion is less than 1.2% in each measured channel, to provide a clear spectrally balanced sound. It’s designed to instantaneously filter out unpleasant, sharp high pitch noises and has a Wide Dynamic Range Compression algorithm tuned to capture 99.8-percent of the sounds within your hearing range without distortion.

Like true wireless earbuds, alone it gives you seven hours of charge and when combined with the included portable recharging case, its good for over 20 hours. 

It’s not something you would wear all day but it’s so small and portable, when it’s needed it can be useful. With 16 channels and a dynamic
range of 96dB, it can only help. $299 available in white and black

Handy, efficient, all-in-one, power and unique are words I’d use to describe the new EGGTronic Power Bar portable battery.

All-in-one is a great way to describe it since it has two 7.5 watt Qi wireless charging spots, a single 5 watt Apple Watch wireless charging spot and a USB-C powered port with 30 watts of power deliver.

All at once, the 3-in-1 multi-device can charge an iPhone, Apple Watch and AirPods in the 7.30-by-1.02-by-2.67-inch Apple MFI-certified device, which has 10,000 mAh of portable battery power. The USB-C port can be used with you’re charging cable to power and charge a Macbook, iPad or iPhone. The same port is used for recharging the battery itself.

The four ports can be used simultaneously, but with all being used and especially with a laptop or tablet, the power from the Power Bar is appreciated.

So with all that, its easy to see why a battery like this is probably the most versatile portable batteries I’ve seen. In addition to the battery itself, the package includes a 3-foot USB-C to USB-C cable, a 3-foot USB-C to Lightning cable and a handy USB-C to USB-A adapter tip. Normally you get a single charging cable for the battery itself, instead EGGTronic has really made this a complete package with the accessories. $149.99

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. 

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