Nova Blox External Battery Hardware Review

Nova Blox External Battery Hardware Review

Mar 31, 2015

The Juno Power Nova Blox External Battery is a mobile option that looks to give extended life to our mobile devices.

It’s a relatively small piece, mostly silver with deliberate black accents. It has a button on the side, with a micro-USB charging port and what looks to be a prominent LED light on one end, and on the opposite end, there is a USB outlet port. Officially, it comes in at 2.87 x 2.01 x 0.83 inches, and weighs 4.65 ounces. Overall, it is barely bigger than a box of tic tacs, which makes it quite portable and even fairly pocketable. The retail package also provides a micro-USB cable (which can be used to charge the unit and also as an output cable) as well as documentation. We got the silver, and there are other trim options.

Using the unit is intuitive; it came with a good charge (as signified by the hitherto hidden row of charge indicators that line one side), so it was able to be used immediately. Charging pace is good, though, unscientifically, it does feel a tad slower than “regular” AC charging. It’s rated at 4000 mAh capacity (and 5 Volt -2.1A output), so it packs quite a punch.


The power button toggles charging duties, but also has a secondary function: pressing and holding it causes that previously described prominent LED light to show its true purpose as a flashlight. It won’t cut through the darkness Vin Diesel encountered in Pitch Black, in a pinch it isn’t a bad tool to have, especially since a portable charger is key in a power outage situation.

The hold time, raw power output and portability are great features, but almost just as attractive is the pricing. $24.99 on Amazon is competitive. It works with a multitude of devices across platforms… just about most devices that require USB charging functionality.

All in all, as a portable option from a well known entity in the business, it resonates as a great option.

INSTEON Home Remote Control System Hardware Review

INSTEON Home Remote Control System Hardware Review

Mar 31, 2015

We’ve said it so much that it has to be true: The Connected Home isn’t the future. It is definitely the present, and the smartphone is the new control panel. INSTEON is front and center in this area, and we were eager to check out its customizable solutions.

The Starter Kit INSTEON sent us to review contains some of the elements that connect one’s home; the retail packaging contains the INSTEON Hub and two on/off modules. The former serves as the brain of the system, while the latter serve as elements that help effect control.

The pieces come in white, with the hub being noticeably bigger than each on/off module, coming in at 3.75 x 3.75 x 1.5 inches (versus 3.24 x 2.08 x 1.15 inches of each module). The hub is — as the dimensions indicate — a solid, hard plastic-covered box with LED light on the one side, and charging and ethernet ports on the opposite one. The modules resemble 3-pin plugin extensions, with LED light and buttons on the side. In addition to the three main pieces, the retail package also contains white cables for power and ethernet, as well as documentation.


The setup is pretty easy; first, the hub gets connected to power and internet source via the supplied cables. After this, the next step is to download the INSTEON for Hub app from Google Play or the Amazon Appstore. After connecting to the Hub via wi-fi, it’s a matter ofconnecting the extra peripherals — in our case, the two on/off modules. After pairing those pieces, it was game time.

using the app, it is possible to control the on/off modules. The uses are endless: fans, electronics, lamps, heaters and more. Anything that is connected to the modules can be controlled via the wireless signal relayed by the hub. It’s pretty effective, and, in our testing, instantaneous.

The great aspect of the solution is the inherent mobility vested on one’s smartphone by the INSTEON Android app. The ability to manage on the go is priceless. The ability to tailor the system to one’s precise needs is equally admirable; there are several pieces that bring home automation to bear, from security to the control of pieces from other systems.


The Android app is a bit clunky though, what with the endless update loop. Setup could use more complete instructions, and overall, the companion software could use some sprucing up. The presence of a web version is welcome, even if it’s in beta, and managing several pieces after setup is quite easy. At an investment of just under $111 for the starter kit (via Amazon) makes it fairly reasonable.

It’s hard to dislike the ability to make the system one’s own. As noted, INSTEON touches on jut about every aspect of home automation and security, so one can mix and match pieces to create the perfect solution. In the end, that specific pro seemingly drowns out any cons.

Undead Land: Liberation Review

Undead Land: Liberation Review

Mar 31, 2015

I try to be timid with my reviews, but every once in a while, I come across such lazy and impossible titles that I can’t help but get infected with their stupidity. Undead Land: Liberation isn’t just lazy, it’s completely blatantly so. I don’t say that it’s completely unplayable, but it would probably be better if it was.

Undead Land: Liberation is about shooting zombies. That about describes it. The player chooses a mission on the global Undead Land Liberation 3map, chooses one of the overpriced weapons, and equips the bombs that can only be purchased with real money, then goes to a low-res cardboard cutout location and shoots cardboard cutout zombies. The zombies were very obviously taken from different sources, since most of them look drawn, but then there’s a very fast black zombie (I swear that it’s like this in the game) that just looks like some black guy’s zombie impersonation, with a weird green glow around him.

But the most irritating part is definitely the sound. All of the sounds have been pulled from different sources as well, but unlike the zombies, it’s very obvious what these sources were. The starting pistol sounds like a pistol from Counter-Strike – the first Counter-Strike, if I recall correctly. The damn headshot announcement that makes you want to rip your ears off after a while, was pulled from Unreal Tournament, a second game I’d much rather play, instead.

Naturally, the gameplay is just what one would expect in Undead Land: Liberation. It’s repetitive, doesn’t have any resemblance of balance, and since the amount of oncoming zombies is ridiculous, the player is basically required to spend the money on new weapons. The weapons that have obviously been stolen from other games, as well. The game is screwed beyond repair, and I can say this without worrying the developers would read this, since the game comes from Korea. I know this from a simple fact that the auto-translation is horrid, and small parts of the game actually still contain Korean characters. I’m not even going to describe the mechanics and the power-ups, or whatever. Just, find something better to play, instead.

Win One of Five $25 Gift Cards in NetEase Beta Signup Giveaway!

Win One of Five $25 Gift Cards in NetEase Beta Signup Giveaway!

Mar 31, 2015


Android Rundown is partnering with NetEase Games to bring a fun contest to our readers. As we get closer to the launch of upcoming game Speedy Ninja, NetEase is not only offering up free spots in the closed beta; it also giving folks who sign up an opportunity to win one of 5 (five) $25 gift cards!

Wanna get in on this? Simple:

  • Sign up for the beta at the Google sign-up sheet.
  • Answer the question “What color best befits a Ninja”? Put the answer as a comment to this post.
  • Wait with fingers crossed; we’ll have a drawing and announce the winners.

    For accuracy, make sure that your signup name and email match the name and email you sue to answer the questions in the comments.

    For the overly curious, we even have a gameplay trailer:

    The rules: one word (color) answers are fine. No profanity. Single entries. Boom.

    The contest closes on Saturday, April 4th so get going!

    Cinderella Free Fall Review

    Cinderella Free Fall Review

    Mar 30, 2015

    The interesting thing about Cinderella Free Fall is that it doesn’t have anything in common with the Disney’s classic cartoon. Considering that the game was actually licensed by Disney, I can’t understand this logic. The game doesn’t have any story at all, and the graphics don’t even hint at the cartoon, which is pretty weird. Besides that weird disassociation, the game is just a pretty free-to-play princess-themed arcade.

    Cinderella Free Fall isn’t really trying to set itself apart from any other free-to-play match-three games, so if you’ve played a single one of them, and since they keep making them, I can imagine that literally everyone on Earth already did at this point, you can probably imagine what the game is about. The player must connect the colored gems together to break them. There are several tasks the level may require to complete, like getting a certain amount of points, or clear the board of the Cinderella Free Fall 3blocks, in a certain amount of moves. There are a couple of powers that the player can use to complete the level, but they’re are pretty restricted and require some money to purchase. If the player fails, one of his hearts is destroyed, and the level must be replayed. The hearts restore over time (a pretty long time, I should add), but of course, it’s possible to spend some money to purchase the additional hearts.

    By this point, a pattern emerges. The game isn’t impossible, but it gets really difficult to complete the levels without resorting to the power-ups, or restarts, after the first 15 levels or so. Since this game is obviously for children, I can’t help but notice quite a cynical approach, especially when it’s mixed with the whimsical graphics and sounds.

    So, while I tried to maintain a simple mind with Cinderella Free Fall, it’s just not good enough – especially for young children, who I can already imagine bouncing on their parents’ heads with demands to purchase some power-ups for a pretty unimaginative match-three clone. And it’s not even connected to the classic cartoon! Disney really should pick their gaming department up.

    Nyrius Songo HiFi Wireless Music Receiver Hardware Review

    Nyrius Songo HiFi Wireless Music Receiver Hardware Review

    Mar 30, 2015

    The review sample we were sent is the retail version, and contains the Bluetooth puck, power adapter, auxiliary to RCA cable, standard 3.55mm audio cable and documentation.

    Now, once out of the box, if the main piece surprised me with its size — and it did, as I expected it to be a tad bigger — it definitely surprised me with regards to the weight, being only 2.4 ounces on a frame of 3.2 x 2.8 x 0.79 inches officially. The main unit is a rectangular cuboid, crafted in hard black plastic that is only broken up by required labeling, company logo and input/connection ports.

    The ports are for power, 3.55mm audio out and, interestingly enough, optical input.

    Understanding what the Nyrius purports to do is the key to understanding the proposed functionality; it works as a wireless receiver that collects signals from a Bluetooth source — like an Android device — and allows the audio to be played on a sound system that accepts wired signal from the puck itself. In essence, it bridges a Bluetooth source to an output unit (like a stereo or sound system without a Bluetooth chip) so that, say, music can be played. This is especially useful when one wants to continue using traditional devices, or even for folks like me, who prefer wired connections but like or need to go wireless for one reason or another.


    Connecting it up is a matter of connecting the unit to power and and output device via the 3.55mm cable; traditional computer speakers plugged into it just fine. After that, it’s a simple matter of pairing t to the source device via Bluetooth (in our testing, we used the Samsung Note 4). The unit does produce slick sound, with little distortion when the phone was close to the unit; noticeable distortion occurred when the source device was a bit short of the advertised 33 feet. I do like the fact that multiple source devices can be paired (up to eight per documentation, and the aptX functionality is a plus. I also like the included RCA cable and Toslink functionality, which theoretically allows one to stream to two different outputs at the same time (we didn’t test this). My biggest complaint is the need for constant power, as this hinders the mobility of the unit. On the flip side, no issues with losing power during a session.

    All in all, it’s a nifty little piece that is able to stand out from the pack (incuding other receivers from the same manufacturer) by doing regular things well, and even more.

    CNBC TV Everywhere App Now Available on Android

    CNBC TV Everywhere App Now Available on Android

    Mar 28, 2015

    CNBC is bringing its app to Android users.

    Access the power of CNBC on your smartphone.
    Get fast, accurate and actionable business news, financial information, and market data from the network that is First in Business Worldwide.
    Stream CNBC shows like Squawk Box live, or access full episodes of CNBC Prime’s American Greed or The Profit with video on demand (U.S. Only). CNBC’s app delivers real-time stock market quotes throughout the day, direct from the NYSE and NASDAQ. View pre-market and after-hours trading data and customize your own watchlists in My Stocks.

    Download the CNBC app on your smartphone for free now.

    CNBC App Features:

    Watch CNBC Live
    – Real-time business news with CNBC TV live streaming
    – Full episodes of CNBC shows, like Mad Money and American Greed, with Video on Demand
    – Access by logging in with your cable or satellite subscription

    Homepage & Navigation
    – Access International and U.S. editions
    – Customize topic news sections using the “Favorites” feature
    – View latest slideshows and special reports

    Stock Quotes and Charts
    – Real-time stock market data direct from the NYSE and Nasdaq, London and Frankfurt Stock Exchanges
    – Extended hours and pre-markets coverage for U.S. stock markets
    – Interactive and historical charts with custom timeframes (1 to 5 years)
    – Global market data from Toronto Stock Exchange, XETRA (Germany); Euronext Paris (France); Euronext Amsterdam (Netherlands); Euronext Lisbon (Portugal); Euronext Brussels (Belgium); Singapore Exchange; Hong Kong Stock Exchange; Sao Paulo Stock Exchange (Brazil); Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (Israel); and Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (Malaysia)
    – Currencies, commodities and bonds data with historical treasury yield curves

    My Stocks
    – Create and track your favorite company stocks in real-time, with access to charts and business news headlines
    – Sort watchlists by symbol, name, percent change, net change, and price
    – Access top stocks of the day being followed and discussed on CNBC

    Breaking News Alerts
    – Critical breaking news alerts pushed directly to your phone
    – Includes 24-hour global coverage for stock market news, top business stories, analysis and expert opinions on the economy, personal finance, world markets, investment, technology, politics, energy, health care, and more.

    Exclusive Video Content
    – Over 150 new video clips uploaded each day
    – Global coverage from CNBC’s TV networks in the U.S., Europe, and Asia
    – Access over 850 interviews conducted with business professionals and finance industry experts

    The app is available for free on Google Play.

    Game of Thrones Review

    Game of Thrones Review

    Mar 27, 2015

    Telltale Games? Game of Thrones six-part game? Bring it on.

    The game story picks up right before the infamous Red Wedding (and if you haven’t seen the gory spectacle, you might want to, if only to watch the interesting reaction videos that spawned on YouTube). The game focuses on the adventures of House Forrester, which most show fans may not recognize, as it’s a minor House with Northern allegiances. The decimation that occurs in the Red Wedding put House Forrester in a precarious situation that frames the gameplay.

    In this game, we get to roam and alternate in the person of three characters. While the core Houses of the actua franchise are not the main ones here, we do get to enjoy cameos in action and voice. The narrative is fairly involved, and one might be forgiven for getting lost in the opening interactions. Thankfully, as the action starts, it gets busy enough. The game employ some Choose Your Own Adventure elements via the use of multiple choice dialogue boxes; picking any one choice affects upcoming action. It also incorporates a control mechanism that affects the game within the action; for example, swiping up can be the difference between raising a held shield or getting perforated by arrows. When such action symbols occur, one has to react quickly or suffer a (usually) painful ending.


    It must be said, it isn’t a game for the faint of heart… or ears or eyes, for that matter. The language is raw in parts, and there is a lot of involuntary loss of body fluids of the red variety. The artwork pays direct ode to the Game of Thrones universe, and having a preexisting affinity for the show definitely helps with enjoyment of the game. The dark themes fit perfectly, and the way the game moves on just makes sense. It helps that mistakes are forgiven with the automatic checkpointing.

    As noted, the game is a six-part series, with subsequent ones (3-6) on the way. The first gets one’s feet wet, and the rest are available via in-app purchases.

    It is a fun game, and one that can probably be played more than once. The best part? one need not necessarily be a fan of the show to enjoy the game.

    But yes, as we said… it helps.

    Google Messenger Update Brings Animated GIF Support and Widget

    Google Messenger Update Brings Animated GIF Support and Widget

    Mar 27, 2015

    Google Messenger is rolling out an update for users; the update brings animated GIF support, a widget and the ubiquitous performance improvements and bug fixes.

    We had recently reviewed the app, and mostly liked it.

    It remains free on the Play Store.

    Kenu Stance Micro-USB Tripod Hardware Review

    Kenu Stance Micro-USB Tripod Hardware Review

    Mar 27, 2015

    When it comes to a cool accessory, give me one that is small, portable, and effective. You know, just like what the Kenu Stance Micro-USB Tripod claims to be.

    To give one an idea of how compact this tripod is, it just about fits in the palm of one’s hand. Out of the box, it is fairly nondescript, with brushed sinc-alloy making up most of the legs. It possesses a neon green topper (the MicroMount, made of “grilamid” composite material) that fits into a micro-USB port; similarly colored thermoplastic rubber covers the end of the legs. At first glance, it is clear that the the legs are somewhat irregular, but are engineered to lay plush together when the unit is not being used. Altogether, it comes in at 0.94 x 0.47 x 3.1 inches and only 1.2 ounces.

    When the legs are spread, it takes on a slightly different persona; the legs open up at at an angle to each other in way that is atypical but effective. The top part is further revealed to be a basic ball and socket joint that more or less allows the hosted device to be adjusted along the grilamid axis.


    In the end, any accessory is only as good as the value it adds to a device, and in this, the Stance serves a great purpose. As someone who was spoiled by the original HTC EVO 4G and its kickstand, and one who does consume media via smartphone on the go, this gadget makes sense in a variety of ways. Upright, it works great with Google Hangouts and other videochat options. I was also able to record voice via third-party mics, use it for recording video, and otherwise have access to the phone in regular position. I especially liked using the ball and socket functionality to access the phone in landscape, which is great for watching video.

    My one issue is that the MicroMount fits very tightly — good, yes, but tight enough to give me pause while inserting it. On the plus side, it works even with smaller tablets (even though it isn’t rated for such), and with Windows phone devices.

    All in all, it fits the bill: small and useful. It’s inherent portability is definitely an advantage, and this piece practically begs to be a part of one’s go-bag.

    Grudgeball — Regulars Review

    Grudgeball — Regulars Review

    Mar 27, 2015

    Chaos is the name of the game with regards to Grudgeball — Regulars.

    The game brings some of the familiar characters from the Cartoon Network show it’s based on; of course, Mordecai and Rigby are front and center, as well as the rest of the crew. The game is set in the “far future” and grudgeball is the most popular — and dangerous — diversion. Teams of three settle out their differences and express their desires for domination in the famed Chaosphere.

    The game screen pits three of the player characters against three opponents. There is one ball, and the basic rules of dodgeball apply, with the main idea being to knock the opponents out with said ball. The control mechanism entails tapping or swiping to control the ball. The first portion of the game incorporates a tutorial which shows the basics of attack, blocking, using special powers and more.

    The game is leveled, and success in a level opens up the next. The developer does a decent job of adding new elements to subsequent levels, which does help limit monotony. The game allows for multiplayer play in addition to the regular single player option.


    In practice, it is a really fun premise: dodgeball without recrimination. Because of the the game area is set up, it does play better on bigger screens than, say, a regular sized Android screen. It felt a bit cramped on the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 we tried it on. Even then, the control mechanism, while intuitive in theory, does tend to cause the screen to be partially obstructed at key moments, which can curb the fun. I also encountered a crash or two.

    The artwork is better than enjoyable, with slick, arcade-y animations, and the accompanying sound works well with the gameplay.

    All in all, it’s easy to like, what with the familiar characters and the aspect of dodgeball. As far as gameplay, the multiplayer option is great to have, and the pros generally outweigh the cons.

    Real Steel Champions Review

    Real Steel Champions Review

    Mar 27, 2015

    In case people don’t know what it is, True Steel is a movie that proved that even a movie about a bunch of robots who punch each other can be boring, if you make it about some young kid and his family. A concept, commonly known as “The Transformers Principle”. Likewise, True Steel Champions proves that you can make a game about said robots irritating, if you make it free-to-play, and mess up the actual fighting.

    True Steel Champions doesn’t have anything resembling a story, and instead simulates a boxing tournament, in which the player has to defeat a bunch of increasingly powerful opponents. The only difference it has to the other boxing sims, is that you can change the parts of your robot in-between the fights. Which would be fun, if the parts would contain at least some form of individuality. Instead, you just hoard up money from the fights and purchase whatever part has higher numbers next to it. There’s also an option of purchasing a ton of unique moves and combos – but even all of them put together could hardly fill a couple of Tekken characters. And Tekken is exactly what this game tries to be. The low-poly, glossy look of the fighters Real Steel Champions 4basically makes the game look like Tekken 2, with Mokujin as the only available fighter. The free-to-play stuff messes up the game even more, introducing such fun concepts as energy bar and unobtainable currency.

    Of course, it’s not about the graphics, or the managing – it’s about robot fighting! And that part sucks, too. The combat is clunky as hell, and while all the fighting elements are there, they are not put together very well. The movements aren’t fluent, the combos aren’t comfortable, and the fights end up looking unsettingly close to the Rock’em Sock’em face-outs.

    So, in the end, True Steel Champions is a very restrictive, not graphically impressive, boring and repetitive game that doesn’t explore any unseen parts of the movie world. I don’t really see any reasons to play it, unless you are really damn captivated by the generic robot designs.