Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer Hardware Review

Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer Hardware Review

Feb 11, 2016

The more mobile we become as a civilization, the more we get to see connected devices. Yes, it does take a while for critical mass to be achieved with regards to some solutions, but there are several that make plenty of sense in present times.

The key is using one’s smartphone and/or tablet as a hub of sorts… not only to maybe power the peripheral, but definitely to collate and manage data on the go.

When it comes to the special category of health connected devices, there are several products on the market. Still, what is more crucial to healthy living and medical diagnoses than a thermometer? And, when it comes easy-to-understand health vicks7solutions, what has better cachet then Vicks?

With the Vicks SmartTemp Wireless Smartphone Thermometer, one gets said company potentially bringing a useful product to market.

The review package we got reveals the product in its retail manifestation; it’s tightly wrapped, with the thermometer itself, paperwork and a cover. The thermometer itself look much like a home use medical thermometer, with a slightly bulbous top that tapers into a probe. One pertinent detail, there isn’t a digital display on this. The surface is covered in hard plastic, and there is a battery compartment built in, and a prominent power button at the very top. It feels well fused and intuitively easy to handle, and is also bluetooth-enabled.

The thermometer uses an app for connectivity, and this app — Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer app on Google Play — is really the base of all operations. It’s a clean app, and surprisingly functional; it allows for one to link to the device via aforementioned bluetooth, and to create separate profiles, which is perfect for families. One can also select from three body locations, and then one can get to checking heat.

The thermometer beeps to signal completion, and it uses bright colors to denote healthy temperatures. When a temperature is taken, one can attach extra data, like symptoms and medications. The app itself has a reference chart, and allows for temperatures to be taken in both centigrade and fahrenheit.

The “on” button can be preclude one-handed operation, but the biggest drawback probably derives from its biggest attribute: app connectivity. See, with no display, the unit truly needs the companion app, and really can’t be used without it. Bummer, if one’s device is out of reach or out of commission.

Still, it works remarkably well, and is great as self-help unit. It is quite simple to use, and easy to depend on.

Easton Power Sensor Hardware Review

Easton Power Sensor Hardware Review

Jan 26, 2016

Sports metrics is not exactly a new thing; modern athletes and their trainers are mostly used to the concept of collecting and analyzing data as a means to get the edge on opponents.

When it comes to statistics, no sport is nearly as thorough as baseball. Performance has always been measured in hard numbers, so much so numbers are a big part of its hallowed history.

More specifically to performance, it isn’t odd to see players look to quantify their own measurables. Mobility gives us a whole new way to collate such data, and tools like Easton Power Sensor sound like serious, tangible tools that provide real value to baseball players of all ages.

The concept is simple, really… the sensor measures bat swing power and associated data points.

The review package we were sent reflects the accessory in its retail glory; one gets the sensor (which is white, smaller than a cork and akin to a bottle top), a clear bat sleeve (to attach the sensor to the handled end of the bat, a charging pad plus cable and documentation.

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Set up is fairly intuitive. One sets up the charging pad with the included micro-USB cable, and allows the sensor to charge completely (as shown by the green LED light); while the piece iss charging, one can go ahead and grab the companion application Easton Power Sensor off of Google Play. Here, one can register an account, and manage any other equipment attached.

The app prompts one to link to the sensor via bluetooth, which is achieved by turning the sensor over every two seconds till the link is effected; the next thing is to get the clear sleeve, put the sensor in it and attach the union over the narrow end of the bat. After all this is done, the unit is about ready to use.

And use it we did. The simplicity actually encourages one to get out and start swingin’ again, again and again. After a series of swings, we were able to pull up the data via the companion app, and get some hard talking points, like swinging time and more.

It’s an easy tool, but my main gripe surrounds the Android app; syncing isn’t as smooth as one would like (by comparison, the iOS app was fairly flawless). Also, the incorporated battery could probably last longer. At $149.95, it is a bit of an investment.

All in all, it’s a fine accessory; it measures a very important metric, provides latent tips and can be used in softball. It’s fun, intuitive and actually enjoyable to use, and even helps bring out the slugger in all of us.

verykool Maverick LTE SL5550 Hardware Review

verykool Maverick LTE SL5550 Hardware Review

Jan 13, 2016

Android is synonymous with mobile device choice. When it’s all said and done, the platform stands out for several reasons, one major one being the ability to find the perfect hardware for most folks.

The same principle can be applied to cost; when it comes to finding the right price, Android is where’s it’s at. Each platform has price-conscious models, but Android fosters competition that allows device makers to compete on price.

This beautiful breeding ground pops out some veritable options, one being the verykool Maverick LTE SL5550; we’ve had a fun time with the piece that the manufacturer provided us. The review package contained the device in its retail trappings, with removable battery, charging components, earphones and documentation. We also received an official clear bumper case.

We talked about the specs in our intro article, but now that we have a lot of the time with the device physically, it’s definitely worth mentioning them again: a 5.5″ gorilla glass screen, 13mp auto/focus main camera on the back; 8 MP up front for selfies. One also gets a 2,500 mAh battery and MediaTek MT6735P/quadcore engine.

Physically, it borders on the stately; it is far from gaudy, with restrained bezels and front-facing camera at the top. The power and volume buttons are on the right side, while the micro-USB charging port and auxiliary audio jack are on the top. Of course the primary camera is on the back. As noted, it has a removable battery, with slots for microSD card and two sim cards.

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It doesn’t carry some frills. NFC isn’t available; and neither is a built-in method to screen mirror. The screen doesn’t dazzle, but is far from shabby, and it has great battery life (we managed brightness manually).

So, physically, one might find a fashionably designed phone that traipses comfortably into phablet-hood. It isn’t uncomfortable, and feels relatively good in hand.

It comes to market with Android 5.1; the UI is thin indeed, and has the Google suite pre-installed. As-is, it should be very comfortable to anyone who has dabbled into Android before, and pretty intuitive to folks new to the OS. There are several ways to customize the device using built-in options, and the Party Store further supplements that.

It worked admirably with the prepaid T-Mobile SIM it was paired with; there was a slight stutter when it was first paired to a bluetooth earpiece, but this issue couldn’t be replicated. As it’s name hints at, this is an LTE-equipped World Phone, and it is works over multiple bands and has two slots for GSM SIMs.

Altogether, it comes across as a very capable device. It might not be as feature-laden as some of the better known flagships from better known companies, but the Maverick is able to project a sense of quality within a veneer of modesty. What it might lack in flash is made up for in the old-school extras, like the aforementioned expandable storage and user-serviceable battery, amongst other things.

And yes, then there is the really, really cool thing. Price? $189.

Whether it’s used as daily driver, or a starter device for one’s favorite nephew, the Maverick can fill a role and can fill it well.

Merge Virtual Reality Goggles Hardware Review (Part I)

Merge Virtual Reality Goggles Hardware Review (Part I)

Jan 5, 2016

Google Cardboard opened up our eyes to affordable virtual reality headsets that incorporate smartdevices, and stuff like Merge VR Goggles joyfully expand on the concept for everyday people.

It’s a bit bigger than competing units we looked at in the past, but generally retains the same View-Master or binoculars feel that he have come to expect from these types of accessories. It is interestingly crafted, consisting of a tough type of foam that is smooth to the touch, but still consisting of a durable flexibility that allows the unit to be squeezed, twisted and otherwise physically manipulated without permanent damage. This pseudo-malleable nature seemingly adds to its portability.

The review unit is purple in color, and has an incorporated black strap to keep the unit in place on one’s head; the review package also came with an extra, optional trap that goes directly over one’s head. It has dual adjusting knobs/input buttons that help manage the device at the top, and a slit in which one can slide in a device to be used.

One genius concept is a removable tab that reveals that allows for one to use the device’s rear camera, which is perfect for augmented reality exploits. It is also designed to avoid fog.

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On one’s head, it is fairly comfortable, and encompasses one’s field of vision quite capably. I used it without the additional strap, and didn’t come close to dislodging in normal, active use.

A VR headset is, to a degree, only as good as the software it is paired with; in this regard, it’s great that Merge has some apps ready to go. A visit to Merge’s website leads one to a batch of Google Play hosted apps that are slated to work with the unit, and there a good number, some created from pre-existing apps, and others made specifically for the unit.

Click to read on: Part II

D-Link Full HD Ultra-Wide View Wi-Fi Camera Hardware Review

D-Link Full HD Ultra-Wide View Wi-Fi Camera Hardware Review

Dec 15, 2015

When it comes to developing professional grade electronics for “regular” consumers, few have the reputation of D-Link. Indeed, we’ve had the pleasure of checking out it’s Pan & Tilt Camera a while back.

Now, with its new Ultra-Wide View Camera, we get another take on consumer-facing surveillance and observation solutions, albeit with similar mobile management capabilities.

It’s relatively slick looking, mostly sheathed in hard black plastic. It utilizes a stand attached to the main lens frame; it is designed in such away that the camera can be swiveled upwards and downwards to customize the view. The core hardware assembly is quite subtle, officially coming in at 3.37 x 3.37 x 5.53 inches and 0.76 lbs.

On the main frame, there are slots for Micro-USB cable and micro-SD card, the latter gives a great idea of the extensibility of the product with regards to data accumulation.

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The retail box also contains documentation, mounting screws and a power cable. In hand, the camera has a solid feel, is flexible but seemingly well fused.

Getting it going is a simple matter of plugging it in using the supplied cord; the use of micro-USB standard is a nice touch worth underscoring. When plugged in a series of red LED lights come on around the frame; these serve as a visual reference point, there’s an orange-ish one on the back as well. At this point, one gets to incorporate the connected software option (one needs a solid internet connection; on Google Play, there is the companion mydlink Lite application, and this is used to finish the setup.

In practice, the setup was a bit stubborn, but it got to working after some dedicating prompting. The fixed feed can be picked up on one’s device live, or on a computer via one’s account at mydlink.com. The feed can be manipulated and/or saved to SD card, and event notifications can be set up for sound and/or motion.

The system works well together; the ability to access it via mobile or computer is exceptional. It’s fixed nature might give one pause but the adjustable frame and other aspects make up for a pretty good observation tool.

TYLT Smart Charger Hardware Review

TYLT Smart Charger Hardware Review

Dec 8, 2015

TYLT is all but synonymous with mobile power, and it doesn’t hurt that thy make stuff that dares to be attractive. Such is what we hope to find in the new TYLT 6K Smart Charger.

The review package that TYLT sent us reflects the item in its retail presentation. The container itself has TYLT’s signature flair, and has the charger, plugin adapters and documentation; the charger comes in blue (there is a grey option too). The prongs are designed to fold in when not in use, preserving the unit’s overall profile, and also incorporates a flat wrap-around micro-USB cable (a Lightning cable version is also available for iOS users).

On the front, there is a simple, push-button battery level LED that allows one to keep tabs on how much juice is available.

The charger is a surprisingly handy with regards to size; it looks like a small brick with rounded corners, and is on the verge of being pocketable. Officially, it comes in at 3 x 3.35 x 1.06 inches, and weighs 5.35 ounces, packing a 6,000 mAh LI-on polymer battery.

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The unit’s main calling card is its usability. First and foremost, it is a travel charger; its size lends itself to functional portability, somewhat eliminating the need for an extra cable due to the built-in micro-USB end, while also providing an extra pass-through USB slot for an additional one. The foldout prongs are a great idea, making any and every compatible outlet a viable, on-the-spot power source.

Toss in the battery storage, and one is able to procure extended functionality on the go for multiple mobile devices, so that even when the outlet isn’t available, one has a true portable charger.

The smart charging technology allows devices to be charged till full, and then for the battery to be topped off, which is a great idea. The 2.4A output means it won’t shirk even the roughest mobile charging responsibilities, and real world usage supports this premise. The unit fully charges in under eight hours.

An accessory’s true worth lays in its ability to become close to indispensable. In more ways than one, this one gets there. At $69.99, it is an investment, but it’s extended functionality adds to its value.

Satechi Wireless Gamepad Hardware Review

Satechi Wireless Gamepad Hardware Review

Nov 6, 2015

Gaming on Android continues to reach new heights, with more intricate games and even more involved systems to play them on. With this advancement, there’s always room for wireless accessories, and especially one from renown mobile accessory expert Satechi.

We’ve been keeping an eye on its new Bluetooth Wireless Universal Gamepad, and we finally have it to formally check out.

The review package Satechi provided reflects the item’s retail presentation; inside, one gets the controller, micro-USB cable and related documentation. The controller itself is black in color with mostly white accents, and made of hard plastic. The general layout will be familiar, as it mimics the ubiquitous form exemplified by the XBOX controller: two hands required, four buttons in a diamond layout set to the right and 4-way d-pad towards the bottom left. There are two mini joysticks, and towards the top are keys for pairing and Android-specific navigation, and at the very bottom, between the d-pad and the right joystick are a set of indicator lights that hint at done of the incorporated connectivity… it lets one know if the unit is connected to an Android or Apple device, a PC, or simply charging. On the front edge are the expected pair of dual buttons, and on the back edge one finds the micro-USB charging port and on/off toggle.

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The top corner houses a fun extension. It’s so well nestled it might be missed but for a subtle notch. Popping that reveals a spring loaded device holder that is used to keep connected devices in close proximity.

It feels familiar in hand, is light but not overly flimsy, and feels well constructed.

It comes ready to go, but we did top it off using the included cable. Pairing is easy using the Link button, and once that’s done, it’s ready to use. Off the bat, it works well as a replacement game controller, and also can be used to navigate PCs and such. It’s real value, as far as we are presently concerned, is how it on Android, and it works quite well. It works well with specific racing games (we used it on Raging Thunder).

Beyond this, it draws value as a cross-platform tool; even the Amazon Fire TV is covered.

Jabra Eclipse Bluetooth Earpiece Hardware Review

Jabra Eclipse Bluetooth Earpiece Hardware Review

Oct 30, 2015

Jabra has mostly reached the point where one can be guaranteed a quality product. Its audio and wireless products are usually topnotch, and we have had the opportunity to review more of Jabra’s recent offerings.

Jabra does seem to have an issue with resting any perceived laurels, which is great for consumers, as it gets us new pieces like the Jabra Eclipse, one of the company’s newer bluetooth earpiece offerings.

The earpiece itself is a sleek number, with a defined angle asking the main shaft. It had a smaller profile than the Jabra Stealth, but is somewhat lighter, coming in at 0.19 oz. This one is aimed at right ear use, and the angling ensures this. It’s grey and black with audio perforations; an all-white option with matching case is also available.

The obvious difference is the addition of the charging case; as such, the earpiece doesn’t need a charging port. Instead, it has subtle magnetic contacts that come into play when the unit is nestled inside the oval-ish case. The case houses the expected micro-USB charging port, and the matching set of contacts on the inside effect charging. It also houses a battery, so that it retains a charge that can be used to charge the unit even when it isn’t connected to an electrical outlet. The charging puck mostly matches the earpiece in color, being black and weighing 1.23 oz. It packs in NFC and extends standby time by 4 hours.

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The rest of the retail box contains ear gels and a micro-USB cable.

Using it is quite simple. After charging, turning it on is a simple matter of removing the earpiece from the case and turning off is the reverse operation. Pairing it will be simple for anyone who has previously paired bluetooth devices, and the aforementioned NFC is another option for pairing. Once inserted in one’s ear, double tapping invokes voice operations, call answering, etc. Noticeably, Google Now is easier to manipulate, and it boasts 10 hours of talk time with the charger case, and 6 without.

The companion Jabra Assist apps adds a bit more functionality, like geo-tagging, battery management, software upgrades and more. It still needs yet another Jabra app installed on one’s device to work though.

The case is a great idea, and works well. For some, it might take some getting used to, because it is a needed piece to control battery usage and charging.

Y-CHARGE QUIK Dual USB Car Charger Hardware Review

Y-CHARGE QUIK Dual USB Car Charger Hardware Review

Oct 12, 2015

At this point, charging accessories are almost as important as the units they power. This isn’t hyperbole, either as the latter are practically useless without the former.

It makes sense, then, that one should look for good, durable charging solution. And, being the mobile creatures that we are, it is imperative that we find different solutions suiting different environments. One environment that cannot be ignored is one’s vehicle; depending on one’s needs and commute times, the right type of power accessory is definitely needed.

With bigger devices and bigger batteries, it was only a matter of time before in-car tools began to match regular tools. With TYLT’s Y-CHARGE QUIK Car Charger, we get the possibility of a high capacity car charger matched with the style TYLT is known for in one handy package.

The review unit TYLT sent us reflects the unit in its retail state; one gets the piece itself and documentation. In hand, the charger looks relatively slick for what it does. The “Y” shaping intuitively underscores its dual USB function: the “tail” serves as the plug, while the two “branches” are outlets into which USB charging cable can be plugged into. The exterior is blue, and the accents shiny chrome. It isn’t too big, and even manages to fit in one’s hand fairly easily. Besides the blue we tested, one can pick, black, red and lime green.

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It is rated as Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 ready, so it boasts the ability to juice up devices up to 75% quicker, and it packs 4.8A that can be routed to two devices simultaneously. In practice, it mostly lives up to this promise, topping up devices tangibly faster than regular gear. Because of the “natural” spread, one can put two cables going in somewhat opposite directions. It works as advertised, and did well with power-hungry tablets.

The pricing is another draw, coming in at $16.99 on Amazon.

When it’s all said and done, one gets a nice quick-charging tool, stylish and seemingly well-formed for a decent price. Most importantly, it works.

BuddyPhones Volume Limiting Headphones Hardware Review

BuddyPhones Volume Limiting Headphones Hardware Review

Oct 5, 2015

Plenty of parents have had this nightmare, right? I cannot be the only one.

Mine happened just the other day. My daughter was listening to one of her music videos. As usual, at full volume, because if folks two counties over cannot hear what she listening to, life isn’t complete.

In any case, I didn’t understand why she wasn’t using the headphones she begged for. You know, the ones that would save the world from noise pollution.

“Oh. Yeah…”

After a while, I was getting irritated. All she had done was lower the volume a little. Again, why not just use the headphones? Sweet heavens, child.

I walked into her room to confront my banshee offspring. Weirdly enough, she had the headphones on. Yep. The loud music I was hearing was blaring through the headphones. My kid was on a personal mission to destroy her hearing.

Without detailing the rest of the interaction (rock head on rock head), I am beginning to worry about my kids, especially when I see them doing foolish things I do… I mean did. Seriously, controlling volume is serious business, which is why I like conceptualized ideas like the BuddyPhones Volume Limiting Headphones.

The review package reflects the item in its retail state; it contains the blue and white headphones, documentation, and, cutely enough, a bunch of child-friendly customization stickers. The headphones themselves have a relatively small profile; the band is mostly plastic, with cushiony ear cups and flat, matching cable. The cable is attached permanently, and on the plug-in end, there is an additional port for an extra 3.5mm male end.

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The band does extend just like one would expect, and it felt comfortable on my head and the heads of my designated testers.

The set’s claim to fame is the built-in chip which keeps the output to a sedate 85db; this mechanism is always on, so there is no need to remember to toggle it. In practice, this translates to gentle audio, good transference that is usable while being within auditory health standards. On all heads, it worked quite well over time.

The band does feel a bit rigid, and the specific build gives me pause with regards to being used by the heavy-handed, but it works well. I would have preferred a non-permanent cable though. The stickers are a nice touch, and there are several base color options to pick from.

And then there’s the price — $24.95 on Amazon — which makes it even more attractive.

For peace of mind (and quiet), it could be quite invaluable.

Immerse Virtual Reality Headset Hardware Review

Immerse Virtual Reality Headset Hardware Review

Sep 28, 2015

Virtual reality is the thing right now, and I’d be lying if I said that I do not find it highly intriguing. With Google leading the mobile charge, one can easily see it ramp up, and Google Play is beginning to see more and more creative app entries.

In terms of hardware, there are options; the cardboard ones are definitely cool, but there are also newer pieces with sturdier materials, like the Immerse Virtual Reality Headset.

At the risk of showing one’s age, it just might remind one of those retro View-Master sets — those cool toys of yesteryear that used clickable reels to piece together a visual story. Like those, this unit is stereoscopic in nature, but is decidedly a bit more contemporary with regards to the way it incorporates technology.

The review unit itself comes in its retail packaging; one gets the headset and documentation. The unit is mostly black and consisting of a hard plastic finish. As noted earlier, picturing a View-Master gets one a rough idea of how it looks, and the strap towards the rear helps hold it in place on one’s head.

Towards the front, there are clips, which, when manipulated, allow the user to open the unit and reveal a hollow cavity with a simple adjustable mechanism that holds the inserted device in place; this allows one to slot in an appropriately sized smartphone that essentially powers the setup.

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Before setting up, one has to find a VR app; Google Play has several in addition to the few that were suggested on the retail packaging.

When it’s all ready to go, with app installed and running and the whole thing put on, it’s time to go.

Both lenses line up perfectly, and the unit works with surprising effectiveness. Depending on the app selected, it can be a the, uh, immersive experience; it does bring the virtual world to life. At first, it can even be a bit disconcerting — in an interesting way — till the user gets used to it. For such reasons, it’s almost as much fun watching someone else use the unit. Word of caution: make sure to refrain from “walking” into or with the experience!

It’s a fun diversion, but in truth, it’s only as good as the VR software available. The pickings are still relatively sim with regards to “real” games. Without a controller, it is a bit difficult to manipulate the games without constantly opening the unit to get the device out. Also, phablets are iffy, with the 5.7″ screen size ceiling; one also has to watch the device one uses, because if, say, the power button is on the one side, it could press against the internal holding piece and cause problems.

Still, for a relatively cheap solution, the Immerse is pretty enjoyable to use. It does open up a whole new sector to a new type of fan, and is great in groups or when one is solitary.

TYLT FLYP-DUO Reversible USB Cable Hardware Review

TYLT FLYP-DUO Reversible USB Cable Hardware Review

Sep 10, 2015

We are a mobile society.

Or, to be fair, we are getting there. In any case, some thing seem to be becoming more commonplace, such as households with multiple mobile devices, and households with devices from multiple platforms.

Hey, I should know… this one has units from all major platforms, and then some.

Still, now, with the joy of multiple devices comes the challenge of keeping them charged. Since Apple uses proprietary cables, it does add an extra cable to be carried when an iDevice. Since I like to be prepared, it pays to have a lightning cable, and even if not for me, I do get a weird sense of accomplishment when I can provide a cable to a needy friend or colleague.

Ah, enter the TYLT FLYP-DUO Reversible USB Cable.

It sports a flat cable, but one that is noticeably less wide than the XXXXXXX; it retains the durable feel, with a covering fairly giving rubber and hard plastic. As expected, it comes in a host of colors, and the stately black option TYLT sent us reflects the unit well.

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On the one end, there’s is the obvious USB end, and on the other, one gets a micro-USB end, and, interestingly enough, an attached micro-USB-to-lightning cable adapter, which kind of hints at the proposed functionality.

It looks to solve a couple of the first-world problems mentioned above, plus one more. First, it creates an intuitive hybrid accessory that can be used to charge and sync both Android (or other micro-USB sourced devices) and newer iOS devices. This is great on the go and even permanently.

As an added plus, the USB end has a nifty trick up its sleeve: it can be used in “upside down” position; to be more accurate, there is no wrong way to plug it in width-wise. This is great for folks like me who like to bumble around plugging things in the dark.

In practice, the piece works as expected. It can be transported easily, in bag or even in pocket, and it becomes close to indispensable very quickly.