Stilo Stylus Hardware Review

Stilo Stylus Hardware Review

Dec 24, 2016

It’s true, we live in a touch-happy world. I do know this one bloke who believed that fingers would never supplant the glorious innovation known as a stylus. I…I mean… “he” was wrong, but, hey, I wouldn’t call it a comeback, because styli never really left.

Here’s to you, Note series and iPad Pro. Well done. Very well done.

There are some occasions when a stylus can be an elegant, effective means of smartdevice navigation and/or usage, and Stilo 2A looks to be a contender in that space.

As epitomized by the review piece we received, it’s a sleek item, with an even heft and a black finish. At the “writing” end, there is a cover, and popping this off reveals the fine 1.99 mm nib. At the other end is a ridge for the cap to be stored while the pen is in use (kind of like how markers use), and there is a very subdued “on” button on the body. Stats-wise, it is 6.7 x 1.9 x 0.6 inches, and one can also get it in white, rose and gold.

The review package also includes a battery; this is installed through the back, which has a screw-on cover.

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When the battery is installed, it can be turned on by pressing the aforementioned button (this opens up the electrical signal to the tip); with cap off, we’re ready to go. In our testing, it worked very much like a pen, though it is a tad wider along the barrel than most ballpoints. It is still easy to hold, and feels good in hand; the unit works well to replicate taps and even gestures, and worked with every Android device we tested it on. The precision can be adjusted via the tip, and the battery didn’t conk out in the fortnight we tested it (we didn’t find a way to have a reading on battery). When not in use, the unit turns itself off.

Now, the interesting usage came when we used it with a recommended app that we tried before: MyScript. This is a replacement keyboard that we looked at a while back, and have used with other styli. As a handwriting utility, it is the perfect test bed for a precision stylus such as this. The Stilo 2A acquitted itself reasonably with it.

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We had to try drawing as well.

Once one gets used to the bore, handling the unit becomes easier. There was a teeny bit of lag with the drawing app we used, but not nearly so much as do make it uncomfortable to use. It truly feels like writing on a touchscreen. With regards to taping and dragging, it is very effective.

It’s probably different from the standard stylus most folks are use to, but its overall functionality helps it to possibly supplant options with thicker tips. It can be used as well as one’s finger, and probably better in some use cases.

Won’t call it a comeback… moreso a valid reminder of what can be better.

Can be.

BRAVEN 105 Active Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

BRAVEN 105 Active Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Dec 24, 2016

The Braven 105 Active Bluetooth Speaker is small. It’s meant to be though.

Ah, so let’s see if good things can come in small packages…

We received the orange unit to test (pardon… “sunset” per Braven parlance, with six more colors to pick from); it is indeed small, and quite portable, coming in at 3.8 x 3.8 x 1.3 inches and weighing 7 ounces. The entire surface supports its waterproof promise, with three rubber buttons on the circumference. It actually takes a little bit of doing to reach the rubber-sealed section that houses the micro-USB port, audio-jack and reset hole. This whole area is tidily hidden by the removable mounting plate attached to the unit by an elastic strap.

The retail box also has a micro-USB cable, mounting accessories and documentation; the unit boasts a rechargeable 800 mAh lithium ion battery, 8 hours play time and certified water resistance.

And how does it work in real life? Charging is an intuitive process, using a power source to the micro-USB slot via cable. Pairing is easy too, using the power button. It works as expected, in wireless fashion, to output audio from the Android devices we connected it to. The audio quality is surprisingly vibrant, especially when one considers its size. We didn’t quite get the advertised 8 hours of playback in testing, but it easily surpassed 6.

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Portability is one aspect that allows this piece to shine. It’s great for bike rides, and works well as a miniature boom box.

My biggest whine is related to the back panel. The efficacy of the solution makes sense, but it is not that easy to make it to the back innards of the unit.

What it might lose in ease of access, it mostly makes up in portability and functionality. It’s size lends its potential use in any number of scenarios: with laptop, phone, heck…. as an Amazon Echo Dot output speaker… it works, and works well.

Fidelity-wise, it probably wouldn’t make a serious audiophile bow, but it does hold its own in its niche category.

Vaja New Agenda Case Review

Vaja New Agenda Case Review

Dec 13, 2016

Almost as far back as I can remember — along my gadget-owning timeline — Vaja had been an accessory presence. The name mostly invokes classy quality, and even today, it looks to continually prove that smartphone protection need not be a completely utilitarian “p” word.

We figured it would be the perfect manufacturer to toss into our case roundup.

We asked Vaja to surprise us. They obliged with the New Agenda, custom made for the Samsung S7 Edge.

The review case underscores Vaja’s attention to detail, with deliberate wrapping. The case itself looks and feels good right out if the box, sporting premium Argentinean leather bound on a minimalist polycarbonate core. Said core commands most of the back of the case, and allows for a form-fitting snap-on system; it also had a getting flap that is intended to cover the front of the phone, and which gives it its “agenda” styling. It has the necessary camera cutouts, and the edgeless sides allow for manipulation of the host device’s signature panels.

It attaches to the device easily enough by snapping on, and the whole solution is quite intuitive, and just as easily removed. The fit is tight without being overly restrictive, and the four-corner design does an equitable job of keeping the case on securely.

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The leather exterior culminates in the aforementioned flap that provides adjustable cover for the front of the device; the inner part is in felt, and houses a magnet to facilitate secure closure.

In usage, the case had a small profile, such that it provides close to complete coverage without too much added bulk. The seams are well stitched, which allow it to reside in the pocket without causing discomfort. All buttons and ports are easily accessible, and the case can even be positioned to hold up the phone in landscape orientation.

The case does prohibit wireless charging in our testing, but, in another vein, does work with wet-applied screen protectors. Big bummer on the former, yay on the latter. This probably won’t provide the protection that a hardcore case would, but it does help provide insurance against wear and tear and small bangs while managing to look good while doing it.

All in all, it’s a fine looking accessory that has added benefits. For an expensive daily driver, it definitely is a great complement.

The case is $49 on Vaja’s website.

Pelican Case Hardware Review

Pelican Case Hardware Review

Nov 23, 2016

Smartphones are serious business; we have to protect these expensive mini computers. As such, we are taking some time to look at some case options for some of the more popular current devices.

Our loose criteria is based off of style, usage and choice (we’ll be testing with a flagship device, but expect the cases we test to have options made for other devices).

Pelican has made gear that has stood the test of time; seriously, we mean some seriously tough stuff. Now that they also craft smartphone protection, it peli3only make sense to how its mobile products work in the real world. We got to see the Pelican Protector smartphone case in action.

In hand, the case looks and feels like a solid piece of hard plastic, with the cutouts and allowances made for the specific device our test piece was made for: the Samsung S7 Edge. The exterior comes in a light shade of blue with grey accents, while the interior is mostly in grey (there is a black and grey option as well).

Getting it on is as simple as snapping the phone into place; at first glance, it hugs the phone very securely. Towards the left, it utilizes soft cover buttons that work over the volume toggles, and the same setup protects the power button on the other side. Each cutout is precise, and the ports and openings are unobstructed and quite usable while the case is in place. The non-slip finish does come in handy with regards to device usage on the go and the case is fairly easy to remove as well when required.

The S7 Edge provides some interesting challenges when it comes to case coverage because of its side panels; the Pelican Protector side coverage sits right at the base, allowing the device functionality to remain.

In pseudo drop testing, this lightweight accessory does a better than decent job of protection. We did not perform any face down drops though.

Now, the Pelican Protector doesn’t necessarily dazzle from a raw style perspective, but its svelte build allows it to provide a tough exoskeleton while creating little extra bulk. At $32 (on Amazon), it is an affordable way to get Pelican toughness at home.

Limelens Smartphone Lens Review: Looking Anew

Limelens Smartphone Lens Review: Looking Anew

Oct 15, 2016

The truth of the matter is that our smartphones aren’t becoming converged devices; they’re already there. GPS, computing, casting… heck, flashlight and measuring tool. The unique uses are becoming more ubiquitous by the day.

Taking pictures is a major one. Look at the image wars… every smartphone iteration packs bigger and better image capturing hardware and software. In my case, I found I hadn’t charged my relatively expensive camera in months. Not the camera’s fault, really; my smartphone camera is fine, it’s always with me, always (just about) charged and has better sharing tools to boot.

Then, when you toss in some cool accessories like the Limelens Smartphone Lenses, you get a chance to really take snaps that set them apart.

The review packet reflects the tidy retail manifestation: a zip-up lime green and (mostly) black carry case, two lenses, three clip/holders, stickers, cleaning paraphernalia and documentation/instructions. The lenses included were The Thinker – Dual Macro / Wide Lens and The Captain – Supreme Fisheye Lens.

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Now, the trick is to get the clip in place, and this depends on the particular device’s camera’s orientation; Limelens’ documentation and site provide instructions. With the clip adhered to the device, one can get one of the lenses and slide it in.

Then it’s time to have fun.

The pictures do get exhibit the expected effects.

One cool aspect to the whole setup is the expansibility. Limelens compiles a list of compatible hardware… stuff like cases that work with the solution. After the initial play with the lens, I decided to try the setup with a case listed on the Limelens website made by Amzer. The placement of the Limeclip mirrored that of the case-less device, and with a little prep, I had, in essence, a semi-permanent Limelens accessory.

All in all, I really came to enjoy the add-ons. They are practical, easy to setup, and fun. They won’t replace high-powered dedicated image hardware, but they aren’t really designed to.

TYLT VÜ SOLO Hardware Review

TYLT VÜ SOLO Hardware Review

Sep 27, 2016

It’s no secret that we are fans of TYLT’s designs. There’s something infinitely cool about the minimalist designs that allow them to be as functional as they are fashionable. TYLT generally manages to make mobile accessories that one can almost build decor around.

No small feat. Trust us.

With wireless charging becoming more of a standard feature, finding useful chargers is becoming more of a need. The TYLT VÜ SOLO isn’t entirely new on the scene, but looks to remain a serious player in the field.

The review package TYLT sent us does highlight the expected TYLT aesthetic: rich retail packaging that showcases the goodness within; inside, one gets the charging pad, unique flat micro-USB cable and relevant documentation. The most important piece is obviously the silicone pad, and outside the bright burnt orange coloring, the slight brick is almost understated, being pretty small in profile and very light. It has a simple led light, and a micro-usb port. The flat cable has an “alignment edge” to hello with precise placements.

Officially, it comes in at 3.44 x 3.35 x 0.59 inches and 2.6oz.

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The whole system is simple and intuitive with regards to setup. One needs a USB adapter (not provided) to connect the pad to an electrical source via the provided cable. Then, it’s ready to go.

The true action is initiated when one gets a Qi-enabled device and places it on the charger; we tried it with a Samsung device with built in wireless charging capabilities and also with an HTC device coupled with third-party Qi charging coil. The LED light announces the charging action.

In practice, the charging pad was fairly liberal with the newer device we tested on it; we didn’t have to work hard to position of the device. Of course, this may be more of a testament to the device, because it was a bit more temperamental with the coil accessory. As with all QI charges we have seen, there is trade-off with regards to time and heat generation, but in our testing, charging was consistent.

The TYLT VÜ SOLO is a nice, simple product that’s small and light enough to be portable when needed. it’s the perfect accessory for folks who are particular about charging ports and/or saving plug-in time at night. At $19.99 (for a specific color) on Amazon, it is quite affordable too.

Leeo Smart Alert Hardware Review

Leeo Smart Alert Hardware Review

Aug 31, 2016

I’m not particularly shy when it comes to proclaiming my mobile accessory philosophy: I want the piece to be useful, affordable, and if it can do more than one thing — keyword: well — I’m down for a spin.

Leeo Smart Alert, on paper, fits the bill, and then some — if one so chooses.

But what is this thing at first glance? Well, the review package the manufacturer sent to us reveals a bit. In the blue-centric retail box, one gets the all-in one unit and documentation. The unit looks a bit like a tapered cylindrical puck, with metal plugin prongs, the all-white coloring gives it a somewhat serious look, and the exterior is framed in hard plastic. It is just about palmable, coming in at 3.5 x 3.5 x 2 inches and 4.5 ounces.

On the outside, a slightly clearer plastic band is apparent, as well as a telltale toggle button up top.

When the unit is intuitively plugged in, one gets to see its initial functionality via the aforementioned clearer strip: it ostensibly works as a plugin nightlight. It gives off a fairly bright flow, even and constant. Its size makes it quite portable (with an outlet available, of course), and the construction makes it feel durable.

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Okay. Not bad.

Secondarily, this piece also looks to serve as an extended sentry of sorts, in that it allows users to keep tabs on existing in-house alarms, like fire.

To make use of this, one needs to download the companion Leeo app via the Play Store, and then connect it to a plugged unit via Wi-Fi. After any and all updates have occurred, the solution is ready to use.

It’s easy to test; we simply initiated a fire alarm test beep, and the Leeo dutifully shot up some notifications. In theory, this is a great idea for one folks are in town, or, say, for times one is local and doesn’t hear or see an alarm trigger.

All in all, it’s a simple device that does its job; It’s an extra safety blanket for folks who want such.

BRAVEN BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

BRAVEN BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Aug 29, 2016

Braven and “wireless sound” are all but synonymous, and as such, were happy to check out the new BRV-1M Rugged Wireless Speaker.

The review package that Braven sent us highlights a product that exudes a readiness to go; in the box, one gets the speaker itself, charging cable, male-to-male audio auxiliary cable, an optional strap, bike plate, hex tool and documentation.

The main unit itself looks remarkably compact, particularly in its red finish, and the exterior extends further proof that this thing isn’t opposed to hanging out in the elements, come what may. It has a defined rugged look, with the design seemingly a bit more concerned with function and durability than with looks. There are plenty of black accents, seals and hard surfaces, such that it doesn’t feel that one’s investment would be ruined by an errant drop. The top surface houses volume, advance and power buttons, while the covered back has charging port, output port, audio in slot, plus buttons for battery and reset.

Braven makes these in grey and black (in addition to the red we tested). Officially, the speaker comes in at 6.4 x 1.5 x 2.8 inches and weighs
Weight: 1.2 lbs

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We found that pairing and usage to be collectively intuitive; anyone who has paired a bluetooth device to an audio source should have no problem working with this. Charging is accomplished via the included micro-USB cable (plus extra adapter); when juiced and paired, we had a chance to try it out with music. It streams clear, and does get loud. It did sound hollow with instrument-y music at high volumes, but overall does the job with reasonable fidelity. It works well with wall barriers within the stated range. We got 11+ hours of wireless usage, just under the advertised 12.

As a wired device, it showed an even tighter adherence to quality, piping in the music slightly cleaner.

The unit has yet another function; it works well as an emergency charger for mobile devices. I was able to power a device, even while using the bluetooth functionality. I was also able to operate phone calls thanks to the hidden microphone, though I readily admit I preferred such action on the phone.

We did some minor drop-testing — on carpet, because I’m a wuss, and it didn’t break a sweat.

In a nutshell, it’s another pertinent piece from Braven. It does more than a few things well, is made for the outdoors and isn’t scared of water.

Can one ask for more?

Jabra Halo Smart Bluetooth Headphones Hardware Review

Jabra Halo Smart Bluetooth Headphones Hardware Review

Jul 28, 2016

Jabra is a well-known entity when it comes to slick, effective Bluetooth accessories, and it is also a company that is seemingly unwilling to rest on its laurels. That combination usually leads to interesting products at set intervals, and we don’t pretend to not be eager to check out its current offerings.

In the Halo Smart Wireless Headphones, Jabra has a consumer-grade product that looks to enhance one’s usage of mobile peripherals via Bluetooth technology. It looks to be durable, technologically savvy and maby even indispensable.

The review package that Jabra sent us reflects the product in its retail manifestation: the headphones, charging cable and extra ear bud pieces. The headphones themselves are in neckband form, with mostly black hard plastic for the exterior. The earbuds are connected to each end of the curved neckband via rubberized cable, and can be held in place by magnets on the neckband. The main piece houses volume and power/pairing button on the one side, and a discrete microphone assembly on the other. The band also stashes a covered micro-USB charging port and a full-fledged rechargeable battery inside.

The neckband is interestingly crafted: quite flexible, but fairly durable at the same time. The whole unit is exceptionally light — officially, the set comes in at 1.34 oz — and the neckband itself is reasonably svelte 5.6 x 5.6 x 1.4 inches.

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The unit promises 17 hours talk time time and an astounding 22 days of standby time. Toss in the advertised water and wind resistance, and we were ready to get going.

Pairing is easy; using the incorporated Bluetooth 4.1, the unit pairs with most receptive electronics easily. As a pair of headphones, they work faithfully, and we didn’t discern any problems across walls inside of the advertised 10 feet, and even a little beyond. As a telephony accessory, they work well too; when connected to an Android device, one can invoke Google Now by tapping the microphone button.

The optional Jabra Assist app (which works with several other Jabra pieces) is the perfect cherry on top, adding some functionality such as battery monitoring, device location, information readouts and more. At $79.99, they are a bit of an investment.

All in all, another compelling device from an industry leader.

Satechi Multi-Port USB Charging Station Hardware Review

Satechi Multi-Port USB Charging Station Hardware Review

Jul 13, 2016

Satechi is back with a long lasing charging option: the Satechi Multi-Port USB Charging Station.

The review unit Satechi highlights the piece in its retail form: black in color, shaped like a soft-edged brick with a fairly small profile (4.5 x 2.75 x 1.13 inches) and somewhat light less than 8 lbs. The box itself contains the main unit, power input cable and documentation. There is also a white option.

The main unit has the company logo in white on the one broad side, and regulatory icons on the other. The one short base has a power input and a separate power button (with LED), and the other is filled with six USB output slots. It isn’t a looker by any means, but the secret to its advantage lies in the aforementioned outputs.

See, six outputs is great in an increasingly mobile, power hungry world, but this unit has two of the ports serve as unique Type-C output slots, while four are the “regular” Type-A slots.

All we seem to hear about is the eventual migration to Type-C devices; indeed, we’ve already begun to see several devices sport the new-ish standard. With this, on paper, one is covered for multiple devices that have either type charging requirement.

Setup is intuitive; one has to supply the cables, and once that is done, it is a simple matter of powering the thing on via the button. Business.

Specs-wise, it is a 60W station with 12A total out; it uses a smart auto-detect functionality to ensure individual devices get the best charging juice possible. In practice, we did throw numerous devices at it — simultaneously, even — and the unit held its own.

It’s fairly affordable unit (at $29.99), but the true value may actually lie in the latent advantage; even if one doesn’t have several Type-C devices, this piece is fairly future proof. It works with one has now, and can be used even when Type-Cs have taken over the mobile world. It is also fairly portable, which gives it even more functionality. The space-saving component is priceless. It doesn’t have the muscle of the 7-USB Dock, but this one still does its job well.

Just another day in the life of Satechi.

Roidmi 2s Bluetooth FM Modulator Hardware Review

Roidmi 2s Bluetooth FM Modulator Hardware Review

Jun 27, 2016

As it stands, everyone is looking to get in on the latest mobile thing, and that seems to rest in automobiles. Indeed, the number of hardware pieces made to connect cars to mobile devices grows by the day, even with the gradual maturing of Android Auto.

The only thing that seems better than an individual mobile accessory, is one that packs in more than a single ability. It makes sense on almost every level: making one’s mobile devices more effective in numerous ways with less accessories to carry around. As always, having something that increases the efficacy of our mobile devices is an enviable — and necessary — endeavor.

As such, items like Roidmi 2s Car Charger Adapter/Bluetooth FM Modulator make a whole lot of sense… in theory.

We’re happy to check it out.

Some background: the unit has a precursor, and the current iteration beat its expectation on crowdsourcing site Indiegogo.

The review package Roidmi sent us across seas was timely. The solution comes in two pieces: The Bluetooth Modulator/Adapter piece, and an optional adapter extension piece. The charger/modulator looks much like any regular car lighter adapter, in that it is small, and has two USB ports for charging. It has an integrated LED light, is a bit hefty in hand, and black in color (white is another option). It feels well constructed overall.

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The second piece comes in a white finish, and works as an extension and adapter for the modulator (more on this later).

So… first, the charger. It comes with the “smart” moniker, and for a reason: it packs in quite a charging whop, and looks to do so intelligently and safely. The two USB ports (2.4A for a single output and 3.8A for a dual) are capable of taking care of the charging needs of a whole host of electronic devices across platforms.

The modulator works intuitively: one downloads the companion Roidmi app, pairs to the bluetooth source, tunes in the FM radio to the predetermined station, and (using one’s default music player) pipes the music through one’s car’s system.

Smooth, and for a relatively old school solution, fairly elegant. The small profile makes it seem oh so natural, and it feels durable, and is easily used in different vehicles once set up.

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Drawbacks? Well, for one, it isn’t natively compatible with all cars. Since a lot of cars don’t have “real” cigarette lighters — and this accessory is specifically made to work with such — one will need an extra accessory in some autos. Roidmi does have the aforementioned receptacle adapter, but this does make an otherwise clean, self-contained solution somewhat clunky from a physical perspective.

The app feels a bit rushed too; it is usable.

Also, as anyone who works with FM modulators knows, this setup is somewhat dependent on quality of the FM reception. The documentation for the whole setup is a bit sparse, too.

All in all, it is very capable, especially for folks who despise wires.

House of Marley REBEL BT On-Ear Headphones Hardware Review

House of Marley REBEL BT On-Ear Headphones Hardware Review

May 29, 2016

The House of Marley is well on its way to creating a noted reputation as a vendor of respectable hardware and accessories; we should know, having had the opportunity to check out a few of its newer offerings in the area of wireless electronics. As such, we can’t pretend to not looking forward to checking out its new REBEL Bluetooth Headphones.

The review pair House of Marley sent us reflects the accessory in its retail packaging; one gets the headphones, a micro-USB charging cable and — tellingly — male-to-male audio auxiliary cable. The headphones are navy blue (other color options are available), with a touch of white and black here and there. The right ear cup houses the control buttons, specifically ones for skipping/rewinding/forwarding, power and play/pause, plus a 3.55 mm audio jack. The left side contains the micro-USB charging port.

In hand, the headphones look and feel sleek, with a somewhat minimalist existence all round… one gets the sense that its design concept involves a reluctance to add on unnecessary girth. The unit incorporates a simple adjustment system for the band circumference; each cup has a slot through which the band ends can be pulled, thereby cinching its size like a belt.

Charging is intuitive; using the supplied cable, one can charge the unit (the all-but-hidden LED is a nice touch); when ready, it is paired by holding the power button to put the headphones into pairing mode. At this point, the audio source can be linked to it, and one is read to go.

The sound is decent enough, with no undue tininess or weird echoing; audio of different types — base-heavy music, jazz, podcasts, audiobooks, etc reflect well, and it is an overall competent set.

The band isn’t the most comfortable when fashioned tighter to one’s head. The cups work well, even over time. It holds a charge well too.

All in all, it works as an affordable, capable piece that isn’t overly fragile and can be used with or without wires.