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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

ZAGG Auto-Fit Folio 10 Keyboard Hardware Review

ZAGG Auto-Fit Folio 10 Keyboard Hardware Review

Sep 5, 2015

Bottom line? If I am going to use a tablet, I might as well get the accessories and peripherals that will make it work for me. I like the comfort of being able to use one as a laptop at least some of the time, so a portfolio-type of accessory is just what the doctor ordered.

One problem: not all tablets get the same treatment from accessory makers — which is somewhat understandable. What happens if you get a hardware piece that doesn’t have an iPad-like stable of third-party accessories to choose from? What if you have multiple devices with slightly different dimensions?

What about, say, an adjustable portfolio keyboard case, like the ZAGG Auto-Fit Folio 10″ Keyboard Case?

Well, let’s see.

It has mostly solid feel; mostly black, hard plastic constitution, and the parts seem well-fused together, with a surprisingly minimalist touch of moving parts. Appearance wise, it looks much like a folio cover it is advertised as, with one long hinge connecting the two main pieces.


The “bottom” houses the bluetooth-enabled keyboard. It is a full keyboard, packing in keys in a QWERTY layout, a number line and function line too. It also has dedicated “back” and “delete” buttons, and arrow keys too. For a mobile keyboard, it’s as full-functioned as one could expect. The spacing works well, and the individual keys are are far from overly firm. The wrist rest area is especially spacious; the entire bottom is pretty thin, but there’s just enough space for a micro-USB charging port on the one side, and an on/off-pairing button combo on the other.

The top portion has the piece’s main claim to fame; besides serving as the front cover, it manages to incorporate a spring loaded mechanism which serves to be an adjustable means of securing 10-inch tablets in place. It’s relatively simple set-up, and quite intuitive to use: just push in the tablet downwards and in, and the spring mechanism gently pops up, securing the tablet against the top lip structure.

We tried the setup primarily with two 10-inch tablets. Fitting them in and paring them up with the keyboard was easy enough. After pairing, it worked very well, with quick response time and a fantastic set of function keys that work especially well with Android: calendar, email, device- wake-up and more invoked with the touch of a key.

Physically, the top lip is wide enough that it manages to not interfere with hardware buttons that might not be that optimally placed.

As an added plus, it works well with Windows Tablets too.

All in all, it’s a great idea that actually works well. The Windows Tab functionality is a bonus, and while the keys could be firmer, and the re-pairing process can be temperamental, but at $49.99, it is pretty nice. It’s good to know that the folio comes in 7″ and 8″ flavors too.

ZAGG is currently offering a back to school sale; this is the time to stock up on some of your favorite accessories.

HUAWEI P8 Lite Hardware Review

HUAWEI P8 Lite Hardware Review

Sep 3, 2015

At this point, it seems fair to wholeheartedly include Huawei on the list of major Android OEMs, and as if to underscore that point, the China-based tech house has been coming to market with some nice Android smartphone hardware. One of its latest pieces, the P8 Lite hearkens to the strategy of being very price conscious, and we were eager to have a look.

We received the white unit to review (there’s also black and gold to pick from, the retail box has the device, charging materials and documentation); it’s a svelte object, packing a multi-touch 1280 x 720 HD screen on a 5.63 x 2.78 x 0.30 inch frame, and weighing in at 4.62 ounces. The white finish is accented by a chrome band which more or less separates the front from the back; the band houses the micro-USB and mics at the bottom, audio port at the top, and power button, volume rocker and sim slots and micro-sd slot on the one side.

The back feels textured, and the top piece on the front houses a subtle speaker grill, a 5 MP front-facing camera, which complements the primary 13 MP BSI camera on the back.

Under the hood, it isn’t shabby either. Out of the box, it comes with Android 4.4.4 OS. To run this , it sports a Snapdragon chip and Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 CPU. It comes with 16 GB of internal storage (expandable up to 128 GB via SD card) and 2 GB RAM and a sealed lithium ion 2200 mAh battery. Wi-fi (plus hotspot), Bluetooth LE, accelerometer, NFC, proximity sensor, compass, ambient light sensor? Check (x7).

Based on specs alone, it seems competitive, and we couldn’t wait to put it through the paces.

Off the bat, from the on button press, the device is pretty snappy. Huawei overlays its skin over Android, and it is a gentle implementation that doesn’t distract too much from the core OS. The screen does do well; it isn’t a vivid as some high-end flagships, but it actually does pretty well in practice.


Google’s suite of mobile apps are front and center, and quite responsive; we rocked some heavy hitter games off the Play Store, and didn’t get any lag. The camera works well on conference calls, and the back one takes good snaps in the right lighting.

Call quality (via T-Mobile) was pretty good two. I used it over Bluetooth and without, and audio quality was better than anticipated; the audio and mic openings work well.

And then… we have the price. The $250 asking price is definitely one of the top features, making it a great no-contract mid-range offering.

Now, the aforementioned skin does take a bit of a shine off of Material Design, and the wi-fi direct capabilities are restricted to other Huawei devices.

In the end, the positives are clearly on the weightier side, and as an Android option, it holds its own.

Novatel Wireless Mobile Hotspot Hardware Review

Novatel Wireless Mobile Hotspot Hardware Review

Aug 31, 2015

It’s all about the connectivity.

You can pack as many devices and peripherals as you can handle, but without a connection to the World Wide Web, you’re only s good as the information on hand… and what fun is that?

Nah. We need to get online, and even on wi-fi only smartdevices, a secure connection away from home base is beneficial. And, as we like to muse, being restricted to using insecure public networks has its drawbacks.

And then we have solutions like the Novatel Wireless Verizon Jetpack Mifi. It’s a small mobile wireless hotspot, capable of connecting to up to 15 devices on the go, using cellular networks to spit out 4G speeds.

The review unit Novatel sent us contained the puck, power adapter, USB cable and paperwork. At 2.6 x 3.7 x 0.76 inches and under 5 oz, it’s pretty compact, mostly black and red with white lettering plus a prominent screen and navigation buttons. It has ports for micro-USB charging port, a USB port and a 4,000 mAh li-ion Battery user serviceable battery.


After an obligatory charge, it’s nice to know the unit is ready to go. The screen is bright, and connecting devices to it is intuitive to anyone who’s ever connected to a wi-fi network. The navigation buttons allow one to scroll through pertinent information.

Now, hooking into Verizon’s network definitely has its benefits; on the road and moving across states, a good connection was mostly maintained on the major highways, though there were dead spots on some remote rural rural routes and the occasional hand-off stuttering between towers. It worked well with eight devices connected simultaneously, allowing for each to stream videos, play connected games and such. Downloads of data did seem faster with less devices connected, but overall, the speeds were pretty fast, especially in metro areas.

Using it as a stationary hotspot was pretty impressive when a connection was established. Connection quality remained consistent, and re-connecting was mostly automatic when toggled to do so from the device. The access control is easy to manage and works well. The ability to toss it one;s bag (or even pocket) is invaluable. The battery life is better than decent, and the device charging ability adds another layer of built-in functionality.

It’s one of the better solutions we’ve tried; it merges great hardware with consistent service in such a way that it feels like an easy addition to one;s mobile workflow versus an unneeded extravagance. Forgive us for saying it again, but Verizon’s network is a huge advantage that adds to its overall charm.

Zipbuds SLIDE Earbuds Hardware Review

Zipbuds SLIDE Earbuds Hardware Review

Aug 25, 2015

The more mobile I get, the more I appreciate a good set of headphones.

As the kids get older, there’s only so much Taylor Swift I can listen to; the house sometimes feels like one crazy karaoke machine.

So, retiring to the quietest part of the house can be quite rewarding. The pure joy of it makes me smile. Get me an e-book (or mind-bending game), some sweet tea and some headphones with which to listen to accompanying music, and that quiet spot becomes mine.

Y’all feel me? That’s why cool stuff like the Zipbuds No-tangle Slide Earbuds are just what the doctor ordered.

The review unit the manufacturer sent us highlights the set in retail form; one gets the unit itself, extra eargels, and documentation. Specific to the headphones, we got the snazzy “p.o.p.” color, which is a colorful combination of orange and black with purple and chrome highlights (three other color combos are available). The construction does get interesting, comprising of a defined black cable and an orange one; the unit has a merging clip that allows the two to “zipped” or “unzipped” seamlessly, such that the space between the ear pieces can be adjusted. Down its length, it adds in a microphone, and the standard 3.5 mm input jack is angled for ease of use.


The design of the cable also discourages tangling, which is an important claim to fame for this set.

With the expandable ear gels, this set ends up feeling very comfortable; the ends fit into the ear nicely, creating a pretty good seal that helps enhance the sound fidelity even further.

The sound quality is pretty nice indeed, and head-to-head, the unit compared well to some premium units I was able to compare it to. Any tinniness is well hidden, which is somewhat surprising, and on calls, and the microphone works well.

An included case would be nice, but I do admit to feeling greedy just thinking about extras.

All in all, these things are easy to enjoy. At $49.99, it is so easy to feel like one is getting over.

Perfect for my quiet time.

Samsung S Action Bluetooth Mouse Hardware Review

Samsung S Action Bluetooth Mouse Hardware Review

Aug 13, 2015

I have a confession. I actually like using the iPad Mini.


My second generation was originally procured for work, and it became an ever huger part of my process due to (then) superior WordPress app on iOS. Paired with a great keyboard combo, and one gets an effective makeshift netbook.

One shortcoming, for my needs, is the inability to use a bluetooth mouse. When it’s all said and done, I like using bigger tablets like an aforementioned notebook — or more like a full-fledged computer — when the occasion calls for it, and reaching to touch the screen for navigation irks me more than I’d like to admit.

So, for doing computer-y things, it’s back to Android. Why? I get to use peripherals like the Samsung S Action Bluetooth Mouse.

The name says it all: it’s a wireless mouse (Bluetooth 3.0), and has the added benefit of working with Android devices.


The retail package is simple, containing the mouse, AA battery and documentation. The top cover opens up, and the battery fits in intuitively. On the top of said cover is a scroll wheel. At the bottom, there is a bluetooth connection button as well as an LED indicator and on/off toggle. There are two soft non-skid grips on the bottom too. Officially, it’s 2.26 x 3.84 x 1.32 inches and 0.18 lbs. We tested out black, and there is a white option as well.

Pairing it to devices is as easy as one would expect. With the battery inserted and the unit turned on, it can be discovered by nearby devices. After the connection is approved, a telltale cursor appears on the screen, and one is ready to go.

The mouse works just as one would expect. Hovering, clicking, and scroll wheel work with no lag on any of the devices it was tested with. I was even able to use with Angry Birds 2, which was interesting, though I admit to prefer the good old finger. It works on any number of surfaces, including carpet. It’s size allows it to be comfortable in hand.

At under $30 on Amazon, it might be just the piece to boost productivity. It has value as a travel peripheral, as the power button allows for one to control battery usage, so it resides well over time in one’s go bag till needed, and it has the added advantage of working on other platforms.

Some of them, anyway.

K300 Premium 4K 3-port HDMI Switch Hardware Review

K300 Premium 4K 3-port HDMI Switch Hardware Review

Aug 11, 2015

Yep, it’s a wireless world.

Nothing really beats the convenience of hooking up a mobile source to a bigger target and being able to stream and consume content. It’s just awesome.

I’m old school though, in that I still appreciate the fidelity of wired connections. No muss, no fuss. No need for wi-fi (as is necessary in some wireless connectivity set-ups). HDMI connections are especially noted; these are universal standards, and have the ability to provide input options for a veritable host of peripherals, from smartdevices to whole computers and everything in-between. And, if truth be told (and being the gadget collecting generation that we are), TV manufacturers, for instance, may need to start allocating most of the back panel space to more and more — and more — HDMI input space.

But again, this is where small, useful and portable gadgets get me going. Stuff like the K300 Premium 4K 3-port HDMI Switch.

What the k#00 proposes to do is infinitely simple: it is an extension of sorts for HDMI inputs.


The review unit Kinivo sent us highlights the design, presenting it to us in black with lime green accents and white lettering. It is a rectangular cuboid with soft edges, and the front panel features labeled lights, infrared sensor and the power button. The side opposite to this carries 4 HDMI slots, one for output and three for plug-ins. A power jack is on the one “side” to provide juice to the gizmo, and the whole thing is pretty small and light, being less wide than your average flagship smartphone. The review box also contained power cord, remote, battery and documentation.

Setup is intuitive; simply plug it in to power via the supplied cord, and then connect it to, say, a TV with an HDMI cable through the lone input slot. Then, one can add USB peripherals to the unit by connecting the respective USB units to it. Operation is simple, with the remote; one can then select which USB item is being piped through a specific port.

The benefits are pretty obvious; one slot for switchable three off the bat, and it ultimately allows more pieces to be connected simultaneously. The control is useful, but is one more remote, and the infrared sensor did get moody every now and then. Still, the setup and initial operation was mostly flawless, even when I ran a mobile HDMI cable through it.

It isn’t a new solution, but it is pretty relevant, especially with all the connections we run through our televisions. At $34.99 (on Amazon), it isn’t too bad of a financial proposition either.