LG G3 Hardware Review

LG G3 Hardware Review

Aug 21, 2014

It’s the LG G3. Need one say more? Some reviews are just meant to be.

The device is a relative powerhouse, with a 2.5 GHz Quad-core Snapdragon processor; the Sprint variant we received packs 3GB of RAM, and has expandable memory that can take advantage of those otherworldly 128GB microSD cards. The 3000 mAh battery is user-replaceable, and the device has a 13 MP snapper in the rear and a 2.1 MP for videochat and selfies. All these under-the-hood goodies fit into the 5.76 x 2.94 x 0.35 inch frame, and the whole unit weighs a slight 5.26 ounces.

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Physically, the device feels exceptionally light in hand. The 5.5-inch Gorilla Glass LCD display allows for a small, logo-bearing bezel at the bottom of the front, and a prominent speaker grill shares space with the front-facing camera on the top front of the device. The bottom houses the 3.5 mm audio port and micro-USB port, and the sides are interestingly bereft of buttons as, is the top. For returning LG fans, this won’t be too alarming, because they’d probably be aware of LG’s design paradigm which calls for the back of the device to be used. It works well here, with the on button sandwiched by volume controls right under the rear camera.

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But back to the screen. It actually feels as though folks might continually turn the device off… if just to turn on the device again. It’s a vivid temptress, and seems especially happy to sow off its 1440 x 2560p credentials. If one has never had the urge to consume media on a handheld, this might just have one trying.

The device comes with Android 4.4.2, which is expected, and sports LG’s skin, which is not displeasing. Some of the tweaks that are incorporated and shown during setup are simple but engaging. Take the knock code, for instance, which allows one to set a pattern with which to wake the device. That’s smart. How about the ability to configure the virtual button layout and presentation? Nice touch. I especially liked the picture quality, even though I think the lasers are more buzzy than truly functional.

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One exceptionally useful feature is the dual window functionality. We’ve seen this on other devices, and LG’s implementation is no less impressive, it allows the device user to have two apps run simultaneously, as in “YouTube-running-in-the-back-while-searching-Chrome-for-lyrics-in-the-forefront” simultaneously It works well, is easily toggled, and brings extra multitasking to an already stocked device. The obviously gripe is the relatively limited number of apps that work with this feature.

Now, folks who have handled the flagship device of one Android OEM in particular might feel a bit shafted by the materials used in this device. Still, it’s insane not to think it’s one of the top devices on the market now, and fully worthy of superstar status.

Targus City Fusion Messenger Bag Hardware Review

Targus City Fusion Messenger Bag Hardware Review

Aug 19, 2014

As we are wont to say, one can have the best-fitting device in the world, with the coolest accessories, companion gadgets and backup devices to boot: chargers, USB cables, and more.

Yep, it is possible to be the consummate mobile professional, but what good are all the gadgets and tools if one doesn’t have a serious, flexible way of toting them around? Enter the City Fusion Laptop Messenger from Targus. Targus isn’t exactly an unknown commodity with regards to computer accessories, and with the current push for increased mobility, it only makes sense that there would be some pleasant overlap.

The gray piece we reviewed has interior dimensions of 14.75 x 10.25 x 1.53 inches is concealed in the 16.5 x 12 x 4.75 inch exterior and weighs less than 2.5 lbs. Most of the outside is coated in smooth gray canvas, with leather trim in pertinent areas (including the bottom). The very front of the bag has some stylish leather straps which are unashamedly cosmetic and distract from the snaps the truly hold the front flap in place, and the back of the bag has an easy access slot that uses velcro for fastening. There is also a single hand strap embedded towards the top, and a shoulder strap that allows the messenger to be used in “traditional” manner.

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Opening the bag is more fun than it should be. The “main” compartment is fairly large, and fully capable of storing larger notebooks and holding such in place via strap. In this portion, there also three pouches built into the front-facing end, perfect for knick-knacks and stuff like USB cables. Behind this area is a soft-lined area that is great for tablets and such. The third main area has a fastener. The entire interior is well laid out, and tailor-made for organized transportation; there’s even a key-hook in the middlemost portion.

I almost missed the zippered area right under the front flap. In my book, there’s nothing like too many storage compartments.

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So… it looks good, has all the cool pieces and such, but what about real life usage? Of course I took it for a spin. I packed in the 15″ laptop, added in a phablet, tablet, cables, backup chargers, portable hard-drive, wireless keyboard, and some Altoids. I was able to pack these all in comfortably, without any unsightly bulges, and the bag is even able to stand upright on its own.

Even though all my gear fits — and then some — I would have loved to see something like smaller, secured pouch for SD memory or a jump drive, and a dedicated option for laptop cable. Yes, I’m being persnickety.

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Not all messenger bags are created equal. The City Fusion may not have the sexy look of the high-end all-leather options, but it eschews the premium price, too. It’s better than basic, and for most purposes, that ma be just okay.

The City Fusion is available from Amazon for $49.00

Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2 Card Reader Hardware Review

Kingston MobileLite Wireless G2 Card Reader Hardware Review

Aug 15, 2014

Years ago, as an upcoming tech feen, I reached a major milestone. I was rocking the awesome Palm Tungsten T5, was proclaiming publicly about preferring my phone and PDA devices separate, and enjoyed the PalmOS-WinMo wars. Then, one fateful day, I found a huge sale going on. It was for a then-massive 1GB Kingston SD card that could help me expand the T5 with ginormous external space.

I had to sign up for Google Checkout, which helped tie me in further to the Google ecosystem. That card literally opened up a new world to me, and I learned Kingston is a brand worth using. Since then, the company has expanded along with the entire mobile sector, and has stuff out like its MobileLite Wireless G2 Card Reader.

With regards to mobility, this device makes a lot of sense. It is an update to the original MobileLite Wireless G1; in theory, it allows for folks to access data from SD, micro SD cards and USB sticks on the go via the device’s built-in network. On paper, this can be useful functionality to have whether or not one has a device with external storage capabilities.

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But all the theoretical functionality is moot if the device isn’t, well, portable. The review package came with the main unit, USB cable and an SD card adapter and paperwork (Kingston also provided a 64 GB micro-SD card to fully test the unit). The MobileLite thankfully doesn’t carry a huge physical footprint, being similar in size visually to the HTC One that was used it with; officially, it comes in at 5 x 3.1 x 0.75 inches and 6.03 ounces. The device is mostly black with stark white band frame around the sides; the sides houseLED icons, power button, a reset hole and micro-USB port on the one long side, and a full ethernet port on the opposite long side. On the opposite side, one finds a slot for full SD cad and a full USB port too. All in all, it feels well-fused, and is infinitely pocketable.

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To use it, we charged it up and fired it on, and then we downloaded the companion Kingston MobileLite app from the Play Store. The app provides an interface to connect to the device’s wi-fi network. Connecting it was finicky at first, but it fixed itself, and after that it was fairly easy to use.

While connected, the unit shows the internal memory of the device on its network. The external memory card wasn’t an option, but the onboard memory shows, and it’s possible to move data back and forth. It officially supports, FAT, exFat, NFTS and FAT32, so that is one less thing to worry about. I especially like the streaming functionality that allows for one to access media directly from the card reader. It can also be used as a wi-fi bridge via the ethernet port, and even works as a mobile charger (we found it works best with a full charge; it was able to recharge the HTC almost two times).

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One can’t help but love products that do what they do well, and take on extra functionality; this is where the MobileLite excels. At $54.00 (per Amazon), it isn’t prohibitively priced either, especially when one considers the Kingston name.

CODE Donut Bluetooth Speakers Hardware Review

CODE Donut Bluetooth Speakers Hardware Review

Aug 13, 2014

Someone should have told me not to have a sweet tooth while taking a formal look at the CODE Donut Bluetooth Speakers. Be warned: if you have a thing for sugar highs, this interestingly looking piece might have one over the edge. Blame TaoTronics for sending us one to appraise.

The review box was colorfully presented, and gave a good idea of what was within. Inside, there was the main unit, micro-USB cable and a small NFC tag along with the requisite paperwork. We received the white unit (out of four choices including black, tan and pink); it is barely bigger than the regular-sized doughnut its design comes from. It weighs less than half a pound and has a diameter of 4.92 inches. The unit is mostly crafted with hard plastic on the exterior, with cute designs and intricate cut-outs that destroy any chance of monotony. The white has some purposeful brown splotches which simultaneously maintain the confectionery motif and serve as as structural pieces of the unit. In one color point, there are daintily placed on/call and volume buttons; another flash of brown serves as a flap to cover the micro-USB opening and on the bottom, more brown plastic signifies the base. All in all, it looks whimsical without stumbling over the line to silly.

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Connecting the Bluetooth 3.0 unit to to another bluetooth source is easy enough, and involves toggling the unit on and then holding down the same button to put the Donut in pairing mode. After pairing is achieved, audio signals go through seamlessly. The NFC works well too.

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The sound is crisp; it isn’t the sharpest though, and I thought the bass was a bit muted, and the treble could use some zip too. For admirable sound that isn’t geared towards the most extreme audiophile, this does the job. I liked the output from leveled points, and the range in my testing fell a bit short of the advertised 30 feet. The 1000 mAh battery does give a decent amount of time (it claims 8 hours, and it was still going strong at 5 hours).

I like the call functionality; it actually pauses the music to deal with calls as a speakerphone. Audio on calls was a bit muddy, but to be fair, I could not tell if it was cell-induced. It works well with streamed music and even with my laptop via external bluetooth chip.

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For a simple, atypical option, the CODE Donut is a fine option, especially if one is able to resist taking a bite out of it.

The CODE Donut is available for $50.44 via Amazon.com

TYLT Energi Battery Series Hardware Review

TYLT Energi Battery Series Hardware Review

Aug 12, 2014

TYLT is synonymous with accessorized style. From chargers to cases to cables and beyond, one can be assured that products from TYLT will be atypically attractive without sacrificing functionality. The Kickstarter-funding of some of its products adds to its allure.

We had an opportunity to look at it’s wireless charger a while back, and were mostly impressed with the design aesthetic and overall usability. We recently received an opportunity to look at its entire Energi External Battery Pack Series, and jumped in head first. With the increasing trend of sealed batteries in phones with brighter screens PLUS folks carrying several devices, the need for reliable third party battery packs is becoming more of a need than a want.

The review pieces all came individually cased in retail packaging; we got to check out the 2K, 3K, 5K and the momma of them all, the 10K. Each of the numerical designations correspond to the capacity of that unit.

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Of course, we couldn’t resist the urge to put the 10K through the paces. The 10K is pretty solid in hand, fairy thick but not too long at 4.7 x 3.1 x 0.9 inches, and weighing in at 11 ounces. This unit comes with a single microUSB cable that can be used to charge the unit, and also to transfer power to a device. The unit itself is mostly black with a subtle, grey logo band that runs round the middle of the unit. The bottom of the unit has four ports, each clearly labeled, with three being for charging (1A, 1A and a tablet-specific 2.1A) and the input port. On the lower end of the left side, there is an on/off button, and a series of LEDs that indicate the amount of charge available with green lights. The unit promises to charge a few devices simultaneously, or a regular device up to four times.

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The unit arrived with a partial charge. It is fairly intuitive to set up and even with a single light showing, it started juicing up the M8. I did expect reasonable charging rate, but it is surprisingly fast, getting the M8 from 40% to full in less than a half hour (using the 2.1A port).

Next, I filled it up and tried it with three devices (an LG G3, a Nook HD+ and the aforementioned M8). The Energi 10K handled itself admirably, getting them all up to par from half way down with charge left. It also has excellent standby functionality, allowing one to keep it unused with the charge retained over time.

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What really makes the Energi series compelling is the range; I do wish the 10K had embedded cable like some of its siblings, but the raw power is comforting. In related testing, the other units are just as effective within their advertised parameters.

The 10K isn’t exactly cheap, at about $99.99 (per Amazon), and it is a bit hefty, but there are different pieces that can suit different needs and price points.

Arkon Mobile Grip 2 Mount Hardware Review

Arkon Mobile Grip 2 Mount Hardware Review

Aug 11, 2014

I “discovered” smartphone-based GPS a while back; the ability to have mobile, ad-hoc voice directions, albeit reliant on cellular signal, was invaluable, and since I was frequently on the road headed to new locations, it became one of the most important features on my device. I have never had to rely on a standalone unit, and even when not driving, mobile GPS has been a lifesaver more than once.

Driving with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a phone isn’t especially safe or effective though, so — cue the “accessorize the ultimate accessory” music — we get to see potentially multidisciplinary tools like the Arkon Deluxe Mini Windshield/Dashboard Sticky Suction Mount (MG279) become prime players.

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We received the review unit in simple, mostly clear packaging that shows of the components: Mobile Grip 2 Universal Smartphone Holder, an optional Sticky Mounting piece, the swivel adjustment ring, an adhesive disk along with diagrammed paperwork. The core piece is made of hard plastic, with a spring mechanism at the bottom. It feels well crafted, is fairly durable and the diagrams show how easy it is to assemble.

In practice, the mount works well enough on smooth interiors and glass/windshields. The device holder portion provides a good grip, and the adjustable nature allows for a host of devices to be used with it; it can comfortably hold devices that are up to 3.6″ wide, which means it can even handle some of the more popular phablets. Shaking it vigorously did not dislodge the devices. The suction part works as most do, by pressing on the activating button to create a vacuum seal that works quite well. With some practice, I was able to manipulate the unit with one hand, which is a bonus.

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The mounting plate allows for the suction cup to be used on other surfaces; I let it cure for 48 hours to be safe, though it only asks for 24. The bond created is quite strong, and it pairs with the suction cup seamlessly. the swivel adjustment ring is a smart piece that helps tighten the angles, and the rotation of the holder is quite useful and well-thought out. The holder can also be used with standard tripods.

A longer (maybe adjustable?) neck could probably make it more effective, but to be fair, Arkon’s penchant for using common components across several solutions and the 2-yr warranty make this specific tool hard to pass up. I suspect a lot of folks would see the price ($19.99 via the Arkon website) and become even more enamored of this effective piece of kit that can be used on the road… and elsewhere.

Rocki Wi-fi Music System Hardware Review

Rocki Wi-fi Music System Hardware Review

Aug 6, 2014

First, I am a Kickstarter feen. There’s something infinitely sexy about crowd-sourced projects; the whole concept of sharing a dream with investors who believe enough in said dream to back it financially is one of the best aspects of new age entrepreneurship one can find today. I admit to spending more time than I should browsing through projects.

Items like Rocki Wi-fi Music System allow for us to see Kickstarter at its best.

Some background: Rocki is a small, pocketable gadget that allows music users to stream music from smartphone-borne apps via common wi-fi. The project went up with a goal of $50,000 to fund; by the time the backing period ended, it had racked up more than four times that amount in pledges. Now, in Kickstarter terms, that’s mighty impressive, especially when one considers that even a few of the higher pledge tiers received plenty of support. As such, we were more than a little eager to check out the finished product, and the company obliged us with an opportunity to formally look at this item.

Yes. There are way more horrible ways to spend a weekend. Or two.

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The small review box packed a good deal of goodies that hint at just how effective the gadget intends to be: audio to speaker (red and white) cable, male-to-male coaxial cable, flat micro-USB cable, AC adapter, paraphernalia and, of course, the Rocki itself. The green unit is curiously shaped, being faintly polyhedric with antiprismatic stylings and quite palmable. The light green piece is mostly green rubbery plastic, with a hard black base. The on-button is set with the micro-USB and audio ports, and there is a small reset hole on the black underside. On the topside, the device logo is proudly stamped. It packs a rechargeable 900mAh battery and officially stands at 3.9 x 2 x 0.7 inches and 2.1 ounces.

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What Rocki looks to do is provide a wireless alternative to bluetooth streaming; its tool of choice is common wi-fi. Thus, the unit can be paired to a wi-fi enabled source via Android app, and, when physically connected to a pair of speakers with the one of the included audio cables, the audio is transmitted to the speakers… much like a bluetooth puck. Setting it up is easy enough in theory, but after downloading, it did take me a couple of tries to get stuff working, after which it all came together. The fidelity is nice overall, with no noticeable delay.

Now, one benefit of using this over bluetooth is that since it uses wi-fi, there is less of a theoretical concern with regards to range and/or obstacles; as long as the source phone or tablet and the Rocki are connected to wi-fi and the app is installed, a user is set. It allows the music source to remain with the user, and even allows different units to be alternated from within the same app, and music from multiple sources can be added to a playlist. Additionally, I like that the companion app also works as a self-contained music player, with built-in compatibility with Last.fm and SoundCloud.

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I like the concept behind the app; I think the multiple use ability is a great feature, as is the ability to use with computers. It doesn’t handle every type of music, and the use of wi-fi is a sword that cuts both ways. Still, it’s a piece that is good to have.

The Rocki Wi-Fi Music System can be had in a host of colors (pink, purple, red, black, yellow and green) via Amazon for $49.00.

Huawei Ascend Mate2 Hardware Review

Huawei Ascend Mate2 Hardware Review

Aug 5, 2014

If one has never bothered learning how to pronounce “Huawei” before, be warned: its Ascend Mate2 smartphone might have you looking it up.

The review unit we received is stark white (black is an option); with regards to in-hand size, it is on the phablet side of the spectrum at 6.3 x 3.3 x 0.37 inches. Huawei makes use of the bezel, too; thankfully it doesn’t overpower the device. The white is broken by silver-colored trim and insignia, most of which frames the device. The tough plastic material that makes up the frame is reasonably resistant to everyday dings, and the Gorilla Glass screen did not succumb to simple scratch attempts. Also in the box is paperwork, USB cable and AC charger.

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The front camera is nestled to the right and the rear camera sits in familiar territory centralized towards the top, with the flash/camera directly below, and speaker grills lower down towards the bottom. The left side is bereft of controls, while the right houses the volume rocker and the power button. The standard audio jack sits at the top to the right, while the micro-USB charging port is on the bottom. The 3900 mAh battery isn’t user replaceable, and the SD card receptacle — which allows for extra space up to 32GB — resides underneath the back cover. Under the hood, it incorporates the quad-core Qualcomm MSM8928 Quadcore 1.6GHz chip.

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It feels heavier than some devices of the same size, but not uncomfortably so, weighing in at a tad over 7 ounces. It feels fairly comfortable in hand, and simple touches like the aforementioned positioning of the power button increase usability in one-handed situations.

The actual screen size sans bezel is 6.1, so the screen begs to be used for content and such. While the 1280x720p screen is pretty vivid, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that it could be so much more. Hi-res games look good enough, but when compared to high end competitors, The Ascend Mate 2′s humble roots show.

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The rear camera? Well, it was a pleasant surprise. It works great in lighted situations, and even with dim lights, it works admirably. The bundled image software is easy enough to manipulate as well. The built-in speaker is surprisingly nice on its own, and when connected to speakers via wires or bluetooth, this 13MP unit does quite well. It does video at 30 fps/1080p; the front camera a 5MP piece.

Per software, after the stock Android 4.3 and access to the main Google suite, there isn’t a whole lot of extras… thankfully. Notably, the device has a few different ways to set up the home screen visually, which is a nice touch. Other sundries, like music player and gallery, are clean and easy to handle. I did like the profiles and themes, as they give a user a way further customize usage and appearance. All in all, the bloatware is kept under control, and Huawei’s Emotion UI doesn’t fall into the common trap of Android UIs trying to do too much.

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With regards to call quality; links are relatively seamless, and inbound and outbound audio is clean. It’s equipped to handle 4G data, but we did not test that portion. One area this device did show its stuff is the battery life. I thought it does well, both in action and while at rest. As an added bonus, the battery supports reverse charging, which is definitely useful in a pinch.

Purists might gripe about the lack of specifics like wireless charging and NFC, but frankly, at this price point, it’s tough to complain. All in all, it is an admirable package, and at the very least, lets folks know that the semblance of luxury can be had in a tidy, well-designed package.

Yezz Andy A6M Smartphone Hardware Review

Yezz Andy A6M Smartphone Hardware Review

Aug 4, 2014

When one thinks of Android OS, it’s easy to get lost in aura of the big OEMs; Android’s rue strength is that just about anybody can come play, and as such, we get to see several lesser known manufacturers compete on specs, size… and even price. Enter the Yezz Andy A6M.

The review box reveals old-school ideals on the part of Yezz. It was stocked: headphones, AC adapter, USB cable, leather smart cover two back covers (red and white to go with the installed black one), documentation and even a cleaning cloth with screen protector. Nah, gestures like this are a thing of the past with most of the better known OEMs, and it made a good impression. Yes, I admit, it made the product feel just a bit more glamorous.

In hand, the device is fairly large, leaning more towards phablet with regards to size. The screen is large, but doesn’t go end-to end, with a 6-inch capacitive IPS panel, in a 6.1 x 3.37 x 0.35 inches frame, and weighs 6.67 ounces. The micro-USB charging port is flanked by 3.55 mm audio port. The power button is on the right side, and volume rocker to the left; it also utilizes a 2400 mAh user-serviceable battery. It might not have luxurious stylings, but it is a light device that isn’t too hard to wield, and is comfortable in landscape and portrait. The screen does take some getting used to, what with the 540 x 900 pixels display.

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But what about under the hood? The A6M boasts 4GB ROM and 512 GB RAM, and it can be expanded with up to 32 GB of microSD card storage. It has a 1.3 GHz quad-core Mediatek MT6582M chip, and has other basics we expect in smartphones: Bluetooth 3.0, wi-fi and GPS. The main camera is a 13 MP piece (4128 x 3096 pixels) that shoots video at 720p at 30 fps. It also sports the requisite 5MP front-facing camera. The review unit is a dual-SIM

When it comes to the software, this device uses Android 4.2.2, and it takes care of the biggest issue by including Google Play and other Google Apps out of the box. There are some proprietary apps included, like the Yezz App Store; it actually has some major titles therein. A couple of stock apps (like Skype) can’t be entirely deleted, which is a bit of a bummer, but for the most part, it handled just about every game I threw at it adequately.

Simple tweaks like audio profiles and the smart cover (which allows data to be shown through the opening on the included case) are welcome features.

The screen is not going to be it’s shining point. Beside other high end flagships, it is clearly less vivid. I did catch lag in some places, and there are some extras like NFC functionality that are not present. The rear camera is passable, but is best used in bright light.

All in all, it is a decent device for the price. It may not have the hardware cache of the flagships from the big boys, but at its price point, it can be allowed not to.

STM Harbour 2 Case Hardware Review

STM Harbour 2 Case Hardware Review

Jul 17, 2014

STM, as a company, is probably best known for its laptop bags; we had the privilege of reviewing its Trust Messenger Bag quite recently. In fact, STM has quite a few smart device case and covering offerings in its arsenal, and we got a formal look at the STM Harbour 2 Case for the current HTC One (M8). Like it or not, STM has a reputation to uphold, so I was more than a bit curious about this accessory.

The review unit provided highlights the red piece we received (it also comes in black and charcoal); the red finishing pops through the clear product packaging. Removing the box reveals more: the reddish hue and grey accents and linings and the seemingly precise cutouts. The otherwise solid piece does have an interesting bit of flexibility built alongside a grey band; along this strip, the unit could be lightly bended and manipulated; this allows for docking and can even serve as a pseudo-stand. It feels solid, but not overly rigid, and the hard plastic (polycarbonate and TPU) comes across as well-formed. On paper, the case is 5.7 x 2.8 x 0.4 inches. It is barely bigger than the M8 when standing beside it, and that is somewhat reassuring for folks who are reasonably concerned with added girth.

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The unit snaps into place with a reassuring, subdued snap, and the first thing that really stands out is the fit. It does merge with the phone and feels with seamless; I didn’t get any creaking or unnatural gaps. The bottom ports have an open space in lieu of separate holes, and the power button, volume rocker are catered to. At the back, the dual cameras each have cutouts (which means the flashlight is also unencumbered), and there is also spacing for audio. The edges are mostly well covered, but there isn’t much of a lip for when the cased M8 is face down.

There isn’t too much added bulk, and the stand functionality does come in handy in portrait, even though it is isn’t as smooth of a solution as an incorporated kickstand. It does provide a degree of protection in pocket too, and the case still allows for wireless charging via add-ons. The SD card on the M8 is covered, but the IR blaster works flawlessly.

The case is a good option in a relatively crowded sub-section, and it more or less holds its own.

The STM Harbour 2 Case is available for $27.12 via Amazon.

Miccus Pool Party SPX9 Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Miccus Pool Party SPX9 Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Jul 16, 2014

Summertime is all about the outdoors, grills and pools. Why should the fun stop there? That is what the Miccus SPX9 Bluetooth Speaker asks out loud.

The review box Miccus sent us came with the speaker itself, a male-to-male 3.5mm coaxial cable, USB charging cable, wall adapter, user paperwork and a net carrying bag. The unit itself is mostly grey and black, and is formed in hard plastic, with dual, soft-feeling speaker grills on the front face with an LED indicator along. The top part houses the controls, with an on/phone answering button, back, play/pause and forward buttons, mic and volume toggles. The back piece is molded into a simple handle, and there is a flap that sp1hides opening for the coaxial cable, USB charging connection and micro-USB cable. All in all, it is solid without looking too straitlaced, and looks well fused together.

Pairing the device will be intuitive to anyone that has paired a bluetooth device; it’s a matter of activating the bluetooth source, and turning the speaker on by holding the on button for a few seconds, which puts the speaker into pairing mode. The device then uses beeps to help guide pairing.

The sound quality is admirable. there is a bit of lost sharpness at higher decibels, but the music is mostly clear and far from muddy. The added wired functionality is a boon to, as it makes the speaker available to a wider array of sources. It can be used to answer phones too via speakerphone.

Two elements also make this accessory stand out a bit more: the splash proof nature and the portable charging functionality. The SPX9 is advertised as pool safe, and the finishing and rubber protection underscore this. My admittedly cautious water testing didn’t cause the unit to miss a beat. I especially like being able to plug in a mobile device into the speaker for emergency juice.

Pound for pound, the biggest barrier might be the pricing; at $99.00 (via the Miccus site), it’s in for a lot of competition, even with the extras. Still, for a device that won’t shy away from the occasional wetting, it’s a decent offering.

Antec Bluetooth Headphone Hardware Review

Antec Bluetooth Headphone Hardware Review

Jul 14, 2014

The push to going wireless is alive and well, and Antec seems to be quite willing to take on the challenge, especially with its a.m.p Wireless Headphones

The review box which was provided to us showed the attention paid to product packaging. The product comes with the headphones, micro-USB cord, wall plug-in pins, 3.55 mm male-to-male audio cable, a carrying case with carabiner and paperwork.

The contoured black frame is mostly wrapped in somewhat glossy hard plastic with bendable ends that fold inside, a feature one almost expects in over-ear headphones to encourage compactness and portability. The cans are covered by soft, perforated material, and there is metal on the insides of the unit. The topmost inner part also has foam padding, and the cans are jointed, which allows them to rotate somewhat on a connecting axis. The right side has a micro-USB charging port, as well as a 3.55 mm port for wired sound feed. Also nestled on the right side are the track controls, volume rocker, LED light and power button. On the head, it is quite comfortable, and the innate flexibility of the set works well in real life, even when at rest around the neck, which it can do at 6.4 ounces.

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Charging didn’t take too long, and pairing it via the Bluetooth 3.0 chip to an audio source is easy and intuitive; it’s a simple matter of tapping and holding the power button till the LED alternates rapidly between red and blue, and finding the headphones and linking from the source device. It worked well with all types of audio, and the clarity was quite impressive. The bass output isn’t as sharp with some songs, but overall, it was loud enough in the ear. It streams close to the advertised 32 feet distance.

It also works with wire via the removable audio cable. This gives the set even more functionality. The “call”button, which is smoothly incorporated to the right end, is a nice touch. The call quality can be a bit jagged though.

All in all, while the exterior part of the device is prone to smudging, and the joints make me wonder about how it will hold up in the long term, I still think it is a decent value overall.

The Antec AMP Pulse Bluetooth Wireless Headphones is available for $79.99 via Amazon.com.