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.

Scosche Gobat 12000 Rugged Battery Hardware Review

Scosche Gobat 12000 Rugged Battery Hardware Review

Mar 10, 2016

Juice.

It’s simple fact: one’s mobile devices are only as cool and effective as long as their battery power hold.

Juice is the universal currency now, and when it’s all said and done, it takes quite a lot to use these mini-computers — and related accessories — on the go.

Someday, we might get batteries that go for weeks or more with “regular” usage. Till then, we have portable batteries to fill the gap.

Till then, we have the Scosche Gobat 12000 Rugged Portable Battery, a product especially geared towards the technologically active.

So, if the product is designed to convey a sense of ruggedness, it mostly succeeds at first glance and first touch. It is not too big to handle, and is fairly thick. The exterior is crafted of hard material, with tiny screws on the one side, seamless joints and a low-profile on-button.

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Notably, it has a cover for the indented bank of ports at the bottom of the unit; this is great for preventing exposure to the elements. The bank contains a micro-USB input port for charging the unit, and also two 12 watt USB output slots. It a hook fashioned up top, which works with the included carabiner; the micro-USB cable that comes with the main unit is short and sturdier than most, and reflects the overall presentation.

On paper, this battery comes to party. It takes its name well, in that it boasts a honking 12000mAh-rated rechargeable internal battery, from which it juices mobile devices. It buttresses that feature with IP68 Dustproof/Waterproof construction — again, underscoring its rugged street cred.

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In everyday testing, the unit works well. It spent time on a soccer pitch, and worked admirably in several conditions. The dual chargers work well, and the standby time is impressive. It’s construction does not preclude mobility, as it is easy to handle and is vaguely pocketable.

All in all, a fine product that does its job and isn’t tender about doing it.

The Scosche Gobat 12000 Rugged Battery is available for $99.99 at Scosche.com.

Kinivo URBN Premium Bluetooth Headphones Review

Kinivo URBN Premium Bluetooth Headphones Review

Feb 26, 2016

Kinivo usually does its thing well, and we expected the same with its URBN Premium Bluetooth Headphones.

The review unit we received reflects the item in its retail presentation; in the box, one gets a zip case with carabiner. The case is semi-hard, and contains the headphones, male-to-male audio cable and micro-USB charging cable. Everything fits together neatly, and the addition of the carry case is a nice touch.

The headphones possess a similarly black finish, with hard plastic exterior parts and soft material for the ear cups. The head band is jointed (which allows for the folding and storage), has a sliding mechanism that allows for adjustment and also has soft material on the inside crown; the right side incorporates toggles for power, volume, play/pause, forwarding and such. At the bottom of that right side, there are also ports for charging and the aforementioned audio cable, plus a useful LED light that gives one an indication of the unit’s charging status.

Altogether, it looks nice physically, and is seemingly well fused out of the box.

To get going, one needs to charge the unit, and this can be accomplished with the included micro-USB cable; when it is ready to go, the LED light turns to solid green. The next step is to pair it to a Bluetooth-enabled audio source, and this should be easy to anyone who has ever paired two Bluetooth devices together: toggle on, search and pair.

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We put the unit through the paces. Audio comes out crisply, without any discernible interference, though with distance and walls, clarity did decrease (as to be expected). It re-pairs automatically, and keeps a strong connection when in range. It came close to the stated hours of continuous streaming on a charge. To this admittedl non-audiophile’s ears, it did sound like a bit more base could be had, but the sound output is pleasing none-the-less.

The added wired functionality is an added bonus; using the supplied cable and built-in port, one can use the headphones wired to a suitable device when the unit isn’t charged, or when one simply wants to do so. The music fidelity is just as clean.

All in all, one does get a a nice, portable unit for a decent price that works well with mobile devices both wirelessly and otherwise.

Dog & Bone Locksmart Mini Wireless Padlock Hardware Review

Dog & Bone Locksmart Mini Wireless Padlock Hardware Review

Feb 24, 2016

Yes, we are becoming more connected. It’s where we are headed… a logical destination of sorts. Items like the kickstarted Dog & Bone Locksmart Mini Padlock are clearly on the roadmap.

The review package was provided by the manufacturer, and reflects the item in its retail packaging; we got the red version, charging micro-usb cable and a card with software download instructions.

The padlock looks like, well, a regular padlock; it consists of a U-shaped shackle, and a prominent body characterized by a defined soft rubber coating. At the bottom, it has a charging port right about where one would expect the keyhole. It also packs a power button protected by a rubber cover. Officially, it comes in at 3.98 x 2 x 0.94 inches (with a 0.24″ steel shackle) and 5.64 ounces.

Altogether, it has a solid feel in hand, strong yet agile, and, at first glance, definitely looks the part.

There isn’t a lot by way of formal instruction, but the companion LockSmart app (hosted on Google Play) more or less confirms the next logical step: charge the unit. The aforementioned LED light works to notify one when this is successfully done.lock1

But said app’s major purpose is to serve as control center for the hardware, which it connects to it via Bluetooth. The app is clean, and fairly straightforward. The app hints at a lot of the functionality to be found. First, one has to create an account and then pair the two together, and this can be done by using the aforementioned power button. Once paired, it is easy to unlock the unit by using the prominent Unlock button on the app.

There is a bunch of secondary utility to be found, for instance, in the Settings tab. here, there’s access options, showing one can use the default tap to run things, or use fingerprint or passcode. One can also monitor the padlock’s power levels (it’s rated to go two years without needing to be charged), and one can also toggle power saving mode for more conservative power usage. One also keep an eye on firmware too.

One cool thing a user can do is to give access to others. Using the “Share” tool, it’s possible to invite other users to get access to the lock, which makes it great for use with a lock that has several designated users. The associated “Activity Log” allows one to see who is accessing it when.

Altogether, it’s a pretty nifty solution. It did act temperamentally at times, and the assumption is that that was due to bluetooth restrictions… which might be the biggest drawback. Still, for a simple, cost-effective concept that just works, this one feels like a reasonable choice.

Nyrius Smart Outlet Hardware Review

Nyrius Smart Outlet Hardware Review

Feb 17, 2016

Someday, not too far in the future, it’s quite possible that all our devices, peripherals and appliances will be connected to a central hub. Maybe even voice activated. Wake up, ask for espresso, and have it ready before one’s hair is dry.

Heaven on earth? Maybe. For now, we have stuff like the Nyrius Smart Outlet to give us a taste.

It’s a simple tool: a plug that can be manipulated from one’s smartphone, and thus can control most things plugged into it wirelessly.

The review unit Nyrius sent us reveals the unit in its retail presentation; in the box one gets it and documentation. The unit itself is white, shaped somewhat like a small brick but with soft edges. Its single three-pin entry point is on the bottom, and it also has an LED on outward-facing surface.

A big part of the solution is the companion app hosted on the Play Store called Nyrius Smart Plug; this app more or less works as the controlling conduit for the hardware. After installations and launching, the app looks to toggle on the requisite Bluetooth, and then it looks to use the wireless standard to connect to an available Nyrius outlet.

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When it’s all connected, it’s a cinch to control the main unit via the software. The app is clean with a lot of open space and bathed in the signature blue as it allows on to turn the plug on and off, tweak proximity and even set timers, which is a pretty useful feature. It all works well together.

From a usability perspective, the access holes being on the bottom does provide a bit of a challenge, especially considering the unit’s size. In a conventional wall unit (with two slots stacked vertically), one might be tempted to use the bottom slot so as to have the top one unencumbered. Well, that means whatever is plugged into this unit will poke out the bottom, and, depending on placement and usage, might cause some strain on plugged in electronics cable. On the other hand, creating semi-permanent solutions is one thing this looks to fix, so once one has it all working, one need not adjust much.

The proximity feature is great in theory, but is subject to bluetooth range restrict, and the ability to control other units would be most welcome.

Overall, simple pieces like these are what make the concept of a connected home a tangible reality, and that is why it is easy to like in several scenarios.

Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer Hardware Review

Vicks SmartTemp Thermometer Hardware Review

Feb 11, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easton Power Sensor Hardware Review

Easton Power Sensor Hardware Review

Jan 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

verykool Maverick LTE SL5550 Hardware Review

verykool Maverick LTE SL5550 Hardware Review

Jan 13, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merge Virtual Reality Goggles Hardware Review (Part I)

Merge Virtual Reality Goggles Hardware Review (Part I)

Jan 5, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to read on: Part II