Kenu Airframe+ Hardware Review

Kenu Airframe+ Hardware Review

Apr 9, 2015

My mobile mantra is “simplicity is best.” Essentially, to be as productive as possible, I look to find solutions that are simple and effective. There are plenty of tools that are overly involved, or simply too much solution for a gentle problem. There are also complex solutions that go way beyond a simple use scenario. Technologically speaking, there can be too much of good thing.

As I have gotten older, I have started looking for the easy accessories… stuff that enhances the use of my mobile devices, is just as portable and — this one is a biggie — handily affordable.

Here’s to hoping that the Kenu Airframe+ Portable Car Mount hits on all three points.

The unit Kenu sent us highlights the Airframe+ in all its retail glory: simple packaging with an emphasis on the product itself. As noted, this is a car mount, and it is rated for larger phones and phablets of up to 6″ and is basically a more extensible version of the original Airframe, which worked with slightly smaller devices. The retail packaging also contains diagrammed documentation. We got the black one, but there is also a white version.


In hand, the Airframe+ is strikingly light, and also pretty compact at 2.7 x 1.9 x 0.98 inches and under an ounce in weight. The exterior fels like a combination of synthetic materials, and there is also some metal: specifically zinc alloy and stainless steel. It looks a bit like a simple c-clamp without the screw part; instead, it hs a pyramidal part that sits on the back.

The small frame is a bit deceiving, because at first glance one might not catch the expandable grip. The one end can be pulled to create more area, and it naturally retracts to provide a tight fit. It all comes together quite intuitively, and works well. I tried it with both a Samsung Galaxy S5 and a note, and it come together nicely.

It promises o attach to all car vents, and certainly did on the ones I tried it on. It simply snaps into place, at which point one can insert and remove devices quite easily. As an added benefit, one can use a card to prop the Airframe+ as a standalone device stand.

Pretty nifty.

Now, I’m not the biggest fan of vent holders for obvious reasons, but I do like the construction of the unit, and the extra usage. At $20.29 (via Amazon), it is quite affordable.

So, it seems the Airframe+ is able to hold it own in the functionality challenge.

Cambridge Audio Minx Go Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Cambridge Audio Minx Go Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Dec 24, 2014

Editor’s note: this review is for the original Minx Go; cambridge Audio has since refreshed this unit with NFC.

When it comes to mobile accessories, give me wireless or give me… you get the idea. Going without wires makes everything just makes everything so much better. It makes everything cooler. It just makes mobile devices even more… well mobile.

Cambridge Audio has been in the audio business for a while, and have clearly invested in the wireless paradigm. Proof? The Minx Go Bluetooth Speaker.

The review unit Cambridge sent us shows the unit in all its glory; it’s generally rectangular in shape, but with deliberate design lines that simple refuse to allow it to be strictly described as a simple rectangular cuboid. The grey front grill houses the output, as expected, and it fits seamlessly into the grey frame, and that into the white body. At the top of the piece are three simple buttons, on/pair, and one each for increasing or decreasing the volume.

On the back right, there is a USB jack, an audio port and slot for the power source. At the bottom is an adjustable stand; the logo adorning the grill is no overstated, and the unit is pretty hefty at 2.4lbs and 9.3 x 4.8 x 2.4 inches. It does look nice, and out of the box, it looks like it would be comfortable in different environments. The box also contains a carry pouch, documentation, a power cable and a 3.5mm audio cable, and it should be noted that the speaker has black as another color option.


Technologically, this unit boasts amp powered dual 2” drivers, along with two titanium tweeters. It also sports a rear Auxiliary Bass Radiator, which is supposed to do what the name implies.

Getting it going is simple, and will be intuitive for anyone who has handled bluetooth peripherals prior. After the obligatory charge, pairing is a simple matter of holding down the power button until the unit is in pairing mode (which is denoted by the flashing on toggle). After pairing, sound is delivered easily and freely. I tried podcasts and music, and was impressed with the clarity; it mostly reflected audio sharply. Connecting physically (via audio cable) did, to my ears, provide output with a bit more fidelity, which isn’t too unexpected.

This unit also packs in the admirable ability to charge other mobile devices with its own built-in battery.

All in all, it is a classy-looking piece that backs up it’s looks with great functionality. It’s not as portable as I would like, but that isn’t a bad thing, because it can be used in different scenarios.

Our 10 Favorite Accessories That Can Fit In the Palm of Your Hand

Our 10 Favorite Accessories That Can Fit In the Palm of Your Hand

Oct 14, 2014

At Android Rundown, we get quite a lot of accessories to try out; it’s one of the more interesting aspects of writing about technology. Seeing what companies come up with to extend the functionality of mobile devices is a fascinating endeavor.

Android-enabled accessories come in all flavors and sizes; some of the best transcend size though. Here are some of our favorites that can easily fit in one’s hand. We also link to our reviews of said item. The list started at five items, and, true to form, we couldn’t condense it to only five accessories.

Fair disclosure: each of the following items were provided to Android Rundown for review purposes.

Kingston DataTraveler microDuo

We love this piece; it packs the collective functionality of a regular jumpdrive and a mobile device OTG puck. It comes in several different sizes, and is just about as portable as a quarter.

Our Review

Antec Smartbean Bluetooth Receiver

Yes, we love our wireless accessories, but wired pieces still pack a punch, and are hard to retire. For folks looking to give wired audio accessories a wireless feel, the Smartbean is the perfect tool.

Our Review

KERO Micro-USB Nomad Cable

In today’s mobile world, micro-USB cables are GOLD. This Kickstarted item is affordable, portable, and cute and rugged at the same time.

Our Review

Automatic Auto Accessory

Outside the box ideas are always fantastic, and the Automatic Auto accessory defines this concept. It plugs into a car’s OBD port and reads and interprets data, syncing said data to one’s Android device via the companion app and bluetooth. Pesky check engine light? Driving performance? Speed Check? Distracted driving prevention? Yep.

Our Review

Rocki Wi-Fi Music System

More kickstarter goodness… this one in the manifestation of a wi-fi based music sharing tool. Slick shaped, portable and well designed o bring one’s Android device to musical/audio life.

Our Review

RAVPower Qi Charger

Sleek, simple and (most importantly) functional, this unit brings one’s Qi-enabled hardware the charge it literally needs.

Our Review

Eye-Fi Mobi 8GB Wi-Fi SD card

The Eye-Fi is not new, but its utility is evergreen. It brings devices with SD card slots wireless functionality via local network. It works with cameras, PDAs, (my personal favorite) mobile scanners, and more. It comes in different sizes, and the optional cloud functionality is pretty cool too. With the companion Android app, data can be manipulated and shared Fortune 500-style.

Our Review

iRig MIC Cast

This little contraption converts the audio jack of Android devices into an equitable audio recording portal. With the companion app, audio can be manipulated. Podcasters, musicians, speech makers and pranksters rejoice!

Our Review


Google hanged the game with this mirroring tool; the insanely competitive price is somehow not the best feature of this little media monster.

Our Review

BlueAnt Pump Headphones

These powerful, wireless headphones are made for exercise, but are sedate enough to be used in other instances. Sweat-proof, hardy in hand and comfortable in ear, now you can stream inspirational words from Mr T while out running or reading up on Android development at the library.

Our Review

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.

A6 Front

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.

Braven 710 Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Braven 710 Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

May 29, 2014

Wireless speakers offerings are somewhat plentiful, and come in at different price ranges. Having choices is almost never a bad thing, which is why gadget lovers should love stuff like Braven 710 Bluetooth Speaker.

It has a presence. The speaker itself is gorgeous in its seemingly minimalist look. Closer up, one catches the intricate craftsmanship of the aluminum shell, which encases the right rectangular prism that is bracketed by ports on one side and the control bank on the other. Officially, it comes in at 6.25 x 2.6 x 1.8 inches and less than 14 ounces. In the box, one also gets a micro-USB cable and documentation.

Pairing it to an audio source is a breeze (it also features NFC link-ups), and afterward the initial manual setup, subsequent pairing is automatic. The sound quality, however is exceptionally rich for the size, and the echo that sometimes emanates from box-shaped speakers is absent. The range is equitable, though I did start to hear gaps in quality with a wall or two in between the speakers and source, and it came up a tad short with regards to the advertised 12-hour playback time.


Beyond looks and music, the 710 does some cool things. It works as a Bluetooth speakerphone, and can wirelessly work in tandem with another 710 if called upon to do do. One feature of interest is its ability to work as an audio pass through device; in other words, the audio out button can be used to connect “regular” wired speakers to it, and in essence creating a bank of multiple output units.

This bad boy doesn’t stop there; additionally it can serve as a power bank to charge devices that accept USB sources. It works great as an emergency charger, albeit (and expectedly) slower than a direct outlet.

It has a hot design, but what lifts this piece up above competitors is the extra functionality. It could be a bit more portable, but the design aesthetic mostly overcomes this reservation. It does a lot of things, but, importantly, it does them quite well.

Visioneer Mobility Color Cordless Scanner Hardware Review

Visioneer Mobility Color Cordless Scanner Hardware Review

May 27, 2014

I want to be paperless.

No, seriously… I do. We live in a digital world, and it makes life easier. With different storage options, local and cloud, it just makes sense to make those documents take on a different life. Even if only from a backup standpoint, having digital documents is a must have.

One issue remains though. All that paper isn’t always generated/accumulated at home. One business trip alone can generate lots of paper, and even if one has a traditional scanner at home, manually scanning in stuff is sometimes more than a chore. What folks like me need is a truly mobile scanner. A smartphone might work in a pinch, but as anyone who has had a need to get a professional document digitized on the fly can tell you, sometimes, cellphone cameras simply don’t cut it.

This where the Visioneer Mobility Color Cordless Scanner (courtesy of Xerox) can be of service.

The review unit came boxed with power cord with adjustable prongs, software disk, 2GB microSD card and adapter, cleaning tool, mini-USB cable, and the scanner itself encased in a decent black carry case. First, it is really mobile, coming in at 11.54 x 2.82 x 2.07 inches and less than a pound and a half in weight. The review unit itself has a hard plastic exterior, with glossy white on top over a black body. It looks like a basic scanner would with power and feed buttons to the right, and SD, mini-USB and full USB ports at the back. The entire thing is infinitely portable, and has a nice design aesthetic.


The unit came with what seemed to be a full charge, so I was able to get into using it immediately. The true draw is that it does not need a full-fledged computer to operate; scanning documents is easy and intuitive; with the device on, face-up feeding auto-launches the hardware, and the device stores the scanned documents to the included SD card. It does 300 ppi JPG or PDF too, and it is possible to scan directly in wired fashion to supported Android devices via USB debugging. The replaceable rechargeable battery ensures that wires can be left at home, and it boasts 300 scans before a recharge is needed. The quality of the scans is really good, and it handles paper 2 x 2 inches all the way up to letter-sized sheets.

An added optional benefit that Visioneer advertises that I was able to verify independently is Eye-Fi card functionality. A configured Eye-Fi card gives the scanner enviable wireless functionality that is really hard to beat, and makes it invaluable on the road.

It doesn’t do both sides of the paper at once; and I did feel that holding it a bit too hard could ding it up, but all in all, the Mobility Color is a great device that changes mobile productivity in a positive way. It makes one completely rethink the use of paper, and removes a major barrier to being completely digital.

Seidio Dilex Combo Case Hardware Review

Seidio Dilex Combo Case Hardware Review

May 23, 2014

I like to think that protecting mobile devices is serious business. Further to that, finding the delicate balance between functionality, bulk and appearance can be daunting.

Seidio has been making cases for a while, and its expertise goes across manufacturers, platforms and even device form factors. We had an opportunity to review its Dilex 3-piece Combo Case, and it was a fun endeavor.

The review samples arrived in the telltale red Seidio boxes; the first had the Dilex case pieces, and the second contained the holster. The samples were black (Seidio also offers white, brown, purple, blue and red); it actually comes in two interlocking segments, each lined on the inside with black felt that completes the hard polymer the pieces are made out of. The upper (bigger) portion has the camera cut-outs, while the smaller portion has a light metal kickstand. d2

The aforementioned holster has a fairly minimalist design, with a spring release mechanism at the top, and edged corners and sides. It too is made of hard plastic, with a clip on the back.

In action, the two case pieces fit perfectly on the HTC One M8 they were wade for, with a groove system that lets them lock into place. It creates a gapless system, with little added bulk, and openings for buttons, audio jack, charging port, cameras and mics were well-placed.

Fitting the cased phone into the holster was just as seamless. The system provides a front-facing system, so the phone is subject to another layer of protection, because in the case of a drop, the back (cased) portion of the phone is exposed. The pieces all feel secure when used together, and even rigorous shaking doesn’t dislodge the cased device. As an aside, the holster also works with other thin cases, even though it is no officially rated for them, albeit with a much more relaxed fit.

I wasn’t a big fan of the release mechanism, convenient as it is; it just feels that a lot of use might test its longevity. Besides that, the Dilex works well as a protective option that doesn’t look like Medusa. The added benefit of being able to use the two main component segments more or less on their own adds value to the overall package.

The Dilex Combo can be obtained via Amazon for $47.08.

MiniSuit BluBoard Wireless Keyboard Hardware Review

MiniSuit BluBoard Wireless Keyboard Hardware Review

May 8, 2014

One of my ultimate goals with regards to mobility is to not have to carry a laptop; thus, peripherals like MiniSuit Bluboard Wireless Keyboard have such potential for creative folks on the go.

The review unit MiniSuit provided comes with the piece itself, documentation and a USB cord for charging. Size-wise, it comes in as full external keyboard, almost matching the Apple keyboard dimensions precisely at 11 x 7 x 0.5 inches. It has a different physical look, with the hard plastic personified in brushed aluminum finishing. The keys are all black, with white standard (and blue function) lettering. At the top of the keys towards the right, there are a bank of buttons and indicators: on/off toggle, Bluetooth pairing button, caps lock, battery indicator and a Bluetooth indicator as well; on the right side, there is a micro USB charging port. The whole frame tapers into a deliberate U-shape that anchors the tablet as well as giving he top of the keyboard a lift to create mk3an ergonomic slant. Finally, the whole unit is wrapped in a black case.

Getting the device fully charged took a lot less than the advertised two hours, so I surmise it comes almost topped off. After that, it’s a simple matter of pairing to a compatible Bluetooth device via a generated pairing code, and it’s business time.

The keyboard feels exceptionally comfortable, and there is hardly any latency. I like how easy it is to pair and use, and it actually feels pretty natural. I was able to get a lot of usage over a day or so without needing to charge.

While the keyboard is fully functional on iOS devices, there are a bunch of function keys that do not work on Android hardware, but to be fair, the manufacturer’s documentation notes this. Also, even though it is a universal keyboard, the built-in stand is best used with the thinnest devices only, as thicker ones just won’t fit right. It’s also good to know it isn’t rated for Bluetooth 4.0.

For basic entry, it’s tough to pass up, especially with the addition of the stylish cover. It feels infinitely portable, and that’s half the job right there.

The BluBoard Wireless keyboard is available for $39.90 from the MiniSuit site and $39.95 on Amazon.

Sony Xperia Z Hardware Review

Sony Xperia Z Hardware Review

Jan 24, 2014

Sony got a lot of kudos for its foray into Android, and the Xperia Z has worn the hat of flagship device well. With new Sony devices on the horizon, we got a belated look at this device.

First, a few stats… not shabby for a 2013 flagship: 5″ screen fit into a 139 x 71 x 7.9mm body, front-facing 2.2 MP camera paired with a 13.1 one in the rear. The screen has a resolution of 1920×1080, with Dragontrail glass upfront and Gorilla in the back.

Internally, the Z packs a Snapdragon S4 chip, 16 GB of flash memory and 2 GB RAM, and can use up to 64 GB of expandable memory.

The hardware is is gorgeous to look at. It’s a stately slab, with deliberate edges and corners that lend themselves to its appearance. It feels great in hand, and just looks as though it’s comfortable in with its non-diminutive size. The weight is spread well, and the all-black lends to its allure.SX1

The software suite offers the usual suite of Android staples: Maps, Gmail, Chrome and Music are sandwiched by T-Mobile stockware and some Sony standard apps like Playstation and memory stroking Walkman. The most pleasant revelation for me was the realization how thin Sony’s user interface is; the phone’s UI is relatively clean, and perhaps a bit more reminiscent of stock Android than, say HTC Sense or Samsung TouchWiz. Of course, the T-Mobile stuff cannot be deleted on a stock device, but disabling is possible. Most the system processes are laid out in standard Android OS fashion.

Of special interest to me were the Sony apps; how will Sony set itself apart from the sizable Android OEM crowd? The Walkman app is the first stock Android music app I’d use on a daily basis, and it’s not just because of nostalgia. It’s nicely done, with a look that fits the device. The Playstation App is similarly regal with bluish undertones and has a nice selection of unique games.

Call me crazy, but I expected the device to be a bit zippier. It didn’t gasp, but there was a stutter now and then. I wasn’t able to to test call quality, but the audio quality without earbuds was not as pure to me as some of its contemporaries.

In smartphones time, the Z is pretty mature, but still manages to represent Sony particularly well. With new devices from Sony due out at any second, the Z reminds us why we like Sony, and why choice is ALWAYS a good thing.

Bracketron NanoTek Stand Hardware Review

Bracketron NanoTek Stand Hardware Review

Jan 16, 2014

We drop quite a lot of money on mobile devices. With good reason, too. They are the ultimate business, entertainment and everything in-between tools. But after purchase, it just makes sense to dress them up right. Protection. Accessibility. Extended functionality. And more.

Some accessories promise to give a combination of features, and this is just what the Universal NanoTek Stand from Bracketron purports to do. It comes in silver or black (we received a silver review unit).

The stand itself comes in very subtle but strong appearance. The main stem is made out of aircraft grade aluminum, and curves into a short sided V-shape. A wide T-shape is cut into the metal frame for cabling, and each end has black padding. Nothing is sharp or overly demonstrative, with soft edges and an appreciated lack of glinty touches.nano2

What is truly intriguing is the advertised NanoTek technology. It works in a slick way as a soft adhesive, so that a smartphone leans back in the the cradle, held by only this black material. It’s pretty slick, and makes for easy placement and retrieval. The adhesive is strong enough to hold my cased HTC EVO 4G LTE, though not permanently; really weighted devices tend not to be held in place, but larger phones, such as an uncased Sony Xperia Z, work just fine without leftover residue. In my experience, it tended to help to wipe the padding periodically.

The T-shape slot for charging cable isn’t effective with my phone in the upright position (the charging port is the left, not the bottom), but works swimmingly with devices that are more conventionally constructed. It does work with my phone in landscape orientation.

In practice, the stand is reasonably sturdy, balanced on flat surfaces and feels durable. Because of its portability and design, using with a keyboard or as a consumption holder is possible. In this, it provides multiple usfage opportunities, good for a somewhat permanently placed accessory or even as a part of a go bag.

It’s another fine tool from a trusted company, and it is always pleasant to try something so small but yet relatively useful.

The NanoTek Stand can be obtained from the Bracketron website for $29.99, and elsewhere, like Amazon for $18.86 before shipping. It comes with a year-long warranty.

Nyko PlayPad Hardware Review

Nyko PlayPad Hardware Review

Jan 22, 2013

Android’s gamepad support is something that makes gaming on the platform different; while it’s not a very widely used option as developers still design for touch screens, it exists as an option. However, few actual pieces of hardware are designed for it, as most people just jerry-rig up an Xbox 360 controller to their tablet or phone. This is where Nyko’s PlayPad shows promise: it’s a Bluetooth gamepad available in a miniature version that’s great for traveling, or a full-size Pro version. I picked up the Mini version, and what I found was a great idea that was sadly lacking.

Now, one of the more exciting features of the Nyko PlayPad was its announced functionality to be able to map touch controls to the various gamepad buttons. Well, that’s not quite available yet. Nyko says it’s forthcoming, and its Nyko Playground software is still in beta. There’s functionality to theoretically remap keyboard presses to gamepad buttons, but the controller has to be synced though their app. Good luck with that, as it is practically impossible to get it set up through the app itself on Android 4.2 – if an update ever comes out to make the app actually work on one of the most popular Android devices out there, we’ll say something because otherwise a lot of the value of this controller is lost by not having this ability. It does work as intended on the Motorola Xoom, which runs 4.1, and Sonic CD worked great with it.There are third-party tools to do similar things, but they generally require rooting. In short, this is not a cool hackery tool, it’s just a Bluetooth gamepad.

So, just as a Bluetooth gamepad, how does it function? It’s passable. Getting it synced in gamepad mode is an absolute nightmare on the Nexus 7 on Android 4.2 – I found that it was easiest to sync it up in iCade mode (which emulates a keyboard, designed for iOS usage, though Chrono and Cash supports this on Android), then switch over to the gamepad mode. I think. Once it’s synced up, it works fine. For games that use all-digital controls (Orangepixel’s whole library is perfect for testing), it’s fine, though the button assignments are very strange – it feels like Y is one of the main action buttons for whatever reason. It’s not the same as an Xbox 360 controller, that’s for sure. The iCade layout is wonky as well. This is all based off of an off-the-shelf retail unit, as well.

The analog joysticks are not clickable, so there’s fewer action buttons (an issue that pops up in Dead Trigger), and they’re the sliding kind of joysticks made famous by the PSP, so they’re functional, but not exactly ideal for 3D games. The PlayPad Pro, by comparison, has more traditional analog sticks, so it may work better for first-person shooters and the like (try Madfinger’s titles, as they generally contain controller support). The controller can also act as a mouse for touchscreen games or just for remote control, but with these joysticks, it’s far from ideal. All the buttons, including the digital face buttons, digital shoulder buttons and analog triggers, all work well.

While I really like the idea of this compact, rechargeable, and versatile controller, its many strange quirks in functionality keep it from being a high recommendation. Its wide availability (GameStop carries the controller) may make it a top choice for those hunting down an Android gamepad. Just go in with low expectations.

Phorus Play-Fi Speaker Hardware Review

Phorus Play-Fi Speaker Hardware Review

Oct 12, 2012

Phorus promised an equivalent to AirPlay for wireless sound playback for Android back at CES 2012, and it’s finally a reality. The Phorus Play-Fi PS1 Speaker, originally known as the Phorus PlayCast, is starting to make its way out to the world. Phorus sent us a review unit to test out its functionality.

What the device does is to play music wirelessly, primarily over wifi, though there’s also Bluetooth and a 3.5 mm line-in jack to aid in the process. It currently supports just Android for its Play-Fi app, available from Google Play.

Setting up via wifi requires an Android device on the same network; launch the Play-Fi app downloaded from Google Play, choose the Play-Fi that needs to be set up, choose the wireless network it should be connected to, and then put in that wireless network’s password. The device will connect to a temporary network created by the Play-Fi, which will then connect to that network automatically from now on. Resetting to another network is easy, just hold down the wifi button on the bottom until it beeps twice. The lights on the buttons are covered when pressing them, so it can be hard to tell just based on that action alone when the light is going off.

Once the Play-Fi is set up, it can be named, which is important because the Play-Fi app supports multiple Play-Fi Speakers, making it possible to set up a whole home network with Play-Fi Speakers. Choose the speaker to use, and then select what kind of audio to play: Pandora, from media servers, and from the device itself. The app’s built-in Pandora works really well; it’s possible to log in and play music from saved stations, the quality is great and overall it’s just a good experience that shows the potential of the whole ecosystem. Playing music off of the device works too, though some files may be unsupported. DLNA media server functionality requires good server software, which can be hard to find. I was unable to get it working with my Mac.

The Play-Fi Speaker is really convenient; wifi music streaming works well and there’s no seeming audio loss versus a wired connection, perhaps because the device is decoding and playing back the music directly. Whatever trick it’s doing, it’s working well and is the best way to use the Play-Fi Speaker. It’s almost as if it was made to work with it! There’s a cradle that can hold a phone or 7" tablet, and a USB port on the back that appears to work with charging, though my Galaxy S III recognized it as a data+charging USB connection. It comes with a pair of very short mini- and micro-USB cables, ostensibly for charging purposes, which helps prevent a tangled mess, because if someone’s buying a wireless speaker system, that’s specifically what they’re trying to avoid.

The Play-Fi Speaker itself works well. The problem is that the Play-Fi app is limited in terms of what it can play over wifi. Yes, it can play back most any common music file on a device. That’s not a problem. But let’s look at Google Play Music. It’s great for streaming songs and managing which songs are on and off the device without any hassle, but recent app updates have hidden the song files in the data partition of an Android device, making it hard for anything but the app itself to find the files. So it basically requires music to be stored on the device itself, which is often just inconvenient. Forget using Spotify or Rdio with this at the moment over wifi. The sound quality is really good, superior to many speakers that I’ve owned with noticable bass for the small package, but it wasn’t anything that made me jump out of my seat and exclaim how great the sound quality was. It’s really more about the convenience of the package and what Phorus claims to be “room-filling” sound, which for what it’s worth, it can get loud. Sound was definitely audible throughout my studio apartment, which isn’t saying much, but it will be satisfactory volume-wise for many users. The volume can be adjusted either from the Play-Fi Speaker or the app.

Ironically, the easiest way to make sure I got high-quality music playing through the Play-Fi Speaker was to plug my phone in through the auxiliary wired audio port on the back. Everything played with that. Not so convenient, but it worked. Bluetooth audio works as well, which also makes this compatible with iOS devices, but there’s a noticeable drop in sound quality, that even a non-audiophile like myself can tell the difference in. Avoid this if possible.

So, while Phorus is going after AirPlay, considering the limited utility of the Play-Fi app right now and even the availability of reverse-engineered AirPlay sources like DoubleTwist, the Phorus Play-Fi Speaker is hard to recommend unless it fits exactly into a particular use case. What really needs to come is an audio driver that would just be able to capture and play all audio over wifi to the Play-Fi, which would fill in all the gaps and make this something truly worth the cost. Phorus should open up an API for music apps and interested developers to take advantage of this hardware system.

The Phorus Play-Fi Speaker is available now for $199. The Phorus Play-Fi Receiver is available for $149; it is identical to the speaker version but requires users to plug in their own speakers.