Stilo Stylus Hardware Review

Stilo Stylus Hardware Review

Dec 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We had to try drawing as well.

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

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

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

Can be.

BRAVEN 105 Active Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

BRAVEN 105 Active Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Dec 24, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pelican Case Hardware Review

Pelican Case Hardware Review

Nov 23, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leeo Smart Alert Hardware Review

Leeo Smart Alert Hardware Review

Aug 31, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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Okay. Not bad.

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

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

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

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

BRAVEN BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

BRAVEN BRV-1M Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Aug 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can one ask for more?

The Jamstik+ SmartGuitar Adds Android Support

The Jamstik+ SmartGuitar Adds Android Support

May 26, 2016

Zivix’s jamstick+ SmartGuitar is now supports Android, which opens up the door to folks that want to learn how to play guitar on select Android and Android TV devices.

The jamstick+ is a bluetooth MIDI device that somewhat looks and handles like part of a real guitar; support comes by way of a spanking new jamstick+ app hosted on Google Play. The app has guided lessons, and creative tools for advanced musicians, and more.

The hardware does more than just simulate guitar; since it is essentially a MIDI controller, one can tweak the sound output. It senses where one’s fingers are, is always in tune, and its reduced profile mean that it is infinitely more portable than a regular sized guitar.

The app allows one to purchase more content, and it also monitors the battery life of the hardware.

Zivix chief Ed Cannon is clearly happy to be on Android. “We’ve always wanted to bring the jamstik+ to Android, and the latest version allows our smart guitar to be one of the first Bluetooth MIDI devices compatible with the platform,” he says. “We are proud to help pioneer music technology on the Android platform and will continue to develop new experiences around our products. With its availability on both major platforms, the jamstik+ makes learning guitar and writing music more accessible than ever.”

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The jamstick+ costs $299.

Need a portable projector? Magnasonic has you covered with its new Pico Video Projector

Need a portable projector? Magnasonic has you covered with its new Pico Video Projector

Mar 9, 2016

Projectors have been traditionally in that tech gear No Man’s Land that is reserved infinitely useful pieces of tech somewhat hampered by a lack of relative portability. In recent times, the advent of portable projectors alleviates the issue, and Magnasonic’s newest offering the space, the LED Pocket Pico Projector wants to be the best solution of its type on the market.

It is designed to work with with mobile devices, including compatible smartdevices; it comes in at 3.9 x 3.0 x 0.5 inches, so it seems to be ready for the mobile life.

The feature set is quite admirable:

· Plug-and-play devices projects crystal clear content up to 60” in size through 25 lumen LED light engines powered by Texas Instruments®.

· Embedded with Digital Light Processing technology, the same tech Hollywood filmmakers rely on, which projects sharp and lifelike images

· Pocketable design (3.9 x 3.0 x 0.5”)

· Features 640 x 360 pixel resolution, 1100:1 high contrast ratio and accepts input up to 1080p.

· Built-in rechargeable 2100mAh battery allows users to stream content for up to two hours after a single charge

· Connects to devices via the included HDMI, Micro HDMI or Samsung Galaxy adapters to seamlessly stream content from a new Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, LG G5, iPhone, iPad, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and more.

· Ideal uses: create or upgrade a home theater; upcoming spring break movie nights; camping trips; corporate presentations

And the price… the price though: $169.99.

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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.

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.

My Upgrade Conundrum: An HTC M9 Mini-Review — A Look Back

Frankly, working with technology has its perks. We get to see the coolest new software and gadget all while never really falling out of love with the old. It’s a fun diversion, and hard to complain about.

I have found a way though.

When it comes to picking a daily driver on Android, the problem of choice arises. Everybody has a worthy flagship that looks good; just about all of them carry the main features people on the go crave, and every generation sees one or two introduce something especially cool that might set them apart — for a short time. Other device makers either co-opt the feature or create a better one, and the cycle gloriously repeats.

The fight to be a cut above the rest is definitely a boon to Android OS users.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of HTC software. The company has been front and center with Android since the beginning, and its recent devices, back to the M7, exemplify what happens when cool software is merged with Android; My One M8 is still my device of choice.

Still, I have looked at going for a spell with another manufacturer, not necessarily because I am unhappy with HTC hardware, but more because I can, and wouldn’t mine having extended time with something new. Samsung has me yearning, LG is tempting, and Huawei continues to be intriguing.

Unfortunately, I have had a lot time with the HTC One M9. Darn.

The specs are well known; what it underscores is the great concept of finding a winning solution, and sticking to it. The exterior still manages to feel premium, and HTC’s softawre overlay is still beloved… even in 2016. It’s a device that is easily relevant far into the feature (hey, like I said, I’m still rocking my M8 as my daily driver).

My biggest wish? HTC stays in the Android hardware business for the long haul. Please.

D-Link Full HD Ultra-Wide View Wi-Fi Camera Hardware Review

D-Link Full HD Ultra-Wide View Wi-Fi Camera Hardware Review

Dec 15, 2015

When it comes to developing professional grade electronics for “regular” consumers, few have the reputation of D-Link. Indeed, we’ve had the pleasure of checking out it’s Pan & Tilt Camera a while back.

Now, with its new Ultra-Wide View Camera, we get another take on consumer-facing surveillance and observation solutions, albeit with similar mobile management capabilities.

It’s relatively slick looking, mostly sheathed in hard black plastic. It utilizes a stand attached to the main lens frame; it is designed in such away that the camera can be swiveled upwards and downwards to customize the view. The core hardware assembly is quite subtle, officially coming in at 3.37 x 3.37 x 5.53 inches and 0.76 lbs.

On the main frame, there are slots for Micro-USB cable and micro-SD card, the latter gives a great idea of the extensibility of the product with regards to data accumulation.

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The retail box also contains documentation, mounting screws and a power cable. In hand, the camera has a solid feel, is flexible but seemingly well fused.

Getting it going is a simple matter of plugging it in using the supplied cord; the use of micro-USB standard is a nice touch worth underscoring. When plugged in a series of red LED lights come on around the frame; these serve as a visual reference point, there’s an orange-ish one on the back as well. At this point, one gets to incorporate the connected software option (one needs a solid internet connection; on Google Play, there is the companion mydlink Lite application, and this is used to finish the setup.

In practice, the setup was a bit stubborn, but it got to working after some dedicating prompting. The fixed feed can be picked up on one’s device live, or on a computer via one’s account at mydlink.com. The feed can be manipulated and/or saved to SD card, and event notifications can be set up for sound and/or motion.

The system works well together; the ability to access it via mobile or computer is exceptional. It’s fixed nature might give one pause but the adjustable frame and other aspects make up for a pretty good observation tool.