Neptor Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Neptor Bluetooth Speaker Hardware Review

Jul 8, 2014

Mugsy Bogues. Mia Hamm. Messi. Well, the Neptor Portable Bluetooth Speaker looks to further prove that massive performance can and does emanate from relatively small packages.

The review unit we were provided with was relatively humble, containing the speaker and a matching, flat micro-USB cable. Size-wise, it could be described as diminutive; the cylindrical shape fits comfortably in the palm of the hand. Its dimensions are 3.5×2.5×2.5 inches, and it weighs about 8 ounces. The bright red coloring is only interrupted by the logo-ed band that runs across the frame, and the platform piece that makes up the bottom. At the top, perforated audio holes are incorporated, and at the bottom, a clear holder props the unit up. There is a micro-USB port that is hidden with a flap. In addition to red, the manufacturer also puts it out in blue, green, orange and purple.

What sets this seeming tyke apart are the physical controls, which mostly boil down to twisting and tapping. For example, turning it on involves tapping and pressing down on the top of the piece for three seconds. Conversely, pairing the unit to a bluetooth audio source follows the same pattern with most pairings of this type; with the one device seeing the other, one taps/presses down on the top of the speaker to initiate the pairing sequence, as signified by the flashing blue light. After pairing is complete, the light turns blue, and one is ready to go.


Increasing the volume from the unit is a matter of twisting the upper half of the item along the aforementioned chrome band; twisting it in the opposite direction reduces the volume. Additionally, after connecting, tapping on the top can be used to toggle play or pausing of music. Long-pressing on it for three seconds turns off the unit.

The sound won’t shatter window panes, but to be fair, this isn’t what it seems to be designed to do; as a simple, easy-to-carry companion accessory, it works well, providing relatively clear audio. The added speakerphone functionality (calls can be answered with taps) is definitely welcome.

The sound will probably not be lauded by serious audiophiles, and the lack of wired option may give some folks pause. The battery did give out a bit before the advertised 4-hour limit, but all in all, it works well, and the exceptional portability adds to its value.

The Neptor Twist & Tap Bluetooth Portable Bluetooth Speaker is available for $29.99 via

Paick Noble Power Bank Review

Paick Noble Power Bank Review

Feb 18, 2014

I’ll say it out loud: the first person or entity that makes a battery for smart devices that is self-replenishing (or simply has insanely long usage life) will be the richest person/company in history.

Myth? In the short term, most likely. But again, this void is what Paick is trying to fill with its Noble Power Bank.

The review unit personifies the design intentions, with its smooth aluminum housing and slim profile. It comes rather exquisitely packaged, and has a removable grey anti-slip bumper and white micro USB cord. Specific to size, it is 4.65 x 2.83 x 0.53 inches and just under 5.3 ounces. Physically, it is noticeably smaller than my HTC EVO 4G LTE, which makes it very pocketable.

Towards the one end, there is an interesting, dark-colored pop-up interface, and just north of that is the button the controls the pop-up. In this raised portion is a charging port flanked by 2 USB ports; there are also LED lights paick1embedded in the cover. All together, it looks kind of slick in an unassuming kind of way, mostly siver-ish with dark, hard plastic accents.

Getting the Noble going requires charging it, and to do it’s job, the Noble packs quite the appetite. I charged the review unit overnight before getting the LED lights to indicate a full charge on its polymer-lithium ion battery. Using it made up for the prep time; this bad boy boasts 6000mAh capacity and 5V 1A/2.1A output, and in my informal testing, it did not feel like empty chest-thumping. Tapping the touch interface after connecting via one of the USB ports initiates charging, and it charged my depleted devices just about as fast as a wall charger, and managed two full charges (though neither was from a completely dead phone). It charges two devices simultaneously in an efficient manner too.

If I had to whine, it would be about the pop-up. I love the combo dust protection and slick press-to-initiate mechanism, but the extra moving pieces do give me pause; the pop up button could be a bit more robust. Call me greedy, but I’d also like something as crazy as a retractable USB cord to reduce the need for detachable pieces.

All said though, the price-to-functionality quotient is admirable, and it’s hard to find a reason not to own this accessory.

The Noble is available from Amazon for an introductory price of $49.99

JBL Pulse Hardware Review

JBL Pulse Hardware Review

Jan 31, 2014

We had an opportunity to check out sound maven JBL’s Charge Wireless Speakers, and it was a pleasant experience. As such, we were happy to check out its sibling, the JBL Pulse Wireless Speakers.

Like your run-of-the-mill brothers, the Charge and the Pulse bear plenty of familial similarities. They are both cylindrical, but the latter has more deliberately tapered ends. The black exterior underscored the solid feel, with mesh-like surface (a departure from the fused finishing of the Charge) mostly preventing the accessory from looking cheap. On one end are buttons: pairing, power and light control. The other is bare and serves as the base when upright. Along the body are ports for coaxial and micro-usb cables. For comparative purposes, the Pulse is just a shade taller than the Charge, coming in at 7 inches tall and less than a pound and a half in weight.

Powering it up is as simple as connecting the included adapter/cable combo to an electric source; powering it on, I daresay, is almost the coolest part. The specs sheet boldly pronounces LED lights, but the actual display is pretty surprising. It boasts scores ofpulse2 LED lights that run around and along the base. When the device is on, those lights all come on in a dizzying explosion of color that is as once a bit gimmicky and inexplicably commanding at the same time. The light patterns can be toggled or turned off by the button at the top, and most sequences react to volume. It’s an interesting feature, and one that I actually enjoyed more than I would have envisaged. Additionally, the JBL MusicFlow app allows the lights to be controlled as well as providing an easy way to adjust sound performance from Android devices.

As soon as bluetooth pairing was attempted it connected seamlessly in seconds, and it’s also NFC-enabled.

The sound doesn’t have the high level of bass some people dearly crave; compared to the Charge, it gentler in that aspect, but it still holds it own sound quality-wise. It does provide great volume, and in our informal testing, it actually beat the advertised 5-hr usage time. It worked just as well as a wired speaker.

I did miss the portable USB charging feature from the Charge; I also think the app could be a bit more intuitive. All in all though, it falls just within what I would term acceptable limits of reasonable portability, and the overall value is hard to ignore.

The Pulse is available from Amazon for $199.

KickStarter Spotlight: Jackery Air

KickStarter Spotlight: Jackery Air

Jun 12, 2013

With the freedom of portability comes the inherent restriction of batteries. The high-performance battery may be the single most important invention in the past decade or so, but with ever increasing demand they still only last around 8-10 hours for the average user. Some days that time gets cut dramatically due to maybe some turn-by-turn help to a restaurant or a video and photo session with some friends. Whatever the reason, battery life is fleeting and only gets worse with age and use.

Coming to our rescue is San Fransisco based development team Jackery; which has created a mobile batter that is equal parts small, powerful, and, dare I say, sexy. Maybe it is the molded aluminum casing or the super thin profile, but the Jackery Air, as it is called, is definitely not an eyesore. It basically looks like an orange, all-aluminum iPhone 5 with a convenient indicator light in the bottom corner.

The mobile battery scene has exploded in recent years, and with good reason. Our increasing dependence on mobile technology and refusal to accept compromised battery performance has led to a demand for these portable power stations. I completely understand this sentiment, the Jackery Air is perfect for those busy days where I know that I will be going out later, and already have used my phone a lot during the day. Just throw the tiny battery into a briefcase or book bag and enjoy the peace of mind.

There are two tiers of battery available: a 2800mAh version can can fully charge an iPhone twice, and a 5000mAh upgrade that will perform the same job thrice. The first model is available for a $49 donation which, personally, is a steal. Even at full price, $69, the Jackery Air is a quality product that is also a great value. The 5000mAh version will retail for just $20 more at $89, and both models are available with a dual-USB 2.0 car charger for just $10 more. So, for those who find this project interesting, give it a look and consider helping out these deserving developers.

KickStarter Spotlight: Casetop

No matter how many awkwardly sized “phablets” or mini-tablets there are, the same issue will appear. There is just no way to combine the portability of a phone with the screen size of a true tablet or laptop. There is a directly inverse relationship between the size of a product and its convenience and portability. Imagine then, if there was a device that was optional, and that acted as a portable monitor for any smartphone. There are products out like this already, but a majority of the are device specific, and thus, not very marketable. The way Abilene, Texas based design team Livi Design chose to solve this problem was to make a straightforward device that was flexible as well as progressive.

The project’s name is Casetop and as is common for many of these KickStarter projects; the idea is so simple that it is a wonder this device has not been mass marketed prior. All the Casetop really is is a screen built on top of a battery and keyboard. Most smartphones plug into the front of the keyboard and are instantly displayed on the screen. With smartphones becoming more powerful their capabilities are increased and yet the small screen size limits what they, realistically, can do. Even with a bluetooth keyboard it would be difficult to write up a paper or long email, but plug it into the Casetop and there instantly is an 11.1″ display of the connected smartphone.

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 2.29.20 AM

The construction of the Casetop is being overseen by the same company that produced the wildly popular Pebbe E-Watch, and there are a few other big name advisors to the project. One of the biggest points that is made in the promotional video is that the Casetop will feature fully customizable parts and allow for easy updating; making the Casetop something that can be bought with confidence, as it will not become obsolete in a year or two. The screen is currently only 720p but a stretch goal will bump that up to 1080p. Also, the Casetop is supposed to deliver unreal battery life. As in somewhere in the range of 30 hours, and all for around $250.

It is hard to look at this and see something I do not like. A solid, eco-friendly design, quick connect and disconnect, veteran advisors, a low price, and a commitment to sustaining one product over many years. The Casetop is asking for $300,000 to make an initial run of 1000 machines, and currently they are just under $60,000 with 25 days to go as of writing. So, go out and consider giving to a great cause, because some day we all might be carrying these around with us instead of laptops.

KickStarter Spotlight: Jorno

KickStarter Spotlight: Jorno

Sep 19, 2012

One of the biggest arguements in the smarphone world is the battle between tactile and virtual keyboards. Both have their pros and cons as having a hard keyboard means thicker phone and usually a smaller screen, but the frustrations with virtual keyboards have been well documented. For power smartphone users there is a glut of small Bluetooth keyboards with stands, but the problem with these is that they are all just too wide or too thick to be truly portable. Scott Starrett, a developer from Los Angeles has developed a Bluetooth keyboard that has three hinges instead of just the typical one and folds up into a block that is just 3 inches square and only 1 inch thick. For reference, this is not much bigger than an old GameBoy Advance SP. Where most wireless keyboards fit comfortably into a bookbag or alongside a tablet it is very rare to find one that can easily slip into a back pocket or sweatshirt.

The elegantly named Jorno is so portable that heavy typing can be done from literally anywhere that is acessable by foot and planning ahead is no longer required. Simply throw the Jorno into the back pocket, head off across town, and use the keyboard whenever an important email appears or inspiration strikes.

While the average consumer will find this project possibly superflourious and maybe a little bit pricy at $120; power users and businessmen will find Jorno a godsend. Included with the keyboard is an attached stand which makes for easy viewing and the good news is that this stand is removable which allows for increased flexibility and comfortability. This stand holds a wide variety of products, phones to tablets, and, at least from the video, seems very sturdy. One question I have is the practicality of using Jorno with a tablet as there is no indication to the quality of the actual keyboard and there are better Bluetooth keyboards for less money that fold up to the size of a tablet. For those who are carrying a large tablet anyway, the extra size of a different Bluetooth keyboard might not be that much of an inconveinence.

After all is said, however, the portablity and conveinence are unmatched for the price, and anyone looking for a Bluetooth keyboard for their mobile devices should definitely take a look at Jorno which, at the time of this writing, has less than a month to accumulate over $83,000. So, needless to say, every little bit counts.

KickStarter Spotlight: MG

KickStarter Spotlight: MG

Sep 5, 2012

While the exact state of the portable gaming remains a hot topic, there are very few facts that are impossible to argue. The industry as we have known ever since the first GameBoy is slowly dying. Taken over by independent developers and smartphones, the single use portable gaming console idea is quickly seeming obsolete along with the idea of brick-and-mortar stores with game cartridges. Portable games now are less of an investment and more of a way to waste a few minutes on the bus or before a lecture. People unfortunately do not want to play God of War on a small 4.5″ screen between their hands when they can witness it in full HD on a 45″ plasma screen in their living room. The games that are meant to be on small screens so close to the player’s fingers are the kind of games that smart phones have been ushering in; the Angry Birds and Cut the Rope’s of the gaming world. While some hardcore PSP or DS fanboys may disagree, it is very hard to argue that the portable gaming that we are familiar with will be almost extinct come five years.

Recognizing this trend, a small startup, PlayMG, has been quietly developing its own Android-powered portable gaming device that would cater directly to those who just want their addictive 5-10 minute gaming bites. Their product is the MG; the first portable Android based gaming device. Without the ability to text or make phone calls, consider the MG an android version of the iPod touch. With the MG there is access to the full breadth of the Android Market which will supply endless hours of entertainment for a fraction of the cost of big budget PSP or DS games.

Because the MG will naturally appeal to kids there are great parental control tools, including a free app that lets parents know exactly what apps their kids are downloading and playing. Also included is a prepaid credit card that allows kids to purchase apps without the parent being charged $0.99 every time. Parents load this digital wallet up with as much money as they see fit and once the money is gone their child cannot make another purchase until more money is placed back onto the card. Also, similar to XBox Live, MG has its own avatar and profile system that allows for easy connection between friends.

The whole device looks great and has a nice large 4″ screen surrounded by ergonomically-designed rubber bumpers. My main concern for the device is weather or not there is enough of a need in the marketplace for it, but because the target audience is so specific, teens under-18 without smartphones, and because the MG is only retailing for around $100, I feel confident enough that it could easily become a hit. There are plenty of parents who have major qualms about giving their children expensive smartphones but feel pressured because of their child’s want for all those shiny and colorful games. Fortunately for them, MG fills in that gap and might be the closest thing the iPod touch has seen to a competitor in years.