This week, I have a handful of great gadgets to review that I have been using over the last several weeks. If you’ve ever run out of power on a mobile device – then you’ll definitely want to read on. Likewise, if your fingers have ever gotten tired of tapping on hard glass, then you’ll also want to check out a couple of great mobile accessories. There’s five devices in total and I bet at least one would be great for you! Read on and see!
Entries in the 'Technology' category
You may have seen ads around starting last year touting fast, free, high-speed internet service by a company called FreedomPop. I initially wrote the “scheme” off as I figured there would be too many caveats, too many pitfalls, too many ads on their web pages they were serving and in general, just too many cons to outweigh the pros. While FreedomPop initially offered a “sleeve” that you could slip your iTouch or iPhone into that would give you data capability, they now also offer a USB stick for laptop (Mac and PC) and a MiFi like portable hotspot that can connect up to eight devices.
Given the fact that I have a family of five and only one of us (me!) has mobile data on any device, I figured FreedomPop’s 4G hotspot, called “The Photon” was worth checking out. The devices are theoretically “free” as you only pay a refundable security deposit for them- $10 for the USB stick and $99 for both the Photon and the iOS sleeves. I’ve been using the Photon for a month and am relatively happy with both the speed and the value proposition that this offers. Read on to learn more about FreedomPop.
It continues to astound me how many ways there are to consume digital music and how they keep getting better and better. Many sites have music catalogs that continue to get deeper with drastically improved user interfaces, features that continue to grow and recommendation engines that seem to be able to crawl inside your head. Fortunately the overall audio quality continues to improve as well with better encoding and higher bit-rates. In addition, with such things as Google Music, iTunes cloud, Amazon Cloud Player or Subsonic making it easy to have your entire library playable with a simple click from any internet connected device – many people are now listening to more music through their computers than any other way. Yet without quality speakers, what’s the use?
I was knocked off my chair and blown away when listening to Audioengine’s A2 speakers the first time. With a rich, lush and impossibly bold and bass filled sound for the sub $200 price-point, the A2′s pushed a massively powerful sound that probably puts some people’s stereo system to shame. The build quality, striking good looks, compact size, easy connections and built in amplifiers make these really everything someone could possible be looking for in desktop or bookshelf speakers.
Week after week, I have tried to highlight products, gadgets, apps, services, hardware or other tech items that I think you will love. Hopefully you have found a few items worthwhile and even checked some out to make your life “easier, better, more enjoyable and just plain more fun” (from the mission statement of the column as articulated in its first week). Unlike most tech blogs that can throw up dozens of posts per week, I have but one. This really forces me to focus on things that I love! No sense wasting space on crappy products or shitty services. Yet my blood often boils with terrible decision making and weak products.
Barring an occasional Twitter rant, I usually keep the editorials and poor product reviews to myself. I figured this would be a good opportunity to highlight the worst tech “things” of 2012 and get it all off my chest so I can focus on all the rest of the good stuff in coming weeks! So bear with me as we look at the Worst of 2012.
And as a friendly reminder: I am always open to suggestions for future columns. My contact info is at the bottom of the column every week and I’d love to hear from you if you have a product or service you really love that would be worth sharing with everyone. I plan on doing a few more tutorials as well in 2013, so if there’s something you’d like to see- also let met know!
[Originally Published: July 31, 2012]
Couple of quick things before we get into the meat of the column this week.
First of all, we are going to look at some fantastic apps this week but nothing having to do with music or navigation. Those are the two grand-daddy groups of apps that for many have now become prerequisite items for a long drive. Long gone are the days when you need to suffer with mediocre FM radio and attempt to find new stations as you enter new areas. Long gone too are the days of having to remember your GPS device or (gasp!) print Mapquest Maps. Hopefully by now everyone has a handful of great apps like MOG, Google Music, TuneIn Radio or Subsonic that let you enjoy great music in the car and make the drive easier.
Likewise, I am sure most people already have a favorite navigation app to get from Point A to Point B. My personal favorite is Waze but of course love using Google Maps Navigation as well.
Finally, before we tell you about a few awesome apps for the car – pointing out Subsonic reminds me that Technology Tuesday is One-Year-Old as of last week! Since first highlighting Subsonic last year, Technology Tuesday has had the pleasure of highlighting fantastic gadgets, devices, speakers, headphones, web services, apps, photography tips, phones, mobile services, tutorials and other things that hopefully have fulfilled the column’s mission as laid out in the first week:
Sometimes it’s tough to stay on top of all the cool gadgets, apps, software, web services and other things that makes our lives easier, better, more enjoyable and just plain more fun.
So thanks again for reading! Your Facebook Likes, Re-Tweets, Google +1′s and comments are very much appreciated. As always, please do use the contact info at the bottom of every column for suggestions or things you’d like covered.
The Ultimate Ears line of audio products continues to add to its line of outstanding sounding earphones, professional in-ear monitors and wireless speakers with two pairs of recently released full-sized headphones. The company, which had previously made custom in-ear monitors for musicians and was acquired by Logitech in 2008, has become known for outstanding audio quality and their own signature sound. I have had the opportunity to listen to many of the products in the Ultimate Ears (UE) line and still use the UE 600‘s as my day-to-day earbuds when travelling.
With the release of the UE 6000 and 9000, Logitech now offers their first full-sized, sealed, over-the-ear headphones. While both are noise-canceling, the 9000′s, which we will look at this week, are also wireless with Bluetooth capabilities. Unfortunately, many wireless headphones I have used in the past offer that convenience at the expense of the audio quality. I was eager to listen to the UE 9000′s and see if both wireless & high-fidelity could go hand in hand.
A couple of weeks ago, we looked at a pair of headphones (Sennheiser PX 100 II) that sounded impossibly good for their price. It’s always great finding these phenomenal bargains and being able to upgrade your music listening experience for a short dollar. This week we’ll look at another incredible bargain. Anyone from budget conscious, casual listeners to audiophile music snobs will find something to like in the Monoprice 8320 earbuds.
I quickly ordered a pair of these Monoprice earbuds after one of my Twitter friends tipped me off to them after the Sennheiser column. I didn’t expect too much but was curious about them after a quick Google search seemed to confirm quite a bit of praise for these $7 buds. I’ve heard several great sounding earbuds for less than $10, including Sennheiser’s MX-271′s that we previously highlighted, and know that great sound CAN be had for cheap. However, NOTHING I have ever heard in the sub-$10 market even approaches Monoprice’s offering. Quite simply, these are supremely wonderful sounding earbuds at any price. Read on to learn a little bit more about these wonderful earbuds as well as a chance to get a free pair.
What if somebody told you that you could massively boost the quality of your desktop speakers or headphones connected to your computer with a little magic box that was both gorgeously designed as well as dead simple to use? And what if this spike in fidelity also came with revved up volume and a tremendously larger “soundstage” for your music? If this magic box was not much bigger than a pink eraser from elementary school, weighed about an ounce and had no buttons or dials, you’d probably be willing to pay quite a bit to enjoy your music more, right? Me too. But you don’t have to. You can score this amazing “magic box” in the form of the HiFiMAN HM-101 for a mere $39.
I was stunned when I listened to the HiFiMAN HM-101 for the first time. I plugged a variety of devices (including previously reviewed Altec Lansing speakers, Logitech Ultimate Ears earphones and Phiaton noise-cancelling headphones) into the HiFiMAN and in every case the sound was not only improved, it was improved by an exponential degree. The HiFiMAN HM-101 is an external, USB powered, digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and amplifier that will absolutely put a smile on your face. Read on to learn more about this fantastic gadget. [And to learn how to win this for yourself!]
[HiFiMAN Express HM-101 is compact, sleek, buttonless and ready to rock your world]
In a perfect example of, “Wow! That’s so obvious – I can’t believe nobody has done this before!,” Swann has made a doorbell that I am absolutely thrilled finally exists.
An errant blasting from a pressure washer a couple of weeks ago rendered my doorbell button a fried mess and put me in the market for a new one.
Happily, it all turned out well as I was able to replace my existing doorbell from something that sounded like this:
To my current doorbell that sounds like this:
Similar to cell phone ring tones in the early 1990′s that were annoyingly shrill and digitally created beeps & bells, most doorbell tones haven’t changed since the 1950′s. Thankfully, the Swann MP3 Doorbell has done for homes what customizable ring tones did for cellphones years ago.
Swann MP3 Doorbell and Buzzer
It is a painfully awful thing to think about and likely none of us like to ponder a couple of important questions about mortality. Specifically, are there vital pieces of information, last wishes, messages, thoughts or other pieces of data that you’d like shared if you pass away? Think about it: While a last will, which most Americans don’t have, can codify who gets what, custody and such matters like that, what about all the other things that a will is not likely to cover? For example, passwords and sign in details for all of your online accounts, heartfelt messages for loved ones, financial info, secrets or anything else that you want revealed or shared when you die.
Death Switch gives you a perfect opportunity to share the joke again, tell your favorite story to a loved one, say goodbye, give an overdue thanks or apology and have these final messages safe and secure and only delivered at the appropriate time. So how does Deathswitch know that you are no longer around and how does it work? Read on to learn about this service that might help deliver important information, comforting thoughts or otherwise make your family and loved ones grief a little more bearable in their time of need.
NFC (Near Field Communication) is being added as a feature on more and more smartphones. A wide variety of Android devices already sport the cool technology with several Blackberries and Windows Phones also offering NFC. Rumors abound that iPhone 5 will also offer this emerging technology.
Unfortunately, many people with an NFC enabled device don’t even know that they have it and if they do, what to do with. This week, we’ll give a very quick NFC-101 lesson as well as share a video tutorial as an example of what NFC can do.
It is hard to find a Sonos user who is not overwhelmingly thrilled with their system. The singular focus of the company is pure and simple: Deliver all the music on Earth wirelessly in any room. This audacious goal has largely been accomplished and Sonos is continually adding features, music services, software updates and new hardware options. However, until recently, one of the missing pieces in the high fidelity puzzle was massive bass in their line of powered speakers. Happily, Sonos has dramatically eliminated this issue with the recently released SUB.
The new Sonos SUB is a wireless subwoofer designed to perfectly complement any existing amplified components in your system including the Play:3, Play:5 or Connect:Amp. Like everything Sonos, setup is not much more complicated than pressing a single button. Once paired with an existing speaker, this nearly 40 pound monster delivers an extraordinarily satisfying low end, rich texture and layers of sound to your system. Having the SUB tucked away in a hidden corner or under a couch, it is a paradoxical experience eye-balling a single speaker and having such huge sound seemingly emanating from it. Pairing the SUB with more than a single speaker (two Play:5′s for example) provides even more impressive results.
[SUB. The newest addition to the Sonos.]
I know, I know. You have a great camera in your phone and don’t need a point-and-shoot. Or you already have a great camera phone AND a fantastic DSLR. Why in the world would you possibly need to shell out for yet another camera?
After plunking down for a Canon Rebel XSi five years ago, and having my phone’s camera quality steadily improve with every new purchase (which for me is every six months or so), I felt the same way and never thought I would purchase another point and shoot. Yet, often I dread having to lug the DSLR around. And cell phone cameras, despite fantastic results in many situations, have some serious drawbacks.
Samsung’s line of cameras have absolutely hit the ball out of the park lately offering superior optics and a slew of features that have left other camera manufactures scrambling to keep up. One such device is the WB150F which in addition to great image quality, also has built in WiFi for easy image transfers and sharing, great photo editing software built into the device, video, and fantastic telephoto and macro results.
Samsung’ WB150F Camera
Quick! Name a brand of superior quality noise cancelling headphones.
What did you come up with? BOSE?
While BOSE most certainly gets much of the press when it comes to this category of headphone, I put products by them squarely in the camp with Beats and Monster Cable: overpriced, hyped and can do much better for less. A brand that you may not be familiar with, but you should, is Phiaton. This company has an entire line of high-end audio products including both superior earphones and headphones.
This week we’ll look at one of Phiation’s noise-cancelling headphone options: The PS 300 NC. The sound and performance of these headphones are vastly superior to the comparably priced, and market leading offering from BOSE: the Quiet Comfort 15. In addition to the extraordinary comfort, the leather finishing and a slew of features and accessories, the PS 300 NC’s afford the listener with outstanding audio with or without noise cancellation. Utilizing the proprietary noise cancellation technology that Phiaton calls “VHST” (Valves of Heart Sound Technology), the outside world is effectively cut off and the headphones deliver true audiophile sound completely unimpaired by the drone of aircraft engines or other outside distractions.
[Phiaton PS 300 NC Noise Cancelling Headphones]
I use my smartphone as a remote control for a slew of things. I have a Boxee app to control my media server, a Tivo app to control my TV, a Nest app to control my thermostat, a Sonos app to control my audio system throughout the house, a Subsonic app to control the tunes on my computer and a few more. However, what if you want to turn on or off anything that you can plug into the wall? While home automation systems have been around for years, they always required professional installation and/or exorbitantly priced components and control systems.
Belkin has recently released the WeMo switch which allows home automation for the masses. It allows power control of any electronic device from anywhere and can be setup quickly and easily. Simply plug in the WeMo switch to a power outlet, plug your device into it (anything with an AC cord) and you can now control it with your smartphone!* In addition to simple on/off commands, a bunch of other cool features are currently possible with the WeMo system.