Category Archives: review

iClever BoostCube 2-Port USB Wall Charger Review



USB chargers are two-a-penny these days but often they are cheap knock-offs with poor quality transformers that either pose a fire hazard or fail to deliver the required current to quickly recharge a smartphone or tablet. For not much more money, iClever offers a CE-marked UK spec wall charger with two USB A ports, delivering up to 2.4A from each. Let’s take a quick look at the IC-TC02.

The charger goes with the fairly standard design of a small cuboid connected to a power plug – I guess this is the BoostCube. This isn’t a travel charger (at least not in the UK spec), so there’s a three pin plug which doesn’t detach or fold up. Having said that, it does only weigh 82g. The charger appears well built and has a high gloss finish which makes some of the photos look a little odd because of the reflections. Hidden blue LEDs in the ports give off a soft glow.

The iClever BoostCube solves nicely the two device problem by having two charging ports. Many people have both a smartphone and a tablet so either two chargers are needed or one has to be charged before the other. Both ports will supply up to 2.4A each and iClever’s SmartID technology will ensure that the right current flows to the device.

I tried the charger with a couple of devices and encountered no problems. There was warmth to the transformer under full load but nothing close to being hot. Charging rates were as expected.

The iClever BoostCube 2-Port USB wall charger is available from Amazon UK for GB£8.99 at time of writing.

There’s an unboxing video below.

Thanks to iClever for providing the charger for review.


Sitpack Portable Compact Seat Review



Rather than the usual “hands-on” review, this is more of a “bottoms-on” assessment as here we have a Sitpack Portable Compact Seat. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark, Mono+Mono announced the Sitpack on Kickstarter in 2014 and since then, over 35,000 Sitpacks have been shipped worldwide. Apparently it’s very popular in Japan, so let’s take a closer look.

At first glance, the Sitpack is not unlike a large drinks can and looks nothing like a chair, but it handily unfolds and telescopes out to T-shaped structure for an impromptu lean-to seat.

All folded up, the Sitpack is much the same size a 500 ml drinks can and weighs about 600 g. Made of glass-fiber reinforced polycarbonate, it’s solid in the hand and weighs in at 600 g. There’s a hinge on one end and peeling apart the other end reveals the telescopic pole, albeit slightly hidden by a large rubber foot.

The Sitpack uses a simple “extend and twist” to lock in place each segment of the leg. Fully extend a leg section and twist through about ten degrees until markers on each segment line up. Obviously it’s tricky the first few times, but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.

   

Fully extended the Sitpack is 87 cm tall. The Sitpack can be shortened by one segment for a smaller person, with shorter height of 75 cm. The material suggests that there is an even shorter length of 65 cm but I couldn’t figure out how to shorten it further as there are dire warnings on the top tube of shortening any other tube. If you want to see the extending and collapsing in more detail, Sitpack have a video.

What’s it like to use? The first few goes are really about building up confidence in the Sitpack and deciding the best length. I’m about 5’7″ and I eventually decided that the shorter length worked for me best as it was more of a sitting rather than leaning posture. At full extension, I felt I was leaning against the Sitpack and I didn’t have the confidence, especially on loose or slippy surfaces.

Is the Sitpack comfortable? Well, I’m not going to pretend that the top of the Sitpack is anything other than hard plastic and even Sitpack don’t recommend using it for more than 40 minutes at a time….but it does take the weight off your feet and it kind of feels that you are resting rather than standing. There is a seat cushion accessory (€25) for additional comfort but I wasn’t able to try it out.

For me, Sitpack works best when, say, waiting for a bus or train and you want to read your ereader or tablet. TIimes when you are reasonably static and either on your own or with adult company. It wasn’t a great success on a family outing, as trying to constantly corral two children meant that you never got two minutes to Sitpack still (sorry). I’d also suggest that the Sitpack isn’t the solution for an unsteady elderly relative: you need to be able to balance on the Sitpack.

Sitpack’s customer service is superlative. I had an unfortunate accident and managed to break one of the tubes. To start with, the Sitpack fully disassembles and there’s a video here on how to do it. I contacted Sitpack as an ordinary owner and they sent me out a replacement tube free of charge which arrived from Denmark within a few days. Brilliant.

The Sitpack comes in a range of colours; Pearl White, Pitch Black, Easy Blue and Power Pink plus a couple of special editions such as St. Patrick’s Green and Camo Black (it’s a camouflage pattern). The standard price is €55 / GB£46 / US$60 with one or two versions priced either side (€46 / €65). The foot can be customised too, with the standard black rubber swapped out for six other colours. It would be fun if Sitpack offered colour mixing as a black and white Sitpack with alternating sections would be cool.

Overall I liked the Sitpack and I can see the possibilities, especially for commuters on busy train stations without enough seats. Upfront, it does seem expensive at €55 but I think it’s one of these things where “the quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten”. And Sitpack’s customer service is great. On the downside, it is relatively heavy – you’re not going to be carrying the Sitpack just in case, and you do get a bit of numb bum after awhile. The sacrifices I make for Geek News Central….

Thanks to Mono+Mono for providing the Sitpack for review.

 


Optoma EH400+ Digital Projector Review



This month, I’ve been tinkering with the Optoma EH400+ digital projector (DLP). Unlike last month’s diminutive ML750ST personal projector, the EH400+ is a multipurpose projector suitable for professional presentations in meeting rooms and training centres. Let’s take a closer look, though be careful as it’s very bright…

The EH400+ is about the size of a generous tin of biscuits, measuring 30 x 23 x 9.6 cm and weighing 2.5 kg. It’s entirely luggable, but prospective purchasers should note that there’s no carry case included in the box, though it is an optional extra. While we are on the topic, there’s only the projector, power lead and IR remote control in the box. It’s a standard kettle-style power lead (IEC C13) with no power brick.

White on the top and dark grey round the sides, the Optoma projector ticks all the standard projector boxes. Lens on front, buttons on top and ports on the rear. The recessed lens on the front will form an image on a screen from as close as 1 m to as far away as 12 m and at the furthest limit, the image will be over 7 m wide. That’s fairly big. The bulb puts out 4,000 lumens which is 5 times what the ML750ST put out, so can easily project a strong image in well-lit rooms. The large lens rotates smoothly through about 180 degrees to focus the image and there’s a lever on the top to zoom the image.

The buttons on the top of the projector offer the usual functions –  turning it on, adjusting the image, accessing menus, etc. but the main area of interest is round the back with a selection of connectors, ports and sockets. There are two HDMI, two VGA, S-Video, composite video, two stereo sockets and a network port. Yes, a network port….

Turning the projector over, there are three rubber feet for setting the EH400+ on a table or other smooth surface. The foot at the front spins out to about a 1 cm to raise the projector up. For suspension from a ceiling in a permanent installation, there’s a three-point mount.

Turned on, the EH400+ is pleasingly quiet, though it does put out some light through the fan along with a fair amount of heat, as you’d expect with something this bright.

Connect up the EH400+ to a PC or laptop via HDMI and it appears as a full HD (1920 x 1080) monitor and with a suitable OS you can do the usual tricks of either reproducing the current desktop or extending the desktop to the EH400’s display. In most environments, it’s going to be showing the same display as the monitor but it’s a useful feature to have.

As with most digital projectors, the EH400+ has an on-screen display (OSD) for configuring the display and all the usual options are there for keystoning, image shifting and similar. But unlike most other projectors, there are far more options than are usually available. For example, there’s a small suite of test patterns to ensure the image is displayed perfectly. There’s even an option to adjust the colour output to compensate for the colour of the wall being used for projection.

On the downside, I didn’t find that the projector was very good at finding the input source automatically and most times I selected the input manually with the remote. Once selected, it took a few seconds to lock on but after that, the EH400+ stayed locked on.

While Powerpoint presentations are likely to be the bread’n’butter of the EH400+, it’s perfectly capable of showing films and movies too. I connected up my Sky Q and watched a few movies plus the new series of Thunderbirds in HD and 3 m across. My son loved it. The picture was good and the colours reproduced well, which is one of the headline features of EH400+ giving an accurate sRGB colourspace. The bright 4000 lumens coped well with an ordinarily lit room and while the sound from the built-in speakers would be acceptable in a meeting or training environment as it’s pretty loud, the quality isn’t going to win any hifi awards from the audiophiles.

And don’t forget, with two HDMI ports, a media streaming stick like the Roku or Amazon Fire TV can be plugged in permanently and powered from the USB port.

There’s no wifi with this Optoma projector (optional extra) but there is a network port which, at a minimum, can be used to control the EH400+. The projector can work with some audiovisual systems such as Crestron and PJ Link. I’ve no idea about these, but the web interface was actually a fairly handy way to control the projector – no faffing around pointing the remote at the projector and scrolling through options – just point and click. It’s even possible to sent email alerts from the projector if there’s a fan error or lamp life is exceeded. The web interface doesn’t cover all the features available via the built-in menus but it covers the main ones. Here’s a screen shot.

That’s about it. In summary, the EH400+ comes across as a solid DLP workhorse that will perform well in professional environments, displaying presentations and media to a high standard with good colour reproduction. Priced at just under GB£750 inc VAT, this is definitely business territory and would be a good choice when replacing a legacy projector with a more up-to-date unit and more relevant connections. The network port and web interface is handy too, especially when the battery has died in the remote control.

The EH400+ can be bought through Optoma‘s partners including Currys PC World and Just Projectors. The Currys price seems a little high…

There’s a short video below and I must apologise for there being no demonstration of the EH400+’s projection capability. I didn’t have a suitable projection space and had to use a small screen which was incredibly bright at such a short distance. Suffice to say that the quality is impressive.

Update: I previously described this as a digital LED projector. It’s not, as DLP stands for Digital Light Proceessing.

Thanks to Optoma for the loan of the review unit.


PAPAGO GoSafe 30G Dashcam Review



The PAPAGO GoSafe 30G Dashcam is the third exposure I have had to their dashcams. I last reviewed the GoSafe 520 a couple of years ago.  The GoSage 30G was a completely revamped Dashcam with some new great features and one feature that I could have done without.

The new Dashcam is capable of Full HD up to 1080P @ 60FPS with a 2.7 inch LCD screen with full GPS position logging.  The 140-degree wide-angle recording view gives you an incredible recorded POV. The dashcam has full motion detection so that it automatically starts recording and stores the recording every 5 minutes unless the G-Sensor is activated by a sudden impact and then the device will automatically lock the file so it is not overwritten. You have the ability to also take a snapshot at any time by simply holding the snapshot button for 3 seconds.  The dashcam will also record video anytime the car is sitting still and it detects the car being bumped. This can help you identify someone that may have hit your car and left the scene.

The Papago GoSafe 30G came with a couple of features that worked very well in the daytime but one struggled at night. It comes with Lane Departure Warning System and Front Collision Warnings System.  While both warning systems worked great during daylight hours the Lane Departure Warning System false alarmed while driving at night. The roads in Hawaii are in many places 2 feet narrower than what they are on the mainland, whenever I was on a narrower road and not exactly in the middle of the lane the number of false warning for lane departure was almost excessive. I did not have this trouble during the daylight hours at all and the front collision warning system worked well day and nite. I must commend Papago on the FCWS system as it alerted me to cars braking hard in front of me.

Some other great driver assists features that work well including Stop Sign Recognition, Stop and Go, Driver Fatigue Warning, and Headlight Reminder all worked well day and nite. The Stop and Go feature primarily designed to detect when the car in front of you has moved after sitting still for more than 10 seconds works great in heavy traffic as well. If you have a late model car that does not have tire pressure sensors the dashcam also integrates with the Papago TireSafe D10E TPMS (sold separately), the GoSafe 30G can quickly grasp your tires’ pressure and temperature in real-time and display it on the screen.

Both Day and Nite video are exceptional and the Papago team have made significant improvements to the nite vision video quality. Priced at $172 this is a great product to add to your car, my dashcam has already recorded 2 separate accidents that I have been able to provide to the driver of the vehicle hit including one side swipe impact. You just never know today when you need to prove you were not at fault in an accident.

These are the full resolution videos 100mb per minute of video so depending on your internet connection they may load slow.


Azulle – Access Plus – Fanless Mini PC Stick



The Azulle – Access Plus – Fanless Mini PC Stick is my first exposure to a mini-computer running Windows 10. When we updated our flat screen this spring I wanted to be able to bring up a few sites that have content my family enjoys but does not have a channel on the Roku or similar devices. The Azulle Mini PC Stick was the perfect solution. The Mini PC simply connects to an HDMI port and using the Azulle – Lynk Remote control I was able to have a separate window system that we could utilize hooked directly to the monitor.

Now let me be upfront the Mini PC is not like your desktop and or a top end laptop it comes with a 64-bit Quad-core Intel Atom CherryTrail processor with and option of 2 or 4GB of onboard ram with 32gb of onboard storage with USB 3.0 x1 and USB 2.0 X1, Dual Band Bluetooth and a USB Mouse, Keyboard supported wirelessly and dual band Wifi  The HD Graphics card outputs a 1080P to allow for full-screen Video playback, gaming, and home theater usage.

I will be honest I was surprised how well it operates and the best part it is a 100% out of site. You can expand storage either with a USB stick or an external hard-drive. You use it just like any other PC in your home only this one can be hooked up to a TV in the living room, standard monitor in a kids room to provide them an inexpensive PC for homework etc. The use cases go beyond the home you could use it in a board room. digital signage the list goes on. Tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand but powerful enough to run Windows 10.

Priced between $139/$169 depending on ram choice you cannot beat what this brings to the table as a mini-pc.


Azulle – Lynk Multi-Functional Remote Control Review



I have been using the Azulle – Lynk Multi-Functional Remote Control with their Access Plus – Fanless Mini PC Stick see review. which is essentially a computer that you can plugin into an HDMI port on your TV. The Lynk Multi-Functional Remote Control allows me to have a mouse and keyboard combo within the confines of a remote control.

Allows me to point and click the mouse with their Gyroscope technology that provides remarkable control for a mouse you wave around in your hand. The keyboard is backlit and has a standard layout for quick typing in website addresses or
standard keyboard functions. It has the capability to learn the functions of more remotes that comes with televisions or other devices you find in an entertainment system.

It comes with a microphone if you’re doing a skype call or want to use voice recognition software like Cortana. Compatible with all major operating systems. The best thing is it reasonably priced at $29.99 a great choice for those that need a remote keyboard. mouse, microphone combination.


iClever 20W Wireless Speaker Review



The iClever 20W Wireless Speaker for $49.95 is a good price for what it brings to the table, the sound quality is what you would expect for a low-end Bluetooth Wireless speaker that will give your 14 hours of continuous play before charging the 4000 mau battery. I have been using it on my back porch where I go sometimes to work. This is not the speaker, you will want to use to entertain guest with, but for a young teenager it may be the perfect speaker when they do not want to be plugged into earbuds and it is not loud enough to drive you insane.

I have listened to both podcast and music on it, the speaker has great base is not tinny at all.

Available on Amazon or directly through the iClever website.

 


Athena-R2 AC2600 Wireless Router Review



 

The Athena-R2 AC2600 Wi-Fi Router by Amped|Wireless is the first router I have tested for them so my approach to doing this review was to hook it up in place of the current router I have powering the network here and let her rip. We have had the router in place for 2 weeks and subjected it to as many as 5 simultaneous users, 2 – separate Netflix streams while at the same time a gamer on a PS4 playing a head to head game. Plus a variety of live streaming events with no issues at all.

The setup of the router was simple with setup taking about 10 minutes including the time I took to look through the various menus. For 90% of the public you’re going to be up and running faster than that. Always remember to change the default password and apply any updates that may be available. Signal strength through the 1900 square feet of working space was good even into the garage area that has had trouble in the past.

External Features are a plenty and here is a quick look of the interconnections on the router.

  • 1x USB 2.0 Storage Port
  • 1x USB 3.0 Storage Port
  • 4 Gigabit Network Ports
  • Gigabit Modem Port
  • WPS-1 Touch Setup
  • LED On/Off Button
  • 4x Antenna Hookups

Internal Technology Includes

  • 4×4 Stream 2.4ghz radio
  • 4x 2.4 GHZ High Power Amplifiers
  • 4x 2.4GHZ Signal Reception Amplifiers
  • Heat Dissipation Technology
  • 4x 5GHZ High Power Amplifiers
  • 4x 5GHZ Signal Reception Amplifiers
  • 4×4 Stream 5GHZ MU-Mimo Radio
  • 256mb DDR Memory
  • 1.3 GHZ Quad Core Processor

The router also contains advanced security features allow you to block websites and target devices within your home. Beamforming technology that targets each connected device to deliver a maximum signal. Do you have a bandwidth hog in your household or need to throttle a user you can do this on a per-device basis which is an awesome parenting tool. You can attach a storage device and share files within your network as well.

Priced at $199 you cannot go wrong with this router. It is comparable in price to other AC branded wireless routers. It is stylish enough that you will not be embarrassed to have it seen in your living room, yet small enough that you can tuck it away in family office.


Optoma ML750ST LED Projector Review



Here on my desk I have an Optoma ML750ST LED projector. It’s a small short throw personal projector just 113 x 123 x 57 mm which makes it about the same size of a stack of CDs. Despite the diminutive form factor, the ML750 still comes with a good complement of ports and a couple of tricks. Let’s take a look.

White on the top and dark grey round the sides, the most noticeable feature of the Optoma projector is the disproportionately large lens on the front. It’s needed for the short-throw, which projects a large image from a short distance from the screen. Minimum distance is only 43 cm with a max around 3.5 m. At full distance, the image is around 5 m wide.

There’s a set of buttons on the top of the projector for turning it on, adjusting the image and selecting media (more on this later) but the main area of interest is round the back with a selection of connectors, ports and sockets, including HDMI and Universal I/O for VGA. The projector can read directly from media too and there are microSD and USB ports for data. A 3.5 mm stereo jack, power socket, IR receiver and Kensington lock round out the rear. Power is supplied via an external power supply, which keeps the size and weight down. There’s small remote control too.

On the bottom are three rubber feet and a camera screw mount. The foot at the front spins out to about a 1 cm to raise the projection up, and obviously the screw mount can be used with a tripod or ceiling mount. The large lens rotates smoothly through about 45 degrees to focus the image.

Connect up the ML750 to a PC or laptop and it appears as a WXGA (1280×800) monitor, and with a suitable OS you can do the usual tricks of either reproducing the current desktop or extending the desktop to the ML750’s display. The projector will lock onto the video signal and it sometimes took a second or two to pick up the VGA or HDMI. One of the benefits of an HDMI connector is that a media streaming stick like the Roku or Amazon Fire TV can be plugged straight in.

The ML750 does have a few other tricks up its sleeve (or USB port as the case may be). First of all, the projector has a built-in media player and Ms Office document viewer that will show films, play music and display Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files directly from either a microsSD card or USB memory stick. Most documents that I tried worked fine, but some Powerpoint animations didn’t quite work as expected – to be fair, this is noted on Optoma’s website. The on-screen controls have big friendly icons in a subtle purplish hue.

If entertainment is more your bag, movies played well. Just for kicks, I connected up my new Sky Q and watched a couple of movies – it was all good fun with some big screen films. In a slightly darkened room, the picture was wasn’t bad – colours were good. The ML750ST puts out 800 lumens, according to the spec, whereas a powerful projector is 3000 lumens, so it’s not going to produce a bright image in a well-lit room.  Bring the lights down and it’s fine. Sound from the built-in speaker was rubbish (what do you expect?) so take a feed from the source through a hifi or plug in some external speakers.

Next on the list of clever things is the USB WiFi dongle which plugs into the back of the ML750. Once connected to the “HDCastPro_XXXX” wireless network, you can use the complementary HDCast Pro app on your smartphone or tablet to play presentations and display media. You can zoom in and out of photos and documents, and the refresh is pretty snappy, though not quite instantaneous. It’s a handy feature and definitely much more relevant these days with the increasing use of tablets. The only downside is that while connected to the projector via WiFi, the tablet isn’t connected to the Internet…but Optoma’s thought of this, and with a little extra configuration the projector can be directly connected to the local WiFi network. The HDCast Pro app still works in the same way but now the smartphone or tablet is connected to the main wireless network and there’s normal connectivity.

Finally, Optoma have this really nifty software suite for projection mapping which helps create two dimensional visual displays, almost works of art. It’s quite clever but takes a good amount of work to do well. My efforts were a bit feeble so I’ll point you in the direction of Optoma’s website for now. I’m going to keep tinkering and once I have something half-decent I’ll bring it back to GNC.

Overall, I’m pretty impressed by the ML750ST. I’m used to projectors about the size of the phone book and the ML750ST was able to do everything they can do and more. The ML750ST isn’t exactly an impulse buy as it’s priced at GB£529 and the USB WiFi dongle is an extra GB£30, but as business purchase, it makes a great deal of sense, especially with HDCast application for tablets and smartphones. I wouldn’t recommend it for a permanent installation in, say, a training room because a brighter projector would be more suitable, but for ad hoc presentations and portability, the ML750ST is a good choice.

The projector can be bought direct from Optoma and thanks to Optoma for the loan of the review unit.


Dubleup Credit Card Power Bank



There’s a saying in photography that the best camera is the one that you have with you, and it’s a similar story when it comes to power packs for smartphones and tablets. The best battery pack is the one you have with you, and to make sure that you do have it with you, here’s the Dubleup Credit Card Power Bank, launching today on Kickstarter.

The Dubleup Credit Card Power Bank can be preordered on Kickstarter with a 15% discount for early birds. Coming in three different colours (black, silver, gold) and two connector types (Apple Lightning and micro USB) there should be a match for both colour preference and device type, though a USB C connector would’ve been cool. I’ve had the power bank for a fortnight and it seems well-enough made with no obvious problems – everything closes up, nothing catches, there are no rough edges. I think the top surface is metal and the back is a high density plastic but it’s hard to tell.

 

Physically the pack is 86 x 54 x 5.5 mm with curved edges and the connector is built-in, popping out when needed. On the back, there’s a power button and three LEDs showing the charge level in thirds. The height and width dimensions are genuinely credit card sized but the depth means it’s a little fat. To be fair, it was the thinnest one that I could quickly find on the internet from a vendor that I’d trust. The thinness comes at the price of capacity – it’s only 1,280 mAh which would about charge an average smartphone from 20% to full. Obviously it depends on the size of the smartphone’s battery! The charging current is 1A (not 2A) and in the box there’s a short USB to microUSB connector for charging the Power Bank.

 

I’ve done a quick unboxing video for the Dubleup Power Bank. I say quick but it’s five minutes but should give you a real idea of the size of the battery pack.

Overall, the Dubleup is a small solution to the everyday problem of not quite having enough power to get through the day. It is relatively expensive at AU$79 inc shipping, (US$60/GB£48), for the capacity but if the size means it’ll stay in your purse, wallet or bag when other battery packs get left at home, it’s probably worth it. YMMV. Delivery is expected in June and there are a few early bird discounts (AU$60) if you get in quick.

Thanks to Dubleup for providing the Credit Card Power Bank for review.