Category Archives: review

ACCELL – USB-C to 3 USB-A 3.0 Hub



usb3The team at ACCELL are always coming out with useful adapters, whether it be a docking station, display port to DVi, USB-C hub etc, the list goes on, and they are often very early to market on gear we all want and need.

The USB-C to 3 USB-A 3.0 hub is no exception. As laptop manufacture lower the number of available USB ports on computers, hubs are going to be needed more than ever. So look no further ACCELL has a new USB-C to USB-A hub. Testing here the device worked as advertised with three devices connected.

Here is the feature stack from the manufacture.

  • USB 3.0 compliant, supports data transfer speeds up to 4.8Gbps
  • USB-A output: 5V @ 900mA
  • USB powered design, no external power necessary
  • Power consumption: 5V @ 200mA
  • Approximate length: 7.9in (200mm)

Priced at $37.99 this unit is available to purchase today.


TAMRAC – HOODOO 18 Camera Daypack



hoddooA few weeks ago I received the TAMRAC HOODOO 18 Camera Daypack to review and was excited to do so, as I have not reviewed a backpacks designed for specifically touting their DSLR around and a few lenses in some time.

I loaded it up with my Cannon D60 an a couple of lenses, 12 inch laptop, tablet and a bunch of stuff I would expect to need to hump around day in and day out doing some camera work to include a compact mono-stick.

The backpack has a unique shape, the best way to describe it, is that it looks a little thicker at the top then at the bottom. But as you add gear, the bottom of the bag is not restrictive.

hoddoo2The only thing I wish the bag would have had was a little more padding at the bottom of it for lenses. The bag contains 4 major compartments. The back compartment for laptop / tablet, a padded top pocket to hold your dslr, a deep front pocket that could handle a very large lens, and front side pocket where I stored keys, mobile etc. There actually was room in it for a bunch of stuff and deep enough things would not fall out.

This bag is designed to be a day bag, I do not think I would use it for travel but depending on your utility it will easily fit under a airline seat and still leave room for your feet.

Priced at $80.95 and available today, this is a bag that I am going to get a lot of years utilization out of on a variety of projects.


LOFTEK LED RGB Floodlight Review



loftekThe folks at LOFTEK sent me a LED RGB Floodlight to review designed to be used for mood lighting in the yard or in a room needing a color effect.  16 color tones and 4 flash modes (Flash / Strobe / Fade / Smooth) provide colorful and bright illumination across wide area. With 6 brightness level you can adapt this light to almost any setting.

Designed to be used indoors/outdoors includes a remote control that allows you to control it, and even set a timer to have the light automatically shutoff. This LED RGB Floodlight would even be good for DJ’s trying to set the mood for any room. Very durable made of Aluminum die cast no cheap plastic pieces.

Priced at $66.99 you really cannot beat the price if your looking for a DIY project.


Syllable D700 Wireless Sports Earbuds Review



Syllable logoWireless headphones make a great deal of sense for sports and fitness fans as there’s nothing more irritating than getting caught up in the cables and trashing the headphone jack. As a result, Bluetooth headphones are popular with these people, even before Apple took the decision to ditch the stereo socket. Aiming squarely at this market segment are the Syllable D700-2017 wireless sports earbuds. Let’s take a look.

Syllable D700

The D700s are earbud-style headphones with an over-the-ear hook and a single cable running between the two sides. There’s an in-line remote close to the right side, which does all the usual stuff – on/off, pair, volume up/down, take call and so on.The remote has the microUSB charging port on one side too. Included in the box are additional ear buds for those with small or large earholes and flat ribbon USB charging cable which is far less prone to tangling. The connecting cable is available in three colours; yellow, blue and black, these are the black ones obviously!

Syllable D700 Sports Earbuds

The D700s support Bluetooth 4.1 and a range of profiles like A2DP, AVRCP, HSP, HFP. There’s no need for the details but broadly these acronyms mean that you can play and control stereo music over the headphones. Getting paired with a smartphone or tablet is the usual simplicity; in this case hold down the middle (power) button on the remote to put it in pairing mode, wait for it to pop up as an available device in the Bluetooth config on the phone, tap on it and job done. Syllable might want to improve their quality control as the headphones advertise as “SYLLALBE D700”. Duh!

Syllable Earbud CloseupThe build quality seems good and I had no problems over the few weeks I’ve been testing. For the most part, the D700s are covered in a soft-touch coating and the over-the-ear loops are a pliable plastic, though you can’t bend them to shape. The earbuds are mounted on a tube which goes up and down to allow for different ear canal to top of ear dimensions. On first inspection, it looks like the earbuds point upwards but once you put them D700s on, the angle of the loops on the ears tilts the earbuds Syllable D700 On Earforward. (The picture on the right has been slightly airbrushed). They can be a little fiddly to put on because the earbud can move and swivel on the tube but that’s balanced against a better fit for you ears.

In terms of comfort, I found the D700s a little bit of a mixed bag. Sometimes everything just seemed to line up and the fit was great, really great. Other times, I’d be fiddling away with one ear to get it comfy and sitting right. Regardless, the over ear loops ensured that they stayed in place during exercise. YMMV, as they say.

For audio quality, the D700s are impressive for the price point, though it’s important to ensure that there’s a good fit with the earbuds. If the buds are too small, the sound is thin and weak, but if you get a good seal, the bass is massively improved and overall the music is much richer and well defined. I tried a range of audio sources, across a number of musical genres and the D700s makes a good effort with all of them. Don’t forget that these headphones are to be used during exercise, so audiophile quality is not a prime requirement but they don’t disappoint for the price.

With respect to phone calls, the D700s were able to pick up speech well, even with the remote located round the back of my neck. Sometimes the remote’s microphone would get blocked by clothing and needed to be freed up for the caller to hear me. Generally not an issue while wearing a t-shirt or a vest, but something to remember if you’re in a hoodie.

The manufacturer says battery life should be around four to five hours and around an hour recharging. I wouldn’t disagree.

Overall, the Syllable D700-2017s sound good and stay on the ears, though they can be a little tricky to fit at times. At GB£13.99 on Amazon.co.uk they’re definitely worth considering for the gym.

Thanks to Syllable for providing the D700s for review.


Fitbit ChargeHR Review



On review here is Fitbit’s ChargeHR activity tracker, one of its most popular models which provides heart rate monitoring in addition to steps taken, calories burnt and eyes shut. Designed for “active fitness”, it’s aimed at those people who take control of their fitness level rather than simply walking 10,000 steps. That’s me then. On a good day. Let’s take a look.

You can watch the unboxing and setup video above, though what you don’t see is that I completely destroyed the box getting the tracker and accessories out because you’re supposed to open the bottom not the top. Doh! Fitbit, you need “Open other end” printed on the top. Inside the box is the Fitbit ChargeHR, a Bluetooth dongle, a charging cable and small instruction booklet that directs you to the Fitbit site for more information. The dongle is only required for syncing to a PC.

Fitbit Charge HR box

 

The ChargeHR is available in six colours; black, blue, teal, plum, tangerine and pink. As you’ll see from the pictures, I had the teal one, which was fine when I was exercising but I did feel a little self-conscious wearing it with a suit at work. Unlike the Alta and Flex range, Fitbit Charge HR stepsthere’s no switching round of bands, so buy a colour you’re comfortable with. The ChargeHR band comes in three sizes, small, large and extra large, though the XL size can only be bought through fitbit.com. Small is 13.7 cm–15.7 cm, large is 15.7 cm–19.3 cm and extra-large is19.3 cm–22.1 cm. Fitbit provide a handy sizing chart here. The ChargeHR has a proper watch-style buckle for the band, rather than the push through style of the Flex.

Getting started is easy. Charge the ChargeHR with the supplied cable, install the app on a smartphone or tablet, register if you aren’t already with Fitbit, follow the pairing instructions and job done. Now all you have to do is some exercise!

The ChargeHR is a extremely easy to use as there’s only one button which is situated on the left side of the unit. Pressing the button cycles through time, steps, heart rate, distance, calories, stories climbed and next alarm. For each statistics, there’s a little graphic followed by the number – footprints for steps, a heart for pulse and so on.

The main differentiator of the ChargeHR is the heart rate tracking. I don’t know much about the science but it appears to use a couple of greenish LEDs on the back of device to measure the pulse. The ChargeHR measures the pulse every second under normal circumstances, but when it detects exercise, it ups the data rate for real-time information so you can keep your pulse in the zone.

The charging port is visible on the back in the picture. Charging typically takes less than hour for a couple of days wear.

Fitbit Charge HR sensors

Clever as the ChargeHR is, it’s only once you start looking at the data generated that you really start to get benefit from the tracker. The Fitbit app can provide graphs and charts for most metrics. Here are a few showing steps, resting heart rate and sleep. I didn’t wear the ChargeHR every night, hence why there’s some missing data. Activity can be reviewed, giving heart rate zones – peak, cardio, fat burning – exercise duration and max heart rate. There’s lots of useful info.

Fitbit Steps Fitbit HR Fitbit Sleep

If you’re using a PC rather than a smartphone or tablet, Fitbit provide a web-based portal that provides similar information and analysis. For the really serious fitness fans, $50 per annum gets Premium privileges and extra analysis (which I didn’t investigate).

The ChargeHR does vibrating alarms too which is very handy if you need to get up without your bedside alarm waking your significant other. The alarm is set via the app and then sync’d to the tracker. I like this, though it’s not exclusive to the ChargeHR.

As expected in this day and age, there’s a social element too. You can add friends who also have Fitbits (of whatever variety) and see a leaderboard of steps taken each week. You can also earn badges for steps taken per day and lifetime achievements – I’ve a Nile badge for 6,649 lifetime kilometres.

I’ve had the ChargeHR for a couple of weeks now and I’ve been wearing it as much as I can. Sometimes I have to wear my Fitbit Zip on my belt when a teal bracelet wouldn’t be appropriate. Fortunately the Fitbit app (at least on Android) allows cross-syncing, so if you do 1,000 steps on one device and 1,000 on another, both will show 2,000 after a sync (or two). I like that feature as it lets me wear the Fitbit that suits my day.

Overall, I feel Fitbit have slightly stolen my thunder here, as the ChargeHR is being phased out and replaced by the Charge 2, but this could be an opportunity to get an excellent tracker for less money. Although officially priced at a penny under GB£120, it’s widely available for £89.99, even in shops such as PC World. The Charge 2 is currently £129.99, so there’s an effective saving of £40.

Thanks to Fitbit for supplying the ChargeHR for review.


Amazon Kindle (2016) Review



Amazon Kindle LogoEbooks and ereaders have come a long way since I first purchased novels from Peanut Press to read on my Palm III. Neither Peanut Press or Palm are in existence today – the former eventually disappeared into Barnes and Noble, and the latter was wasted by HP – but nearly two decades on, ebooks are part of everyday life, largely thanks to Amazon and the Kindle. On review here is Amazon‘s latest iteration of its entry level Kindle. Released back in June, this is the 8th generation of ereader but brings the much-missed white finish back to the family…and that’s what we have on review here. Let’s take a look.

 

The Kindle comes in Amazon’s easy-to-open packaging. In the box there’s only the Kindle and a USB-to-microUSB cable plus a few bits of paper. Taking the Kindle out of the clear plastic wrapper, it remains true to the form-factor. At 115 mm wide, 160 mm tall and only a smidge over 9 mm deep, there’s enough of a border round the 6″ screen to hold the ereader between thumb and forefinger. The case is a matt plastic with curved edges along with a microSD socket, power button and LED along the bottom edge. There’s some printing on the back and an embossed Amazon logo too. The matt finish helps with holding the Kindle as it’s not slippy at all.

Amazon Kindle with Box

Powering up the device, the Kindle takes the owner through the setup procedure, including connecting to wifi. The Kindle is usually preconfigured to the owner out-of-the-box so after running through a few pages of what’s on offer, his or her library will be on show on the home screen along with some “you might also likes”. There’s 4 GB of internal storage to keep books on the device which for an ereader is plenty of space.

The previous generation of Kindle introduced the touchscreen to the entry level model so there are no buttons to turn pages or go to the home screen. Tapping on a book or icon will open the selected thing but once in a book, the page is divided into three and tapping in the different areas generates different actions. Right side, next page; left side, previous page; top, menu options. The areas aren’t equal and the next page takes up around four-fifths of the page, from the bottom right. Generally the touching the screen works fine, but the back area on the left could do with being a little bigger – as man with fat fingers I did find that I needed to be fairly precise otherwise the book moved forward a page rather than back. It’s pity there’s not an option to adjust where the dividing line is on the page as I would prefer the split to more 50:50.

Amazon Kindle 2016

The eInk screen is the main differentiator between the entry level model and the next one up, the Paperwhite. To start with, the eInk screen is 167 ppi which is about half the 300 ppi of the Paperwhite, and more significantly, this Kindle is not backlit, so there’s no reading while the light’s out. As with all other ereaders, reading in sunlight is glare-free with the eInk screen. Page turns are nippy and the screen refreshes cleanly. As the screen is now a touchscreen, entering text is much easier with a tappable on-screen keyboard displayed whenever needed.

For the visually impaired, the Kindle supports VoiceView which will read books to the owner via a Bluetooth headset as there’s no headphone jack. It’s a bit convoluted to setup involving the power button and two fingers on the screen, which I understand might be easier for some who has a vision problem, but how hard would it have been to have an additional menu option for Bluetooth pairing? VoiceView is purely text-to-speech and won’t play music or audiobooks. Bah!

The Kindle software provides a number of “value-adds” over a paper book, including bookmarking and search features. Amazon’s X-Ray provides more information on the book, plot and people, and GoodReads book recommendations are prominent. Inevitably, social media now features with sharing to Facebook and Twitter.

Battery life is “weeks” and certainly in my use, it took a good deal of page-turning to bring the battery down. Not sure you’d get a whole week’s worth of holiday reading out of a single charge but if you’re bringing a charger for your mobile phone, it’s probably not a problem (unless you have an Apple iPhone).

As an Amazon product, the Kindle is designed to encourage purchases from the Amazon store so getting ebooks from other sources onto your Kindle can be tricky. If you want to borrow ebooks from your local library, check compatibility as I think Overdrive only supports Kindle books in the USA.

The 2016 and 8th generation of Kindle continues Amazon’s gradual refinement of the ereader. With the touchscreen introduced last time, there’s no big headline change over the previous model other than being neater and lighter, though the inclusion of Bluetooth perhaps hints at future features. And there’s a white version. At a penny under GB£60 with “Special Offers” and £70 without ads, the 2016 Kindle is an easy buy that’s unlikely to disappoint.

Thanks to Amazon for the loan of the Kindle.


Choetech 33W USB-C Car Charger Review



Choetech LogoGenerally USB car chargers fall into the dull but essential class of gadgets and with today’s power-hungry smartphones, they’re more essential than ever.  The market’s in a state of transition too, with new USB-C and various fast charging technologies vying for supremacy. On review here is Choetech’s 33W USB-C Car Charger (TC0002), which is a little misleading as the charger not only has USB-C, there’s a USB-A port too which supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0. Let’s take a look.

Choetech Car Charger Box

The packaging is minimal with the TC0002 held in a plain cardboard box with the branding on a card slip cover. Inside the box there are only three things; the charger, some instructions and a help sheet. The charger is much as you’d expect with a short barrel for the 12V power socket which them morphs gently into a slightly rectangular face with the two USB ports. The design is pleasing and there’s a small blue LED located between the ports which lights up to show that there’s power. When inserted into the power socket, the charger protrudes by about two  centimetre, perhaps a little less – see the picture below of the charger installed in my car (yes, my car’s a little dusty).

Choetech Car Charger Install

The USB-C socket will supply 5V at 3A, and the USB-A sockets supports the Quick Charge voltages of 5V, 9V and 12V with output currents of (up to) 2.4A, 2.0A and 1.5A respectively. Obviously you need a QC supporting smartphone or tablet to take advantage of the higher charging rates and everything else will use their standard 5V rating.

Choetech Car Charger

I plugged in a range of different devices from a OnePlus 2 to Samsung S6 (which is only QC2) and Nexus tablets. All charged at what I would characterise as their fastest rate and it didn’t seem to matter to the charging whether there was one device or two plugged in.

In summary, the Choetech 33W car charger is the ideal car charger for those who need both USB-A and USB-C charging. The neat and unobtrusive design will fit neatly in most cars, I imagine, and the blue light is handy for locating the sockets in the dark. Currently on Amazon.co.uk for GB£10.99, it’s competitively priced too.

There’s an unboxing video below, but annoyingly there’s a pulsing background noise. Sorry.

Thanks to Choetech for supplying the charger for review.


Samsung Galaxy S7 active Review



s7activeThe Samsung Galaxy S7 active review unit from AT&T is by far the best model of the Samsung S7 family. If you lead an active lifestyle, this phones shell is designed from the ground up to take a beating. We where specifically asked by the AT&T team to be rough with the phone which is a little odd.  With great hesitation we dropped it from chest height to a concrete floor. The rugged shell and shatter resistant screen took the fall with nary an issue.

The phone comes in three designs. I had the camo design, and everyone that played with it kept looking at the skin and asking where I got the cover. When I told them it is designed that way everyone’s comment was like wow smart.

Just holding this phone you can tell that Samsung built this for folks that are either rough on phones, work construction etc. You will not need a secondary case with this phone. I also prefer the physical buttons on it, as I could easily navigate the phone while not having to look at the screen.  Everything you have heard about the Samsung S7 series is included as far as the technology of this phone.

For the sportsman you do not have to worry about this getting wet in fact if your waders get flooded out the phone can survive being submerged in water of up to 5 feet for 30 minutes with the IP68 rating. I let my son go boogie boarding with this in his key pouch and the phone worked like a champ.

All of the tech specs can be found on the AT&T website. But let me give this phone my highest recommendation. It is the first time in a very long while that I will regret having to ship one back.


Accell USB 3.0 Full Function Docking Station Review



accellThe Accell USB 3.0 Full Function Docking Station is a compact but fully featured docking station option supporting DisplayLink.  When I say compact I really mean it. The docking station fits on my palm of my hand.  Supporting operating systems Windows 7 through 10.  With any docking station it is about the hookups.  This dock is perfect for the small business owner or even college student that is on the go and wants a clean desktop area.

Inputs:
1x USB 3.0 Type B plug
2x DC Power

Outputs:
2x USB 3.0
1x USB 3.0 with BC adaptable power charging
1x HDMI Port 1.3
1x Display Port 1.2
Gigabit Ethernet
Combo Audio (Headphone/Microphone)

Maximum Video resolutions:
Single Display Port 3840×2160/30hz
Single HDMI Port 2560×1440/50hz
Dual Display (DP) 2048×1152/60hz / (HDMI) 2048×1152/60hz

So if you are hooking up a dual monitors pay attention to the resolution limitations and refresh rates. Single monitor hookups should be no issue for most users. Using this dock with my Dell XPS 13 I had no issues, and everything synchronized quickly and the HD video via HDMI was great. Priced @ $159 the folks at Accell have brought a reasonably priced USB 3.0 Full Function Docking Station


Polaroid Remote Controlled Panorama EyeBall Head Review



polaroidThe Polaroid Remote Controlled Panorama EyeBall Head could not be a cooler accessory. Designed to stand on it’s own or attach to a tripod. You can mount your GoPro, Digital Camera or Mobile Phone to it with the provided accessories.

Designed to pan right or left, swivel 75 degrees or advance 5 degrees every 10 seconds you can capture panoramic images perfectly. The best part you can link your device to it via bluetooth, and then using the provided remote control you can snap images to capture the perfect selfie or family picture.

The Eyeball head fits in the palm of your hand, and can be easily stashed in a backpack pocket.  You charge the device with a standard micro usb cable. With 3 hours of active use per charge take it anywhere you go. The Polaroid Panorama Eyeball Head costs $49.99 through Amazon.