Category Archives: travel accessories

Plantronics Voyager Legend Bluetooth Headset Review



I’ve been a user of Plantronics’ Bluetooth headsets for many years, starting with the Explorer 320 and more recently the Voyager Pro. I’ve always liked them because I found them a good fit on my ears but they’re trouble-free and easy-to-use with no problems pairing on a wide range of phones. More recently, I’ve taken receipt of a Voyager Legend and, so far, it’s living up to its name.

On review here is the full Voyager Legend UC package which comes with the headset itself, Bluetooth adaptor, desktop charging stand and charging case. This is the complete outfit for those in the office and on the go, aimed at those who use both mobile phones and IP-based communications, such as Microsoft’s Lync or Skype. This is the Microsoft version with an alternative version supporting Avaya, Cisco and IBM services. The Legend can manage two Bluetooth connections simultaneously so calls coming in from both routes can be answered on the headset and speaking from experience, this is very handy.

Plantronics Legend Box

The Voyager Legend UC comes in a plain box but opening it up reveals a wealth of accessories and adaptors, including UK and continental plug adaptors plus various USB connectors and chargers.

Plantronics Legend Inside Box

Here’s the charging case with the USB Bluetooth adaptor and the Voyager Legend itself. The Bluetooth adaptor is half the size of the previous generation that came with the Voyager Pro.

Plantronics Legend Charging Case

As might be guessed from the name, this is a charging case and the case has a built-in rechargeable battery which charges the Legend when it is in the case. In the photo below, you can see the contacts in the case on the right. It’s a clever idea, especially when on extended travel as you don’t need to lug around chargers – the case itself recharges via a micro-USB connection.

Charging Contacts

Of course, the desktop dock provides a convenient place to keep the Legend and charge it at the same time. There’s a magnetic catch to snap the headset in place.

Plantronics Legend Headset and Dock

Plantronics Legend in Dock

In use I find the Legend very comfortable to wear and I almost use it almost exclusively to answer my calls at my desk, whether the call comes through on my mobile or my desk phone. The headset is stylish enough to wear without feeling self-conscious, though I tend to take it off when I’m away from my desk. The Legend has three earpiece sizes in the box to accommodate different ears and can be worn on either the left or the right ear.

The Legend has some great features, such as auto answer, which detects when the headset is lifted from the dock and answers the call automatically. The Legend accepts voice commands, letting you put the headset into pairing mode, answer or decline calls and check battery level with ease. There are hardware controls on the headset for on/off, volume up/down, accept call and a multi-function button which does a couple of different things.

The talk time is rated at 7 hours and I never had any trouble with the battery running down unexpectedly. The charging case extends this even further with two full recharges from the case taking the total call time to 21 hours. Call quality is excellent, with callers sounding clear and natural, and most people don’t realise that I’m on a Bluetooth headset. The Legend also supports A2DP, which is handy if you want to listen to music or podcasts, albeit with one ear.

Plantronics have an Android smartphone app which, amongst other things, can help you track down where you last used the headset via GPS. It’s a neat idea but I found the app didn’t always play nicely with other GPS-using apps as the Plantronics app would turn off the GPS after getting a lock. The other app would than flail around looking for a signal lock. I submitted a bug report to Plantronics so hopefully they’ll get that fixed soon as it’s very irritating when playing Ingress.

There’s no two ways about it, the Plantronics Voyager Legend UC is a brilliant headset which I’m sure will do me for years – it has both the features and the construction to last. It’s definitely a premium product and it doesn’t come cheap: the RRP is over £150 but you can find it online for less than £100 including the carry case. However, it’s worth it if you want to to use a hands-free headset on an extended basis both at the desk and on the go.

The Voyager Legend UC was provided by Plantronics for review.


Virgin America Safety Video



Virgin America sure does its pre-flight safety announcements a little differently…..

From YouTube – Buckle up to get down. We’ve enlisted the help of Virgin Produced, Director Jon M. Chu, Choreographers Jamal Sims and Christopher Scott, Composer/Producer Jean-yves “Jeeve” Ducornet, Virgin America teammates, and dance stars like Todrick Hall and Madd Chadd to give our safety video a new song and dance — literally. From the exit doors to the oxygen masks, no seat belt was left unbuckled.”

Certainly an innovative way to get passengers to pay attention to the instructions but I think it might get a little wearing for frequently flyers. Has anyone actually seen this on a plane?


Verbatim Dual USB Power Pack Review



Verbatim LogoVerbatim will be known to many older geeks for their floppy disks but since the demise of this market, Verbatim have branched out into newer media, products including lighting and water filters, and accessories such as USB power packs. Verbatim have an extensive range of rechargeable packs from 1,200 mAh up to 10,000 mAh and on review here is their Dual USB Power Pack with a 5,200 mAh capacity.

First impressions are good. The Power Pack comes in attractive, easy-to-open packaging that doesn’t need to be attacked with a pair of scissors. Inside is the Power Pack, a short USB to micro-USB cable and instructions. The USB cable is only 10 cm long and can be used for both recharging the Power Pack and charging other devices. Some might quibble about the length of the cable but I think it’s handy and avoids all the disentangling. Besides, I have loads of long cables should I need one.

Power Pack Top View

The body of the unit is about 7 cm wide and 11 cm tall. Depth is 1.7 cm and tips the scales at around 175 g. The top and bottom faces are covered in a soft-touch rubber coating and the middle section seems to be metallic-looking plastic. On the bottom, there are four small nubs for feet and the top surface has four blue LEDs and a small button. Pressing the button for a couple of seconds illuminates the LEDs to show battery charge level.

Verbatim USB Ports

Round the edge are three USB ports, 2x standard and 1x micro-USB. The latter is used for recharging the Power Pack and the former for charging other devices. In common with similar products, one port is rated at 2.1 A (port A) and the other at 1 A (port B). However, unlike some of the Power Pack’s competitors, both USB ports can be used to charge while the device itself is being recharged.

The Power Pack is a 5,200 mAh unit which Verbatim suggests on the packaging will recharge a smartphone 2.5 times. My experience with recharging a Nexus 4 (2,100 mAh internal battery) is that this isn’t too far from the truth. Further, the blue LEDs are good guides to the battery level – consider each LED as 25%, so all four is 100%, three is 75% and so on. Below is the obligatory screen shot from Battery+ showing the charging rate for a Nexus 4, which is pretty much the same as charging from a mains charger.

Nexus 4 Charging

In summary, the Verbatim Dual USB Power Pack is a fine little unit. The soft touch rubber coating gives it a slight softer feel and the recharging-while-charging is a worthwhile feature. My only concern is that I think the Power Pack is a little pricey at an RRP of £41.99 and there are other models out there that offer more capacity for less money (but do watch out for those batteries which can’t charge and be recharged at the same time). As this is a brand new product, no “street price” has emerged but something around £25 would make the Dual USB Power Pack value for money.

Thanks to Verbatim who kindly supplied the Power Pack for review.


Jazooli’s Portable Tablet Desk Stand Review



For some time I’ve been looking for a decent desk stand to hold my 10″ tablet but all the ones tried so far have some annoyance or niggle. Usually the stand wouldn’t work well with the tablet still in its case, but others would be bulky, flimsy, only for the iPad or just plain rubbish. The good news is that I think I’ve found the answer in the shape of Jazooli‘s “Portable Lightweight Universal Foldable Desk Stand“. They’re fibbing a little with the “lightweight” but in all other respects this is a good product. It’s solid metal, folds up, has two positions and works while the tablet is in its case. Perfect!

When folded up, the Jazooli is nice and slim, fitting neatly into a little pouch. At 200g, it’s not what I would call lightweight but the mass does mean it’s not easily knocked over.

Jazooli Folded

There are two ways that the stand can be stood up. Here it is in the upright position, which is good for viewing movies or keeping an eye on Twitter.

Jazooli Upright

For typing on the tablet, the stand has a reclined mode, aka “I-dont-want-everyone-else-in-the-office-to-see-I’m-on-Facebook-instead-of-working” mode. This position works well with ultrabooks, notebooks and small laptops to give an angle to the keyboard.

Jazooli Lying Back

There’s an extra smaller leg that pops out from the main support – it’s more obvious in this close up. The metal finish is better seen in the image too.

Jazooli Close-up

Finally, here’s what the stand looks like with a 10″ Android tablet on board. Note that the tablet is still in its case.

Jazooli Stand with Tablet

 

In summary, Jazooli’s portable foldable desk stand is currently my favourite tablet stand. Obviously your needs may not be the same as my needs but as it’s currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £5.99 and from Amazon.com for $2.55, it’s hard to go wrong!

[Disclosure: this was a personal purchase]


Underneath The Pringles Tree



PringlesPringles are running a Pringles Tree competition in December and each day you can open a virtual Pringles can to reveal the prize within. The prizes are inexpensive but there seems to be a good chance of winning as I’ve picked up a Pringles Speaker and a voucher for 7digital already. Other prizes include on-line games and receipes.

The Pringles Speaker arrived yesterday and it’s much better than I expected. The idea is that the speaker is inserted into the top of a Pringles tube once the contents have been munched. Powered by three AAA batteries (supplied), the sound quality and output is surprisingly good. For sure it’s not hifi and the bass isn’t great but for an impromptu party, it’s perfect. Plug in your mp3 player or smartphone and away you go.

Pringles Speaker

There’s 11 days left of Pringles Tree. Get popping, though it looks like this promotion is for UK residents only.


Coins of the World



Australian One DollarThe British Museum’s Impressions of Nations is now online and it shows coins from every United Nations member state. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, they’re all here, though as the Museum points out, not every country issues coins. Looking through the coins, eagles are popular images,with lions, elephants and fish also appearing. Queen Elizabeth II is the single most represented person as she is the head of state for many Commonwealth countries.

Europhiles can check out the coins from the different member states. For those not familiar with the euro, the notes are all the same, but the coins reflect the country of origin. The Irish euro has a harp on it, the German one an eagle and the Italian euro has the Vitruvian Man. Look also at Greece, Austria and Portugal.

Most are round, but some have holes (Denmark, Norway) and others are have, err, wiggly edges (Libya, Maldives, Myanmar). I can understand why people collect coins as they’re a fascinating insight into each country, often showing not only the history but also the aspiration of the nation.

Australian coin photograph courtesy of BigStock.


Eason Fails to Sell eBooks via Billboard



…or “Why DRM is killing ebook sales outside of Amazon or Barnes & Noble”.

Being a international superstar and global jetsetter*, I had the pleasure of passing through Dublin’s Connolly railway station today. In the atrium there was a billboard display of book covers complete with QR codes.

Billboard of Books

“Totally cool,” I thought. Scan the QR code, buy the ebook, download to my tablet and start reading. The bookstore, Eason, had helpfully included free wifi in the area to get on-line. (For those not familiar with Ireland, Eason would be the leading newsagent, stationers and bookstore, comparable to WHSmith in GB). I scanned this book:

Book cover

The QR code took me to this page. Strangely, the book offered was a paperback and not an ebook. Huh?

Book purchase

Then I looked at the original poster, “1. Choose your book 2. Scan your QR code 3. Make your purchase 4. Wait for the post 5. Enjoy your book!”

Seriously…”Wait for the post”. Have these guys actually heard of ebooks or did the Kindle completely pass them by? Sure enough, Eason does have a section for ebooks on their website. It says, “Eason eBooks are compatible with Sony, Iriver and Elonex eReaders, as well as all devices that support Adobe EPUB DRM eBooks. Our eBooks are not currently compatible with Apple iOS, Google Android or Amazon devices – this includes iPads, iPhones, iPods, Android phones and tablets, and Kindles.

So let me get this straight….Eason is appealing to a travelling customer, offering the QR codes to smartphones that will typically be iPhones or Android devices, but ebooks can’t be offered on these because of Adobe’s ePub DRM? Fail, fail, fail.

It’s both totally unbelievable yet completely expected. It’s no wonder Amazon and the Kindle are dominating the market because everyone else is fighting with one hand tied behind their back with DRM. Eason, I had a two hour train journey ahead of me and you had a 100% chance of an ebook sale but you blew it. I’ll turn on my tablet, fire up my Kindle or Nook app and buy directly from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Fail.

* This is completely untrue.


BTR006 Bluetooth Audio Receiver Review



BTR006 Bluetooth ReceiverA2DP Bluetooth rarely comes as standard in cars except on prestige marques, but most new vehicles at least come with a 3.5 mm audio socket on the audio system for plugging-in mp3 players. If you want a quick and cheap way to upgrade the car’s audio to Bluetooth, take a look at he BTR006 Bluetooth Stereo Receiver.

The BTR006 is a small plastic rectangle just a few millimetres deep (45 x 33 x 8 mm). It has only one button for on/off, an activity LED, a DC power socket and a 3.5 mm audio jack on the end of short lead. It’s a doddle to use: charge up, connect the jack into the 3.5 mm audio socket, pair with smartphone and starting playing music from your smartphone through the audio system. Simples!

Audio quality is perfectly acceptable given that it’s Bluetooth anyway and the receiver successfully paired with every device I tried it with. The receiver supports both Bluetooth 2.1 with both A2DP and AVRCP.

There’s an internal battery that’s good for 12 hours according to the spec, which is probably about right based on my experience. I get a whole week of podcast listening which means somewhere over ten hours based on weekly commute and other travel. Contrary to some reviews, it is possible to charge and use the device at the same time. The confusion arises as connecting the charger does turn off the BTR006, but turning it back on again lets the receiver charge and play at the same time.

One of the best features is that it automatically powers off when the Bluetooth connection is lost for a few minutes so the battery doesn’t run down when the car is parked and not in use. Obviously the receiver has to be turned back on, but that takes seconds to do.

BTR006 Installed in Car with Velcro

Unless there’s a convenient nook or cranny in your vehicle, the BTR006 will hang down from the audio socket, especially as the lead isn’t very long. Of course, the easy solution is to use Velcro, with a small strip on the back of the BTR006 with a matching strip on the dashboard. The BTR006 can be easily detached for charging at home or in the office via the supplied USB charging cable. Here’s what it looks like installed in my car….yes, I probably should have cleaned the dash before taking the picture.

Note that the BTR006 does not have a microphone so it’s not possible to use it for hands-free calls but regardless this is an excellent buy to play music through your car’s audio system via Bluetooth.

Available from Amazon for around £15 or $28 – just search for BTR006. Disclaimer – I bought this device personally.


World Leaders In Their Underpants



North Korea's Kim Jong-un

I’m generally not a big fan of politicians. There’s too many of them, they’re overpaid and they get their job through a blind popularity contest. At least with X-Factor and Pop Idol, the contestants have to show what they’re skilled at before we vote for them.

So it was with much glee that I came across World Leaders in their Underpants which literally strips politicians, dictators and royalty to their underwear. Created by cartoonist Nick Hilditch, he’s drawing his way through the world’s countries and now has over 120 of the world’s most powerful people in their smalls. All in the best possible taste of course. Regrettably, he’s not yet disrobed either the USA’s President or the UK’s Prime Minister so you’ll have to sign up to Nick’s RSS feed, follow @understates or like on Facebook to await their arrival. I’m told by Nick that Iraq is next.

The perfect antidote to Newsweek, Time and The Economist!

Picture courtesy of Nick Hilditch.


Yo no hablo español, Google



MallorcaMass personalisation is one of the great benefits brought by the web. It’s no longer, “Any colour as long as it’s black,” but rather myriad options tailored to your individual circumstances. However sometimes the customisation goes a bit too far.

Take the Google Play Store app for example. As a customer I have only ever watched English-language films, read English-language books and generally been your typical English-speaking user. Consequently I was somewhat perplexed as to why I’d suddenly become a Spanish aficionado merely because I was using my tablet in Spain. Everything in the Play Store was being promoted in Spanish, which while interesting, wasn’t likely to encourage me to make a purchase.

For a couple of reasons, I think my IP address was being used to determine broad location (Spain) rather than GPS co-ordinates (Mallorca) but the point is somewhat moot; Google should not be switching languages based on location for existing users. Besides, in my Google profile under Language it says, “English (United Kingdom)”.

In some circumstances, it makes good sense for immediate localisation. Getting directions, looking for maps and finding nearby amenities would be obvious examples but not so much for watching a film or reading a book. Fortunately, I’d downloaded most of my holiday reading before leaving the UK, otherwise I’d be finding “El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha” fairly hard going.

Adiós.