Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit Review

Devolo Logo

I’m a big fan of powerline networking and Devolo in particular because it helped me double the speed of my internet connection. It was simple; using one of their adaptors I was able to put my broadband router by my telephone master socket rather than at the end of a long extension lead. In one go, my download speed jumped from around 4 Mb/s to over 8 Mb/s. Result.

Obviously these speeds are trivial in comparison with data transfer rates achieved by gigabit networking and the limiting factor is the internet connection, but where a media enthusiast has set up a DLNA server in a house with multiple playback devices – smartphones, tablets, media streamers, smart TVs, games consoles – significantly higher data rates are needed and this is where the Devolo dLAN 1200+ WiFi ac Starter kit is likely to come in handy. Let’s take a look…

Devolo 1200+

For those who haven’t come across powerline networking before, it’s a way of using a home’s electricity sockets as a network infrastructure. A minimum of two network adaptors are required; plug one into a power socket near the router and connect with a network cable. Plug the other into a power socket near, say, your smart TV, and again connect via network cable. The two adaptors then communicate across the electrical network, connecting the smart TV to the router. It’s that easy.

Opening the box (courtesy of Devolo), there are two network adaptors, two network cables and a getting started guide. As can be seen from the picture, the adaptors aren’t small, but they do have power pass-thru, so there’s no loss of a power socket. Somewhat oddly the bulk of the adaptor points upwards, whereas the older adaptors tend to point downwards and were more discreet. These units are for the UK market, with different plug configurations available for other countries.

Devolo dLAN 1200

Devolo Hard to ReachBoth of the adaptors come with gigabit ethernet ports; there’s one on the smaller unit and two on the larger. The larger network adaptor takes the usefulness of powerline networking a step further with the incorporation of a wifi access point. It’s not just any old wifi either. It’s an 802.11ac implementation meaning that it broadcasts on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, supporting data rates of up to 1200 Mb/s, which is broadly “state of the art” as it stands.

On the box, Devolo helpfully points out some of the areas where ordinary wifi coverage may be less than ideal, including the smallest room. It gave me a chuckle.

Devolo 1200+ Network Ports

Devolo Adaptor AddGetting going with the Devolo dLAN 1200+ is easy. As these adaptors come pre-paired out of the box, all that needs to be done is plug them in and connect up. The LED “house” light on the larger unit will flash red until connection is made and then go solid white – perhaps taking 20 seconds. Introducing the adaptors into an existing network is straightforward as Devolo has great software that helps with this too.

Devolo provides three ways of interacting with the dLAN adaptors. First, there’s a desktop version of their Cockpit software for Windows, Mac and Ubuntu Linux.

Devolo Cockpit PC

Second, there’s an app for iOS and Android. There are currently two apps for Android, Cockpit and My Devolo, both of which do much the same in terms of the dLAN adaptors, but My Devolo appears to be the newer. The screen shots are from Cockpit.

Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit Devolo Cockpit

Finally, there’s a web interface.

Devolo Cockpit Web

The impressive part about the dLAN1200+ WiFi adaptor is that it isn’t just a wifi extender: it’s effectively a fully featured router with DHCP, access control, parental control and guest setup, along with everything else needed to configure the wifi. If the non-wifi dLAN 1200+ adaptor was connected to a pure cable or broadband modem, there would be no need for any other equipment. Very neat.

Devolo Web

Performance-wise, the Devolo dLAN 1200+ seemed both fast and solid. For over a month, I used the dLAN 1200+ WiFi supplied network services for most of the devices in my house, including smartphones, tablets, ereaders, laptops, a Chromebook, Sky+ TV on-demand, and two Roku media streamers. No problems to report with connectivity or stability. In terms of speed, I was able to stream three different HD movies to three tablets at the same time without any glitching or stuttering.

In closing, there are two features of Devolo’s products that I think set it apart from the cheaper end of the market. First, there’s great backwards compatibility with older products; I was able to use three generations of Devolo products in the one network. Second, their comprehensive management software which is available as an app, application and web service.

Overall, the Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is excellent. The devices themselves are well-made, though perhaps on the large side but it’s a great setup for those where the the living room is far away from the main router. There are two gigabit sockets on the adaptor for any equipment that doesn’t have wireless, plus fast WiFi for those devices that do. With the option of using the 5 GHz frequency for congested areas or to spread the load, the wireless performance is great.

The Devolo 1200+ WiFi ac Starter Kit is available online at around £160, which isn’t cheap but considering what comes in the box, plus the performance and the benefit of getting wifi where you need it, I think it’s value for money.

Thanks to Devolo for the review unit.

Celestron NexStar Evolution at CES

celestronA few years ago I was lucky enough to visit Kitt Peak in Arizona for an astronomy night and it will be one of the highlights of my life. It was a revelationary moment when I looked up and saw the Milky Way properly for the first time; I was used to seeing a few bright stars with a few more during the cold winter. Nothing prepared me for millions of dots spread across the sky…the stars, like dust…  Jamie and Todd explore the cosmos with Bryan Cogdell from telescope manufacturer Celestron.

At the interview table is the Celestron NexStar Evolution, a portable computerised wifi-operated telescope with built-in rechargeable battery. The telescope itself is a Schmidt-Cassegrain optical tube which can be controlled wirelessly from a tablet (or smartphone) using the Celestron SkyPortal app for both iOS and Android. It’s very easy to use; simply find the celestial body of interest in the app and then the telescope will orient itself to view the galaxy, star or planet of interest. The battery lasts around 10 hours so there’s a whole night of viewing without recharging.

The NexStar Evolution is available now in three variants with 6″, 8″ and 9.25″ mirrors at around $1300, $1600 and $2200 respectively.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Peri Duo Speaker Case for iPhone

Peri Logo

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, there are few mobile devices that produce anything like a decent volume and as for stereo separation, forget it. Fortunately Peri can come to the aid of iPhone owners with the Peri Duo, a high-power wireless speaker and phone charger case. Todd and Jamie find out more from Cedric Sumimoto, co-founder of Peri.

The Peri Duo is a standalone wi-fi and bluetooth-enabled speaker and iPhone charger case all in one. As expected, music can be streamed via AirPlay but the iPhone doesn’t have to be in the case when playing the music, so the Duo speaker can be on the opposite side of the room while the iPhone is safely in a pocket. Even better, more than one Duo can be connected to a phone so one Duo can be assigned as the left speaker and one as the right. Alternatively, one phone can multicast to dozens of Peri Duos, which really gets the party going.

The battery is 2500 mAh which will fully recharge an iPhone once with a bit over, or else the Duo will play music for around 4 hours.

The Peri Duo will be available for the iPhone 5, 5s, 6 and iPod Touch. The MSRP will be $139 though it’s currently on pre-order at $99 via Indigogo. Deliveries are expected from April onwards.

Interview by Jamie Davis of Health Tech Weekly and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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RoadEyesCams M6 Brings HUD to Your Car

Road Eyes Cams LogoOnce the realm of James Bond fantasy, French firm RoadEyesCams is bringing out an aftermarket heads-up display (HUD) with an affordable price. Todd takes to the road with Axel and the Aston.

The RoadEyesCam M6 HUD is a small dash-mounted unit that simply mirrors the display of a smartphone via wifi, projecting the image upwards and into the driver’s field of view. Whatever the smartphone shows, the M6 will reproduce on-screen, so it can be anything from GPS directions to motorsport data such as acceleration or lateral G. The M6 HUD will be available in the US in 4 to 6 weeks for $299.

Todd also takes a look at some of RoadEyesCams new dash-cams.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Liquid Image Ego LS at CES Unveiled

Liquid Image LogoLiquid Image weren’t a company with which I was familiar but having looked at their website, they have an impressive range of action cameras, with some interesting models where the camera is integrated into a scuba mask or ski goggles. At CES Unveiled, Todd interviews Melanie about Liquid Image’s new streaming wireless camera.

The Ego LS is hand-sized wearable and mountable camera not unlike others on the market but its key feature is that it can stream video over the Verizon 4G LTE network including XLTE allowing for fast live streaming. In addition to 4G LTE, the wireless features include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Low Frequency RF, which keeps the camera in standby mode for over a day without draining the battery. This makes the camera very flexible with a range of wireless coverage options and the Ego can simply record to memory if there’s no wireless at all. Neat.

The Ego LS model 800 is expected to retail at $399 and will be available in Q1 2015 for the US, with availability in other territories including Europe, Russia, Japan and Canada in Q2 and Q3.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Boingo Builds SMART Wireless Networks

boingo logoMany of us will be familiar with Boingo from their public wifi hotspots in airports and coffee houses, though the company provides many more radio-based services to advertisers, sporting arenas and the military. Marlo finds out more about Boingo Wireless and their plans from Dr Derek Peterson, Chief Technology Officer.

When build large-scale wireless networks, it’s not simply a case of putting up more and more access points – it’s far more complex than that with competing needs from the users. Boingo considers each implementation as a “SMART” network, their acronym for Secure, Multiple devices and models, Analytics, Responsiveness and Tiered services. With these aspects in mind, the appropriate design, technologies and policies can be put in place. Watch the video to learn more about Boingo’s approach and the current trends in the wireless market.

Interview by Marlo Anderson of The Tech Ranch. Note that Marlo’s audio is missing for the first few questions.

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Is There a “WarKitteh” in Your Yard?

Not a WarKittehThe innocent looking cat that is wandering through your backyard might be up to something sneaky. Instead of hunting mice, he or she could be hunting for Wi-Fi networks. Of course, the cat probably just thinks it is out for its usual “wander around the neighborhood”.

Gene Bransfield gave a talk at DefCon titled “How to Weaponize Your Pets”. In it, he described how to turn your cat into a “WarKitteh”. Gene Bransfield works for the security company Tenacity, and he created the “WarKitteh” idea because it amused him. The “WarKitteh” name is a reference to an activity called “wardriving”. In short, it is an activity in which a person drives around looking for weak or unprotected Wi-Fi networks. Now, your cat can go do that all by itself, no driving required.

Bransfield put together a specialized collar that contained mini-computers and an antenna (which were sewn into a collar that could be worn by a pet).

The collar was placed on a Siamese cat named Coco, who belonged to Brandsfield’s wife’s grandmother. Coco turned out to be pretty good at wandering the neighborhood. Coco spent three hours exploring some of the backyards nearby.

At the same time, the cat was mapping out dozens of the neighbor’s Wi-Fi networks and was able to gather enough data to determine which would be easy to get into. The “WarKitteh” identified four routers that were using an old form of encryption that could be easily hacked into and four more routers that had no security protection on them at all.

The primary inspiration behind the “WarKitteh” was entertainment. The results, however, showed that the “WarKitteh” could be an effective way to teach people about how to better protect their Wi-Fi networks. The “internet” is in love with cats, so I can see where this has potential.

The photo you see at the top of this blog is one I took of a cat that was wandering through my backyard a few years ago. That was before “WarKitteh” technology existed. The next cat that wanders through your backyard could be a “WarKitteh”, and you would probably not even know it had been there!

Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector Review

Optoma LogoThe Optoma ML1500 DLP Projector is a stylish ultra mobile LED projector which pretty much does it all in a very neat little package with a good complement of ports, connections and fun tricks. Let’s take a look.

Optoma Front

Measuring just 27 x 17 x 4.5 cm and weighing only 1.4 kg, the ML1500 is very portable and comes with a neoprene carrying case. As you’ll see from the photos, the projector is attractively styled, with the ports on the back and a touchpad on the top. The touchpad can be used to operate the built-in menus to control the ML1500 and there is also a supplied remote control for when changes need to be made from afar. On the bottom, a third leg can be screwed in and out to adjust the angle, and a standard photo mount allows the projector to be hung from above. Finally, a lever on the side controls the focus.

Optoma ML1500 Rear

Round the back there is a plethora of connections, with composite video, HDMI and VGA connectors, 3.5mm jacks for audio and microUSB, USB and SD card slots. Connect up the ML1500 to a PC or laptop and it appears as an Optoma WXGA (1280×800) monitor and with suitable OS, you can do the usual tricks of either reproducing the current desktop or extending the desktop to the ML1500’s display. Locking onto the VGA signal took a second or two, but nothing out of the ordinary. The small size of the projector meant that I could keep it on my desk and if I needed to have an impromptu team meeting that needed something shown, I could quickly turn the ML1500 onto a nearby wall, rather than everyone huddle round a monitor.

Optoma ML1500 Remote ControlOn the fun side, the ML1500 makes a good partner to mini media streamers like the Roku Streaming Stick or Chromecast. The stick can be plugged into the ML1500’s HDMI sockets and power pulled from an adjacent USB socket. All set and good to watch Netflix or other streaming service with minimum of fuss.

The ML1500 does 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 office document viewer that will show films, play music and display Word, Excel, Powerpoint and PDF files directly from either an SD card or USB memory stick. I didn’t deliberately try to break the viewer but the ML1500 managed to cope with all the Office documents that I threw at it. It’s relatively easy to navigate round the documents and zoom in or out with the remote control. The on-screen menus are easy to navigate with large friendly icons showing the way.

Playing movies is cool too, with the ML1500 handling mp4, avi and mov format files (though I didn’t confirm the codecs inside each). The presentation is good with the projector keeping up with the action and the picture is fine in unlit room – it doesn’t need to be darkened. Obviously you can have a pretty big screen if you want – I watched a couple of films and really got into the cinematic feel of things. Colours were good and sound is ok – it’s not hifi but you can connect up via a 3.5 mm jack if you want more oomph.

Optoma WiFi DongleNext on the list of clever things is the USB wifi dongle which plugs into the ML1500. Once connected to the “Optoma Display” wireless network, you can use an app on your smartphone or tablet to play presentations and display media. I used WiFi-Doc on Android and the app is available for iPhone and iPad too. It’s easy to use – select what you want to show and it’ll be shown by the ML1500. You can zoom in and out of photos and documents, and about a second later, the projector will update to show the change. Here’s the app showing a photo of the house that Mel Gibson used while filming Braveheart. The app wasn’t quite as good as the built-in player when it came showing office files as a couple of pdfs had missing images.WiFi-Doc App

A final nifty feature was auto-keystone correction, where the ML1500 automatically adjusts the projection to account for the angle of the projector, which means that the picture on the screen is always rectangular and not fatter at the top than the bottom.

One minor niggle is that adjusting the focus has to be done manually and it can’t be corrected using the remote control. Not a big deal in most circumstances but could be an issue if the projector was mounted high up.

Although I’m not a projector expert, I enjoyed putting the ML1500 through its paces. Its comprehensive ports and built-in media player make it a good choice for both business and pleasure, and for those on the move, the low weight and PC-free capabilities, are attractive. I think it’s priced about right too at under £700.

Thanks to Optoma for the review unit.

Kingston MobileLite Wireless Review

Kingston Technology LogoLast week I reviewed Kingston’s microDuo which is a great solution if your smartphone or tablet supports OTG. Unfortunately, many devices don’t and if yours falls into this category, Kingston can still help you with both the MobileLite Wireless and the Wi-Drive. In this review, I’ll be checking out the MobileLite Wireless and will follow up with the Wi-Drive later in the week.

Kingston MobileLite Wireless Box

The Kingston MobileLite Wireless  is described as “Reader – Media Streamer – Charger” and combines a USB reader, SD card reader, media streamer and USB charger all in one. Sounds impressive, so let’s take a look.

Kingston MobileLite Wireless Left Side

As you’ll see from the picture, the MobileLite is a small rectangular unit, around 12.5 x 6 x 1.6 cm. It weighs 98g and it feels a little lighter than it should. On one end is the SD card slot and on the other two USB sockets; one USB2 and the other microUSB. There’s a power button on the side and couple of indicator LEDs on the top. As well as the instructions, a USB-to-microUSB cable and a microSD-to-SD card adaptor is included in the box.

Kingston MobileLite Wireless Right Side

Taking each of the MobileLite Wireless features in turn and starting with “Reader”, the MobileLite can act as an SD card and USB reader. Simply connect the supplied cable from your PC’s USB port to the microUSB port on the device and two new drive letters or storage locations will appear on the desktop. Drag’n’drop, view photos, play movies, all the usual activities, no problem. Obviously it’s only USB2 but right now, that’s no big deal.

Moving to the “Charger” feature, swap over the cable so that the USB connector is plugged into the MobileLite Wireless and the other end into your smartphone or other power-sapping device. The battery is only 1800 mAh, so there’s really only one full charge of a smartphone in there.

Finally, it’s time for the “Media Streamer” feature, which lets up to three devices stream movies and other content from the MobileLite Wireless over WiFi. Which it does. Here’s Todd and the GNC show on three devices, all streaming from the one MobileLite Wireless.

Streaming To Three Devices

The tablets and smartphones have to load a Kingston app to access the media, but the app is available from Apple’s App Store, Google Play and Amazon’s Appstore.  The inclusion of Amazon is great as it means I can use the MobileLite Wireless with the Kindle Fire HDX – it’s the middle tablet in the shot above. However, the app is fairly basic and largely limited to navigating the folder hierarchy, selecting different content types, viewing and playing content plus operations such as email, copy and delete. It’s designed for smartphones rather than tablets so doesn’t take advantage of the larger screen real estate. Definitely room for improvement here. The app does have a couple of introductory pages to operative the MobileLite Wireless which have a cool hand-drawn feel to them.

App FIle Manager

The MobileLite Wireless also presents a web interface which can be used by PCs and Chromebooks to access the same files, though I didn’t seem to be able to upload content. The web interface has additional tools to adjust the wireless settings for greater security. One cool feature is that you can add the MobileLite Wireless to your main WiFi network and once connected up will pass on any requests onto the Internet, so you can browse the internet at the same time as listening to music coming from the MobileLite Wireless.

Wireless Settings

Battery life is “up to 5 hours of continuous use” and I managed a little under four hours playing a film continuously. Your mileage may vary but it’s enough to watch a couple of films.

In summing up, the MobileLite Wireless is a handy little device that I feel will appeal to those who frequently use SD cards and other removable storage. Obviously it would be great for photographers who want to review material on a larger screen but it’s also handy if you need to transfer material to a smartphone or tablet from a USB memory stick as outside of the Windows ecosystem, few tablets have full size USB ports. It certainly works well for streaming video and music too, but Kingston’s Wi-Drive might be a better solution for those who simply don’t have much space on their smartphone or tablet. The negatives are that the app could do with a refresh and a bigger battery would make the charger more effective, but other than that, there’s little to complain about.

The MobileLite Wireless is available on-line for around £35.

Thanks to Kingston for the review unit.

 

TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and Power Bank Review

TP-LInk LogoThe TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and 5200 mAh Power Bank (M5360) combines two of the handiest portable accessories – a 3G wireless hotspot and a USB battery pack – into a single unit. Sounds good on paper, but convergence doesn’t always work out. Let’s take a look.

3G Wireless and Power Bank

The M5360 comes neatly packaged in a slide-out box. Included with the 3G Mobile WiFi are instructions, a charger, USB-to-microUSB cable and some SIM adaptors which hold the smaller SIM sizes. The 3G Mobile WiFi itself is larger than the average mobile hotspot but this hardly unexpected given that there’s an additional 5200 mAh battery stashed in there. Overall, it’s 44 x 29 x 100 mm and while the weight isn’t officially given, my kitchen scales say 150g.

TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi

As you’ll see, the 3G Mobile WiFi is white with a clear plastic cover over the OLED screen. Moving round the unit, at the top there is a microUSB socket to charge up the Power Bank. On the right side, a power button turns the unit on, off and toggles between charging only and simultaneous 3G sharing and charging. There’s a reset button (that I never had to use) and covered slots for the SIM and micro SD cards. Finally on the bottom is USB socket that can be used for charging other devices. It’s only rated at 1A, so it’s more suited to charging smartphones and media players than 10″ tablets.

Getting going is simple – slip a SIM in and power the 3G Mobile WiFi up. As the unit is not network-locked you can use whatever SIM you choose, and helpfully on the rear of the device is all the information necessary for connecting to the WiFi network, including SSID and password. The 3G Mobile WiFi generally self-configures, but if you need to change anything, you can log on to the unit via a web browser and make changes.

Profile Management

With a 3 SIM everything went smoothly but I also tried the unit with a SIM from MVNO Giffgaff, which actually uses the O2 network. In this instance, I had to log on to the 3G Mobile WiFi and make some changes to the profile. To be perfectly clear, this reconfiguration is needed because of the MVNO nature of Giffgaff and illustrates the flexibility of the 3G Power Bank.

The small screen gives the usual information about the 3G Mobile WiFi side of things, including signal strength, connectivity, client number, battery and SMS messages. The download rate, upload rate and data volume are shown too. The unit supports the usual GSM protocols up to HSPA+ so in theory the max download rate is 21.6 Mb/s with 5.76 Mb/s upload, but local conditions are likely to significantly reduce this. With respect to WiFi, it’s 11b/g/n and up to 10 clients can connect at once.

TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi Screen

Now for the best bit….using the internal battery, the M5360 will run for over two (working days) without recharging. TP-Link quote 16-17 hours under heavy use by a single person and up to 26 hours will lighter use. I’m inclined to agree with TP-Link as I was able to use the 3G Power Bank for two and a half working days of relatively light use before recharging. Sweet.

In addition to powering the 3G Mobile WiFi, the battery can be used to charge another device as well. There are two options, wireless sharing and charging, and charging only; a quick double press of the power button toggles between the two modes. The 5200 mAh battery is roughly double the size of a smartphone battery, so expect to fully recharge your phone twice from the Power Bank.

Any problems? No, not really. My only feedback is the the positioning of the charging USB port on the top seems a bit odd as it simply looks funny when the 3G Power Bank is standing on its end. I would have preferred the socket on the side towards the bottom, or even on the bottom with an optional charging dock. Minor points, I know.

Overall, the TP-Link 3G Mobile WiFi and 5200 mAh Power Bank is a useful combination of the two. The ability to run the hotspot for a full working day (and then some) with several connected clients is attractive. The only downside is that the M5360 is heavier than a normal WiFi hotspot but that’s the price you pay for a bigger battery, but if it’s sitting on a desk, there’s no issue anyway.

Speaking of price, expect to pay somewhere around GB£70 for the M5360.

Thanks to TP-Link for supplying the review unit.