Tag Archives: Health

Anker Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Mouse Review

Anker is best known for its chargers and battery packs but one of its outlier products is a vertical ergonomic mouse. The idea is that holding the mouse in an upright position keeps the wrist and forearm in a straight line and avoids the twisted position needed for a conventional mouse. This may help with conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) or repetitive strain injury (RSI). Of course, it goes without saying that I’m not a medical professional but let’s take a look.

The Anker Wireless Vertical Ergonomic Mouse is a full-sized device and my male hands rest easily on it. I think most adults would be able to use the mouse but those with small hands or short fingers might struggle with the scroll wheel. (They might want to consider Lift from Logitech.)

Vertical computer mouse in front of laptop keyboard. USB dongle rests in front.

Under the fingers, the mouse has left and right buttons plus a scroll wheel acting as a centre button. By the thumb are buttons for page up and page down. The buttons click satisfactorily and the scroll wheel is easy to turn. That’s all fairly standard but the Anker mouse has one trick up its sleeve. There’s an extra button on the top edge which toggles the mouse’s “dots per inch” between 800, 1200 and 1600 dpi. Simply this means that the amount of screen movement for a given mouse movement can be adjusted on the fly. It’s handy for games and such.

Vertical computer mouse in front of laptop keyboard with pencil for scale.The mouse runs off two AAA batteries stored in the bottom and the on/off toggle switch is up at the pointy end. To keep it safe, the USB transmitter (2.4 GHz) can be stored in the underside of the mouse when moving between computers. Battery life was “months” and the wireless range is easily a few metres.

I found the mouse comfortable to use but it takes a little bit of time to get used to the vertical orientation. Once that’s done, it’s plain sailing and I personally found it less tiring than using a standard mouse. Ultimately, I found the Logitech Trackman Marble trackball more suited to my needs for daily use, though sadly it seems to have been discontinued now.

Vertical computer mouse to the side of black keyboardThe only downside of the mouse is that it’s covered in that soft touch rubber which eventually gets a bit sticky. I’ve had my mouse for a few years and it’s getting to that point where it’s becoming unpleasant. There are some tricks on the internet on how to strip the coating but I’m not sure that I can be bothered given its rare use now.

The Anker Vertical Mouse is available in two versions; one wired, one wireless. Obviously, this is the wireless version. Priced at US$30 / UK£24, it’s available direct from Anker and other good retailers. The wired version comes in at £17. Unless there’s a really good reason for the wire, I’d splash the cash and get the wireless one.

Vertical ergonomic mice are available from other suppliers such as Logitech but they’re three times the price so I’d be tempted to try out the Anker and see if it works for you first. I’ve noticed that what appears to be the same mouse is available from other suppliers such as Trust and Perixx so do shop around.

For the purposes of disclosure, this was a personal purchase.

Airthings Wave Mini Air Quality Monitor Hands-On Review

It was back in 2012 when the two big stalwarts of the smart home market, Philips Hue and SmartThings, first arrived on the market to automate our homes. Ten years later, almost every home has something “smart”, whether a few lights, Amazon Alexa or a video doorbell.

Perhaps instead of smart homes, the focus should have been on safe and healthy homes first. People will be familiar with smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors for safety but when it comes to healthy homes, it’s more unfamiliar territory. We’ve probably all seen news reports about mold in poor quality housing or air pollution from traffic near busy roads. Everyone knows about smart bulbs but what about smart air quality detectors? These could really benefit asthma and allergy sufferers.

For the healthy home, Norwegian specialists Airthings have a range of products which can monitor for radioactive gases like argon, the presence of VOCs – volatile organic compounds – or predict the likelihood of mold growing. What are VOCs? Airthings says that they’re a combination of gases and odours emitted from many different toxins and chemicals found in everyday products. They come from an array of everyday items including paints and varnishes, wax and cosmetics, cleaning and hobby products, and even cooking and human breath. When you have an enclosed space like a home or office, these emitted gases accumulate and pollute our fresh air. That sounds bad but how bad is it really?

To find out, Airthings kindly send me one of their Wave Mini Smart Indoor Air Quality Monitor (hereafter known as Wave Mini) to try out and I’ve been impressed on a number of fronts – it’s easy to use, can be located almost anywhere inside and seems to give hard data in line with expectations. Let’s take a closer look…

The Wave Mini comes in a small cardboard box that befits the Mini’s size – there’s no wastage here with an excessively large box. Inside is the Wave MIni, a small stand, batteries and some short instructions. Batteries? Yes, this is the first win. There’s no need to locate the Wave Mini near a power socket or to have an unsightly cable as the device uses three standard AA batteries for about two years worth of operation depending on battery brand. Score one.

As you’ll see from the pictures, the Wave Mini is the usual anonymous white with an impressed Airthings logo, and can either be wall mounted or sit on a horizontal surface courtesy of the small stand. The back of the Mini is held in place magnetically so it’s still very easy to change the batteries if the unit is on a wall. Score two.

Airthings Wave Mini rearThe Wave Mini communicates with a smartphone via Bluetooth, (though a new Hub is available as well for those looking to connect up multiple devices). Both Android and Apple devices are supported so the next step is to download the app and create an account with Airthings. Once you’re in the app, it’s pretty much a case of pulling the battery tab on the Mini, adding a device and letting the phone getting on with the job. You can assign the Mini to a specific room too, such as office or bedroom.

The app requires a few permissions and config changes to make sure that it will sync regularly with the Mini. I was on Android and didn’t feel there was anything too suspicious. Once the configuration is done, Airthings recommend putting the Wave Mini in its new home and leaving it there for a week to allow the sensors to calibrate and settle in. Time passes…

The week’s up and now the Airthings app provides information and graphs on the condition of the air in the room. It offers three main measurements – VOCs, humidity and temperature – and combines them to create a mold risk from 0 to 10, with 0 being very low risk and 10 being almost certain. Ok, so it doesn’t sound very exciting but if you have concerns about the air quality in your home, you’re now gathering hard data. The app will also alert on the phone if certain thresholds are exceeded, e.g. it gets too hot or too humid, but these are preset thresholds and you can’t change them.

Here are some example screenshots from the app.

The graphs show that I’ve nothing to worry about in my home – everything was all very normal. There are a few nifty features – you can choose different time periods from 48 hours to a year, and there’s a little cursor that can be moved along the graph line to get the specific data point. The app links to helpful information on the web via questions like “What is humidity?”

A common complaint of smart home technology is that it’s often the male geek controlling the house and that other inhabitants don’t have access to the data. That’s still partly the case here, but the Wave Mini has a single LED on the front that will glow green, amber or red when a hand is swiped in front of it, giving an overall assessment of the air quality. This is great as it negates the need to always review the data on a smartphone and includes more of the household. Looking at some of Airthings other products, they often come with little displays too. Score three for inclusivity.

And if that’s not enough, Airthings offer even more ways to interact with your data. There’s a web-based dashboard, an API, skills with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and integration with IFTTT. The latter gives some options around “If the temperature is above 30 C, turn on fan”. I had difficulty getting the Alexa skill to work – it wouldn’t recognise “Airthings” and according to some of the reviews, it’s a bit limited anyway.
It would have been good to see direct integration with, say, SmartThings, but if the new Matter standard comes to pass, it may not be an issue.

In terms of the competition, the only one I have direct experience of is Foobot and as far as I know, they’ve left the consumer market. In comparison, both devices collect the same information but the Wave Mini is far neater and more convenient. Score four.

Drawing this to a close, having spent a couple of weeks with the Airthings Wave Mini, I think it’s an easy to use and reliable bit of smart home tech that could really benefit families where either there is an allergy or asthma sufferer, or there are concerns about pollution or mold in the home. Priced at UK£69, the Wave Mini is affordable for most people and could be a real boon in providing solid data when there are questions. Available now.

Thanks to Airthings for providing the Wave Mini for review.

Airthings View Plus Smart Air Monitor

Scandinavian air quality specialists, Airthings, have announced the View Plus smart air monitor which senses over half-a-dozen air quality metrics: particulate matter (PM), carbon dioxide (CO2), radon gas (Rn), temperature, humidity and air pressure. Designed to help create a healthy home, air quality has become all the more important during the pandemic lockdowns with people remaining in their houses to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.

The World Health Organisation estimates that over 4 million people die every year from air pollution, so it’s a very real problem. While generally air quality is poorer indoors compared with outdoors, it varies greatly from place to place and it can sometimes be hard to tell if there’s a problem. For example, radon gas is naturally found in many areas but it’s odourless and invisible. If you are interested in radon exposure and you’re in the UK, Public Health England has a handy interactive map.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen the levels of awareness about air quality increase dramatically,” said Oyvind Birkenes, CEO of Airthings. “We decided to develop View Plus to help people everywhere understand that they have more control over their air quality than they might think. Our mission at Airthings has always been to educate people and foster constructive conversation about how air quality can impact their health and daily lives. With View Plus, we can empower people to learn about the air quality in their homes in a way that is constructive and easy to understand.

It’s back to the old business aphorism: you can’t manage what you don’t measure but unlike many smart home gadgets, Airthings have gone to considerable lengths to ensure that the View Plus works for the family and not just for the “geek in charge”. To start with, the View Plus looks good with a sleek minimalistic design, and recognising that smartphones apps aren’t always convenient, the View Plus offers a customisable display showing the current air quality status. Of course, the View Plus does have wireless connectivity (WiFi and Bluetooth) and there is full integration with Airthings smartphone app and web dashboard, plus IFTTT, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support.

The View Plus has a battery life of more than two years allowing it to be placed wherever convenient, but if it can be plugged in via USB C, the View Plus has built-in hub functionality, so owners can expand their system and bring together other Airthings devices.

Airthings View Plus is now available for pre-order beginning on Airthings.com with a special10% off pre-launch discount before the end of March 2021. The product will start shipping to customers this June for £259 / $299 USD inc VAT.

Xiaomi Ecosystem Updates for the UK

Xiaomi launched in the UK back in November 2018 and has made considerable progress in brand recognition and product availability – I know a couple of people who have bough Mi phones or Smart Bands and say good things. Certainly there’s probably an element of benefitting from Huawei’s misfortune but I think that does a disservice to Xiaomi’s products which go from personal gadgets and personal transport to smart homes and smart phones.

Xiaomi continues to move forwards and recently revealed its plans for UK partnerships for electric scooters and smart phones, plus the availability of the latest Mi Smart Band 5. Checking out these scooters, I definitely need to get one of these in for review…

Motoring and cycling specialists Halfords will be stocking Xiaomi’s new scooters. At the top of the range is the Mi Electric Scooter Pro 2 at GB£599. This e-scooter has a range of 45 km and can reach speeds of 25 km/h (15.5 mph) with a 300 W motor, and folds up for easy storage. It’s available now from Halfords.

Also available is the Mi Electric Scooter 1S, a cheaper variant of the Pro 2 at £499, but still coming with a range of 25 km and a top speed of the 25 km/h (15.5 mph) from the 250 W motor. Both the 1S and the Pro 2 have double brakes for safety.

At the bottom of the range is the Mi Electric Scooter Essential at £399 which can cover a distance of 20 km at a speed of 20 km/h. This scooter comes with 8.5″ pneumatic tyres, E-ABS and disc brakes and will be available soon.

Please remember that currently electric scooters can only be ridden legally on private land. UK Government trials are underway using commercial rental scooters. For a bit of fun, check out this race between a Xiaomi scooter and a jet-pack. Really…a jet pack

On the phone side, Xiaomi has partnered with 3 UK to offer the Mi 10 5G and Redmi Note 9 smartphones from 28th August. These are phones at opposite ends of the handset market. The Mi 10 comes with 6.67″ 90 Hz screen with a Snapdragon 865 CPU, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB storage, 5G and a quad camera setup with a 108 MP main shooter. Photos are analysed and improved using AI to get the best possible image. Priced at £799, it’s not cheap but there’s plenty of value in the Mi 10. On contract, 3 are offering a number of deals, including some with six months half-price.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Redmi Note 9 is only £149 with a 6.53″ FHD+ screen powered by a Mediatek Helio G85. There’s an AI supported quad camera round the back, with a 48 MP primary lens, and comes with 3 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage. Again, 3 have offers on the phone if buying the phone outright isn’t your thing

Finally, the Mi Smart Band 5 has a large 1.1″ AMOLED colour display, tracks 11 different sport types and is water-resistant to 50m, which means it’s perfect for swimming. With a two week battery life and magnetic coupling, it can spend more time on the wrist and less time on the charger. Priced at only £39.95 it seems like a complete bargain!

If you want to see more on all these products, the UK launch video is on Twitter.

Airthings Hub Debuts at CES

Norwegian air quality experts Airthings announced the new Airthings Hub at CES 2020 this week. Centralising the collection of air quality data from the Wave range of monitoring devices, the Hub helps provide a comprehensive understanding of air quality in the home.

Building on the popularity of smart homes and recognising the health benefits relating to air quality, Airthings brought the Wave Plus radon detector to the market in 2008. Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers and the Wave Plus was recently named in Time Magazine’s list of 100 Best Inventions.

Next came the Wave Mini which measures temperature, humidity and indoor air quality level. The Airthings complementary app provides real-time information on indoor air quality using data collected wirelessly from the Wave devices.

With more people than ever relying on smart home ecosystems to provide them with the critical information they need to live healthy and productive lives, we felt it was crucial to deliver a Hub that will simplify the process of indoor air quality monitoring and make it an essential aspect of our customers’ everyday routines,” said Oyvind Birkenes, CEO of Airthings. “In order to truly gain an understanding of your home’s IAQ and threats like Radon and VOCs, regular monitoring is necessary. Our goal is to educate people everywhere about how air quality can impact their daily lives on both a short-term and long-term scale. By helping people track their air quality in real-time, even when they’re not at home, Airthings Hub will empower customers to breathe easy by keeping tabs on their air quality no matter the time or the location.

The Airthings Hub will be available for pre-order throughout Europe and the US beginning January 6 with an MSRP of US$79.99. The product is compatible with Airthings Wave (2nd generation), Wave Plus, and Wave Mini devices. For more information on the Airthings Hub, indoor air quality and why long-term monitoring is important, visit the Airthings website.

Airthings are at CES in Booth #40646 in the Smart Home area of the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.