Review: Ring Video Doorbell

ring doorbell

I may have found one of the easiest, simplest, and most straightforward gadgets on the market these days.

Watch my 3 minute VIDEO review of the Ring below

I recently had a chance to test out a Ring video doorbell. A coworker had tipped me off to the product, as he’d just ordered two, and was in love. After testing out numerous gadgets recently that connect to Wi-Fi, and require you to have an account, and do your own installation, I was a bit apprehensive about this one. I’ve found a lot of new gadget releases to be quite time-consuming, tedious, and buggy to set up. Not so with the Ring. I was blown away, and minutes after downloading the app, my account was set up and ready to go. Then it was onto installation.
IMG_4760I love that the Ring video doorbell comes in a kit complete with absolutely everything you need to install it yourself, including screws, screwdriver, and a tiny little level. That was absolutely brilliant, as I was not looking forward to have to rifle through my husband’s tools to find what I needed.
I watched the video they have at the ready for you on their app to get an idea of what to expect with installation. The video was short, and easy to follow, and made the installation seem super easy, which it was. In less than 10 minutes, I had an account set up and the video doorbell affixed to the front of my house already to go. I pressed the button to test it out, and it worked perfectly from the first try.
How it Works:ring graphic
When pushed, the doorbell will send an alert to your smart phone, and show you who is at your door. From there, you can decide if you want to engage in conversation with them, or ignore. The HD video picture is super crisp and clear and gives you a very good view of who is there. A recent new addition by Ring, cloud storage, also means that you can get access to images of who rang your doorbell, even if you aren’t by your phone to monitor the alert.
The audio interaction between yourself and your visitor is also quite handy, meaning you can accept and authorize a package delivery to your front door, even if you are miles away at work. Similarly, you could instruct a florist to drop your bouquet off at a neighbors house if you won’t be home for several hours. Ring also adds, “built-in motion sensors detect any activity on your property and trigger instant mobile alerts, giving you peace of mind when you’re away.”
You might be wondering how you avoid having your fancy new expensive video doorbell stolen. Good question, so was I. The Ring doorbell comes with special security screws, which require a specialized tiny screwdriver. Without the tiny screwdriver to free the unit, the video doorbell is securely bolted to your wall, and a thief cannot just run off with it.
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The Verdict:
I’ve had the doorbell for a couple months now, and I already think it’s a really great invention. Primarily, I love how easy and user-friendly it is. Even non-tech savvy folks will have an easy time getting this product up and running.
The Ring video doorbell sells for $199 at Best Buy and Amazon.ca

Travel Gadgets & 5 Top Travel Tips

tech talk 3We all look forward to travel in the busy summer season.  With the number of travellers climbing, and delays inevitable, it’s a good idea to bring along some tech to keep you sane, entertained and connected while on vacation, whether it’s a plane trip or a road trip.  This week on CTV Morning Live I shared some good gadget picks, as well as my top travel tips.

Top Gadget Picks:

Comfy Noise-eliminating Headphones

marley

On CTV Morning Live, I showed off some headphones.  House of Marley’s Over-ear “LIBERATE” Headphones ($99) are soft and plush with a good sound, retro styling, and ability to block out airplane drone and angry toddlers.

Jabra_Revo_Wireless_image_1440x1440px_06Ditto for the Revo wireless headphones by Jabra.Going wireless is huge for air travel; no cords getting caught up in the seatbelt, or getting tangled when you get up to use the washroom.

If over-ears seem too bulky, my personal favourite headphones are the Monster Adidas in-ear headphones, because they block out noise like a boss, and are ultra comfortable to wear.

Adapter/Router Powerpack by Satechi

smart_travel_router_angle_lan_web

When travelling abroad, it helps to have a variety of plugs available to recharge your gadgets.  An interesting take on that is a versatile, compact adapter kit from Satechi that doubles as a wireless router and signal booster for your hotel internet.  The Satechi Smart Travel Router / Travel Adapter with USB Port adapts to fit into four of the most common plug configurations used around the world and has different modes for your wireless networking.

I also shared my 5 Top Tech Travel Tips on CTV Morning Live:

tech travel junePack extra headphones.

Headphones get lost, break, or you forget them, and of course without them, you can’t listen to music, TV or watch movies.  Stash an extra set of small earbuds in your carry on and you wrap them up with a handy Cord Taco to keep tangles at bay.

Bring your cables.

Beat delays by bringing your charging cable, plug and/or an external battery pack to supply juice through the longest flights or most annoying delays.  Never put them in checked baggage, as they sure won’t help you in the plane’s underbelly.

Preload TV shows, movies and podcasts at home onto devices.

Airport and hotel wifi is notoriously slow, and can be tedious to set up (nevermind having to give out personal info to get the connection).  Save time and frustration by filling your device with content you can watch all trip long.

Always carry-on your electronic devices.

They’re expensive, sometimes have personal info on them, and let’s be honest, it would be devastating to lose them or have them stolen from checked luggage.  Carry them on no matter how heavy that makes your carry-on bag.

Stash all your cables and accessories in one zippered bag.

It keeps them all in one place, makes them easy to find and keeps them from getting tangled up in the rest of your luggage. Of course, carry that bag on too as insurance.

If you’ve got a great travel gadget tip, I’d love to share it.  Post yours in comments.

tech talk june1

Polaroid Socialmatic Camera &Printer and Zip Printer Reviews

polaroid socialmatic 2If there’s one review I’ve been looking forward to the spring, it’s this one.

Recently both a Polaroid Socialmatic and a Zip printer arrived for testing, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

I was a bit shocked when I opened the box for the Socialmatic. The camera itself is quite large, much larger than I was expecting.  It’s very flat, very square and was difficult to grip. While many digital cameras fit neatly in your hand, this camera is quite the opposite. That’s probably because it does more than just take pictures.  It’s a video camera and  printer too, all in one package.

The lap-sized Polaroid Socialmatic.
The lap-sized Polaroid Socialmatic.

From full off to on and ready to go, the Socialmatic takes a frustrating  30 to 40 seconds to start up. Then if you don’t touch the screen immediately it goes dark with no obvious way to get it back on. Eventually I figured out a quick touch of the power button does it, but it was bothersome.

I started taking photos almost immediately and noticed a few things right off the bat.  First of all, it takes about three seconds from the time you press the shutter button until it actually registers the photograph, which resulted in plenty of closed eyes and movement in my test pictures. The other thing I did not like was the quality of the screen was not good. The resolution was surprisingly low.

Photos & Quality

Initially I was expecting Polaroid style photos with the papery white border, however Polaroid no longer owns this technology. So my test pics printed edge to edge on the photo paper.  The photo quality was not great. For the most part the photos were grainy and dark. Even photos I tried to take in good strong light didn’t come out looking as high quality as I was hoping for. I tried to take some photos in a pub that was not super dark, but all the photos came out very very dark and grainy. We turned on the flash to compensate but using it made us all look like deer in headlights. There was no happy medium.

One thing I did enjoy about the photos was the sticky backing on the Zink photo paper so you could use the photos as stickers. That’s a nice touch.

After testing for a couple hours that first day, I put the camera away until three days later. When I went to turn it back on, the batteries were already dead.  I’m wondering if perhaps this was because I didn’t turn it fully off, only put it to sleep. That’s something to be aware of.  I would charge it up for several hours to full battery, turn it off and use it once or twice for just a few minutes, then power it down again, a few days later if I went back to it the battery was dead and required a full recharge.

Video Review of the Polaroid Socialmatic Camera & Printer

Polaroid Zip printer

The Polaroid Zip printer is much smaller than the Socialmatic, but is it it is a printer only. I found this device very easy to set up and use, in fact, within seconds of plugging it in and selecting a photo you’re printing. The quality of the photos is not quite what you’d expect from a high resolution fancy camera shop, but for the size and availability, it’s very handy and easy to share with family and friends where you are, and for me, the fun and convenience factor here is more valuable than crisp HD copies.

Polaroid Zip photo printer.
Polaroid Zip photo printer.

There are some things about the Zip app I don’t like. For example it does not have a ‘reprint’ feature like others do. This means you cannot easily select photos for reprint without starting the printing process over from scratch. However the app’s layout and user interface are straightforward and simple, and very easy to read, navigate and understand.

The Zip also used Polaroid’s Zink paper, and as I said, the quality of the photos is not good.  Worth noting, it does not appear that the photo paper is light-sensitive, like film is, or like some other photo papers can be. I dropped the printer and the back popped open and scattered the remaining photo paper pieces all over the place. I reloaded it and put it back together, and in subsequent print jobs, everything printed just fine. So it’s nice to know the paper is not light sensitive, and losing the back off the printer will not destroy a whole stack of expensive photo paper.

The Verdict Overall

While I’d definitely like to buy a Zip printer, I’ll take a pass on the Socialmatic.  The Zip is easy to use, infinitely portable, and makes printing fun sized photos easy. I also like the sticker option for the photos.

The Socialmatic is just too large and unwieldy to be a fun take-along.  Basically it was just a bulky exercise in frustration, and not a fun and enjoyable and social tool. I’d much rather use my smartphone for great quality photos and a high-res display, then print them on the spot with the Zip. I’m interested to see if there’s a future incarnation of the Socialmatic, and if there is, I’d love to give it another chance.

The Socialmatic and the Zip are available at Bestbuy.ca as well as from Polaroid.com