It’s been HOT where I live. Really, bakingly hot. The kind of heat where you don’t want to turn on the oven for dinner, or even boil water. Lighting candles is out of the question. Despite the fact that some subtle flickering ambiance is nice, adding anything that says ‘heat’ is not happening. That’s why I love Playbulb’s new electronic candles, Candle S. Continue reading “New Playbulb Candle S; now rechargeable & brighter”
I’ve been toying with making a switch from Apple to Android for a while now. I’ve long been curious if the grass really is greener on the other side.
With a new Samsung Galaxy S8+ in hand I finally made the leap about five weeks ago. I wanted to spend an extended period of time living in this new world before writing my review. So after much use, some travel with the new phone and plenty of new apps, photo-taking and more, here it is. Continue reading “Review – Living with my new Samsung Galaxy S8+”
Tablets are now as much a part of our lives as laptops, and desktops, and in some cases, they take over those roles. They can because tablets have much more power and versatility than ever. I recently had a chance to play with a new Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Regular readers will know I’ve been an Apple user for much of the last 6-8 years so I’m finding it very interesting branching out to explore new brands and getting to know Android.
Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 – first look
The tablet is a very good sized 9.7″ device, though it does have a wide bezel all the way around the screen. I found that unusual right away, only because Samsung’s new Galaxy phones are basically all screen. Nonetheless, this screen is still large and vibrant. The tablet is impossibly thin with a nice rounded edge it feels good to hold in your hand and it’s not slippery. There’s also a physical home button on the face that doubles as a fingerprint scanner.
The device comes with a special pen that allows you to write on screen or otherwise control the tablet.
Though I didn’t get to sample this feature, you can also attach a magnetic keyboard to the Tab S3 to help provide an easier typing experience if you’re going to use it like a laptop.
Introducing the Samsung S-pen
The pen is relatively small and weighs next to nothing. Several smart pens I’ve tried before are fat, bulky, heavy, and make it very uncomfortable to write. The Samsung pen feels like your favourite pen; the one you want to grab for constantly when you need to take notes.
Using the pen to write on the screen is a surprisingly comfortable experience. If you’ve ever used a stylus on a glass screen before you know it feels kind of weird, but in this case the pen’s contact with the screen feels much more natural, almost as if you were putting pen to paper. None of that metal to glass scrape.
Amazingly, the pen never requires charging, I think that’s because the technology is built into the screen as opposed to the pen. So really it’s just acting as a stylus. The small 0.7 mm pen tip is very natural for writing. Unlike some other pens or styluses, you’re not blocking your view of the letters you’re forming behind the pen nib.
Turn handwriting into type or make notes with screen off
With the pen function you can write notes that are than digitized into typed format, you can draw pictures, edit videos, or even jot something down when the screen is locked. That ‘screen off memo’ function almost looks like chalk on a chalk board, and it’s a super handy and quick way to write yourself a memo.
Using handwriting to text feature
To use the handwriting-to-text feature, do a long press on the microphone button on the virtusal keyboard on screen this will bring up the bottom screen where you can hand write texts that will then be converted to tight text in the top screen
Using the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
The home screen displays easy access to Weather information and time, as well as the typical Google search screen. There are numerous apps pre-installed on the device including Netflix, YouTube, and the full suite of Google apps. Anything else you need is as close as the Google Play store.
The tablet features a 9.7 inch QXGA SAMOLED display that’s HDR video compatible to give you great looking programs.
Here’s where we’ll learn a little something while we’re here; HDR or High Dynamic Range (in a nutshell) makes colours bolder by using light more realistically.
What is QXGA? What’s AMOLED?
Without going into too much detail, QXGA stands for Quantum Extended Graphics Array—it’s is a computer display mode that has enough pixels to offer fine details — more like print on paper, and it’s great for people that want to see all the details or multiple images — and for gaming. the downside is that it’s expensive.
Finally, since we’re playing professor, AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) is a display technology used in smartwatches, mobile devices, laptops, and TVs. You’ve heard of LED or OLED TVs — Light emitting diode — that’s just the the ultra thin film display technology that uses organic compounds to create the display.
Ok lesson over!
The all glass design is sleek and shiny, but at the same time it doesn’t feel too delicate. In the construction of glass and metal have been fused together though it doesn’t feel heavy or metallic
Typing on the tablet is quick and responsive. With some other tablets I’ve tried it almost feels like there’s a lag between the time you press the button and the time the action takes place. With this tablet it felt very instantaneous.
Galaxy Tab S3 has faster performance
The tablet has made some improvements on previous versions; it’s 18% faster than galaxy tab S2, and the graphics load three times faster than the S 2. You can thank the snapdragon 820 processor inside for that.
4 built in speakers in Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
There are four speakers on this tablet for much better audio performance. The speakers that play will automatically adjust to the orientation of the tablet, ensuring you’re always getting the best sound.
Galaxy Tab S3 made for gaming
These tablets are made for gaming too. Though gaming isn’t something I’m into, it’s worth mentioning here. “The Galaxy game launcher it has been optimized for Galaxy Tab S3’s screen, offering a power saver mode, game broadcasting, and mute games or ongoing calls mode,” according to Samsung.
How to use multi-function window or split screen
Conveniently the tablet also runs Android’s newest operating system, Nougat, which allows you to open two windows at the same time. The ‘multi-function window’ as it’s called is a bit weird to get used to using. When an app is open in full screen view, just press and hold the recents key, then select another app to open by tapping the double rectangle in the top right corner of the second app.
How to close multi function window
I was mystified about how to close the multifunction window. I thought I could do it by following the same procedure that I did to open it, but not so. You’ll need to grab the blue slider bar that splits the screen, and drag it up and right off the screen. The second window will wipe away.
Battery & charging
The S3 charges very quickly. You can get up to 12 hours of video playback with less downtime according to Samsung. The onboard battery is a 6000 mAh battery, which should last from 8-12 hours, depending on usage.
Tab S3 Camera
I’ve always found it awkward to use a camera on a tablet, though I’ve seen people doing it at national parks and the like. if you’re one of those people, you can look forward to a main camera resolution of thirteen megapixels while the front camera is five megapixels. A flash and auto focus are included.
Overall review – Samsung Galaxy Tab S3
Since my hands-on experience with Android devices has been limited, I felt like this as a whole new experience for me. I don’t have previous Tabs to compare to, so I’m coming at this as a completely new device.
Overall, I liked the tab S3. It’s light and easy to use and hold; it feels good in my hands. The screen is large and detailed, clear and vibrant.
The functions seemed fast and there was almost no lag.
I found some of the functions like using the handwriting to text or the multi window feature to be anything but intuitive. I had to go online and look up how to do some things. Perhaps that’s my lack of familiarity with Android, but my feeling about smartphones and devices is that you should be able to figure things out without research.
In short if you’re looking for an Android tablet that’s fast, sleek, sizeable and great looking, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 is a great pick.
Get a Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 for about $599 US and $799 CAD.
The Misfit Shine is a sleek and chic fitness monitor and activity band that can be both worn on the wrist, talked into a sock or sports bra, or tucked neatly into one of the beautiful accessory pieces of jewelry the company offers.
Right out of the gate, the Misfit Shine is one of the prettiest options I’ve seen when it comes to fitness monitors. It looks more like jewelry, or live a matte river pebble than a fitness device, which is a nice change. The band comes with an included wristband, or magnetic clip, so you can choose where and how to wear it.
How Shine Works
While I was still gaga over how beautiful the device looked, I had difficulty getting it working out of the box. I went through all of the steps Misfit outlines to get the band set up, but the device just would not work. I put the battery in and took it out again several times, hoping to get things working but to no avail. I even tried using a different battery than the one Misfit includes, just to see if mine happened to be dead. That didn’t work either. Looking closer at the inside of the device, I had an idea: it appeared to me that one of the metal connectors that is supposed to touch the battery was not touching properly, so I took some tiny pliers I have, and bent it to make better contact. Then I popped the battery back in, and voila!, it worked right away. I’m pretty sure Misfit would not advocate for people to go mucking about with the interior guts of this device untrained, but this is what worked for me. Either way I was pleased that the device was now working.
The Misfit band works similar to other fitness bands, in that you also download a free companion app, set up a free account, and that’s the way you view and use most of your data.
The Device Display
The display on the band itself is a circle of subtle LED lights. Depending on how much of your step goal you’ve completed, a different number of lights in the ring light up. I really liked this subtle display, despite the fact that it required some thought to calculate in my head, and was what I’d call at a glance. Even so I’d know if I was a quarter or halfway to my goal, if not the specific numbers. What I did, however, like about the ring light display is that it reminded me of looking up into the night sky at stars; it reminded me of staring up at constellations.
The Shine uses “points” to calculate your activity levels. This is one thing about the device I did not like. With other bands, your actual steps ARE your goal, and to me that’s something tangible that I can see and understand. I know that to get more steps, I take more steps. But with the Misfit Shine, I’m not sure what the points mean, or exactly how I get a good amount of them. I found that frustrating, but that may be a personal preference. I know some people who swear by the Nike fuel band, and it uses a similarly random system of points. To each their own I suppose. I should point out after that complaint that when you go into the app, you can actually get more specific details about how many steps you took, how far you went in terms of distance, and how many calories you burn, so happily, the info is actually measured and available to you.
While I found the step count slightly off compared to the device I normally use, the actual mileage, or number of kilometers I went that day was actually quite similar. Ditto for the calories burned. While calibrating the Shine would be the ideal solution; unfortunately, it’s not an option, and that that is a source of frustration for other users too. One person I found on a chat board pointed out that as a very short person, the device was vastly over calculating her metrics.
Like many similar fitness devices, the Misfit Shine also will calculate and track your sleep. The app will display deep versus lighter sleep in a grid, so it’s easy to read at a glance. It will also give you an overall number of hours you actually slept, versus what your sleep goal is (mine as it turns out is a rather unrealistic eight hours per night!)
I also found that sleeping with the Shine was quite easy; the smoothness and thinness of the band means it is very unobtrusive, and doesn’t get caught on anything, particularly on sheets or under pillows. The device also has the option of allowing you to edit your recorded sleep, in case there has been an error. Not that I found any errors in my sleep tracking.
The Shine can also be used as a watch with simple taps, and it will display the time using solid and flashing lights around the edge of its lighted display. Another plus is that it is waterproof 250 m, so you can use it well swimming. It syncs wirelessly via Bluetooth which is always handy as well.
The Shine uses a small disc battery, about the size you find in a key fob (nickel sized), technically called a standard CR2032 coin cell battery. That means no charging or recharging, which is nice. Misfit says the battery should be swapped out every 4-6 months, or when it stops working.
In short, I really like the looks of this device, possibly better than any other fitness band on the market. While I didn’t appreciate the points function of the app and it’s calculations, the fact that my step count and distance are available within the app is important and means I don’t have to rely on Misfit’s points. I am also personally a big fan of fitness devices that are versatile, or that have a core piece you can remove from the band, and tuck wherever you want. I use this feature frequently, and will tuck my fitness monitor into my bra, or a sock, if I don’t want to wear an obvious rubber athletic style band (my regular band, a Fitbit) to an elegant function, date, or night out. The nice thing about the Shine is people might not realize that it is even a fitness tracker.
While the app and it’s layout is not my favorite, the information is all there, and easy to read. It’s also very easy to navigate through historical data or previous days with a simple swipe.
In short, I would definitely recommend this band to someone who is looking to start out on the fitness track. Particularly the type of person who doesn’t want everyone to notice they are wearing a bulky rubber band around their wrist, since the Misfit Shine is much more like a beautiful bracelet then a utilitarian fitness device. Form and function, all in one great and customizeable package, since different colour trackers and a variety of band options are available.
Looking to check out other fitness devices? Read about the Basis Peak, Fitbit Flex, and check out info on some other devices that I featured on CTV News Tech Talk.
We use our smartphones so much today, it’s almost impossible to have a battery that can keep up. So when the juice is gone, what do you do? What are some better options for keeping your devices charged and at the ready? Check out my recommendations:
Trunk Charging cable: ilovehandles.com
A small, compact charger that bends to accomodate nearly any USB plug, the Trunk is small enough to fit in your pocket, but handy in a very big way!
USB Outlets: leviton.com
It’s frustrating when all the plugs in your home are taken up charging your devices. A smart alternative is to have USB plugs installed. These from Leviton, available at many home improvement stores, have the regulation dual AC plug, plus 2 USB slots, allowing you to charge up to 4 devices, and also come in other configurations!
Space Bar Charging Station, Pivot Power Bar and Converge charging dock: Quirky.com
Quirky.com has to be one of my favourite websites right now. The company works with inventors to bring their tech ideas to life – and to the market. Some of the smartest ideas are their Space Bar, which is a monitor stand that also doubles as a USB power centre, and the Pivot power bar, which curls like a snake to allow you to actually use every slot in the power bar.
The Converge charging station (above) is also smart, allowing you to keep cords organized, and in line while charging devices as they stand. The dock also has enough power for both small and high-speed items, and you can fit several phones, or phones and tablets with ease.
Cord Taco, Mod Case & iPhone “Sleeping bag” : thisisground.com
A simple invention, but one that’s really handy is the hilariously named Cord taco from This Is Ground. The leather circles snap around bundled cords, keeping them tangle free! The adorable and soft iPhone sleeping bag keeps your device safe, while allowing a bit of space in the back for your charging cord (like the Trunk above!). And the luxe leather Mod case has slots and compartments for cords, headphones and cables, plus room for a large smartphone, or notebook.
Cobra Car Starter & Device charger: cobra.com
One of my favourite gadgets this year, the Cobra JumPack will not only charge any and all your devices via its USB port, it will also boost your car on a cold day!! I can’t tell you how handy this is. I’ve tried it and it works so well, I’m getting these for all my friends. Read my full review of it here.
Energi Charging backpack: tylt.com
A genius option for the traveler, the Energi backpack comes with power pack and cables to keep all you tech charged, while it rests safely in your backpack. Just keep the included power pack juiced for when you run low, and use the handy cord openings to feed cables through the inside to everything stays secure.
Powerocks Charger/Flashlight: POWEROCKS.CA
This handy little gadget is a flashlight that doubles as a battery pack. Compact and lightweight, it’s got enough juice to fully charge your phone and then some.
Got a gadget you just can’t live without? Let me know in comments below!
If there’s a person who’s actually happy with the battery life of their mobile device, I haven’t met them. I’m always on my phone and I’ve been carting around a credit card sized battery pack in my bag for a while now; it’s tiny and it’ll only give me about a third to half a battery boost. So I was excited to try out a new device that will not only charge your devices, it will also BOOST YOUR CAR! It’s the Cobra JumPack.
The first thing that struck me about the Cobra JumPack is that it’s small; just 5”x3”x1”. It’ll easily fit in your palm, pocket or purse, not to mention the console of your car, where it will morph from handy gadget booster to ninja auto rescuer when it boosts your car’s dead battery.
You might have heard of Cobra Electronics. They make CB radios, radar detectors, dash cameras, and GPS systems. The company also makes larger portable power units, but the JumPack is the smallest one I’ve ever seen that can do so much. The company describes it this way; “the Cobra JumPack allows users to rapidly charge smartphones, tablets, cameras or other mobile devices and additionally has enough power to even jumpstart a car, motorcycle, boat or other vehicle.”
Cobra JumPack – The Specs
So how does it work and what will it charge? Cobra says it can reenergize devices multiple times on one charge, making it perfect for emergencies like a power outage, for travelling, or for whenever your slowly wasting cell phone battery decides to give out on you.
The Cobra JumPack has a powerful 200A starting current, 400A peak current (for non mechanics, that means it has enough juice to boost your car more than once on a single charge). The JumPack has a 2.1 Amp USB output and a powerful 7500 mAh Li-Cobalt Battery with a large and easy to read battery status indicator.
It also has an LED flashlight with a strobe and S.O.S function for emergencies, or so you can see your way under the hood when boosting that dead battery. The kit includes jumper cables and two different re-charging methods; a wall charger for home and a 12V car CLP charger (cigarette lighter charger) to charge your battery pack while you’re out.
The Tests: Using JumPack on Devices & Dead Cars
I took a very dead iPhone, and hooked it up to the Cobra Jumpack. It was fully ready to go in under an hour, and the JumPack was still full, according to the battery indicator. The next test was bringing the JumPack camping. I gave it a full charge before leaving home, and the JumPack recharged my cell phone twice and my husband’s phone, and was still ¾ full at the end of the weekend.
While the JumPack is bigger than the mini charger I currently carry around with me, it’s not so much bigger that you’d rather leave it at home. It only weighs 10.58 oz or 300 g, so it’s just over half a pound. In a backpack, it’s not the kind of weight you’d notice. In a small handbag, maybe.
The device works great for device charging small electronics and gadgets, in my opinion. But the big test for me will be to see if it’ll recharge a car; which is the main reason Cobra created it.
A Mechanic weighs in on the JumPack
I brought the JumPack to my mechanic Dean. In truth I needed an old car to boost, to really see if it works, and Dean has plenty of them. He took one look at the Cobra JumPack and said, “that’s it”? He seemed surprised by the small size. Large caddy-style battery boosters have been available for a while, but they’re big, heavy and clunky.
We hooked the JumPack up to the battery of a ‘92 VW Passat, turned it over and it fired up immediately. Dean seemed impressed, and I was too. There’s a lot of power in the JumPack, and after we started the Passat, the JumPack still showed a full battery; definitely enough to boost another vehicle, or charge up all my devices again. Dean immediately began listing off all the places and situations where the JumPack would come in handy. There are plenty I can think of and you could probably dream some up too, dear reader.
Jump your car, motorcycle or even a boat!
The Cobra JumPack would be handy on any trip. On a road trip, you can easily tuck it into the glove box or console, and keep it fully charged with the included cigarette lighter charger. Flying somewhere? The JumPack will fit in your bag, and give you hours of power for just about any device. That would mean you can work, or use it to keep children’s entertainment fully juiced. This device would also be perfect to stash in a boat or RV, or even a motorcycle saddlebag for emergency power, or for use as a flashlight, or of course to boost any dead vehicle battery. While camping it was indispensable, and my friends were impressed at its small size, and big charging capabilities. Keeping a JumPack fully charged would also be super convenient in a power outage. You could use it at a cottage, cabin, or out on a boat… the possibilities are almost endless…..
The Verdict on Cobra JumPack
I need to get one of these. I try out a lot of gadgets and new tech, but this is one of the rare devices that is well proportioned, powerful, extraordinarily useful, and affordable. Never again will I be caught in a cold dark parking lot, begging jumper cables and a functioning battery from passing strangers. I also appreciate all the juice it holds for charging my iPhone, my camera, and iPad. As I said in the beginning, my teeny charger is fine in a pinch, but the JumPack is much more powerful and reliable. The Cobra JumPack does exactly what it says it does, it works very well, and it’s infinitely handy. It’s a must-have for anyone needing portable power on the go.