Henge Gravitas stand for iPad & iPhone – dual purpose docking

henge grvitas dock best apple I love docks for my phone.  They keep the device within easy reach, allow you to see the screen, and get it all charged up at the same time. The worst problem with a docking station is that you need two hands to remove it so you don’t end up dropping something on the floor. Recently I had a chance to test out a brand-new dock that’s a bit different. Henge Docks Gravitas dock is ultra heavy weight for single-hand operation, and it can not only hold and charge my iPhone but my iPad too.

One dock for iPhone and iPad – the Gravitas

The Henge Docks Gravitas is about the size of a fist, and it really packs a punch.  It weighs 2.5 lbs so it’s not going to tip over of slide off anything. That’s because it’s made of a sturdy zinc alloy that’s is 265% denser than aluminum. That allows it to be very small, but hold a lot of weight, and even use it one-handed.I was skeptical that this would work, but after testing I found it’s quite easy to use one-handed, thanks to its solid weighty base.

The sleek brushed metal finish also makes it chic and minimalist for my home.

henge grvitas dock best appleThe Gravitas dock is built for Apple devices only (sorry Android friends!) and can accommodate a variety of iPhone sizes with a set of included liners.  For me, I loved the fact I could swap my iPhone 6+ and my iPad (both still in their respective cases) in and out of the device without fuss. This dock is super versatile.

 

 

24 hours at the edge of the world with Samsung Galaxy S8

How do you know if a smartphone can be right for you? Many people get their first hands-on experience with a new phone while standing in a retail store or browsing online. It’s not a very elegant way to decide whether or not you’re going to make a commitment to something that will be in your hands and part of your most intimate moments likely for the next 2 to 3 years. Ideally, instead, you’d get to hold it and get a real feel for it, try out the camera, interact with the device and its apps, and use it as if it were your own before you decide. I had a rare chance to do exactly that with the Samsung Galaxy S8 before its public launch. But this was no ordinary review opportunity. Continue reading “24 hours at the edge of the world with Samsung Galaxy S8”

Fugoo Style Bluetooth speaker review: wireless audio never sounded so good

There’s hardly a home or office that doesn’t have at least one wireless Bluetooth speaker these days. (Or is that just me? Do non-tech bloggers have 4 portable wireless speakers?) Portable wireless audio has become the standard for listening to music in the home. There are larger more sophisticated versions like Sonos or Bose, but there are also many choices when it comes to smaller more portable speakers. Fugoo Style is one of those speakers. But how well does it perform and is it worth the price?

Features of Fugoo Style wireless speaker

Fugoo makes a variety of Bluetooth speakers in varying sizes, different levels of portability and several styles. The Style speaker is one of the chicest, but its good looks conceal a tough and durable interior. Fugoo says the speaker has a “fiber-reinforced resin shell and waterproof cloth covering that gives this speaker the protection it needs to last long past cocktail hour.”

The speaker is about the size of a small clutch purse or a portable coffee mug, and though it’s lightweight, it doesn’t feel cheap; it feels like it has some durability and heft behind it. it has a built in speakerphone and connects with Siri or Google Now.

It also has a changeable jacket, which is removed by pushing a release tab on the base. Without its skin, it looks very industrial, and still cool. Keeping the jacket on provides some measure of water or spill protection, so it’s probably best kept on.

Setting up Fugoo Style is easy

Setting up the Fugoo speaker couldn’t have been simpler; the first time you’ll turn it on, head to your device’s Bluetooth menu, and click on the speaker, which should have appeared in the Bluetooth devices list.  If not, you can touch the Bluetooth button next to the speaker’s power button and it should pop right up accompanied by a helpful and suave sounding male digital assistant’s voice.  I was connected and playing music in about 10 seconds. I love devices where set up is simple and flawless, so Fugoo gets high marks for this.

Fugoo Style Sound quality & volumeFugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speaker

It can be hard to find good quality sound in a small Bluetooth speaker.  Fortunately the Fugoo Style sounded great from the get-go. The device, thought it looks like a single speaker, actually hides 4 speakers inside its housing; two in each face and two others in the ends.

Fugoo says, “the FUGOO Portable Bluetooth Speaker has six symmetrically-placed drivers. The two tweeters deliver clean highs, two mid/sub drivers give midrange punch, and two passive radiators help bring out a full, deep bass. Together, these six drivers deliver a clean sound pressure level, filling large rooms and outdoor areas with rich, immersive sound.”

I definitely found the speaker powerful and room filling, and I tested it with several styles and genres of music.

My test Playlist with the Fugoo Style

► The Roots (Don’t Say Nuthin’)
► Pharell (Beautiful)
► Dave Matthews Band (American Baby)
► City and Colour (Comin’ Home)
► Robbie Williams (I will talk and Hollywood will listen)
► Tragically Hip (Poets)
► Kiev (Be Gone Dull Cage)

The bass was solid, and the high end didn’t sound tinny or buzzy. I was able to crank it to 2/3 volume without any noticeable distortion. At about 3/4 volume I did notice a raspiness creeping in to the vocals, but overall the sound was pretty good. The sound quality overall has quite a bit of depth and the music sounded true.Fugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speaker

The bass on Don’t say Nuthin and Poets was true and thumping, the vocals on Beautiful and Be Gone Dull Cage sounded soft and smooth, while the picking and the snare on American Baby were resonant and real. The acoustic guitar on Comin’ Home was hauntingly real. Subtle flute and clarinet, and the big symphonic drums on my Robbie Williams selection was delicately replicated, while Robbie’s voice cut through with vibrancy. I was quite impressed with the amazing sound quality I got out of this little speaker.

Fugoo adds, “the upward tilt of the speakers puts everyone in the sweet spot. So simply place your speaker in the center of a room and fill any space with sharp highs, bassy lows, and all-around premium audio.” I can’t disagree.

Does Fugoo Style have good battery life?

Many portable wireless Bluetooth speakers have a battery life in the 10-20 hour range. Fugoo Style boasts an astounding 40 hours of battery life. That’s well above many other similar speakers, so this gadget is a great choice if you’re heading to a campground or on a road trip for a weekend. I tested the speaker for about two weeks and never charged it once.

Bluetooth connectivity is outstanding on Fugoo Style

Fugoo style poetable wireless bluetooth speakerThe speaker uses Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity which Fugoo says will give you solid connectivity up to 33 feet. In my tests I carried my iPhone 6 Plus all over the 1000 square foot main floor and didn’t experience any breakup of the Bluetooth signal. Heading downstairs (where I have seen digital signal breakup on other speakers) the Fugoo Style didn’t miss a beat. Again, I was impressed.

Overall review of Fugoo Style portable wi-fi speaker

This is an absolutely fantastic Bluetooth speaker. I have to say I wasn’t expecting very much from something this small and with such an eye to style, so I was happily blown away by the outstanding audio quality and durability. The dead-easy set up also gets top marks from me.

The 40 hour battery life is also a huge plus for me. I’ve been using it in my bathroom when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. I used to just use the small crappy speaker on my iPhone, but the easy connectivity, great sound, and compact size means it can sit in the bathroom for weeks on end and provide me with high-quality audio before it ever needs to be recharged.

I think the waterproof cover is also a great thing to have since you just never know what can happen at a party or gathering; a little insurance is nice.

In short, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this speaker to anyone who’s looking for a portable Bluetooth audio solution.

 The Fugoo Style costs $139USD or about $185CAD. Get more info here.

 

 

BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock review; it wakes with light, can call you an Uber

Beddi glow smart alarm lightCan BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock help me wake up better?

There are few sounds that irk me as much as the screech of my alarm clock. It goes off each day at 2:50am so I can snooze it a few times before I finally crawl bleary-eyed and groggy from my warm covers at 3:30 to head to work. Believe it or not, snoozing like that actually helps me feel like I got ‘extra sleep’. (Does anyone else do that?)

I’ve always hated the sound of ringing alarms. I use the radio sometimes, but I find it disconcerting to hear people talking in my room before I’m fully conscious and know what the hell is going on. It’s all the more unsettling when I realize the radio is tuned to Coast to Coast AM and they’re talking about a phenomenon of people waking up with the demonic Hat Man shadow-person standing over their beds. Shudder.

Better, more gentle wake up?Beddi glow smart alarm light

There has to be a better, more gentle way to wake up, and I think I may have found it.
I was recently sent a BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock for testing and review. BEDDI Glow allows you to wake with a simulated sunrise light, your own music, or FM radio. It’s also got a host of other neat features that makes it pretty handy.

BEDDI Glow alarm Features

The BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock gives you options for your wake up. I’ve been using the simulated sunrise feature and the ‘relax’ sound effect. More on how it works and how I like it in a sec.

The clock is about the size of a ‘traditional’ alarm clock, and it’s got a time/display panel and a speaker on top of the face, and a light panel on the bottom. The brightness can be adjusted so it won’t disturb you. A series of buttons on the top can be configured to perform the tasks you choose; from turning the light panel on, to playing audio traffic or weather info, to playing various white noise effects. Each button cam perform multiple functions since it can support a single tap, double tap or a long hold. It works with iOS8 and above, and most phones with Android 4.3 or above.

A neat feature I like; if you unplug the clock, or the power goes out, the time will reset itself automatically once you reconnect.  No annoying flashing time, and no ‘tap tap tap tap tap’ to try to reset it.

Mood Light

I love coloured lighting. Particularly as the day winds down, it’s nice to have a soft warm glow to greet you as you head for bed. BEDDI Glow’s Mood Light feature lets you enjoy a soft rainbow glow that shifts colours across the spectrum.

Using the app and settings for the mood light, you can choose a fade effect, or a rainbow transition. To stick it on one colour, go into the mood light settings, select the ‘normal’ and it will give you a colour spectrum to choose from.  It’s not easy to get to, but it’s there making the mood light cool, fun and functional.

White Noise for sleepBeddi glow smart alarm light

I find white noise most helpful on airplanes or in waiting lounges where upset children are on the rampage. I’ve not really used white noise to get to sleep. Since it’s available on the BEDDI Glow, I thought I’d give it a try. There are 10 white noise settings from rainforest, waterfall, and ocean, to motor, fan and shower. For the most part they sound realistic and were enjoyable. I found myself gravitating to the ‘shower’ setting as it sounded most like rain falling outside a window. You can choose how long to leave the noise running and it will shut off automatically.

I though the ability to use the white noise settings for wake up sounds was something that was missing from the app. I’d much rather wake up to the soft sounds of a storm than a beep… but perhaps most folks would sleep right through them?

Get traffic & weather info as you wake up

Beddi glow smart alarm lightThis is a pretty cool feature. Using the app you set your location to get accurate weather data and current conditions will display in the app dashboard. It’s very simplistic showing only the temperature and a single weather icon. I think having the ability to click into the weather settings and get 3 or 5 day forecast info, or even a forecast for the rest of the day would be helpful. I’m surprised that’s not already built into the app.

The traffic feature takes your current location as its input for the weather info (or a different location you choose) and then lets you add a ‘destination’ address and the time you’d like to arrive for work. In the app it will display the drive time for that time and destination. You can also configure the alarm so that when the alarm goes off, it will tell you the weather and traffic info. Pressing one of the smart buttons can also deliver the same info, delivered by a friendly robotic voice.

Waking with Sunrise light & gentle sound effects

The sunrise setting is perhaps my favourite thing about the clock. The light can be set to come on gradually over time (from 5-30 minutes) or to come on a minute before the alarm.I set mine at 15 minutes and found it was enough to help me wake.

It would be fun to be able to wake up to the colours of the mood light, but I guess that’s not really the point…

I use the ‘relax’ sound effect to wake me combined with the sunrise light. The alarm goes off, softly at first, then it gradually increases until I hit snooze, then the cycle starts over. By the time the sound starts, the light is already on, so it helps me adjust to waking up. It also makes it harder to just go back to sleep since the room has brightened.

BEDDI Glow also has the ability to set multiple alarms on different days so you can have one wake up time for weekdays and another for weekends or early meetings. Smart!

Adjustable snooze bar

The snooze bar settings can be adjusted to give you anywhere from 1 to 10 more minutes of sleep, or it can adjust itself in decreasing time intervals all on its own.

Save outlets! USB Charging is built in

BEDDI Glow has 2 built-in USB ports in the back of the device, so you can charge phones and tablets without taking up valuable outlet space. It’s smart and convenient. There’s also an aux jack for those that might need it.

Configurable app dashboard

One of the things I liked about this device is that I can configure the dashboard for the alarm clock to include information, tasks, and shortcuts for things I need. In my app I have alarm settings, weather and traffic information as well as the white noise control. There are also a series of buttons along the bottom of the dashboard that allow you to instantly play audio from the phone to the Bluetooth speaker, to turn the white or mood lights on or off, or set a timer.

For the most part the app is very intuitive and easy to use, though a few of the settings are buried deep within menus and sub menus. It takes a bit of exploring around the app to get to know where those settings are.

Connect Spotify and UberBeddi Glow Uber smart sleep light clock alarm

Since the clock is connected to your smartphone, you can use it as a Bluetooth speaker to play music or podcasts, or have music set to be your wake-up. BEDDI Glow connects with Spotify (premium accounts only) and Apple Music too to give you your own personal music experience if that’s what you prefer.

I found the fact that the BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock can call you an Uber to be a bit weird. It’s not a service that I’d use (if I did need a ride after waking up I’d probably just use the app on my phone so I could track the driver) but I’d be interested to hear what others think about that.

Once you’ve logged into your Uber account with BEDDI, you can configure one of your smart buttons to call you an Uber with a single press of a button. I think that’s a bit dangerous, since in my sleepy haze I’d be liable to accidentally call myself a ride and not even realize it. The clock will then alert you when your ride arrives.  Talk about high tech and easy!

Overall review of BEDDI Glow – It’s AWESOME

After several weeks of testing I can confidently say that I love this alarm clock.

I love how many options there are for you to choose precisely how you wake up. The sunrise setting is one of my favorites and I find it helps ease me into my day. Since I’m a huge fan of colored lighting, the fact that it has mood light built in is also a huge plus.

I think the integration with local weather and traffic information is also genius; it’s the kind of information I like to have, but rarely have time to go looking for as I’m rushing around trying to get ready. Having it spoon-fed to me first thing a handy time saver.

I’ve also been enjoying the white noise option and find it quite relaxing.

In short, the BEDDI Glow Smart alarm clock works precisely as it should and the features are easy to configure and operate. I highly recommend this device if you’re in the market for a newer, smarter alarm clock and a better wake up experience overall.

BEDDI Glow sells for about $80USD /$107CAD. Get more info on it here.

Have you Subscribed to my YouTube Channel yet?

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Or use the Subscribe button on my main page (or just over to the right–> right here… above the search bar) to get all the best tech & gadget news right to your YouTube account with a single click. Continue reading “Have you Subscribed to my YouTube Channel yet?”

New Playbulb Solar made for pool & outdoors

Start dreaming of summer now. Playbulb has a brand new smart light that lets you decorate your pool, pond or yard with multi-coloured light. It’s the newly launched Playbulb Solar. Continue reading “New Playbulb Solar made for pool & outdoors”

Heads Up display review: You’ll love Hudway Glass but hate its partner apps

We may not have self driving cars yet, but there are other ways to improve and streamline the driving experience. I recently received a sample of Hudway Glass. This compact plexiglass panel allows you to turn your smartphone into a heads-up display for your car. Continue reading “Heads Up display review: You’ll love Hudway Glass but hate its partner apps”

Rowkin wireless earbuds are Apple Airpods competitor

Ever since Apple announced it was removing the headphone jack from its new iPhones, the world is going crazy for completely wireless earphones. Apple’s Airpods are both a trendsetter and the gold standard when it comes to wireless headphones or earbuds. But plenty of competitors have come on the market to compete with them. Most notably, Samsung released its IconX headphones for Android phones and devices. But there’s also another option. Rowkin makes a competing set of earbuds it markets as “the world’s smallest”. While Rowkin wireless earbuds are definitely small, and cleverly designed with a rechargeable case, how well do they hold up during real-life testing, and how do they compare to Apple or Samsung’s models? I received a pair of Rowkin earbuds for testing and review. Here’s what I found after spending several weeks with them.

Continue reading “Rowkin wireless earbuds are Apple Airpods competitor”

Ring Stick Up Camera Review

If you’ve ever wanted to watch over your property, you know security systems can be complicated and expensive. But things are simplified with the arrival of the Ring Stick Up Camera. Continue reading “Ring Stick Up Camera Review”

New Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 – reviewing mini photo printer

While most of the photos we take stay locked forever on our smartphones, it’s now getting easier to print them at home. In part one of a three part series here on the blog, we’ll take a look at some of the gadgets out there that will print photos for you. First up, the Fujifilm Instax Share printer.

Testing the Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 photo printer

Fujifilm has recently upgraded its pocket photo printer, the Instax Share, to make numerous improvements; the new model is known as the SP-2. It prints mini size photos only, that measure 62mm x 46mm. I had a chance to test this device for several weeks, and here’s what I found. I previously reviewed the Instax Share SP-1, and you can read that review too.

Set up wasn’t intuitive

Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 printer photo photography erinLYYC review
The Instax Share app interface

Setting up the Instax Share printer wasn’t very intuitive. With the printer charged, and the app downloaded, you might think you can just open the app and print. Not so. In the initial set up, you select which type of printer (sp-1 OR sp-2) you’d like to use. But after that it doesn’t tell you where to go or how to move forward with setup.

How to  set up and connect Fujifilm Instax Share

Fortunately for me, I’ve set up enough Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices to know that at this point, I needed to exit out of the Fujifilm app, and go to the phone’s ‘settings’ menu. Select ‘Wi-Fi’, then switch the printer on.

At this point you should see Fujifilm/Instax/Share or some combination of those words pop up as a Wi-Fi choice. Select it, then once it’s connected, you can close settings and return to the app. By now you should see the new printer in the app, if you don’t click ‘Connect and print’ and the app should connect.

Once the set up process is complete, printing is ultra easy. Simply select the photos icon in the app or take a new photo. Once you’ve chosen what you want, select “connect and print”. There are several other printing options, but we’ll get to those in a bit.

Constant re-connection

Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 printer photo photography erinLYYC review
The difference in prints from Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 (photos on the left) and Polaroid (photos at right).

Annoyingly, the printer will go to sleep after a few minutes, so it’s important to note if you left it unattended for a period of time, you may need to turn it back on and reestablish the Wi-Fi connection before you can connect again. This involves basically repeating part of the set up process each time you want to print. I find this a huge pain. You can’t just turn the printer on an pop out a few prints, and because the printer automatically goes to sleep after about 5 minutes it’s a constant on/off/reconnect process.

Fun new films – but who owns Polaroid film technology?

The photos printed on the Fujifil Instax Share SP-2 are on a retro-style ‘Polaroid’ frame. Fujifilm now has this technology, though Fujifilm rep Florence Pau tells me, “Fujifilm has a long history with instant film and Instax has no affiliation with Polaroid brand or technology. Essentially, the borders are there to seal the film.”
Polaroid was more blunt when I asked them why Polaroid cameras don’t use their original iconic film. Stephanie Agresti told me in an email, “Polaroid does not presently own the previous film technology. Polaroid products now integrate Zink Zero Ink technology to produce images instantly.”Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 printer photo photography erinLYYC review

Since my last test run with an Fujifilm Instax Share printer there are a variety of new instant films that have been released; all of them are mini sized, similar to what you might get from a photo booth. Available in 10 packs, you can now get printed borders on the film, including stripes, a colourful checkerboard (called ‘stained glass’), film with XO XO on it, or in new monochrome black and white, among just a few. While I thought these were a bit gimmicky initially, once the photos were printed out, they had a really nice unique quality to them. I kind of got attached to the stained glass frame.

Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 printer photo photography erinLYYC reviewCan you swap film or cartridges on the Instax Share?

The films come in plastic boxes that clip into the printer by opening a wide door in the printer’s body. You would think that makes it easy to swap cartridges back and forth, and that there’d be no worry about exposing the film too early. Turns out that’s not the case.
I swapped a few cartridges back and forth in the printer. Each time I’d make a swap, the printer would spit out a new blank photo, essentially wasting one of your precious photos. The ensuing print jobs came out with white streaks across the film, or otherwise appeared overexposed.

I checked with Fujifilm directly and they confirmed my findings; film cannot be switched back and forth. You must use an entire cartridge until it’s empty or risk ruined film and wasted money.

So the bottom line is, while you might think it’s possible to switch films and cartridges, you really can’t.

Fujifilm Film cost and print qualityFujifilm Instax Share SP2 printer photo photography erinLYYC review

Film packs come with 10 prints per pack and cost anywhere from $13 to $24, so it pays to shop around. The prints use high resolution ( 800×600 dots at 320dpi ) files to print crisp, clear photos, even if they are quite small.

Mercifully, there are no ink cartridges to worry about in this printer, and that’s because the photos develop on the paper itself. If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember original Polaroid instant prints that popped from the camera blank, then developed over a few minutes. These work exactly the same way.

Other options for photo printing

There are plenty of options in the Fuji Instax Share app for improving, changing or playing around with your printed photos.

There are filters you can add to the photo (black and white, sepia), or seasonal frames. You can also add text boxes over part of the photo or crop it square, or print two photos on one print. I found that kind of useless, as the images are so tiny, most detail is lost. There are also enhancements you can make to less than stellar snaps to improve their quality.

Check marks on the photo grid in the app helpfully lets you know which ones you’ve printed so there won’t be any accidental duplicates.

Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 printer photo photography erinLYYC reviewPrint speed -Fujifilm Instax Share SP2

The Instax Share SP2 prints pretty quickly, once you’re connected. Fuji says, “when users send an image to the “Instax SHARE Smartphone Printer SP-2” via wireless LAN, they can get photos in just 10 seconds,” and that was about my experience with it too. Plenty fast enough for me.

Battery life

The Instax Share  SP2 has a rechargeable battery which uses a micro USB cable. Fuji says the battery life on the printer will last about 100 prints, which could be weeks depending on how often you’re using the device. During my two-plus weeks of testing, and printing about 30 photos, I certainly never needed to recharge it. A battery indicator also gives you a heads up on power status.

Overall review of Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 photo printer

Of all the mini photo printers I’ve tried, I like the prints from this device the most. I like the Polaroid style border, I think the new artsy borders are fun and I like that there are many print options, though I didn’t find I used them very much.

I think the setup interface could function better, as I believe this will be very frustrating for people with less tech savvy. I also found it quite annoying that the printer goes to sleep so quickly and then requires constant reconnection. That aside, the user interface is simple to navigate and easy to use. The various filters and add-ons are also easy enough to manipulate.

The printer operates absolutely silently, which is nice, and the battery lasts a long time.
The Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 is available in gold or silver, and sells for about $199 at the Source, Best Buy, and London Drugs.