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”

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.

B&O Beoplay H9 ultra premium headphones review

Bang olufsen beoplay H9In a world where it’s not unusual to spend a couple hundred dollars on premium How fheadphones comes news that ultra premium headphones may be the next big thing.

Bang & Olufsen have brought out a pair of luxe wireless headphones that costs about three times what premium phones do. Do they sound three times as good or feel three times as comfortable? I received a pair of B&O Beoplay H9 headphones for testing and review for a few days to find out.

Get the B&O Beoplay H9 Headphones at Best Buy.

What makes B&O Beoplay H9 ultra-premium?Bang olufsen beoplay H9

When you get a premium product you expect it to look and feel special. The Beoplay H9 headphones arrived in a heavy box with plenty of lush padding inside. Right out of the box the luxe feel of the B&O Beoplay H9 is noticeable. The covering material feels super soft and supple, and it should since the ear cups are wrapped with ultra-soft lambskin. The test headphones I received are a camel-coloured leather with grey canvas accents that looks nicer than basic black (though black is also available) and the metal parts are a sleek brushed aluminum. The ear cups are plush and nicely squishy, thanks to memory foam cushioning. Leather wraps the outer head band too (while canvas lines the inside) and B&O says the skin will patina over time, as a fine leather bag would.

These headphones are fully wireless, and run off a Bluetooth connection that’s strong and seamless, though there is a wired option if your battery dies and you’re not able to recharge them. More on that below.

Set up of Bang & Olufsen Beoplay H9 headphones

I wrote recently about B&O’s A2 portable Wi-Fi speaker and praised the ultra simple set up. These headphones are exactly the same. With the push of one button, the headphones are put into Bluetooth pairing mode, and can be connected to your phone or device and even a computer or laptop with a click into the Bluetooth settings menu. No extra apps are needed, no fussing with settings, no need for multiple attempts. (While there is a Beoplay app that can be used with these devices, I found it wasn’t needed, as it doesn’t really have any features or controls to speak of. It’s more of a support portal.)

This article was published for Best Buy Canada.  Click here to read the full review.

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”

Ventev Mobile accessories & charging gadgets come to Canada

There’s a new provider of mobile and wireless accessories like cables, power banks and charging gadgets. Ventev, a US-based maker of gadgetry and smartphone gear, has arrived in Canada.

I recently had a chance to try out some of the gear, and was very impressed with its durability, sleek styling, simple design and versatility. Continue reading “Ventev Mobile accessories & charging gadgets come to Canada”

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.