Misfit Ray is pretty; but does it track well? Review

ray4Want to automatically track sleep, steps, calories and exercise, without having to worry about constant charging? The Misfit Ray might just be for you. The Ray arrived to my test center recently for a review, and I strapped it on right away to get started.

Misfit Ray is a sleek cylindrical fitness band that looks a lot more like a chic bracelet than a fitness tracker made for the gym; and that’s a good thing. I had high hopes for the device after having a positive experience with the Misfit Shine previously, but I was to be disappointed with the new device.

What Misfit Ray doesimg_3456

The Misfit Ray is a lot like other fitness trackers with some notable differences. For starters, if you often forget to charge your band, and your 5K run doesn’t get tracked, you’ll like the fact the Ray doesn’t need charging.  It uses a replaceable battery (three tiny ones, actually) that should give you six months of tracking and data, according to Misfit’s website. Sadly that was not the case for me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Ray also:

  • Automatically tracks steps, distance, calories, and light and restful sleep
  • Has vibration alerts for call and text notifications, movement reminders, and alarms
  • It’s swimproof, with anodized aluminum or stainless steel cylinder with multicolor LED progress display
  • Monitors sleep duration and quality
  • Shows steps taken and distance traveled
  • Allows for tagging of specific activities, like cycling or yoga
  • Tracks calories burned
  • Can be used to take selfies and control lights and music; Smart button enabled to control connected household devices

What’s in the box:

Inside the package you get the Misfit Ray, 1 Band (your choice of Sport or Leather), batteries and a Quick Start Guide. The leather watch-style band that came with my device was comfortable, easy to get on and off, and pretty.  Overall the device looked nice and felt very light on my wrist.  Almost immediately I stopped noticing it was there.

Getting Started with Misfit Ray

img_5351 img_5352 Installing the batteries was the hardest part of operating the Ray.  In the tiny pictograms in the Quick Start Guide, it appears as though a sharp tool is being used to pry the end cap off the Ray’s cylinder.  After much poking, prodding and gouging, I was mystified, since I could absolutely not get the device open.  An online tutorial helped explain the battery compartment is actually accessed by pinching the band as close to the cylinder as possible, then twisting it to the left.  Finally!  Armed with this new and more accurate info, the batteries slid into a small sleeve, and I was good to go.

Pairing Problems

As an owner of a Misfit Shine (read the review of that here) I figured pairing would be easy. I loaded up the app, and selected ‘devices’. Much to my disappointment, I was unable to pair the Ray.  It seemed to me to have something to do with the Shine, which was still on my account, blocking access to the Ray somehow.

After numerous attempts, I pulled the batteries out of the Shine (because there’s no turning it off) and started over with the Ray.  It finally connected!

Misfit Ray – Data & Statsimg_4645

I wore the Ray daily for several weeks, on the same wrist as my Fitbit Alta. After about the first week, I started comparing the data.  I saw immediately that the Ray was counting far fewer steps than the Fitbit.

I know my Fitbit is correctly calibrated for me, because I’ve adjusted it to my stride and counted along as I walked to verify it. For me my Fitbit is a very accurate benchmark with which to measure other devices.

No calibration, and step numbers were way off

img_4629The Ray was just not adding up for me.  Calorie counts I found were similar on both devices (but unless you’re inputting accurate calories with an app like MyFitnessPal, you’re likely just getting an average anyway).

Sleep seemed off a bit as well – sleep times for the Ray were actually overestimated, compared to the Fitbit numbers. The Ray clocked more sleep for me, by anywhere from 25 minutes to more than 50 minutes’ difference as compared to the Fitbit times.

Most concerning for me was the low step count, and no apparent way to adjust it. I couldn’t find any guides or help online in this area, so I reached out to my Misfit contacts to inquire if there is a way to calibrate the band to achieve more accurate results, however I wasn’t able to get an answer back even after several weeks.

App doesn’t give me what I want easily

The Misfit app was not my favourite either.  I found the focus on “points” instead of steps within the app confusing, and not tangible enough for me to take action. The number of steps is buried in the bottom right of the app screen, seemingly like it’s not as important as other data.

Accessing old data is hard

As I was writing this article I’d hoped to post a more detailled comparison of step counts between the Fitbit and the Ray, however the app only allows me to view my activity “points” when it came to historical data.  I couldn’t view my daily step counts like I can on Fitbit’s app.  Not very helpful for stats junkies or folks seeing concrete feedback. As a result, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the data was regularly incorrect.img_4772

Misfit Ray does other things too.. but…

Misfit knows it has to compete with other smarter devices like the Apple Watch, Fitbit and Jawbone, so it added some smart functionality.  There are message and app notifications for calls or texts, but other apps that play nice with the Ray aren’t likely to be on your must-have list of alerts; Skype, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, What’s App and Gmail are among the very short list of supported apps that will vibrate when an alert comes in.  However there’s no screen to check; alerts come in the form of a subtle coloured light on the top of the band. However I found it confusing trying to remember which coloured light corresponded to which app or service’s alert.

Batteries didn’t last .. or the device stopped working

Not really enjoying my overall Ray experience, I put the band away for a few weeks and then went to do some more testing.  I found I couldn’t wake the band up. Having only had it for about 3 months, I was surprised.  I pulled the batteries out and reinstalled them, tried waking the band, reinstalling the app, but the device was dead. It could be the batteries that came with this unit were duds, but by this point I wasn’t in love with the device enough to go and find new batteries, so I called it a day on the Ray.

Overall review of Misfit Ray

If you want a fitness band, do yourself a favour and get something other than the Misfit Ray. For the money, a Fitbit is more accurate, easier to use, and has more functionality and an easier to read and interpret app.

The Misfit Ray is pretty, but that’s it.  It’s all looks and not enough substance. It sells for  about $135 CAD/$99USD.

Smart PLAYBULB String lights perfect for holidays

Plaubulb string christmas lights smartChristmas lights have been boring for much of modern history.  They came in just red, green or white, they all looked the same, and they didn’t do much to incorporate themselves into people’s unique personal styles. That’s different now with the introduction of the PlayBulb String lights.

Playbulb: Smart LED holiday lights

These smart LED light strings give you smart functionality via a Bluetooth connection; you can turn them on or off with your smartphone, adjust colour to dozens of different subtler hues, you can set timers, or use a handful of special effects, all aotomatically.

Playbulb string is easy to use

I’m a fan of the Playbulb line of  lighting devices because they’re dead simple to use; plug them in, and check the app.  They’re likely already connected and show up in your app, but without all the fidgety set-up and configuration many other ‘smart’ lights require. You could even give these to older parents who aren’t super tech savvy, and they’ll be able to operate them easily  — and without crisis phones calls to you for tech support!

These lights come in a string of 10 meters/33 feet, with optional extensions sold separately. It’s worth noting you can only go to a max of 66 feet on any plug/outlet.

Gauging interest on Kickstarterimg_5231

Interestingly, I learned Playbulb is doing a Kickstarter campaign to get these lights to market, which I think is a very unique way to gauge customer interest in a new product.

“Our challenge here is to accurately estimate the required materials purchase for the first batch of mass production,” write the Playbulb folks on the campaign’s page, “KICKSTARTER is a perfect platform for us to test the market. We like to know how tech-lovers think about our new products. We need to hear your opinions so that we can keep enhancing our hardware and software. We also need your helps to spread out the message. With the fund we raise on KICKSTARTER, we will make materials purchase planning accordingly.”

Not surprisingly the campaign was over its goal in no time, and many of the kits are sold out (or about to be at the time of writing this).

Playbulb String works indoors or outdoors

After an afternoon of testing, I’m in love; the Playbulb line by Mipow works so well.  It’s easy, fun and very versatile since these lights can be use either indoors or outdoors.  They’re going to be a hit for upcoming holidays like Halloween (bright orange??) and definitely at Christmas.

mipow string water

mipow christmas mipow playbulb holiday string christmas light

 

LG Music Flow H3 speaker review

LG Music Flow H3 4All about the LG Music Flow H3 wireless portable speaker – Wireless portable speakers are popular because they can be placed in any room, they sound great, and often they’re easy to set up and use, integrating seamlessly into your life.  If only that were the case with the LG Musicflow H3 Smart Hi-Fi Audio speaker I have been reviewing since a unit was first shipped to me back in May.

Basics of the LG Music Flow H3 Speaker

The LG Music Flow H3 is a small, portable speaker.  It measures about 5” by 7” and pushes out 30 watts of sound. The speaker is heavy, which made me think it was solidly built, and a great user experience was ahead of me. The speaker comes in black or white, and requires just an AC power connection; you’re supposed to be able to control everything else through your smartphone or device. The speaker is supposed to let you play music, podcasts, or Google Cast streaming services (like TuneIn Radio, Pandora or Spotify) among other things.

Watch the short video review below, or click through HERE to read the full text of the review I did for Best Buy Canada.

 

Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ErinLYYC.

3 Lamps and lights perfect for camping

Lighting is important when you’re out in the wilderness. Flashlights are a must, and headlamps are handy, but you need options that aren’t just burning-the-eyes-out bright.

I tested three new lighting gadgets on a recent road trip through the northwestern US and found each of them handy.

Brunton Lightwave Amp Speaker & Lantern

When camping, you need to minimize gear, so it helps if you have gadgets that do double-duty. The Brunton Lightwave Amp is both a lantern and a portable speaker. The lantern part of it has a fully bright or dimmed white light, plus it connects to your smartphone so you can also change its colour to any hue you choose. The free app is also used to connect to the speaker that’s built into the base of the lamp. The audio quality isn’t what you’d call pristine, but for something you’re taking on the road or into the woods, it sounds just fine to my ears.

The lantern part is a good sized device; it’s abut the same size as a ‘standard’ Coleman lantern. I really liked the colour changing abilities of the lantern and often put it on a subtle purple, or red or blue, which seemed not to draw bugs. The brightest setting was enough to cook or even read by, while the dim setting cast a subtle glow.

NiteIze Mini Glowstick

img_3647This tiny light resembling a light sabre from Star Wars is light, portable and provides enough light for tasks that need more subtle illumination.  I found it infinitely handy for taking night photos, as it lights up the camera body well so I can read the buttons, without the bright eye-searing glare of a traditional white flashlight. The Glowstick base twists to turn it on and off and it has a long lasting LED bulb, so it won’t drain the battery too quickly. I used it on a two week roadtrip nightly and it’s still going strong. NiteIze says it’ll run 60 hours on the 4 included AG-3 batteries, which you can replace when they die. They come in several colours and for the whopping $3 they cost, you can get a set and hand them out to the family.img_3926

BONUS! I also was able to use these sticks to do some interesting night photos.  If you’ve ever heard of the steel wool light trick, you can do something similar with the Glowstick; just clip the included caribiner on one of these to a rope and spin it  for some fun photo opportunities!

Biolite NanoGrid multi-light kit

This genius device is two lights on one… well, maybe even three.  The nerve centre of the gadget is the small lantern. It has a soft rounded shape that distributes light evenly and without bright spots.  Then, in the flat base of the lantern, a directional flashlight that casts a bright beam over a good long distance. You can even have both ends of the lantern on at the same time.

The other part of the light that I absolutely love is a pair of overhead lamps that you can string on a clothesline or a tree to provide overhead light easily.  I found this section and its long braided cable very handy for suspending over a picnic table during food prep. It give you more of a flood of light as opposed to narrower glaringly bright areas with some camp lanterns. The NanoGrid is also available from Best Buy .

Biolite Campstove

rsz_biolite_recropBiolite’s super-versatile CampStove lets you cook, generate heat, or create your own portable power all with sticks, twigs and biomass that you can find at any camp spot.  The ultra-portable stove can boil water in about 6 minutes, and with different adaptive pieces (not included) you can even grill on it.  A handy light on a flexible gooseneck shaft helps you see what you’re doing in the dark, and it’s powered by the heat generated by the stove. It’s great for backpackers, or campers who aren’t ready or willing to invest in a big heavy Coleman-type stove yet.

Need to see for yourself how it works? Watch the video!


Do you know of a camping gadget or lighting option I should check out on my next visit to the forest? Let me know in comments below!

Follow Erin on Instagram and Twitter @ErinLYYC

Misfit Shine Fitness and Activity Monitor – Review

misfit shine
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
IMG_1157While 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 Displayshine lights
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 App
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. IMG_1996I 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.

Sleep Function
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.

Other Functions
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.

Battery

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.
MISFIT 44
The Verdict
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.misfit grab
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.

Misfit Shine is available for $99 on the company’s website, and for the same price on Future Shop’s site in Canada.

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.

Gadgets for Tech and Travel

ERIN FEB TECHThis month on Tech Talk on CTV, we looked at gadgets and gear that are perfect for travel, since it’s March Break/Winter Break season!

Spyder Commuter Power Pack

img_1168The Commuter is a 3-in-1 universal battery charger. It can be used in the car, by plugging it into the wall, or as a standalone power pack for on the go needs.The wall outlet and car charger end both fold into the battery pack so it stays sleek and compact when it’s not in use.

The Commuter is a perfect companion for travellers, since it weights a scant 4.5 oz or 128 grams, and you can charge from an AC wall outlet, via USB on your computer, or in the car. Plus it works with any smartphone or tablet.

Check out the full write up on the Spyder power pack on the blog here.

Mipow Power Tube 3000mipow power tube

This lipstick-sized tube is infinitely portable and gives your phone about one full charge. The feature that puts this one above others for me is that it comes with an Apple lightning cord hidden inside, meaning no tangled cables, and no forgetting one either! The tube comes in fun colours too. Get one from MiPow’s website.

Cable Cases & Wraps

We all need cables when we’re travelling; for powering everything from laptops, to phones, tablets, cameras and a host of other gadgets. Keep everything tangle-free and organized in a chic case. Levenger makes gorgeous soft leather cases with a variety of snap straps and zippered pockets to keep cords organized. The company also makes neat leather-wrapped cable ties that let you quickly tie up cables and stash them away. Big tabs let you find and grip them easily.

Nite Ize Cable wraps

These are like twist ties or pipe cleaners on steroids! Super bendy, but they’ll hold firm, these cable ties keep everything from earphones to power cords from getting tangles in your bag, on a flight or even in the car.

Parrot Zik3 Over Ear Headphones

Parrot Zik3 are an ideal pair of over ear headphones for traveling, thanks in particular to one of their great features; noise cancellation. These headphones, when paired to your smart phone or device, allow you to set different levels of noise canceling. For example, you can set them to block out any and all outside noise electronically. Meaning if someone else in the room is watching TV, kids are playing, or an airplane is droning on in the background, you can mute this outside noise and focus on your music, podcasts, TV, or whatever you’re listening to.

Similarly, if you do need to hear what’s going on outside those headphones, there’s a way to allow that sound in.  For more, read the full blog review.

For more tech, gadget or travel news don’t forget to Like my Facebook page and/or follow me on Twitter and Instagram @ErinLYYC

To enter the Samsung contest I mentioned today, please go to www.ctvcalgary.ca

ERIN TECH TALK FEB 2

 

Smart padlocks mean lost keys, forgotten combos are a thing of the past

img_0885-1I was late for a bike ride, and tearing apart my closet and a cabinet looking for the key to my bike lock. Since it was nowhere to be found, I was forced to buy a new lock, only to find the key in a pocket weeks later.

Fussing with lost keys or forgotten combinations for padlocks is frustrating and as you see it can also cost you money. That’s why I was glad to try out a new solution: a smart padlock that can open with a tap on your smartphone screen. I was sent two versions of smart locks called Locksmart by Dog and Bone.

Set Up of Dog & Bone Locksmart locks

Set up couldn’t have been faster. In literally about one minute and three clicks on the smart phone I had both locks set up and ready to use. The Locksmart locks pair very easily with the phone, in my case the iPhone 6 Plus, and I had absolutely no bugs getting the system set up. Children and seniors would have no difficulty getting these high-tech devices going either; they’re made for real people, not just tech junkies.

Two different sizes: Locksmart and Locksmart Mini

img_1046
Locksmart Mini.

There are two different sizes of Locksmart locks. The first is a much larger and heavier round padlock known simply as the Locksmart. This one is obviously designed for more security and durability and would probably be best used on a gate, shed, or door.

The other lock is slightly smaller and lighter, and it’s covered in a full silicone wrap. This one is dubbed Locksmart Mini. I feel like this lock would be better used on things like school lockers, cabinets, or even luggage in a pinch.

How Locksmart locks work

Since pretty much everyone in the world knows how a padlock operates, I’ll focus on the features that make these locks different. With no dials, and no keyholes to speak of, the only way to operate these locks is via your smart phone.

Once you have the Locksmart app downloaded you simply pair the lock to your phone and then each lock  will appear in a list inside the app.

When you want to unlock your lock, you just tap the unlock button on the screen. The lock will snap open instantly.

Add an extra layer of security to the app

If you want to add a layer of security, in case your phone should fall into the wrong hands, you can adjust the opening settings so that you will need to use your fingerprint (if this feature is available on your smart phone or tablet) to open the lock. Similarly, you can set a numerical pass code that must be entered on the phone before the lock can be opened.
This would be handy not only if your phone is lost or stolen, but if you want to keep children who may have access to your phone from being able to open certain locks.

If you haven’t been connected to the lock in a while, or your phone has been too far out of range, or you have the power save feature enabled in-app, the lock may ask to be re-connected to your phone. This is done simply by pushing a small rubber button in the bottom of the lock. This has happeneddog and bone to me a few times, but the re-connection happens in about one second, so there’s no delay, and no fussing.

Instantly the app will tell you the lock is connected and the lock will pop open when you order it to. To lock it, simply snap the shank or shackle back into place.

Share access to visitors or repair people, or revoke it

Perhaps your lawn care guy has just arrived and needs access to your shed. You’re not home and neither are your keys, but that’s no problem, because from directly with in the app, you can grant access to anyone you want instantly. You can also revoke that access at any time.

The lock smart system will also keep track of who accessed each lock and when, so you can keep tabs on items you are trying to keep secure.

img_1051Winter-Ready: Works to -20

One of the main questions I had about these locks were whether they could handle our Canadian weather. Dog & Bone says these locks are good up to about -20°C. The locks are also weatherproof and can withstand rain, hail, snow, or heat up to 70°C.

Unlike another Bluetooth smart padlock I’ve tried out, these locks have notched shanks, allowing them to click shut with conviction. Some other bluetooth padlocks have smooth shanks that make me wonder if they’d be very easy to pry open. But not the Locksmart line; they don’t budge until given the digital command.

Batteries are rechargeable

You shouldn’t find yourself  recharging these padlocks very frequently. Powered with a lithium ion battery, Dog & Bone says a single charge will get you about two years of use, which equals about 3,000 opens before you will need to recharge it. The batteries are easily recharged via a micro USB plug in the bottom of the lock. A small battery indicator within the app give you ample warning when you need to think about re-charging.

The verdict: Locksmart by Dog & Bone

I loved these locks. They’re very convenient, extraordinarily easy to use and set up, and even when they go into Powersave mode and disconnect from your Bluetooth, they can reconnect in an instant.

Sharing access with others couldn’t be easier, so you’re never going to have to turn away a tradesperson, or neighbor needing to borrow some tools.

I have already transitioned to using these locks on our front and back gates, because they’re so easy and durable. I’d definitely recommend these to anyone needing a padlock.

Locksmart Locks are available through Dog & Bone’s website. Locksmart (large) is $89USD and Locksmart Mini is $69USD.

img_0910

Decorating with light: Playbulb Sphere & Candle review

Every so often, we all get the itch to redecorate. Depending on your budget and circumstances, that itch may or may not be able to get scratched. But if new furniture is out of the question, or a new paint job seems too tedious, there are still ways you can spruce up your home, and even give it a color makeover, without spending a lot, without moving furniture, and without needing to lay tarps all over the house.

MiPow is a new brand I’ve recently been introduced to, but already fallen in love with. They make a variety of smart lighting products, from simple portable lamps, to their well-known Playbulb light bulb that also doubles as a speaker, to LED task lighting, and even some other fun products too.

MiPow PlayBulb Candle

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I have absolutely fallen in love with this tiny LED candle. Not much bigger than any candle you would find in a store, this version is completely electronic, so it’s ultra safe for homes with pets or small children.

img_1026The candle is controlled via Bluetooth on MiPow’s Playbulb app on your smartphone, allowing you to turn the unit off and on, adjust colours, and even use special effects like a flicker or a color morph.

The company didn’t stop there when it came to making this candle ultra useful. If you need to, turn the candle upside down, and set a real tea light in the hollow in the base. You’ll still get the beauty of a colorful base, with a real candle flickering on top.

Also super clever? You can actually blow on this digital LED candle to turn it off, or even to turn it on.

Are you the type who prefers scented candles? MiPow’s thought of that too. The candle comes with three scented rings you can swap in to give it that extra sensory dimension.

Easy to adjust and use

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This candle was so easy to use. It connects easily, and works beautifully. Powered by 3 AA batteries, I find myself using it all the time because it allows me to place it in locations I wouldn’t dream  of using a real candle. I can place it under the glass top of my side table or even on the floor since there’s no heat and no flame. But I also use it on the coffee table, the dining table and even as a nightlight.
If you like to set a nice dinner table with matched napkins, plates and colours, the Playbulb Candles would be perfect since you can dial up whatever hue you like for your special occasion; matching napkins, plates or even the food.

MiPow Playbulb Sphereimg_1039

Speaking of special occasion lights, MiPow has another light that’s a step up above plastic LEDs. The Playbulb Sphere is a beautiful frosted glass globe lamp that rests on a small base when charging but it can be moved anywhere for a portable colorful glow. You can get 6-8 hours of light on a single charge.

The Playbulb Sphere works beautifully on the small side tables, or even as a chic dining table centerpiece since it’s only about 15cm in diameter.

Tap to change


The Sphere lamp can be adjusted via the app on your smart phone, allowing you to change color, dim the light, or even apply a handful of special effects. If your smart phone is not nearby and you want to change colours, you can tap the glass surface of the lamp to adjust it.

The Sphere is also water resistant so you can use it outside without worry.

Playbulb Sphere is another very clever lighting product I love and used constantly during testing. Whether it was to create a soft glow for a dinner party or gathering, extra task lighting, or even as a nightlight in a guest bedroom I found a multitude of uses for this pretty piece of tech.

Overall impression of the Playbulb Sphere & Candle

I really enjoyed both these products in the Playbulb  line. I found them very easy to set up, easy to adjust with the app, versatile,  fun to play with and quite durable. If I had one piece of constructive criticism for either of these devices, it would be they could each be a bit brighter on on maximum setting.

If you’re looking to add some lighting to specific areas of your home and want to experiment with some cool new technology, either of these lights would be perfect. These are lights I would definitely purchase to put in my home, and they’re inexpensive enough that they would make a fantastic gifts (great for a baby gift or housewarming) for others too.

Where to find:
Playbulb Sphere is $59 at Best Buy  and the Playbulb Candle is $24 at Best Buy (or 3pack for $60).

I have reviews coming too on more products in the Playbulb line, like the Garden light, Comet task lighting and the Playbulb Lightbulb/Speaker. Watch the blog for more.

12 Things I Love About Calgary #YYC

Calgary can be  a tough town to adapt to–mainly because of the climate. But there ARE  many things here I’ve learned to LOVE. Here’s just a few.

1. The Ruins; Lindsay’s Folly— Calgary has 2 sets of cool ruins. The crumbled bricks of a man’s incomplete and ruined mansion-cum-money pit alongside the Elbow (Lindsay’s Folly), and The Rundle Ruins (the old sandstone Glenmore Hospital) near 12th Ave and 6th St. Only doorways and arches are left, but they’re gorgeous. Click HERE to read an article I wrote for Avenue Magazine on the ruins and their future.

Photo: http://members.shaw.ca/bvinge/calgary11.htm
Lindsay’s Folly. Photo: http://members.shaw.ca/bvinge/calgary11.htm

2. Crave Cupcakes. If you’ve never had one DON’T START! Luscious icing with spot-on flavours (crushed strawberry!) and the moistest cake this side of the 100th meridian.

Photo: crave.ca
Photo: crave.ca

3. Rene Thibault: an Alberta artist with an amazing eye for colour and detail. Sometimes his work looks like it’s been photographed, rather than painted. Thibault paints a lot of mountain landscapes, so our canvas often doubles as a window.

Art: Rene Thibault
Art: Rene Thibault

4. Charcut Roast House; for meat-loves only!  Top Chef Canada contestant Connie DeSousa and partner John Jackson run the show here.  Amazing what they can do with food.  Some past faves include the Chicken-skin Caesar Salad, White Beans with Nettle Pistou, and the house made poutine.

Photo: charcut.ca
Photo: charcut.ca

5.  The Cookbook Co. Great food and ingredients, amazing kitchen tools ( I love my Cuisinart cylindrical ice cream scoop!) and a wine shop to round out the meal preparations shopping. ‘Nuff said.

6.  J Webb Wines; great selection of unique wines, spot-on recommendations from interested, smart staff, and a tasting bar that’s always open.

8. The Calgary Stampede Rodeo; a die hard city girl,  I’ve never considered myself to be the least bit “country”.  But when the Stampede rolls around, I get my cowgirl on!  The rodeo is chock full of amazing athletes, action, and a beautiful outdoor setting, taking full advantage of Calgary’s limited summer sunshine.

9. Peonies. We may only have summer for a couple short weeks, but the peony plants take full advantage. They bloom big, long and colourful, and are always an eye catcher.  20130521-154321.jpg

10. Manuel Latruwe Take n Bake Frozen pastries ; this downtown cafe is phenomenal.  Glossy cakes fill the display cases, and the espresso is some of the best in town (take a bag home!), but my fave is grabbing a pack of take home chocolate croissants.  Take them out of the freezer, let them rise overnight, and bake first thing Saturday morning.  Weekends never had it so good!

11.  The Peace Bridge; Let’s be honest.  EVERYONE hated the idea when it was rolled out.  probably because of its lack of public consultation, multi-million dollar price, and construction mistakes that delayed opening.  But now that we have it, it’s a gorgeous, modern landmark.  Beautiful both during the day and night. Future city icon.

Photo: erinLYYC
Photo: erinLYYC

12.   The Bow Building & Wonderland; tallest building in the city now, it took years to put up and included a massive 2-day concrete pour.  Home to one of the city’s myriad oil companies, the building is beautiful and soaring. The Wonderland sculpture out front is constantly surrounded by people.  A giant metal-mesh girl’s head it looks different in every different kind of weather.  And that can happen all in one day in Calgary!

20130521-154233.jpg 20130521-154249.jpg

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.
 IMG_4774
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