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. Continue reading “B&O Beoplay H9 ultra premium headphones review”

IllumiBowl motion-activated toilet night light review

This light couldn’t be more fun and functional.  IllumiBowl’s toilet night light is just that; a way for you to find your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, without the need to turn on harsh bright overhead lighting.
An alert reader asked me to check this light out and I have to say that while initially I thought it was kind of silly, now I love it. Continue reading “IllumiBowl motion-activated toilet night light review”

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”

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”

Beauty gadget review – Curl Secret by Conair

Curl Secret Conair ErinLYYCIt’s a mighty odd looking device for a curling iron. The Curl Secret by Conair (also labelled on the box as Infinity Pro) arrived to my tech test center recently, and I’ve been trying it out.

You’ve probably seen this gadget advertised (As seen on TV!); it looks kind of like a giant lollipop, or a bulbous weapon of some sort.

Despite its distinctive shape, the Curl Secret from Conair promises lush bouncy curls with ease.  Does it live up to the hype? I have naturally straight hair and have lots of experience with many kinds of styling tools, so my review will focus on those parameters. You might have a different experience if you are a neophyte with naturally curly hair.

Video review of Conair Curl Secret

Figuring out the Curl Secret

The Curl Secret definitely took some getting used to.  I consider myself pretty adept with curling irons and wands and even using a flat iron to curl my hair, but the Curl Secret works like nothing I’ve ever tried before.Curl Secret Conair ErinLYYC

You clamp the device on a 1/2 to 1″ section of dry hair. The device pulls hair into a round heated chamber, and warms it at the same time it wraps the hair around the inner barrel. When the timer beeps, your hair is ready, you open the clamp, and your beautifully curled hair falls free.

Important note

The opening of the curl chamber must always be facing your head , no matter what side you’re working on. That’s important, because if you mix this up, as I did on one of my early tries, your hair gets stuck. Really stuck. More on that later.

For the most part, the device is easy to use.  It helps enormously if your hair is brushed, so it’s smooth and free of tangles. Then it slips into the chamber easily, and will fall out with ease.

Curl quality of Conair Curl Secret

conair curl secret review erinlyyc
A freeze frame from my video showing rather random curls from the Conair Curl Secret

I found the curls to be rather loose for my hair texture and length, but then I changed some of the settings on the Curl Secret. There are 3 timer settings and 2 heat settings which are supposed to provide may different variations on curl, from light waves to tighter spirals. I found (not surprisingly) that the curl was tightest and lasted longest on high heat and for the longest time. The Curl Secret definitely gave me curls that lasted well into the next day.

conair curl secret review erinlyyc
Care must be taken to get uniform curls using the Conair Curl Secret Infinity.

The problem I had with the device’s curl quality is that it’s quite unpredictable. If you’re not careful to use uniform pieces of hair, and hold the machine in the same way, at the same distance from your head, you can get quite a random head of curls (See my video above for what that looked like). During a couple of tests I got both light waves and spiral curls during the same session and with the same settings, probably due to the fact I was inadvertently varying the size of the pieces of hair I was using. I was forced to do several pieces over again to try to gain some uniformity.

I also noticed that after each test, on the next day my hair felt rougher once the curl was brushed out, kind of like the strands had been fattened up or roughed up by the previous day’s experiments. I needed to wash my hair to get it smooth again.

What happens when Conair Curl Secret malfunctions or it goes wrong?

The Curl Secret has a mechanism that prevents hair from getting stuck.  If it senses resistance via a tangle, it stops drawing hair in and beeps and you must open it and start the curl over. This fail-safe works well, and I had no major problems with tangles or stuck hair.

Curl Secret Conair ErinLYYCThis mechanism obviously seems to work best if the wand is held correctly. Once I accidentally turned the curl chamber away from my head and started the curl process. It sucked in all the hair and heated it but wouldn’t release it. It was then I realized it was hopelessly jammed.

I struggled to free my curl but it was absolutely not budging. With visions of a smoking singed stump on my head, I unplugged the Curl Secret and tried to work the curl free with my hands and some tugging.  It still wouldn’t budge. I ended up having to work the end of a plastic comb into the curl chamber to help pull it free, but it was truly no easy feat. (I’ll say it again: unplug the device and only use plastic if you’re going to stick something into an electrical appliance) Fortunately there was no damage to my hair. You can bet I took extra care never to make that mistake again.

Easy to hold, cool to touch

The outside of the Curl Secret remains cool to the touch so you can manhandle it as you need to. That makes it easy to find a grip or a handhold that works. The device isn’t heavy, certainly no heavier than a blow dryer, though I’d say it felt a wee bit heavier than a large curling iron.

Overall review impressions – Conair Curl Secret

My overall impression was that the Curl Secret was just okay. The box promises “perfect curl… every time” but I’d say that’s not accurate in my experience.

conair curl secret reviewOnce I learned how to use it it was easy enough to use and it gave me a decent enough curl most of the time and the curls did last into the next day.  If I had to name the cons about this device, it’s that you have to be so cautious about how you use it. That tangle I had was no small snarl. With a curling iron or wand you can just release your hair, with this, it felt a lot more desperate when it jammed.

I also felt like the curls were not as smooth as I’d get with a wand or iron. Particularly the next day after I brushed out my curls the hair felt roughed up, something I’ve never felt with my existing wand, tourmaline iron or curling iron (though this device says it too is ‘tourmaline ceramic’).

Another part I didn’t love about the Curl Secret was that I wasn’t able to get the curl very close to my scalp. Just the way the Curl Secret is built, it can’t physically get close to the root, so I’d say I had a 2” area of hair near my scalp that I was unable to curled.

I have straight hair (just below the shoulders in length) and found the device worked fine on me, but I can’t say what the experience would be like for those with curly hair, or with very long hair.

I didn’t care for the randomness of the curl using the Curl Secret. Care must be taken to get very uniform sections in order to get a nice even curl. In my experience, it was quite hard to get even results, unless I took much more time than I would with a curling iron or wand. Even then, sometimes when I thought I was being quite deliberate, I still had sections that needed redoing.

So, would I buy myself a Curl Secret? The answer is no. I feel like I’m faster and more adept with the traditional styling tools I already own, and I can virtually guarantee my results come out soft and even with these other devices. Would a total newbie have a different or better experience with the Curl Secret than I did? I don’t have that answer.

Even so, I think this would be a good starter device for younger people who are learning to do their hair themselves (harder to get burned with this), or those with a bit less dexterity who don’t want to fuss with other pro-sumer tools. For ladies with more experience and dexterity doing their own hair, this is probably a gadget to skip.

Top 10 tech gadgets of 2016

I’ve tested a lot of gadgets and gear this year. Picking favourites is hard, because unlike previous years, many of the items that have come into the tech test kitchen in 2016 are really high quality, and work well, so picking the cream of the crop is a challenge. Nevertheless, here are the Top 10 tech gadgets I highly recommend having in your life. Continue reading “Top 10 tech gadgets of 2016”

Dyson Supersonic hair dryer review

img_6012No woman likes drying her hair. It takes time to do well, holding a heavy dryer over your head for 20-plus minutes is tiring, and having a loud whine in your ear really sets a  certain tone for the day.

It’s not surprising then there’s been lots of interest now that someone has finally decided there’s a better way.  Dyson, makers of cyclonic bagless vacuums and bladeless fans and heaters has announced its new hair dryer, and it features similar technology to its other products, but refined and on a much smaller scale. Continue reading “Dyson Supersonic hair dryer review”

Review: Clarisonic Smart Profile face brush

Clarisonic_Pro_Main I’m a beauty product junkie. I love trying new products like lipstick, blush, and other cosmetics, however I’ve never been one to experiment with my skincare regimen. I’ll find something that works well, and stick with it for years. As a teenager that was Noxzema and Ten-O-six astringent. I moved to Oil of Olay face cream and Clearasil, and on to Ole Henrickson Nurture Me and Truth Serum. I stick with what I know because it works, and because I like the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

So I was skeptical when I got a chance to try out a Clarisonic cleaning brush. After all, my face was fine; evenly moisturized, no major complaints, why would I need to change it up? But in the name of technology (and keeping the blog interesting!), I often step outside my comfort zone and try new things. (If you want the quick scoop, skip to the bottom. That includes an update on whether I still like it/use it a year later.)

 About Clarisonic face brushes

Clarisonic makes face and body brushes that use ultrasonic waves to lift dirt and impurities from the skin, supposedly resulting in a much deeper clean, and healthier skin. While some cleansing brushes use a spinning head to scrub the skin, Clarisoninc’s devices use what they say is patented technology.

“Unlike spinning devices, our patented sonic technology works with skin’s natural elasticity, oscillating at a sonic frequency that produces over 300 movements per second. The resulting flexing action created between the outer and inner brushes work to loosen dirt and oil, removing deep-seated impurities from pores and priming skin to better absorb topical treatments.”

Testing the Clarisonic Smart Profile

IMG_7470It was a bit weird trying to figure out how to charge the Clarisonic for the first time. It comes with a plug that has a tiny charging pad on the end of the cord, but initially I couldn’t figure out where on the device it attaches. It’s magnetic, so there’s no obvious connection. I eventually figured it out by dragging the magnet around the device. Detective Erin! Fully charged, it was time to put brush to face.

After the very first time I used the Clarisonic, my skin felt fantastic. It’s kind of like the way your skin feels after a facial, or a deep micro dermabrasion; it felt like I had brand-new skin.

The brush vibrates, it doesn’t scrub, so it doesn’t feel too vigorous. It’s not all that different from using one of those vibrating toothbrushes. You can use whichever brand of cleanser you prefer, meaning you can stick to your regular skincare regimen if that’s your thing, or you can choose one of Clarisonic’s own cleansers for the full “Clarisonic Method”.

What’s in the box?

The brush I tried was the Clarisonic Smart Profile, the Cadillac of the brush family, which sells for for an investment-level $299 CAD. It comes with the rechargeable handheld device, a silky soft face brush, plus a larger and stiffer body brush, so it’s a bit more versatile than a straight up face-only brush.

The Clarisonic Purge Effect?

IMG_7466As I started my trials, and began posting updates on Twitter and Instagram (Follow me @ErinLYYC) I heard from a friend that there was something called the Clarisonic effect, or the Clarisonic purge. Basically what happens is your skin is not used to being as clean as it’s about to be (essentially having all the dirt shaken free from your pores), so a ton of dirt and oil will come to the surface, causing a period of breakouts. From the research I did this is not unusual, though for some people this persists and become a problem. For most people, myself included, this was not an ongoing concern, and a couple blemishes were the worst side effect I experienced.

I did what was recommended and started using the brush just a couple times a week. After each treatment my skin definitely felt soft and smooth and firm. Eventually I increased the treatments to every other day. I still found that on the days when I used the Clarisonic brush my skin felt much cleaner and much smoother than normal.

Features of the Clarisonic brush

The Clarisonic brushes are waterproof, and use smart technology to tell you when to move to a different area of your face. Clarisonic calls that its “Adjustable T-Timer” which the company says allows for “even and thorough cleansing of your face and body.” The brush has 4 adjustable speeds, including a turbo boost for extra-deep cleansing. Clarisonic also says using the brush will “beautifully transform skin’s texture, reducing the appearance of pore size, fine lines and wrinkles (based on a self-assessment on 36 women after 8 weeks, as posted on its website), and creating a softer, smoother, more radiant complexion”.

IMG_7465Smart technology for beauty

The brush also knows when you’re using the different brush heads, and it will adjust speed and timers accordingly.

“When the Body Brush Head is attached, the Clarisonic handle switches to Body Mode and the T-Timer® is automatically set to three minutes. Pressing the speed button while in Body Mode toggles between constant and pulse settings. The pulse setting is great for the head/neck area and provides a different sensation than the constant setting.”

The device has a setting to let you know when you should replace your brush heads. A battery light indicator also gives you a heads up about when it’s time to recharge.  I found that there was a relatively short turnaround between the low battery indicator coming on and the device actually dying, so keep that in mind. A charge will last about two weeks with moderate use. I was using mine about every 2 to 3 days and only needed to charge it about every two weeks.

A doctor’s opinion on Clarisonic Smart Profile

While I was enjoying the effects of the Clarisonic brush, I decided I needed a professional level opinion to see if what the device was doing was real or perceived, permanent or or temporary.

I spoke with expert Dr. Kristina Zakhary who runs a successful plastic surgery clinic in Calgary. When she and I first spoke she admitted not knowing much about ultrasonic cleansing technology for the skin, but to getting questions about it.

“A lot of my patients use them. They’re always asking me about them,” she explained.

Dr Zakhary explained that even though there are many skin cleansing products commercially available, the cleansing of the skin is dependent almost entirely on the user’s diligence, compliance, and technique. That often often results in inconsistent cleansing. When the skin is inadequately or excessively cleansed, the skin becomes “compromised,” according to Dr Zakhary, sometimes leading to acute or chronic conditions that may require medical attention.

Dr Zakhary did some research on my behalf and found the sonic skincare brush was developed to enhance and provide consistent skin cleansing while preventing the skin from becoming “compromised,” or irritated. The technology to clean the skin with ultrasonic waves originated from dental technology. If you’ve had any kind of dental cleaning in the last 10 years, you’ve probably had them use that skull-piercing ultrasonic device to scrub plaque off your teeth. The same technology (minus the brain-jabbing squeal) is used by Clarisonic on your skin. The brush is designed to work with the skin’s own elasticity providing rapid “oscillatory flexing,” as Dr Zakhary explained it, to shake dirt loose from your pores.

Getting the research/proof

There were not a lot of medical studies or similar research publicly available on the Clarisonic device. One study that was cited widely while I was researching appeared to have been done by Clarisonic itself back in 2006. The study is called, “Development of sonic technology for the daily cleansing of the skin” by Robert E Akridge PhD and Kenneth A Pilcher BSEE. Some Googling found a Robert Akridge who works (or worked?) for Clarisonic. I emailed Dr Akridge (via his Clarisonic email address) to ask for more information about the research on this device, but recieved no response.

Another journal article has good things to say about the device, but it too relies on the 2006 study.

Now, all this is not to try to imply the device isn’t effective or the study’s results are flawed. I enjoyed my experience and have continued to use the brush. I find it softens the skin on both face and body and leaves me with a deeper feeling of clean. It’s just to say, if you’re the type who needs to be swayed by scientific proof before you’ll plop $300 down on a beauty gadget, you might want to read user reviews rather than studies.

The internet loves Clarisonic

People around the internet, in my social circle, and across my office LOVE this device. Every single person who has a device whom I asked about their experience, said they couldn’t live without their Clarisonic.  Sephora and Ulta Beauty users, for example, also give it top marks, rating it 4.7 and 4.6 out of 5.

Some comments from Sephora:

“I‘ve owned my Clarisonic for a little over two years now. I love the way it makes my skin feel and it has really made a difference in my complexion (when getting a facial was told I almost didn’t need one)…”

This cleans your face so well that after that first wash, you can seriously feel all your pores finally open up and breath. It feels amazing, I’ve suggested this to everyone, you don’t need to have bad skin to buy this, my mom has beautiful skin and she’s obsessed with this. It’s so easy to use and so perfectly made, easy to hold, even easier to charge.”

While the positive comments vastly outnumber the negative ones, some people aren’t jazzed by the Clarisonic devices:

“I was really hoping this product would change everything. I used it for months and saw no difference in my clogged pores or in my skin tone. It is basically like using a rough washcloth. It also ran out of battery very quickly. I don”t advise the investment.”

My verdict on Clarisonic Smart Profile

I like the device and will continue to use it, because I feel like it cleans effectively but gently, it lasts a long time on a charge, and it’s easy to keep stashed in the shower, squirt some cleanser on and use it.

I’ve actually pared back my use of the device to about once or twice a week, only because I feel like that’s a good frequency for my skin. While I use both the face and body brushes on a regular basis, I feel like the device is very expensive, and that if price is a major hurdle, that getting one of the less expensive options like the $145 Clarisonic Mia version would do just as well. In short, while I probably wouldn’t have gone out and bought one of these on my own, I’m a convert after having had the opportunity to sample one.

UPDATE: After having one of these for over a year, I still use it once or twice weekly and love the results.

If you have experiences with this device, or have info about medical research on it, I’d love to hear from you.  Please get in touch!

Clarisonic Mia Fit is another brush option

I also reviewed the Clarisonic Mia Fit brush. Click here for the review or watch the video below.

Great gear for back to school – CTV Tech Talk

tech-talk-sept16This week on CTV Tech Talk I showed you three cool gadgets that can make back to school easier and more fun.

Moleskine Smart Writing Set

moleskine-smart-writing-set-erinlyycThis gadget has really surprised me in terms of how versatile it is, and how well it works. It would be great for students, artists or just compulsive note-takers who never want to lose their notes, or who need an easy way to share them with others.

We barely had time to scratch the surface of everything this device can do on Tech Talk, so be sure to click the link below and read the full review.

The Moleskine Smart Writing Set  consists of a thick notebook in traditional Moleskine style; a bound and wrapped cover with an elastic to keep it closed, plus a special pen (called Pen+) that has the ability to connect to your smartphone, and automatically and seamlessly transfer whatever you draw or write in the notebook, direct to digital format, using the free Moleskine app.

The pen is larger than a standard pen and has built-in technology.  You push a button on the end of the pen, and connect it to Moleskine’s M+ Notes app.  Then, it tracks where you write on the page, and transfers it in real time to the app, in your own handwriting, or converted to text. The uses for this really cool technology are almost endless.

Read more about exactly how the Smart Writing Set works, and my full review of it here.

Roku Insignia Smart 4K TV4k-UHD-Insignia-Roku-TV-Best-Buy-Canada-1024x536

4K TV is the newest innovation in TV technology, and it’s all about the pixels. A 4K TV has millions more than the next best TV which is 1080p.

If you think of a TV screen as a giant grid made up of minuscule squares, a 4K image has about 4,000 horizontal pixels (that’s where the name “4K” comes from). In total, it has about 8 million pixels on the screen, or about 4 times as many as the next best TV. To explain it in a visual way, manufacturers are jamming as many total pixels as there are in all of a 1080p set, into about a quarter of a 4K screen. That’s a lot of pixels.

While the screen resolution is amazing, the Roku Insignia TV is also smart. You can stream shows with it, using Netflix, and you don’t need a seperate streaming device.  You can also surf the web, watch YouTube or play digital content. A 4K Roku TV brings you the best available resolution plus all the smartest TV features.

Click here to read the full review I did of this TV, as well as more about 4K technology.

Epson Ecotank ET-2550 Printer

It’s been more than a decade since I’ve had a printer in my home.  I haven’t missed having one for many years, that is until I started testing some new ones.

It’s not that I haven’t needed to print anything, but you know, you find other ways around that; snapshot photos, email copies, and yes, printing stuff at the office.

I have to say, that since I’ve re-adopted having a printer in the house, I’ve found them quite handy; and so has my family. Particularly because they’re now easier to use, more versatile, and there’s less fussing with ink and cartridges.

No ink cartridges in this printer!

epson-ecotankOn Tech Talk I showed off the Epson Expression ET 2550 EcoTank Printer. It’s a wireless printer/copier/scanner/fax/ethernet, which has a unique feature: it doesn’t use printer cartridges.  Instead it contains “eco-tank” ink bottles that are equivalent to about 20 cartridge sets. The printer I have includes enough ink to print up to 4000 pages in black or 6500 pages in color. That’s a long, long time before I’ll need to worry about running out of juice; possibly a couple years.

I reviewed a different model of EcoTank printer, one that has a slightly higher print capacity; read that review of the Epson Workforce ET-4550 here.

Whether it’s watching documentaries in glorious 4K resolution, printing book reports without the fuss of cartridges, or taking and sharing notes instantly and digitally, these three gadgets can help make back to school season easier, more productive, and more fun.

Contest – Enter to Win!

Want to enter the contest we talked about on CTV? Click here to be re-directed to the contest page. (*not active until Tuesday Sept 13)

MiTagg lamp – multipurpose tech & charging center

MiTagg lamp 1I get some of my most interesting ideas for tech gear and blogs from coworkers; Neena stumbled across this unusual gadget, and had to know if it was all it’s cracked up to be. The MiTagg desk lamp is much more than a light; it’s a multi-talented tech and charging center.

What the MiTagg lamp does

The minimalist c-shaped lamp is purpose-built; the top is an LED light, with dimming abilities, while along the base are different options for charging; there’s an Apple Watch charger, a phone charger, plus a space to keep a power bank ready for when you need to grab it and go. You can use these docks individually, or all at once, with the lamp on or off.

The lamp is made from an aluminum skin and has been given a brushed finish.

Testing the MiTagg Power StationMiTagg lamp 2

This lamp would be at home in an office or a house, depending on your aesthetic.  I kept my sample on my desk at the office and had many a coworker come over to take a look at the unique contraption. Most people thought it was handy, and I have to agree.  All the plugs in our office are located under our desks, so charging anything while at work requires crawling around on the floor, and hoping for a spare outlet. Of course, there’s never one down there.

With the lamp handily on the desk (I unplugged another dumber desk lamp to make room for the MiTagg) and now fully powered, it was easy to dock my phone nearby while working, and have it stay powered up. Of course having this device take up just one plug, while allowing me to charge multiple devices, and still providing desk light was a smart solution, as far as I was concerned.

There’s no set up or complications with this power center; unpack, plug and it’s ready.

mitagg nukiOptional accessory – NuKi power bank

The lamp I tested came with a small battery pack or power bank called NuKi. The NuKi comes with a separate charging cradle, which seems redundant when most power banks today can recharge with any USB plug or outlet. MiTagg’s website calls this ‘frictionless’ charging, and indeed the NuKi can simply be dropped into its cradle for a recharge, but of course that cradle has to be plugged in via USB somewhere (probably your lamp).

Valued separately at a whopping $69 USD the extra power supply is “a compact, portable keychain backup battery solution with an integrated Apple® MFI Lightning Cable and convenient detachable keyring means you’re always ready for instant power on-the-go,” according to MiTagg’s website. Considering powerful and long lasting power banks can be had for a fraction of that cost, I’m a little surprised this one can only deliver 75% charge (1800 mAh) to an iPhone for that price and size.

Mysteriously, the NuKi also comes with a detachable key ring, so if you did want to weigh your keys down with a large and awkward key chain, you could.

NuKi has location trackingNuKi_Silver_4_large

NuKi also comes with built in location tracking, as some power banks are nowadays, probably because they’re so easy to set down, or plug in and walk away then forget.  You’ll need a separate app for that feature.

A thought for next time – MiTagg Power Station Lamp

If I had one complaint about this product, it’s that the light itself could be more powerful and cast a wider glow. As it is, the light is very down-focused, meaning it lights up the devices it’s charging on its base, more so than my work area.  It can’t be adjusted either; if the LED could be swiveled to provide more directional task light, I think it would be far more useful. I found myself not using the dimming feature, and instead wishing the lamp could be brighter, perhaps to spill off the base and get where I needed some light the most.

The MiTagg Power Lamp Station sells for $299USD and is available at the MiTagg website.

If you have a gadget I should check out, please reach out on Twitter or Instagram @ErinLYYC