SAN JOSE, California — June 5, 2017 — Apple today announced HomePod, a breakthrough wireless speaker for the home that delivers amazing audio quality and uses spatial awareness to sense its location in a room and automatically adjust the audio. Continue reading “Apple HomePod smart speaker announced”→
One of the biggest complaints about making our homes smarter is Wi-Fi. After all, if you’re streaming TV, running lights, connected appliances, tablets, smartphones, computers and a host of other accessories, your Wi-Fi is bound to get bogged down. Not to mention getting decent coverage across the whole house can be a challenge. Making Wi-Fi better has often involved getting a new router, buying signal boosters, or chasing a signal by moving around the house. Now a new technology called mesh Wi-Fi has come onto the market to help improve speed and coverage. The new Google Wi-Fi, launching today in Canada, utilizes mesh Wi-Fi to improve your coverage at home.
Google Wi-Fi launches today in Canada, but I got my hands on an advance test kit for a review.
What is Google WiFi?
Google Wi-Fi is a ‘mesh’ Wi-Fi system. It connects to your home’s modem or modem-router unit (also called a ‘gateway’) and spreads your Wi-Fi signal across the home (or business). Mesh Wi-Fi creates multiple connection points so you don’t get dead spots.
Google writes, “a mesh network is a group of routers that communicate wirelessly to each other to create a single Wi-Fi network that provides a blanket of connectivity. This allows you to have multiple sources of powerful Wi-Fi throughout your home, instead of just a single router.”
How does Google Wi-Fi work?
Google Wi-Fi is not just a signal booster; it’s a whole new Wi-Fi system that takes the signal from your home’s modem, and spreads it all over the house. It creates multiple connection points in the house so under-serviced areas like the basement, top floor or distant rooms can get as strong a Wi-Fi signal as you can being near the router/modem.
Google Wi-Fi plugs directly into your modem. (The modem is of course the device that brings the internet signal into the home; it’s often hard-wired in to a cable in the wall.)
Usually your modem is connected to a router, and the router is what allows your internet to become wireless. The trouble with a single router is that it can only cover so much and extend so far; traditionally user complaints have been that some rooms are dead zones, or that top floors and basements can’t get a strong enough signal.
Google Wi-Fi addresses that by creating a series of connection points all over the house, wherever you need them. You can have as many Google Wi-Fi points in the home as you need (up to 32 Google tells me!) and adding Google Wi-Fi eliminates the need for a router.
“The system is flexible and scalable, so if you have a larger home, connect as many points as needed to get better Wi-Fi in every room (a 3-pack covers up to 4,500 sq. ft), says Google on its website, “Wifi points connect wirelessly, so you don’t need to run Ethernet cables throughout your house.”
So what does it do?
Since Wi-Fi is broadcast from each Google Wi-Fi point (and not just that lonely router in the basement laundry room), and each point connects seamlessly to each other, Google Wifi provides more coverage over a wider space.
What do you need to use Google Wi-Fi?
For starters, you’ll need internet service from a provider. (For many of us, you’ll get your modem that will bring internet into the home from the outside, and your bill is paid to companies like Rogers, Shaw, Bell or Telus.) Google says its Wi-Fi is compatible with all service providers and virtually all modems. You’ll also need a smartphone, or tablet (Android or iOS) and the free Google Wi-Fi app.
Setting up Google Wi-Fi
I was not looking forward to setting up the Wi-Fi. My experience getting things like routers set up in the past has been that it’s tedious, difficult, and often requires tech support.
I opened the box and right away marvelled at the small card with set up instructions; just plug one of the Wi-Fi points into your modem with the ethernet cable, then download the Google Wi-Fi app.
The app will ask you to identify which of the pods is tethered to the modem. (There are numbers on the back of each of the pods and that’s how you will identify them.) Once you tell it which one is plugged in you’ll scan a QR code on the back of the device (Google says this is for security and encryption to make sure the devices are yours and with you).
The next step is to name your network and assign it a password. To keep everything straight, give it a new name and password. There’s also a school of thought that says you should name the network the same as you previous network and give it the same password so that you can fool your smart home devices, for example, into not knowing you’ve switched networks on them. In theory this would save you from having to charge all those smart devices to a new network (which in some cases means resetting them and starting from scratch.) Does this work? I’ve only had the system a few days, so I’m not sure yet. I’ll try it and update this blog shortly — if you’re dying to know, post a comment here or message me on Twitter @ErinLYYC.
Ok, back to set up… after connecting the first Wi-Fi point or pod, you will then connect the other two Wi-Fi pods using the same process: identify them by their number on the back then name them according to where you’ll be placing them.
After that, launch the app and do a connection test. While you’re at it you can check things like the speed and test how fast the connection to your phone, tablet or computer is.
It’s easy… so easy
I can’t say enough how simple this set-up process was. The app made it absolutely foolproof, and the whole set-up went smoothly with absolutely no snags. I test a lot of gadgets and seamless easy set-up is one of the features I give high marks to. In this case, I have no doubt even a child could get this hooked up in minutes. There’s no IP addresses to worry about, no calls to the internet service provider and no confusing instructions. I had the whole network up and running in under 10 minutes; it took longer to go up and down stairs and plug them in than it did to set up.
How fast is Google Wi-Fi?
I tested our home’s Wi-Fi with the existing dual band modem-router unit. On the 2.4 ghz band we were getting 27 mbps. On the 5g network we get 60 mbps. After we installed the Google Wi-Fi units, the speed went up to 68 mbps overall. That’s fast enough to stream data-heavy 4K video without buffering.
Where to place your Google Wi-Fi pods
Only you will know where best to place your pods. They should probably go to high traffic areas where people are often using their devices, or to known dead spots in the home. If you live in a multi story house and have typically have trouble getting a signal on a floor far from the router, that’s a good place to start. Similarly if you have a room that has notoriously poor coverage, place one of the pods there. While the starter kit I received came with three Google Wi-Fi pods you can add as many as you like, up to a total of 32.
What can Google Wi-Fi do for me?
Smooth connectivity, at all times, no matter where you are
Google Wi-Fi has something built in called Network Assist. This invisible genius is always working to put your device on the closest Wi-Fi point and fastest connection, so you can move around at will and not drop the signal.
The assistant also is constantly working in the background to keep you on the least connected channel. What does that mean? Wi-Fi travels in our neighbourhoods on shared channels, which can get crowded (for proof, just open your phone or device’s Wi-Fi settings and look at all your neighbours’ networks that are out there). All those networks are sharing ‘channels’ or bands. Network Assist works to ensure your Wi-Fi points are using the clearest channels to connect to one another, and to your devices. Whether you’re using the 2.4GHz band or the 5 GHz, Google Wifi automatically connects your device to the band that will be fastest based on your location.
The Priority Device setting allows you to prioritize Wi-Fi traffic to a specific phone, tablet, computer or device. This works great in a house with several family members where everyone is often online at once. By prioritizing mom or dad’s phone or laptop, the kids can keep using the Wi-Fi, but the majority of data will go to the person that really needs it. That way everyone’s devices aren’t slowing down or stalling.
Family Wi-Fi – schedule pauses for dinner, homework, sleep
Family Wi-Fi setting allows administrators of the account, most likely parents, to control exactly who gets Wi-Fi time and when. Using this setting, you can schedule pauses in Internet use during homework time, dinner hours, or at bedtime. There’s no fighting over devices, or negotiating “just 10 more minutes”. You schedule the Wi-Fi to shut down, and it shuts down.
This setting also allows you to select specific devices and alter the times of use for those devices; your younger child’s tablet can shut down at seven, while the older children can keep on surfing until nine.
All of the settings and features are very easily controlled and adjusted in the Google Wi-Fi app.
Multiple account managers
Another cool feature of Google Wi-Fi is the ability to have multiple managers of your network. While the original account needs to be set up by one person with a Gmail account, it’s easy to add another person as an administrator simply by typing their Gmail address into the app.
Out of home connection
You can access your Wi-Fi settings, make changes, and otherwise adjust configurations even if you are not inside the home. The Google Wi-Fi app works no matter where you are.As you’re connected to the internet, you can manage things at home, and see who’s online.
Help out without hopping in the car
Having an out of home connection also means that if you’re the one in the family who manages mom and dad’s internet network, granny’s connection, or you’re always on call to help the neighbour or your sister, you can manage and access all your settings and even troubleshoot those networks, all from your phone if you get those folks a Google Wi-Fi kit.
Another way to keep your home secure, is to enable the guest Wi-Fi feature. This allows you to create a separate network for guests, with its own password. This means that when kids have friends come over, or if you’re throwing a party, you can grant people Wi-Fi access without revealing the password to your private home network.
Is Google spying on me? – Security & Privacy
Been much written about Google and how much data the company has on each of us. Not surprisingly it raises the question for many potential customers about whether giving Google full access to your Wi-Fi, not just the Google search site, is opening the door for even more info to end up in the hands of a large corporation.
Google says it’s not getting any additional info from you by running your Wi-Fi.
“The information your Wifi points and the Google Wifi app collect helps us deliver the best Wi-Fi experience possible. Importantly, the Google Wifi app and your Wifi points do not track the websites you visit or collect the content of any traffic on your network. However, your Wifi points does collect data such as Wi-Fi channel, signal strength, and device types that are relevant to optimize your Wi-Fi performance.”
Overall I had a great experience with Google Wi-Fi. It improved my connection speeds, it was very easy to set up and manage and changing settings or adjusting the network for kids or guests was ultra easy. I’m still working with the kit and still learning more about it. If I find out more facts that should be shared, I’ll update the blog. Please post questions if you have them.
Google Wi-Fi sells for $439 for a 3-pack and additional pods are $179.
There’s hardly a home or office that doesn’t have at least one wireless Bluetooth speaker these days. (Or is that just me? Do non-tech bloggers have 4 portable wireless speakers?) Portable wireless audio has become the standard for listening to music in the home. There are larger more sophisticated versions like Sonos or Bose, but there are also many choices when it comes to smaller more portable speakers. Fugoo Style is one of those speakers. But how well does it perform and is it worth the price?
Features of Fugoo Style wireless speaker
Fugoo makes a variety of Bluetooth speakers in varying sizes, different levels of portability and several styles. The Style speaker is one of the chicest, but its good looks conceal a tough and durable interior. Fugoo says the speaker has a “fiber-reinforced resin shell and waterproof cloth covering that gives this speaker the protection it needs to last long past cocktail hour.”
The speaker is about the size of a small clutch purse or a portable coffee mug, and though it’s lightweight, it doesn’t feel cheap; it feels like it has some durability and heft behind it. it has a built in speakerphone and connects with Siri or Google Now.
It also has a changeable jacket, which is removed by pushing a release tab on the base. Without its skin, it looks very industrial, and still cool. Keeping the jacket on provides some measure of water or spill protection, so it’s probably best kept on.
Setting up Fugoo Style is easy
Setting up the Fugoo speaker couldn’t have been simpler; the first time you’ll turn it on, head to your device’s Bluetooth menu, and click on the speaker, which should have appeared in the Bluetooth devices list. If not, you can touch the Bluetooth button next to the speaker’s power button and it should pop right up accompanied by a helpful and suave sounding male digital assistant’s voice. I was connected and playing music in about 10 seconds. I love devices where set up is simple and flawless, so Fugoo gets high marks for this.
Fugoo Style Sound quality & volume
It can be hard to find good quality sound in a small Bluetooth speaker. Fortunately the Fugoo Style sounded great from the get-go. The device, thought it looks like a single speaker, actually hides 4 speakers inside its housing; two in each face and two others in the ends.
Fugoo says, “the FUGOO Portable Bluetooth Speaker has six symmetrically-placed drivers. The two tweeters deliver clean highs, two mid/sub drivers give midrange punch, and two passive radiators help bring out a full, deep bass. Together, these six drivers deliver a clean sound pressure level, filling large rooms and outdoor areas with rich, immersive sound.”
I definitely found the speaker powerful and room filling, and I tested it with several styles and genres of music.
My test Playlist with the Fugoo Style
► The Roots (Don’t Say Nuthin’)
► Pharell (Beautiful)
► Dave Matthews Band (American Baby)
► City and Colour (Comin’ Home)
► Robbie Williams (I will talk and Hollywood will listen)
► Tragically Hip (Poets)
► Kiev (Be Gone Dull Cage)
The bass was solid, and the high end didn’t sound tinny or buzzy. I was able to crank it to 2/3 volume without any noticeable distortion. At about 3/4 volume I did notice a raspiness creeping in to the vocals, but overall the sound was pretty good. The sound quality overall has quite a bit of depth and the music sounded true.
The bass on Don’t say Nuthin and Poets was true and thumping, the vocals on Beautiful and Be Gone Dull Cage sounded soft and smooth, while the picking and the snare on American Baby were resonant and real. The acoustic guitar on Comin’ Home was hauntingly real. Subtle flute and clarinet, and the big symphonic drums on my Robbie Williams selection was delicately replicated, while Robbie’s voice cut through with vibrancy. I was quite impressed with the amazing sound quality I got out of this little speaker.
Fugoo adds, “the upward tilt of the speakers puts everyone in the sweet spot. So simply place your speaker in the center of a room and fill any space with sharp highs, bassy lows, and all-around premium audio.” I can’t disagree.
Does Fugoo Style have good battery life?
Many portable wireless Bluetooth speakers have a battery life in the 10-20 hour range. Fugoo Style boasts an astounding 40 hours of battery life. That’s well above many other similar speakers, so this gadget is a great choice if you’re heading to a campground or on a road trip for a weekend. I tested the speaker for about two weeks and never charged it once.
Bluetooth connectivity is outstanding on Fugoo Style
The speaker uses Bluetooth 4.0 for wireless connectivity which Fugoo says will give you solid connectivity up to 33 feet. In my tests I carried my iPhone 6 Plus all over the 1000 square foot main floor and didn’t experience any breakup of the Bluetooth signal. Heading downstairs (where I have seen digital signal breakup on other speakers) the Fugoo Style didn’t miss a beat. Again, I was impressed.
Overall review of Fugoo Style portable wi-fi speaker
This is an absolutely fantastic Bluetooth speaker. I have to say I wasn’t expecting very much from something this small and with such an eye to style, so I was happily blown away by the outstanding audio quality and durability. The dead-easy set up also gets top marks from me.
The 40 hour battery life is also a huge plus for me. I’ve been using it in my bathroom when I’m getting ready for work in the morning. I used to just use the small crappy speaker on my iPhone, but the easy connectivity, great sound, and compact size means it can sit in the bathroom for weeks on end and provide me with high-quality audio before it ever needs to be recharged.
I think the waterproof cover is also a great thing to have since you just never know what can happen at a party or gathering; a little insurance is nice.
In short, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this speaker to anyone who’s looking for a portable Bluetooth audio solution.
The Fugoo Style costs $139USD or about $185CAD. Get more info here.
All 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.
Summer is the perfect season to test wireless portable speakers; whether travelling, camping, having friends over, or spending hours outdoors working on the yard, or barbecuing with buddies, there are all kinds of reasons you may want music on the go.
It was good timing, then, that the Sony SRS-XB2 Extra Bass landed on my desk for testing and review. This small pill-shaped wireless speaker is fully portable and rechargeable, but feels substantial all the same.
Setting up the Sony SRS-XB2 Extra Bass
Frequently I have trouble getting Wi-Fi or Bluetooth devices set up, and so do many others. It’s not that we’re inept, it’s that some electronic gadgets can be finicky, or perhaps their software and app handshaking isn’t fully bug-free yet.
Not so with the Sony SRS-XB2 Extra Bass; and let’s just call it the “Extra Bass” from now on, ok? This speaker set up on the first try, and I was pumping out music in about 35 seconds after it was unboxed. It uses a Bluetooth connection to hook up to the music on your phone or tablet, and as I said, it’s very easy to connect. This is the kind of speaker you could get for your grandparents and leave them unattended with. The Extra Bass also stays connected via Bluetooth; you don’t have to set up, reconnect, or re-pair each time you use it, making it very quick and easy to use. Just hit the power button and dial up your music, podcasts or internet radio.
Right out of the box, the speaker does have a noticeably solid bass thump to it, which I enjoyed. Plus the cool colour options (blaze orange, and blue) make it more fun that a typical wireless speaker.
Just when I thought I’d seen it all when it came to headphones, I found myself surprised again! The Parrot Zik3 over ear wireless headphones seemed at first glance to be headphones like any other. It wasn’t until I started reading into and experimenting with all the amazing features these headphones have, that I realized how truly unique and revolutionary they are.
Set up: Parrot Zik3 Wireless Headphones
I give high marks to companies whose products are very easy to set up. No one wants to fuss with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections and multiple attempts at getting their new toy working. Fortunately Parrot has it figured out. Once these babies are out of the package, you’ll need to install the rechargeable battery, then fully charge them before first use. The battery compartment is accessed by a hidden magnetic compartment in one of the ear covers. Once they’re fully charged, all you need to do is go to your smartphone’s Bluetooth menu and connect them. My phone found the headphones on the very first attempt, and they connected instantly. I was ready to rock out!
It’s worth taking note that these headphones can only connect to one device at a time. Some other wireless headphones are able to connect to multiple devices at once, allowing you to have both your tablet and your phone connected at the same time, for example. But not in this case; fair warning.
Comfortable and padded: Zik3 Headphones are easy to wear
One of the things I hate the most about over-ear headphones is that they are often very uncomfortable; either instantly or after an hour of use they press on your ears and lead to achiness and itchiness. Not so with the Parrot Zik3. The earpieces are well padded, and large enough so that they fit comfortably around your ear without touching or pressing down on it. Even the headband is nicely padded for additional comfort. Another nice feature; the headphones will fold down flat so they can be stored away, or packed for easy travel.
Control the headphones with touch
The Parrot Zik3 are controlled via a brilliant smart touchpad on the right ear cover. Drag your finger up or down the cover to adjust the volume. Tap it to play or pause or receive a phone call. This function is extremely responsive and works marvelously.
Features that are made for travel
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, such as if you do you have little ones you need to keep one ear on, or you’re walking around in a high-traffic area and need to stay alert, you can set the headphones so that you can hear conversation, noise, and talking around you along with your music. It’s a great effect, and it sounds really neat to have your ears sealed inside these over ear headphones, but still be able to hear a conversation going on next to you.
The Zik 3 also have an optional cable to connect directly to your smart device so that if you are on the road and want to preserve battery life, you can.
Parrot Zik 3 – Neat features
These headphones have a unique ability to allow you to adjust the music you’re listening to. Using the Equalizer function, you can adjust the levels of bass or treble, and give the music a different sound. You can choose ‘pop’, or ‘punchy’ sound, or to put the focus more on the vocals. Whatever way you like to hear your music, these headphones allow you to adjust for it easily by selecting your option with the touch of your smart phone screen.
Another setting called Concert Hall allows you to adjust what I can only describe as the size of the sound in your ears. Selecting ‘living room’ for example gives you a more direct and intimate sound then the concert hall setting which provides a much bigger more 360° sound picture. It’s a neat effect that’s hard to describe, but fun to play with. Parrot’s website explains it like this: “The Concert Hall effect externalizes the music and reproduces the sound of a real stereo system. Several concert hall acoustics are reproduced for a harmonious and more natural listening experience, which also reduces tiredness during long listening sessions.”
Make and receive phone calls with Parrot Zik3
The Zik3 phones are able to work with your cell phone; no longer do you need a microphone and cables to make or receive calls with your headphones. These headphones have all of that built in. To receive an incoming call, you just tap the touchpad on the right ear cover. Music is muted and the built-in microphone picks up your voice. The headphones also have a caller identification feature you can enable where the headphones will use your phone’s directory to announce who’s calling so you don’t need to pull out your phone. I found the headphones were perfect for conference calls, allowing me to take notes without cords snaking across my desk.
More smart features: music stops if you take them off, starts when you wear them
Parrot has developed a ‘movement recognition algorithm’ which allows the headphones to react to your head movements. Pull the phones off your ears and put them around your neck to stop the music or switch off a call. When you’re ready to resume, put the headphones back over your ears and the music or podcast starts up again. Never miss a thing!
Also handy; when starting up, the Parrot Zik 3 will automatically connect to the last device it was connected to. You can disable this feature if you use more than one device with your Parrot Zik. The Zik 3 also has an auto-off timer you can set, so if you’re they type who’s bound to forget your headphones are powered on, these will automatically shut off for you to save battery life. Speaking of battery life, these headphones are rechargeable via USB, and of course you can use them with a mini cable if you don’t want to go wireless.
Overall: Parrot Zik 3 Review
I really, really like these headphones. They’re very comfortable, they sound great, and the adjustable features mean you can fine tune any music or audio to your own personal listening preferences. I think the noise cancelling feature is one of the most useful; being able to block out noise in the comfort of the home is smart, and it’s also clever to be able to let in some of that external noise when you’re on transit, or walking in the street.
I also like the fact these phones fold flat for easy travel and transport too. I short, I’d definitely buy these as my next pair of headphones.
For more info, check out Parrot’s website. The Zik3 retail for $399 USD, and come in a variety of cool colours.
Regular readers will know I get way too happy about smart lighting. I particularly love coloured lights as I feel like you can totally change the look, feel and even decor of a room with colour, minus the paint brush!
So I was thrilled to get a test model of the new Philips Hue Go lamp. This lightweight package contains a large soup-bowl sized (and shaped) lamp with a bowl shaped base and flat front.
Portable colour and light
The lamp connects with a nice long AC cord for power but it also works off the cord, as the rechargeable lamp is also fully portable and lasts up to six hours on a charge. For the newbies you don’t even need the app to start playing with it; a small button on the bottom of the bowl allows you to cycle through a variety of light colours and effects while a small wedge keeps the lamp steady on its rounded bottom.
Getting the lamp set up on Wi-Fi was very easy. You just download the free app then “add new device”. Once you do that the app will search for devices on the network and it automatically finds the Go lamp. Once it pairs you’re in business.
The Hue Go lamp is a good size that can be easily hidden behind a price of furniture where you could keep it out of sight for various light effects, or you can leave it out on display. It’s very clean and unassuming looking, and the entire light fixture lights up, meaning it’s a beautiful lightning showpiece as well as a bright light source.
The Go lamp has the ability to transform; it will push out enough light to make it task worthy or you can dim it for a more subtle background effect.
Using the app you can adjust colour, brightness and intensity all at a touch.
Since it’s LED powered it doesn’t heat up at all, making it also great to use as a filler spotlight for, say, the bottom of your Christmas tree (green!). I had fun using it in different situations, like as a lovely icy winter tablescape, on a side table for a red Christmas glow, and even turned up orange-red hot as a substitute for lighting the fireplace. The Hue Go light really goes anywhere.
Soothing wake-up light
A feature I just discovered on the lamp is the wake-up mode. This setting will gradually increase the light intensity to give you the feeling you’re waking to gentle, natural daylight, which is much nicer than waking up to an alarm clock shouting at you.
Get the Bridge
You’ll need the compatible Philips bridge to get the light connected to Wi-Fi. As I noted above it will still work without it but the options are limited.
In short, I LOVE this light. It’s fun, easy to use and works perfectly. Get a Philips Hue Go lamp for $100 from BestBuy.ca
This is a gadget I found unexpectedly cool. The Muse headband helps you relax or meditate by playing a guided relaxation session, while you wear the Muse headband, which senses your brain activity. From a 3 minute meditation to 45, Muse will talk you through relaxed breathing exercises, then display the results of your brain activity during this time. I tested it out over a couple weeks and with different friends and coworkers and was surprised to find it worked really well. A full review and explainer will be on the blog soon. Meantime, you can get your hands (or brain) on one at Best Buy for $249.
A digital scale that’s sleek and pretty, this is a nicer addition to your bathroom than what’s standardly available. iHealth connects to you phone via Wi-Fi and tracks and stores your weight or BMI data, and it can even be shared with your doctor or a fitness buddy. The backlit display even auto-adjusts brightness based on how dim or bright the room is. The iHealth scale is available at Best Buy for $49.
The Beardtrimmer 9000 is a standard trimmer by many accounts, but it has a few cool features that are making it popular with men, including lasers. The lasers act as a guide to give you nice even edges to your facial fur. Read the full review on the blog here. You can also pick one up from Best Buy for $79.
Sony Xperia Z5 Smartphone from Bell
We also shared info about the Sony Xperia Z5 smartphone giveaway — the same phone James Bond uses in the new movie Spectre– on the CTV contest site. Click hereto be redirected to the site to enter.
We all look forward to travel in the busy summer season. With the number of travellers climbing, and delays inevitable, it’s a good idea to bring along some tech to keep you sane, entertained and connected while on vacation, whether it’s a plane trip or a road trip. This week on CTV Morning Live I shared some good gadget picks, as well as my top travel tips.
When travelling abroad, it helps to have a variety of plugs available to recharge your gadgets. An interesting take on that is a versatile, compact adapter kit from Satechi that doubles as a wireless router and signal booster for your hotel internet. The Satechi Smart Travel Router / Travel Adapter with USB Port adapts to fit into four of the most common plug configurations used around the world and has different modes for your wireless networking.
I also shared my 5 Top Tech Travel Tips on CTV Morning Live:
Pack extra headphones.
Headphones get lost, break, or you forget them, and of course without them, you can’t listen to music, TV or watch movies. Stash an extra set of small earbuds in your carry on and you wrap them up with a handy Cord Taco to keep tangles at bay.
Bring your cables.
Beat delays by bringing your charging cable, plug and/or an external battery pack to supply juice through the longest flights or most annoying delays. Never put them in checked baggage, as they sure won’t help you in the plane’s underbelly.
Preload TV shows, movies and podcasts at home onto devices.
Airport and hotel wifi is notoriously slow, and can be tedious to set up (nevermind having to give out personal info to get the connection). Save time and frustration by filling your device with content you can watch all trip long.
Always carry-on your electronic devices.
They’re expensive, sometimes have personal info on them, and let’s be honest, it would be devastating to lose them or have them stolen from checked luggage. Carry them on no matter how heavy that makes your carry-on bag.
Stash all your cables and accessories in one zippered bag.
It keeps them all in one place, makes them easy to find and keeps them from getting tangled up in the rest of your luggage. Of course, carry that bag on too as insurance.
If you’ve got a great travel gadget tip, I’d love to share it. Post yours in comments.
Our homes are getting smarter every year; dishwashers can now figure out what’s wrong, and assist in getting it fixed. Refrigerators can tell you when you’re low on butter or creamer. Now light bulbs are getting smart too!
LED light bulbs (most of today’s ‘smart’ bulbs are LED) are becoming more common because they’re extraordinarily energy efficient; many bulbs can last 30,000 or even 40,000 hours. That’s up to 23 years! That’s good because while smart light bulbs and LEDs will cost you more in the short term, in the long term they’ll mean fewer replacements are needed, and you’ll have a smaller energy bill too.
Smart light bulbs are becoming more popular, because adding connectivity allows you to do things like turn them off or on whenever you want, whether you’re home, or while away. You can even use geo-locating to have light bulbs switch on when you arrive home, or at work, and shut off when you leave. Smart bulbs can be set to slowly come on at your bedside, giving you a gentle wake-up, or slowly softening to black to help you drift off to sleep. Those are just the practical uses; many of these ‘smart’ bulbs also come with fun options too, like colour, which can give the room a nice ambiance for entertaining, or relaxing. Smart bulbs can also give you the option of supplying brighter task or work lighting when you need it, or mimicking a candlelit table when you don’t! Plus, there are holiday applications. I used my LIFX test bulbs to create a bright orange glow in the window on Halloween to give my jack o’lantern some extra kick. At Christmas, I coupled two bulbs together by the Christmas tree in red and green. And at Valentine’s it will make a nice soft warm peachy glow for a romantic dinner. Smart bulbs have a multitude of uses!
On this week’s CTV Morning Live Tech Talk segment (Watch it here), we looked at three types of Smart light bulbs:
Drift and Sense bulbs by Saffron $29/BULB – DRIFT-LIGHT.COM
I’ve been testing these lights recently. The Drift bulb doesn’t have any wifi ability, but it is smart. A simple click of the switch, and it operates like a regular bulb. Two clicks of the switch on your lamp or wall and the Drift bulb will flash back at you, indicating it’s set. In this mode it will slowly fade out over 37 minutes, the period of time of the average sunset. What this does is tune your body to the fact that it’s night time and sleep is near. I found it quite soothing, and felt after a few days of use that it did give me a feeling of being ready to sleep by the time the bulb went out. The company says these bulbs will increase your body’s natural production of melatonin, the sleep hormone, helping you get into a restful state naturally.
If you give the Drift bulb three clicks, it will fade out over the same time frame, but keep a bit of light as a night light, making it great for kids’ rooms.
The Sense bulbs by Saffron are slightly different. They are able to detect ambient light, and will turn on when it gets dark, meaning you can leave your porch light or interior switch on, but not waste energy all day long with the bulb burning away in daylight.
These bulbs are plastic cased, making them nearly break-proof
LIFX Smart Bulbs $99/BULB – LIFX.CO
These bulbs are some of my favourites; they’re easy to use, programmable, and give you a great array of colour options, from warm white, to cool blues, and specialty colours all over the spectrum.
The bulbs connect to your home’s wifi network, and then are manipulated using an app. There’s no hub to fuss with; all the hardware is in the bulb. Now, for that reason, the bulbs are large and may not fit in some fixtures, but in my in-home testing, they fit easily in a living room lamp, and in an overhead fixture in the dining room.
You simply screw in the bulbs, and turn them on. Using the app, connect to wifi and set up the bulbs. Then, the app becomes a remote control for your lights; allowing you to control one at a time, or multiple bulbs all at once. You can dim or brighten the bulbs, or change colour options. Basic white light can be warmed or cooled, depending on the type or colour of light you prefer; my personal preference is for warm white-ish pink light in the house. I find it soothing. If you lose wifi, the bulbs still work, reverting to the last setting you used. That’s one other think I liked about the LIFX bulbs; when you switch them off, and then on again, they’ll still be set to the colour you last used, whereas some other bulbs (Philips Hue, below), resets itself each time you shut it off. You can select an infinite number of colours, both strong and subtle, and the app allows you to dim them too. You can also use the app to build your own favourite colour combinations, and it remembers them for you. And if for some reason the bulbs are reset, they’ll still function as regular white-light LED bulbs.
Take note that these bulbs are not for outdoor use.
One other point worth mentioning; I had some difficulty getting one of the bulbs to connect to my home’s wifi. I got great customer service help from a patient person at LIFX, who was able to walk me through some troubleshooting, and help me update the bulb’s firmware online. I can always forgive a glitch if the customer service help that’s available is rock solid.
Philips Hue Bulbs $99/STARTER KIT – MEETHUE.COM
Philips Hue are another wifi enabled bulb, but these differ in that they require a hub, or what Philips calls its “bridge”, to function. The bridge must be physically connected to your home’s router via an included Ethernet cable, which I found to be an annoying extra step (and something else taking up space on my desk). That said, the use of the bridge appears to allow Philips to make their smart bulbs smaller than the LIFX version.
The Hue kit was easy enough to set up; once the bridge is plugged in, you use the app to set up the system, and then to control your bulbs. I liked the simplicity of the Philips app, which has 2 pages of shortcuts to give you lighting profiles like candle light, ‘underwater’ and ‘hammock’ to name just a few. The Hue, too, will allow you to use an infinite number of colours, in both warm and cool light. Philips also has an online portal which will allow you to access your bulbs from any computer, anywhere. Want to make it look like you’re home? Switch the lights on or off or program them as you wish. No need for those outdated timer boxes.
I’ve been absolutely loving having smart bulbs in my home, primarily because I use them to create relaxing atmospheres, to make the room seem warmer on cold nights, or to create a flattering candlelit glow. Most of them are easy to set up, and even easier to use. I recommend getting your feet wet with one bulb first to see how you like it.