MacSources Digital media blog for resources and reviews 2020-05-29T19:59:01Z https://macsources.com/feed/atom/ https://i1.wp.com/macsources.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/cropped-MacSources.png?fit=32%2C32&ssl=1 Jon Walters https://macsources.com <![CDATA[PaMu unique wireless Earbuds Review]]> https://macsources.com/?p=81057 2020-05-29T19:59:01Z 2020-05-29T19:57:00Z

Living up to the unique monicker, the PaMu earphones deliver quality sound and battery life, while allowing you the option to change the cover.

If given the option for a mulligan, I do not believe many people would turn this down for the year 2020. No matter if you are still working your job, or if you have taken another, or if you found yourself on unemployment, the Sars-COV-2 virus has not been friendly. The COVID-19 social distancing drastically affected our ability to interact with others and to live the life that we knew prior to 2020. My children have grown more involved with their iPads, with digital movies, with their Nintendo Switch, and with their Oculus Quest. Favoring the Ready Player One lifestyle, even their school went digital. With so much time spent in the digital world, we needed quality listening tech to enjoy the music, books, lectures, movies, etc. With so little free spending money available, we wanted an inexpensive option that would provide many of the bells and whistles, without breaking the bank. The PaMu Unique Bluetooth Headphones from padmate surpassed those requirements.

The PaMu Unique arrived in three separate boxes.  The smallest of the boxes was the white-colored PaMu Wireless Charging Receiver, which measured 2 1/16 inches square by 3/4 inches thick.  The cover provided the pamu title in silver font and “Wireless Charging Receiver” along the bottom. The top and bottom panels were left unadorned, while the left panel provided the website, Facebook page, and their address.  The right panel provided a paragraph describing wireless charging and the back panel listed the T6D model, 5V/2A input, 5V/1A output, and an SKU sticker.  The second black-colored package measured 4 inches wide by 5 inches tall by 7/8 inches thick.  The cover had the same pamu logo in silver font and had a colorful sticker along the top left.  The top, bottom, left and right panels were blank black panels, while the back panel provided a useful instructional panel recommending that you personalize your PaMu Unique prior to using the earphones.  I appreciated the masterful use of the contrasting silver font upon the black background.  Both informational and visually appealing, I believe the black packaging was my favorite of the two smaller boxes.  The larger, device-containing white box, measured 4 7/8 inches square by 2 3/4 inches thick.  The cover provided the PaMu Unique title along the top left and the pamu brand along the top right of the panel in the same silver-shimmering font.  Beneath the silver font, you will find an attractive image of the PaMu Unique device and charger, as well as the Qualcomm aptX logo.  The left panel provided a silver pamu logo, the left panel listed Qualcomm trademark information and the back panel provided a decalingual description of the product specifications: BT 5.0/dual microphone noise reduction, touch button, IPX5 waterproofing, 10-hour music playback.  Along the bottom, you will find two SKU labels, company contact information (same as the small white box), and many of the typical manufacturing labels. I removed the outer white slipcover and found the same silver font on the cover panel (PaMu Unique) and the right panel (pamu).  The remaining sides were solid black, with the top panel housing the plastic product hanging tab. 

Within the smaller box, I found a small square dual-language instruction manual and a black 1 9/16 inches diameter charging disk with USB-C attachment point atop a foam square with USB-C cutout.  The instruction manual showed the installation of the charging disk along the side of the wireless earphone case.  The black-colored medium-sized case contained three different magnetic case covers (4 3/4 inches tall by 3 3/4 inches wide) for the PaMu Unique device (Black hexagonal, black multi-colored, red multi-colored).  I gripped the main panel of the large box and opened the flaps to the left and to the right.  The inner surface of the left two-panel followed the same theme as the outer box with silver font upon a black background.  The panel recommended to place earphones into the charger, fully charge the case, and then to remove the left then right earphones.  The right panel showed an attractive male soccer player with the PaMu Unique earphones within his ear.  I tugged on the cloth pull tab and removed the earphone charging case, then removed each of the earbuds and added to them to the correct holes within the charging case.  I removed the black/colored wrap from the black box and wrapped it around the earphone charging case.  The included magnets ensured that the case remained affixed to the charging case. Beneath the molded foam earphone insert, you will find the included accessory case, which contained a 3 3/8 inches wide by 5 3/4 inches tall leather black drawstring bag, 14 1/2 inches long USB-A to USB-C cable, a bag with large/medium/small oval-shaped black ear tips, and small/large semi-opaque grey ear tips.  Additionally, you will find a grey ear sizing tips chart (S/M/L default sized tips as well as extra deep tips), and an instruction manual.  

I added the earbuds into the case, placed the wireless charger receiver on the end of the charging case, and then placed it onto my Ventev wireless desktop charger.  While charging, you will see four LED indicator lights, representing 25% power each (0-25%, 25-50%, 50-75%, 75-100%).  The instruction manual promised 10hours of battery life and up to 2 additional charges from the 400mAh case.  When fully charged (1.5 hours), I removed the earbuds from the 37mm x 96mm charging case.  The earphones directly entered into pairing mode and were ready to pair with my iPhone 11 Pro Max.  I navigated to Settings, Bluetooth, and selected PaMu Unique from the list.  I placed the earbuds into my ears and rotated the devices into place.  Once connected, you will hear a female voice announce “Pairing Successful.”  Each of the devices had a touch button located along the back of the earbud.  If you tap either device once, you can play/pause music or answer a phone call.  If you double-tap either of the devices, you can decline a phone call (in call mode).  Beyond those options, the left/right earbuds will do different tasks.  By double-clicking the left device, I was able to activate Siri.  By double-clicking the right device, I was able to move the track forward. To increase the volume, long press the right ear button and to decrease the volume, long-press the left device. I typically do not like long press volume controls because they tend to be rather clunky.  Historically, I have preferred single press volume changes and long press function control. However, I was pleased with the volume control of the PaMu Unique and found that the volume was easily adjusted with the button presses.  The single tap, double-tap (Siri activation), and long press options worked flawlessly and the integration was quite well done. 

To test the audio of the PaMu Unique earbuds, I turned to one of my favorite websites, audiocheck.net.  For my first test, I utilized the Low-Frequency Response and Subwoofer Audio Test (10-200 Hz).  I was able to hear the deep rumble of the bass starting at 20Hz but really felt the push around 30Hz, which was not unreasonable for the size of the earbuds.  I was pleased with the tap controls and found that I was able to play/pause the track with a single tap of either of the earbuds. Oddly, I was able to advance the track by double-tapping the right earbud, but there was no option to move to the previous track.  Holding the right earbud for a few seconds, the sound increased, and holding the left earbud for a few seconds the volume decreased.  I liked that it will continue to increase/decrease until it either maxes or minimizes.  For the second test, I turned to the High-Frequency Response and Hearing Audio Test (22-8 kHz).  This test is more user-specific than the Low-Frequency Response test because we tend to lose our upper range of hearing before our lower range.  I was able to hear the high pitched tones starting at 15kHz, which was on par with my current ability to hear.  After testing the frequency ranges, I used the Left/Right/Center test and found the programming to be correct.  To further show the quality of the speakers, I used my absolute favorite feature of the audiocheck.net website, the Stereo Perception and Sound Localization Test.  Using binaural recording and the sounds of knocking, the test makes you think that people are knocking behind you.  Even though they have used this test dozens of times, my children continue to jump.  Pleased with the tests, I listened to several 8D Audio options (Sound of Silence, Gladiator, In the Air Tonight, I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing).  As a favorite example, I encourage you to listen to “Sound Of Silence (3D Binaural Audio)- Simon and Garfunkel Cover-Jarvis Brothers (Ear to Ear).

The PaMu Unique wireless earbuds passed all of my tests and ranked at or near the top of the sub $100 earbuds that I have used.  Currently at $89, down from $199, the sound, the comfort, the accessories, and the ability to charge via USB-C or wirelessly were a steal.  The device lacked some of the features of higher-end headphones like active noise cancellation and pass through, but I did not really miss them.  I was pleased with the 8-10 hour battery life and enjoyed Amazon Prime Music, Pandora, Spotify, and Audible on a recent trip to Nashville to visit the doctor for my youngest daughter.  Even though active noise canceling was not present, the passive noise cancellation helped to eliminate most of the road noise.  To evaluate the bass, I love to use “Bright Lights Bigger City” by CeeLo Green, “Train Song” by Holly Cole,” “Far Over The Misty Mountains Cold” from The Hobbit, the Gladiator Soundtrack, and Dark Knight Rises Joker Theme “Why So Serious,” from 3:00-4:00.  I found the bass was clear and crisp and supported the mids/upper sounds.  The mid/upper sounds never got tinny or harsh and the balance remained strong throughout low to higher volumes.  To round-out my testing experience, I listened to several options by the Gospel Plowboys, Home Free, Pentatonix, and The Gaither Vocal Band.  I love to listen to Bob Marley and the Wailers “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” Radiohead “The National Anthem,” “Caribbean Blue” by Enya, and Yosi Horikawa “Bubbles” to show the sound-staging.  I feel that the PaMu Unique headphones did a fairly good job at placing the music within space and with balancing the sounds.  Recently, I have begun using “Check your Earphones/Headphone Sound Quality with 7D Virtual Experience 1 and Experience 2” to test my headphones.  

I was pleased with the shape of the earbuds, with the weight of the earbuds, with the Bluetooth range, with the sound, and with the appearance.  The oval-shaped ear tips provided a comfortable listening experience and the microphone placement allowed for clear phone conversations when indoors or outdoors.  I was able to run/jog, jump rope, and to play with my kids outdoors while wearing the earbuds.  The IPX6 rating should have been noted to be sweatproof instead of waterproof, however.  These earbuds were not designed to be used for swimming, showers, or aquatic sports.  Watching movies/Television on Hulu, CBS All Access, Movies Anywhere, Amazon Prime Video, and VUDU provided a refreshing experience without any lag.  I was able to listen to the theatrical sounds, without disturbing my wife while sleeping or reading next to me.  Similar to many Bluetooth headphones/speakers, I did notice a significant lag while watching YouTube videos. I liked that they included USB-C charging and am on the fence about the USB-A to USB-C charging option.  The ability to charge wirelessly, with the added dongle, made a significant impact on the overall charging experience.  The ability to listen for >8 hours with only a few hours of charge may have been one of my favorite features.  

pamu Wireless Unique

Despite all of the positive aspects to the PaMu Unique earbuds, there were two features that I did not like.  With the trend to make devices smaller and more pocketable, they have started to acquire a characteristic long/flat shape.  The round cylindrical shape of the 3 3/4 inches long by 1 1/2 inches diameter case was not too comfortable in the pocket.  I loved the option to change the outer skin and that the website allows for several choices.  The second feature that I did not favor was the inability to reverse tracks with the earbuds.  Despite the negatives, the positive aspects to the earbuds far overshadowed them.  Overall, I would rate the PaMu Unique Earbuds at 9.5/10 for sound, 10/10 for comfort, 10/10 for battery life, 9.5/10 for accessories, and 10/10 for packaging.  For added information about the USB-C fast charging, (5 min for 1 hour), the quality audio, the consumer replaceable covers, and the accessories, navigate to the PaMu website.  

Learn more about the PaMu Unique Headphones
Follow PaMu on Facebook and Twitter.

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Nicholas Calderone https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[Circadian Optics lampu edition bright light therapy lamp review]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80065&preview=true&preview_id=80065 2020-05-29T19:07:43Z 2020-05-07T05:00:00Z

Proper light improves energy, focus, and quality of sleep.

I spend a large majority of my day sitting behind a computer screen. Given the fact that I run a review website that publishes multiple articles each day, this makes sense, but I still miss out on the precious benefits that the sun provides. Bright light, like what the sun provides, is important for regular human health. Studies show that too little light in the morning can cause people to feel tired throughout the day. And on the flip side, too much light at night can make it hard for people to fall asleep. As it is with most things in life, the amount of bright light that a person needs throughout the day is all about balance. So if you work in an office setting, how do you get a balanced amount of bright light at the right times of day? Introduce a Light Therapy Lamp from Circadian Optics into your workspace.

DETAILS & BACKGROUND

Circadian Optics designs a variety of bright light therapy lamps that provide daylight level light to users. The company is based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota and their purpose is to allow people to get the light you need, right at your desk. As the website describes, Circadian Optics was born in a dark office in the middle of winter when our bodies are the most light-deprived. The approach Circadian Optics takes is two-fold: they want to make products that look amazing and provide bright light for people at their desks. The lamps that Circadian Optics designs are based on the science of light therapy. The proper amount of light at the right times of the day can help people maintain a healthy sleep/wake cycle, improve moods, help concentration, and boost energy. Circadian Optics lamps are like having a mini sun on your desk. The lamps are designed with LED lights to provide bright light while filtering out UV rays. Circadian Optics instructs users to turn the lamp on in the morning because exposure to bright light earlier in the day stimulates receptors in the eyes and sets the body clock for the day ahead.

Circadian Optics Lampu

Lampu

The Lamps Light Therapy Lamp is one of the lights that Circadian Optics designs. It’s an ultra-bright 10,000 Lux Full Spectrum LED Light. The design of the lamp was inspired by the sun. It has flowing curves and clean lines and it projects a minimalist aesthetic. Lampu features a quick one-touch operation method. There are 3 levels of brightness that provide the best efficacy and comfort for users. Lampu provides the recommended 10,000 LUX brightness for effective light therapy to help beat winter blues, regulate sleep, fatigue, boost mood, and improve focus. The lamp produces pure white color (similar to what the noonday sun creates) at 5500K. The LEDs uses to make the Lampu will last approximately 50,000 hours. The lamp and the adapter are covered by Circadian Optic’s 2-year warranty.

SPECS

  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 8.8 x 4.75 inches
  • Power Source: Corded-Electric
  • Finish: Glossy
  • Lamp Type: LED

USER EXPERIENCE

The Lampu arrived in a nice retail-style package. The box shows an image of the product on it and some details so that the consumer knows what they are getting. The light itself is pretty hefty. This might be the only criticism I have of the Lampu — it’s size. The lamp takes up a large amount of space on my desk and I would rather see it have a smaller footprint in my workspace. Other than that, I really don’t have any complaints. Circadian Optics actually does offer other lamps that are smaller, but I wish the Lampu was offered as a smaller version, too, because I love its design.

Circadian Optics Lampu

I love that there is no assembly required. You just take the light out of its box, plug it in, and tap the touch area on the back to turn it on. When you first turn the light on, it’s on high. Tap it a second time to lower the intensity to medium and a third time to turn it to the lowest setting. The operation is simple and the lamp looks really great in my office. I have a white aesthetic pulled together around my workspace so it’s really cool to see the Lampu fit right in.

So, the big question is, “Does it work?” I spend a lot of time working with different products and figuring out different ways to test them. When I have a card reader, I plug in an SD card and test the speed of the device using a speed test app and I time how long it takes for files to transfer. With Lampu and light therapy, I don’t have a good option for this type of testing method. I received the Lampu a few months ago and have been using it consistently on a daily basis. When I get up in the morning and sit down at my desk, the first thing I do is switch on the lamp.

Circadian Optics Lampu

The user manual recommends placing the lamp 5-18 inches away from you. It also suggests adjusting it so that it’s just off to the side of your face. You shouldn’t be looking right into it. The user manual also suggests experimenting with the light intensity and session duration until you find a routine that’s personal for you. It’s also recommended that you start with 10-minute sessions and use the light for 30-60 minutes per day. I typically use it for around 45 minutes and use it on the lowest intensity setting. I started with the highest intensity, but it was just a little too bright for me. So, I started turning it down and increasing the length of time I was using it. This is also how the manual suggests using it.

As I mentioned, I don’t have scientific proof that the Lampu is helping me, but I can say that I feel better when I do use it. Since I received it, I have had days where I don’t use Lampu and I can definitely tell the difference. I do feel more energetic and focused after completing a light therapy session and my days just seem to be brighter (no pun intended).

Circadian Optics Lampu
Lampu on High Power

CONCLUSION

When I saw Circadian Optics featured on Shark Tank, I knew it was something I wanted to try. I always hate the winter months where days are shorter and I love being able to enjoy sunlight when the weather is nice. With that in mind, Lampu became the perfect solution for me because I’ve been able to work, be more productive, and enjoy the benefits of sunlight with the light therapy the product provides. While I can’t say 100% that there is a scientific benefit to my tests, I can say that I feel better throughout the day when I use it.

For more information, visit circadianoptics.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Jon Walters https://macsources.com <![CDATA[HUDWAy Cast Headsup display Review]]> https://macsources.com/?p=81079 2020-05-28T18:24:02Z 2020-05-28T18:22:00Z Attractive heads-up display with promising features but limited iOS functionality.

A few years ago, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, I had the experience of learning about the HUDWAY CAST.  It seems like forever ago that we were able to mingle en masse and to enjoy the company of people, but the experience was amazing. With so many states requiring hands-free calling, I was excited about the ability to use turn-by-turn navigation and to see the information without having to move my head. Similar to a heads-up display on a video game, the HUDWAY CAST promised to enhance my driving experience.

The HUDWAY CAST arrived in a 7 1/2 inches square by 3 3/4 inches tall black package.  The cover provided a somewhat subdued black ink outline of the HUDWAYCAST device and the back provided a small paragraph detailing the features of the device.  The company described it as a “driving device that streams the smartphone screen information into the driver’s line of sight. This way, it allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road while staying connected.”  Despite the QR code tape holding the lid closed, all of the other sides were left blank.  Within the box, you will find several foam cutouts housing the device.  The main body of the HUDWAYCAST cast measured 4 inches wide by 6 inches long and 1 1/2 inches tall (projector).  Along the back of the device, you will find a 1-inch wide hinge connected to a 3 1/4 inches tall by 7 inches wide curved mirror protected with microfiber lens cover.  Additionally, you will find the power input port and phone input ports.  On the bottom of the device, you will find a 1 1/2 inch diameter locking ring, which was designed to accommodate the included attachment options.  On the top of the HUDWAYCAST, you will find a large QR code sticker (links to the APP) and three 3/8 inches by 3/8 inches buttons for power and volume up/down.  When opened, the glass will be furthest away from you and will have a concave shape.  Regarding power supply, you will find an 8 7/8 inches long USB-A female to micro-USB male cable, and a DC12V/4.8A dual output car adaptor plug with dual USB-A charging ports and 84 inches long power cable. 

To attach the device to your vehicle, the company included a four-leafed-clover shaped mount with 3M tape.  The front legs measured  5 inches wide by 2 1/ inches tall and tapered to a 2 5/8 inches middle body section.  The back limbs measured 5 3/4 inches wide by 2 7/8 inches tall.  In total, the device was 5 3/8 inches tall by 5 7/8 inches wide.  On the top of the mount, you will find “FRONT” with an arrow depicting the correct placement toward the windshield.  Along the middle of the surface, you will find a 1 3/8 inches wide by 2 inches tall slightly raised slide and a 1 1/2 inches diameter twist lock.  Align the twist lock of the base with the port on the HUDWAYCAST and then twist the device into place.  Once you have cleaned your dash, remove the 3M sticker and affix it to the surface making sure the angle is optimized for utility.  Lastly, within the box, you will find a HUDWAYCAST magnetic phone mount and metallic phone plate.  Personally, I preferred a vent mount from VENTEV rather than another sticky dash bound device. 

With the dash mount firmly affixed, the HUDWAY CAST attached to the mount, I plugged in the power cable and ran it down the contour of my dash to the car lighter area.  I plugged the phone adaptor into the port and then an old USB-A to lightning cable into the USB-A input port.  To download the App, you can scan the QR code within the manual or atop the device, or you can navigate to the iOS or Google Play store.  Since I have an iPhone 11 Pro Max and no android phone, I reviewed the device using my iPhone.  I downloaded the 2.7* App from the iOS App Store and navigated through the introductory panels.  The first panel noted that you could use your phone, hands-free, attached to the vent, or attached to the dash. However, they designed their product to work more optimally for hands-free driving. The second panel described the dashboard and widgets, which could quickly access frequent actions, or swipe to view widgets/share locations.  The third panel, “NAVIGATION,” discussed that the device would provide Simple turn-by-turn navigational instructions.  The fourth panel, “MUSIC,” noted that you could connect to your available streaming services like Spotify or music library for easier hands-free operation.  The fifth panel, “CALLS,” noted that you could add a list of favorite numbers to call quickly.  The sixth panel, “PERMISSIONS,” discussed the need for permissions to allow the device to work.

When I plugged my phone into the HUDWAYCAST device, it said “Waiting for iOS device Access.”  When I navigated to settings on the App, I saw an error message “No Compatible devices found. External HUD mode only works with HUDWAY CAST Cast device.”  When I tapped the green “Learn More” button, the App navigated me to a new device called the HUDWAY Drive and showed an announcement “SOLD OUT HUDWAY CAST is all sold out and will not be available any longer.”  Furthermore, the panel stated that they “loved it but it was time for something newer and more powerful.”  Selecting the option “Ok, got it!” took me to the panel which detailed the newer device.  I turned to the HUDWAY Help Center to find a method to make the device work with my iPhone.  I navigated to WiFi, chose HUDWAY-C15015 from the list. Connecting wirelessly did not work either.   The only workaround that I found was to swipe down from the top right and to select screen mirroring from the options. While plugged in, the screen displayed the iPhone screen. If the phone was in vertical mode, it would display vertically. If you rotate your phone into landscape then the image would rotate on screen as well. I tried using this system while driving and found that it did not work any better than a hands-free vent mount. While connected, I received a phone call and the navigation went away. I was displeased with the device, with the App integration, and now with the fact that they appear to have moved on to a new device completely. I hope to test the HUDWAY Drive device and to truly evaluate a functional heads-up display. Unfortunately, for now, this device provided no utility for me. While working on this review, I found that the company is accepting trade-in HUDWAY cast devices for a 40% discount on their newer device, which will be available for preorder in Q2 2020. If they can fix the issues with the HUDWAY Cast with the HUDWAY Drive and improved iOS functionality, the HUDWAY Drive may be the go-to option.

Learn more about the HUDWAY Drive.
Follow HUDWAY on Facebook and Twitter.

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Maria Calderone https://MacSources.com <![CDATA[BlitzWolf BW-KS1 Bluetooth Party Karaoke Speaker REVIEW]]> https://macsources.com/?p=81033&preview=true&preview_id=81033 2020-05-28T17:47:50Z 2020-05-28T17:47:48Z

A decent speaker with additional features.

Ever since I was little I always wanted to have a karaoke machine. I’ve always enjoyed singing and having fun with family and friends. Karaoke is the perfect combination of both those activities. Karaoke is fun for people of all ages and as it turns out, the best things come with time because I happen to have a really fun Karaoke speaker from Blitzwolf now — the Bluetooth Party Karaoke Speaker (BW-KS1).

DETAILS

The Blitzwolf Bluetooth Party Karaoke Speaker is a powerful all-in-one solution for listening to and singing along with your favorite music. It can be connected to wirelessly or by using AUX in, FM Mode, or TF Card/USB Flash Drive. The speaker is designed to be portable and provides HiFi sound quality. It has a recording function (must be in TF/USB mode and have a TF card or USB flash drive inserted) and a battery level indicator on the display. The included microphone is wireless as well. The speaker is made with PC, PVC, Iron, and Aluminum Alloys to keep it lightweight and make it easy to carry. The speaker comes with a remote that makes it easy to switch between modes, change songs, or increase/decrease the volume. The speaker has a small LED strip built-in that responds to music and helps to create a ‘party atmosphere.’ In addition to volume, users also have the opportunity to adjust the echo, bass, and treble levels of the speaker.

SPECS

  • Bluetooth Version: 4.1
  • Transmission Distance: ~33 feet (10m)
  • Working Voltage: DC 5V
  • Charging Time: About 4 hours
  • Data Sync Speed: 2.1 Mbps (over the air), 300 Kbp (over UART)
  • Power: 20W
  • Battery Capacity: 4500 mAh
  • Play Time (AUX/Bluetooth)
    • 50% Volume: 4-5 hours
    • 100% Volume: 2 hours
  • Speaker Dimensions: 12 x 7 x 13 inches
  • Weight: 5.2 pounds

USER EXPERIENCE

The Karaoke speaker was delivered in a cardboard box. It had a plastic cover to protect the equipment from getting beat up or scratched. There wasn’t any assembly required other than charging the speaker and inserting AA batteries into the microphone (not included). The speaker does come with a strap that can be attached for easy transport of the speaker, but it’s not really essential since the speaker has a handle. I would have liked to see a place to attach the microphone, charging cable, and remote on the speaker itself. Even if it was just a simple pouch on the back of the unit, it would have bee great to be able to keep all of the essential pieces together with the speaker.

The next thing I noticed right off the bat was the charging cable. Yes, one end of it is a USB-A plug, but the other is a DC plug. Therefore, if you lose this cable, you have no way to charge the speaker. That is problematic in my mind. I would have rather seen this charging option be more universal like USB-C or even Micro USB. Also, there was no power adapter included with the speaker. That means I had to dig out a USB-A power adapter to charge the speaker. Along the same lines, I’m not a fan of the battery-powered microphone. I would rather see it be rechargeable like the speaker. I’ve always felt like if batteries are required, they should be included. One thing that is kind of weird is that the instructions state that 5 AA batteries are required, but when you unscrew the base from the microphone you will find that there are only 2 spots for batteries. I’m sure that it’s just an older version of the instructions, but it is still worth pointing out.

Once the speaker was charged and batteries were installed in the microphone, I connected my phone via Bluetooth and turned on a station on Pandora. I streamed some music and sang along with it. The microphone has its own volume control so you can mix the music and the microphone together pretty well. I have tested out the volume, bass, and echo and they work amazingly. I walked around the house with the microphone and it stayed connected to the speaker. I do have to admit that sound quality isn’t that great. The specs state that it has HiFi quality, but I noticed that both the FM radio stream and Bluetooth connected audio were not crystal clear. They were ok, but not great. The LED lighting effects don’t seem to move with the music either. They move in an up and down sequence, but not in time with the music.

CONCLUSION

The Blitzwolf Bluetooth Party Karaoke Speaker is a decent option for a large portable PA speaker. I don’t think it’s worth billing as a “Karaoke” speaker because it doesn’t come with any Karaoke software or option to view lyrics. To me, that is what defines a Karaoke device. The speaker works well and does come with the added benefit of a connected microphone. I just don’t feel like it’s fair to call it a Karaoke Party speaker.

For more information, visit blitzwolf.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Nicholas Calderone https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[MyRadar to Live Stream SpaceX Mission and launch new feature NEWS]]> https://macsources.com/?p=81085&preview=true&preview_id=81085 2020-05-27T13:46:58Z 2020-05-27T13:46:56Z MyRadar to Live Stream SpaceX Crewed Mission Coverage with John Zarrella and Launch New Orbital Track Feature

ACME AtronOmatic, LLC, makers of the MyRadar Weather Radar mobile application for iOS, Android, Windows, and Xbox, showcase today their live coverage of the upcoming launch of the SpaceX crewed mission to the International Space Station. Launch coverage will begin at 3:30 PM Eastern time streaming within the MyRadar App and on social media channels.  MyRadar also announces the launch of its ability to track orbital objects from within the app, which includes the ability to track this SpaceX capsule launch in realtime.

Veteran Space Correspondent John Zarrella will be hosting and covering the event for MyRadar from the Space Coast in Florida with live reporting, play-by-play commentary as well as interviews and content.  Zarrella is a seasoned journalist with a 32-year stint working for CNN, having covered over 75 space shuttle launches, numerous Mars missions and has produced countless space-related documentaries for various networks, including several for MyRadar.

MyRadar, the popular weather radar app with over 13 million active monthly users, provides easy access to high resolution weather radar, current conditions and forecast information, as well as an entire catalog of other environmentally-related data, including wildfire information, earthquake reporting, NWS weather alerts, and our industry-leading, hyper-accurate, hyper-local rain alerts. 

One of the most recent features added to the app provides the ability to track orbital objects from within the MyRadar app.  Users can currently track the International Space Station and see its orbital path over the map. On the day of the launch, uses will also be able to track the SpaceX capsule with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley on board as it makes its way towards its rendezvous with the International Space Station.  The new feature will provide a uniquely interactive way for users to follow along with the event as it unfolds from within the MyRadar app.

MyRadar is a free download available on iOS, Android, Windows and Xbox.

www.myradar.com and the live stream interviews for the SpaceX launch can be viewed here youtube.com/myradar,

Find MyRadar on Facebook or Twitter.

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Nicholas Calderone https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[Pico Interactive Announces Availability of its Neo 2 NEWS]]> https://macsources.com/?p=81074&preview=true&preview_id=81074 2020-05-27T13:27:53Z 2020-05-27T13:27:51Z The Neo 2 line is now shipping worldwide to improve overall work quality and efficiency for the enterprise

Pico Interactive, a global tech company that develops innovative virtual reality (VR) and enterprise solutions, today announces the availability of its highly anticipated headsets from the Pico Neo line–the Neo 2and Neo 2 Eye, both of which deliver key VR solutions to the enterprise.

Both models were built with business in mind, featuring best-in-class 4K resolution, enterprise functionality, six degrees of freedom (6DoF), and spatial stereo speakers. The headsets feature the comfort and hygienic design of an all-PU facial interface, unique counterbalanced design for easy and extended wear, and have plenty of room for prescription glasses. Using the Qualcomm® Snapdragon 845™ Mobile Platform with Boundless XR, the Neo 2 allows content streaming from a VR Ready PC and select existing PC VR platforms.

“We believe the Neo 2 line is helping us achieve our goal to deliver the best standalone VR hardware with AAA enterprise service and options for business,” said Henry Zhou, CEO of Pico Interactive. “Our hardware is quickly becoming the preferred devices for leading companies in medical, training, marketing, and location-based entertainment verticals. We’ve partnered with some great companies to not only help professionals in their day-to-day across a variety of industries but also in times of crisis.”

In partnership with Tobii –the world leader in eye-tracking –the Neo 2 Eye model improves daily enterprise operations and applications. The Neo 2 Eye adds eye-tracking functionality to its base model, allowing businesses to gain a deeper understanding of customer behavior, enhance training efficiency, improve productivity, and increase overall safety at work. Neo 2 Eye also includes dynamic foveated rendering powered by Tobii Spotlight Technology™, reducing shading load in some applications by up to 72%. This allows for a variety of benefits including increased framerate by up to 66%, improved graphics, and battery performance. 

“Over the last two years, we have seen Tobii eye-tracking become a foundational technology that makes XR devices better and improves the user experience,” said Anand Srivatsa, Division CEO of Tobii Tech. “It is fantastic to partner closely with Pico on the extraordinary Neo 2 Eye and to enable enterprise and professional users to unlock greater operational efficiency, provide powerful user insights, enhancing training, simulation, and product development capabilities.”

In addition to Tobii, Pico is also partnering with other top companies across the enterprise to provide a more immersive and engaging work environment, as it’s needed even more so now during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes Mozilla, who bringsitsFirefox Reality browser to all Pico headsets. Firefox Reality is the first browser built and designed for mixed reality to deliver an immersive browsing experience that provides users with ease of use, control, and privacy. 

“Partnering with Pico allows Mozilla to share our Firefox Reality browser, which is built and designed specifically for mixed reality (including WebXR support), to deliver an immersive browsing experience,” says Andre Vrignaud, Mozilla’s Head Of Mixed Reality Platform Strategy.“Our browser provides Pico’s business customers with the ease of use,control and privacy that is expected from Firefox.” 

The Neo 2 is now available for purchaseat$699USDand the Neo 2 Eye for $899USD. More information on both headsets are available at https://www.pico-interactive.com/us/neo2.html. As Pico focuses on enterprise, these headsets are sold direct to companies via a dedicated sales team spread across the globe, including offices in San Francisco and Barcelona.

For more information on Pico Interactive, visit www.pico-interactive.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Nicholas Calderone https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[FIDO Alliance Debuts New Consumer Educational Site NEWS]]> https://macsources.com/?p=81081&preview=true&preview_id=81081 2020-05-27T13:17:24Z 2020-05-27T13:17:22Z Newly released research demonstrates consumer desire for easier and safer logins 

The FIDO Alliance today announced a new website and suite of supporting assets aimed at educating consumers and their service providers on the benefits of FIDO’s approach to simpler, stronger user authentication. At the core of this effort is the debut of loginwithFIDO.com, a site to inform people about FIDO Authentication technologies. It launches in conjunction with the FIDO “I-Mark”, an easy-to-spot symbol that indicates the device or website consumers are using is authenticating with FIDO technology. Fueled by popular demand, these new tools further the Alliance’s mission to reduce the world’s reliance on passwords and encourage further adoption of FIDO Authentication. 

With over 250 members representing global leaders in internet services, security, finance, communications and government, the FIDO Alliance collaborates to fulfill its mission of addressing the plague of data breaches caused by outdated, password-based authentication. Since its inception, the FIDO Alliance has established technical specifications that have become the trusted standard for user authentication on the devices and web browsers we use every day. FIDO has created a fast and easy alternative to passwords, letting people unlock a device or log in to a website using options like biometrics, a security key, or a local PIN code. These simple yet secure methods remove reliance on passwords and stand to turn the tide in the industry’s battle against data breaches and credential theft. 

“As the FIDO standards are reaching a tipping point with widespread adoption among technology companies, it’s a natural next step for us to provide consumers with a place to learn more, and to help companies implement user logins that are easier to use and that keep personal data and information secure in order to instill further trust in their brands, ” said Andrew Shikiar, executive director and chief marketing officer of the FIDO Alliance. “Soon, when consumers see the I-Mark on the sites they use, they can be confident that they’re getting a common user experience that is easy, trusted and fully secure.” 

Leading up to the launch of loginwithfido.com, the Alliance conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers to understand their behaviors when it comes to login passwords and security. The research indicated their desire to have stronger security for banking/ payment apps and e-commerce sites, but those consumers do not follow proper safety protocols when managing their passwords. 52 percent are using five or fewer passwords across all of their accounts and most (45 percent) keep track of them in their head and nowhere else. 

“While most people know they shouldn’t repeatedly use the same password, convenience is currently winning over security,” added Shikiar. “The research tells us that consumers will benefit greatly if they understand FIDO’s technology — marrying convenience with security that goes beyond the ways they are currently managing their passwords.” 

In the same study, consumers were briefed on FIDO technology and its benefits, and 71 percent would trust mobile apps and websites more if they knew these sites and devices were using the FIDO Alliance authentication standards and validation technology. The I-Mark button is a direct response to help consumers discern quickly which sites and devices are secured through its technology. Now, they can easily spot the button on their login pages and immediately recognize they can use FIDO authentication for a safer, more secure login. 

FIDO Alliance members are enthusiastic supporters of the direction the Alliance is taking with this consumer effort. For more information for both consumers and service providers, please visit www.loginwithfido.com or Twitter.

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Robyn https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[AUKEY Unity link III usb-c hub REVIEW]]> https://macsources.com/?p=81014&preview=true&preview_id=81014 2020-05-26T18:09:30Z 2020-05-26T18:09:29Z

An impressive 8-in-1 hub for connecting to the world outside your laptop.

When you work with a USB-C driven laptop, you have to find ways to connect to the outside world (i.e. devices). For several years now a 2016 MacBook Pro has been my daily driver computer. In case you aren’t familiar with it, the 2016 MBP comes with four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports — and that’s all. It can be a struggle to connect with external devices unless you have the right peripherals at your disposal — like the Unity Link PD III USB-C Hub from AUKEY.

DETAILS

The Unity Link PD III USB-C Hub is designed to provide users with an all-in-one connectivity solution for USB-C compatible computers. With the hub you have the ability to turn a single USB-C port into six ports plus a display connection, card reader, charging port, and an Ethernet port. The Power Delivery (PD) port provides up to 100W of power and is compatible with 15-inch MacBook Pros. The hub has the power to keep those larger laptops charged. The Unity Link III supports pass through charging and all 8 ports can be used simultaneously. The HDMI port outputs resolutions up to 4K @ 30Hz and allows for computers to be able to stream UHD videos to a monitor, TV, or projector.

SPECS

  • Model: CB-C71
  • Interfaces: 2 USB 3.1 Gen 1 (USB 3.0) data ports, 1 USB 2.0 data port, HDMI port, Ethernet port, USB-C Power Delivery port, SD & MicroSD card slots
  • Connector: USB-C
  • USB-C Power Delivery Input: DC 5V–20V 5A (up to 100W)
  • USB Data Port Output: DC 5V 900mA (Max)
  • USB Data Transfer Speed: Up to 5Gbps
  • HDMI Display Resolution: Up to 4K@30Hz
  • SD & MicroSD Card Compatibility: MicroSD, MicroSDHC, MicroSDXC, SD,SDHC, and SDXC cards
  • SD & MicroSD Card Capacity: Up to 2TB
  • SD& MicroSD Card Data Transfer Speed: Up to 5Gbps
  • Material: ABS, PC
  • Cable Length: 150mm / 5.91”
  • Dimensions: 102 x 57 x 15mm / 4.02” x 2.24” x 0.59”
  • Weight: 57g / 2oz

USER EXPERIENCE

For the past 8 weeks, I’ve had to either work from home or split my time between my office and my home. It’s been somewhat of an exhausting exercise because I feel like I’m living as a nomad. As a result of this lifestyle, I’ve been using hubs quite often to connect to external monitors, mouses, and keyboards. The Unity Link III hub actually provides some of the best connectivity I’ve used in recent days. Until it came across my desk, I was using a different hub that frequently overheated when many devices were connected. Just today, I’ve had my laptop plugged into the AUKEY hub along with a keyboard, mouse, and a set of headphones that are charging and the hub is not putting off any heat at all.

The hub is pretty simple in operation. It comes in a plain cardboard box with an outlined illustration that often accompanies AUKEY products. Inside the box, I found the hub wrapped in plastic with the multilingual user guide nestled below it. One thing that I didn’t expect to find was the carrying pouch that comes with the Unity Link III. It’s a very nice pouch that keeps the attached cable from getting caught on anything or damaged by something like loose keys if the user ends up carrying this in a pocket.

As a hub, it works really well. It has provided a consistent connection for my MacBook Pro to the external devices that I’ve need to be connected to. Even though I typically use WiFi with my laptop, I did connect an Ethernet cable to test that functionality out and found that it worked quite well. I think the Unity Link III is a really nice all-around hub. It does seem to be a little pricier than other models that are offered on Amazon but as I mentioned above, a lot of those other hubs tend to overheat and this one has not.

CONCLUSION

I’ve been a fan of AUKEY products for quite some time and I’m really excited to add this hub into my standard accessories for my laptop. The Unity Link III is a robust hub that provides just the right amount of connection for my needs. It’s portable and compatible with my laptop and other devices I use.

For more information, visit aukey.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Robyn https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[SOUNDPeats TrueBuds True Wireless Earbuds REVIEW]]> https://macsources.com/?p=81006&preview=true&preview_id=81006 2020-05-26T16:34:30Z 2020-05-26T16:34:28Z

You don’t have to break the bank to have high-quality earbuds.

Affordable headphones that sound great and are comfortable to wear are hard to come by. I should know since I’ve tested quite a few sets of them. I usually end up with headaches and earaches from improper fitting earbuds or they just sound hollow. This is why earbuds not typically my favorite type of headphones. That said, I have found some sets that are worth the time like this amazing set of earbuds from Soundpeats — the TrueBuds Wireless Earbuds.

DETAILS

The TrueBuds Wireless Earbuds are considered “semi-in-ear” earphones. They feature touch controls, Bluetooth 5.0, and long-lasting battery life. The earbuds are designed with a semi-in-ear fit so that there is a balance between comfort and snug fit. The goal was to provide users with a design that eliminated discomfort and optimized experience with sensitive touch controls. The TrueBuds also provide the user with a large capacity charging case that features a 2600 mAh rechargeable battery and can work as a mobile power bank in an emergency. A single charge on the earbuds provides a user with 3.5 hours of playtime. The TrueBuds have Bluetooth 5.0 integrated for a stable connection and seamless switch between stereo and mono modes. A powerful driver is built into the earbuds (a large 14.2 bio-compound diaphragm) that delivers immersive and lossless sound. It takes balance on highs, mids, and lows into account so users get the best sound possible.

SPECS

  • Bluetooth chip: RTL8763BFP
  • Waterproof level: IPX4
  • Bluetooth: 5.0
  • Audio Codec: SBC, AAC
  • Working Range: 33 feet (10m)
  • Technology: HSP1.2, HFP1.6, A2DP1.3, AVRCP1.6
  • Battery Capacity: 2600 mAh (case)
  • Charging Time: 4.5 hours
  • Standby Time: 32 hours
  • Playtime: 60 hours
  • Product dimensions: 1.71 x 0.85 x 0.67 inches
  • Weight: 0.32 ounces

What’s in the Box

  • Soundpeats Truebuds Wireless Earbuds
  • Charging Case
  • USB-C Charging Cable
  • User Manual

USER EXPERIENCE

The TrueBuds come in a nice retail package. The front of the box is white with an image of the earbuds in black. It’s a nice contrast and really makes the product image stand out. There isn’t a lot of product information included on the box, but on the back there is the contact information for Soundpeats included as well as another image of the product.

When you open the box, you will find the earbuds stored in their charging case, a couple of information cards, a short (12-inch) USB-C cable for charging the case, and a multi-language user manual. I immediately opened the case and pulled the earbuds out. I decided to see if I could start using them without any instruction from the manual. As it turns out, the earbuds entered pairing mode when I removed them from the case and I connected them to my phone. The earbuds actually look and feel a lot like Apple AirPods, which is part of the reason I really liked them by their design. Apple AirPods are one of the only sets of earbuds that ‘fit’ my ears well. So, by the transitive property, I figured that the Soundpeats TrueBuds would also be a good fit. I was right. From the moment I slipped them into my ears, I was comfortable. The earbuds actually feel a little loose and I thought they might slip out. As it turns out though, they are actually pretty secure.

I opened up Pandora and started streaming music as soon as I had the earbuds in my ears. I was shocked that they sounded so good. This was in part because they are so budget-friendly ($49 at the time of writing this article) and in part because of their loose fit. I’ve found earbuds that have a looser fit sometimes lose detail in the audio. Soundpeats has somehow found a way to get this done without the premium cost. Music was not hollow sounding at all. I did notice that they do not provide much — if any — sound isolation. They aren’t billed as noise-cancelling earbuds, but you usually get a little ambient noise being blocked based on how tightly an earbud fits into the ear. Because they are looser fit, ambient noise does seep through. I don’t might this because it means I can listen to music, but still be aware of my surroundings.

My ultimate sound test is the first 5-7 minutes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. It’s a very diverse soundtrack that includes dialogue, music, score, and sound effects. I’m happy to say that the TrueBuds passed the GOTG test. I feel like there might have been a little detail lost during the Marvel intro, but the rest of the opening was clear and none of the details were muted or undefined.

CONCLUSION

So, are the TrueBuds as good as on-ear headphones? No. But they are really solid earbuds. I’m not sure if they will work for someone who is vigorously working out as they could pop out of an ear with lots of movement, but they work really well for most activities. I hope the TrueBuds will last the test of time because it would be great to have a set of budget-friendly earbuds that can be depended on.

For more information, visit soundpeats.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Nicholas Calderone https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[BenjiLock by Hampton 43mm Fingerprint padlock review]]> https://macsources.com/?p=79747&preview=true&preview_id=79747 2020-05-22T20:14:16Z 2020-05-21T20:28:31Z

A traditional padlock with a technology twist.

I remember getting my first padlock and installing on a locker at school. It was a combination lock and in those days if you forgot the combination, you better just go buy a new lock. Today, there are new styles of lock that incorporate technology into their infrastructure. One of them is BenjiLock.

DETAILS

BenjiLock by Hampton is the world’s first padlock that features both fingerprint technology and a traditional key lock. BenjiLock can store up to 10 fingerprints and is stable enough for multiple users. The lock has a built-in LED indicator that helps the user understand when the correct fingerprint is registered by the scanner and while a fingerprint is being programmed. The lock is made of die-cast zinc with a chrome-plated hardened steel shackle. The lock is fully rechargeable and has a built-in lithium-ion battery that can last up to 6 months on a single charge (depending on its use). The lock weighs 8.8 ounces and measures 4.1 x 2.7 x 2.2 inches in size. It is available in matte black, dark navy, white, and matte grey color finishes.

USER EXPERIENCE

BenjiLock has a very interesting history. In 2017, BenjiLock debuted its first prototype lock at CES. I know because I was there. MacSources writer, Jon Walters, actually had the chance to get his hands on a very early model of the device described here:

I was able to meet members of the team and to discuss the lock. Unfortunately, the company did not have a working device. They brought a prototype to CES, one that was not operational. The device was resting inside of a pedestal/glass display box. I had asked the team to feel and hold the device. The white base of the padlock is very eye-catching and the logo is appealing. I gripped the metal of the lock and pulled upwards and accidentally separated the two halves. This is where they told me that this was a prototype/nonfunctional device. I apologized and then they noted that it was okay, it was glued in place.

Little did Jon know that the same broken prototype that he had the chance to look at up close and personal would later be in front of the producers of ABC’s Shark Tank during their annual open casting call for the hit show. If you aren’t familiar with the show, product inventors have the opportunity to approach investors with their company/idea pitch in the hopes that they will walk away with funding to support their product. As it happens, BenjiLock was chosen as a featured product, which was aired on an episode late in 2017. BenjiLock was awarded $200,000 in exchange for 15% equity in his company to Shark Kevin O’Leary. After the feature on Shark Tank, the CEO of Hampton Products International sought out the investor O’Leary and the pair brokered a deal and the patent rights were sold to Hampton.

Ever since Jon’s initial introduction to the BenjiLock more than three years ago, we’ve been dying to get our hands on the real product. The company has made quite a name for itself and carved out a niche in the safety and security market. There are other padlocks that feature fingerprint technology, but none of them are paired with a traditional key option and all of the ones we’ve tested (Master Lock, Noke, Dog & Bone Locksmart, and Tapplock) have required a companion app, which the BenjiLock does not.

Now that I’ve had the chance to use a ‘real’ BenjiLock, I can say that it’s a solid product. It weighs a little more than a 1/2 pound and is made from really tough elements. It has some interesting retail packaging — a clear plastic cylinder. The clear package makes it easy to see the entire product and the details that included give just enough information to make the product intriguing to potential buyers. There is a Shark Tank stamp on the package, too.

The BenjiLock comes partially charged, but it’s recommended that users plug it in before they start using it. The lock comes with a short Micro USB cable. This is one improvement that BenjiLock could make with their next production run — incorporate USB-C instead of Micro USB. To charge the lock you either plug the USB cable into a USB port on a computer or power strip, or into a wall adapter (not included). The LED indicator will glow red until it’s done charging. The user manual states that it will take around 3 hours for a full depleted BenjiLock to recharge.

Once you have a charged lock, it’s time to program the Master User. The Master User fingerprint is the first one to be programmed into the lock. This fingerprint will be needed to add/remove other users. The process is similar to the way you program a fingerprint into a phone. You wake the fingerprint reader by tapping a finger on it. The lights around the fingerprint reader flash, you turn the key counterclockwise until the lights around the sensor are solid blue, and then you press a button on the bottom of the lock. This action seems to let the lock know that you are trying to program a fingerprint. This next part of the process was a little confusing and it took me a couple of tries to get the sequence right. You hold the finger you want to have saved over the sensor until the LED indicator turns on BLUE and then shuts off. Then you do the same step 4-5 times until the LED indicator quickly flashes blue indicating that the fingerprint has been saved. At this point, you can remove the key from the lock.

Even though the process is a little cumbersome it’s nice to not have to use an app to manage the lock. Once a fingerprint is saved, the operation of the lock is really, really simple. You simply hold your finger over the sensor for 2-3 seconds. The LED indicator will glow blue if it’s accepted and red if it isn’t. If the fingerprint is accepted, the shackle will pop open. Users also have the option of just using one of the two keys that are provided to unlock the padlock. I like that the lock is so hefty and how it feels in the hand. Its body does seem a little smaller than standard padlocks, but it’s very well-built. The only concern I would have safety-wise is that with there being a standard key hole included, there is always the chance that someone could still pick the lock.

CONCLUSION

BenjiLock has certainly come a long way from where it first started a few years ago. The product and the company have seemingly moved mountains to bring this product to market and to make sure the right people are involved. Since its debut at CES in 2017, BenjiLock has expanded its product portfolio to include the TSA padlock as well as the 43mm standard padlock.

For more information, visit benjilock.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Jon Walters https://macsources.com <![CDATA[Lockly Secure Pro Deadbolt review]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80966 2020-05-22T20:13:52Z 2020-05-21T18:48:00Z

Enjoy enhanced access to your smart home with the most advanced smart lock money can buy.

As we quest to retrofit our homes with newer smarter technology, we can opt for package deals like those through VIVINT, or we can create a patchwork system. I have been with Vivint for nearly a decade and have enjoyed outdoor cameras, doorbell cameras, door sensors/window sensors, fire alarm sensors, carbon monoxide sensors, thermostats, and I have two out of our three external doors with smart locks. While on COVID-19 lockdown, we have been using our backdoor more frequently to go out on the deck, to access the hammocks, and to get to the newly installed zip line. It became quite annoying to need to carry our key or to walk around the home to then walk through the home to unlock the lock. I wanted a smart-lock option for the backdoor also and thus, I turned to Lockly.

UNBOXING:
If you are looking for matching door sets, you can find these options at local retailers. If not, you can pick and choose your options/designs. The Lockly Secure Pro Deadbolt Edition arrived in a 9 1/4 inches wide by 8 7/8inches tall by 4 5/16 inches thick retail package.  Designed to replace the deadbolt only, you will need to either keep your previous handle option or purchase another that may or may not match the deadbolt. On first impression, I was very pleased with the presentation of the Lockly packaging. Along the top left of the cover, you will find the Lockly Home/Office/Rental title. The main focal point of the cover was the attractive 2 5/8 inches wide by 6 1/8 inches tall image of the deadbolt lock. Along the right side of the panel, you will find an icon for Bluetooth, Advanced 3D fingerprint, Wireless Door sensor, and a CES Innovations Awards sticker.  Along the bottom of the cover, you will find a LINK icon (Secure Link Wi-Fi Hub included, and icons for Google Assistant/Amazon Alexa).  Between the cover art and the listed details, I was excited to peruse the remaining panels. 

Rotating the heavy 87.16-ounce packaging, I found the top panel to be empty and the bottom panel had a warning label to not return/restock if previously opened.  The right side panel listed the product dimensions (7.05-inches/179mm tall by 2.91-inches/74mm wide), the What’ Inside (Secure pro smart lock, bolt assembly, screws, strike plate/housing, back plate, physical keys x 2, AA alkaline batteries x 4, Secure link Wi-Fi Hub, Secure Link Power adaptor, Secure Link door sensor, quick start guide, installation manual, and user manual), and listed that the product was used for doors 1 3/8 inches to 2 inches thick.  Beneath this section, I was pleased to find the product specifications: model Secure Pro Deadbolt Edition, Color options Satin Nickel, Venetian Bronze, Matte Black, single-cylinder door lock, door thickness, backset, 1” bolt and working temperatures -4 to 140 degrees F (-20 through 60C).  Lastly,you will find copyright information and an SKU barcode.  

The opposite side panel was dedicated to the device and App features.  Each of eight functions was detailed in paragraph form (Universal Direction installation, packed with the latest technology, offline access codes, worlds first secure digital touch screen, advanced 3D fingerprint access, premium-grade quality, Easy Installation (IN MINUTES), Secure LInk Wi-Fi included.  The back panel provided a longer, more detailed, description of the product.  If you are like me, the packaging of a device is often just as important as the device itself.  I love to read about the product, to learn a little about the technology, and to feel like I am getting a useful piece of tech.  I was excited to test out the cell phone Lockly App door access, fingerprint access, and the modulating keypad display to allow a unique experience with each event. I was also excited to learn more about the Amazon integration and secure link wireless door sensors.  With a lower icon detailing the Best in class Warranty, I was invested in the Lockly experience. 

I removed the outer plastic, slid the cardboard slipcover upward, and then cut “the seal.”  I lifted the top flap and read the “Meet Lockly” paragraph on the inner sky blue panel.  The company congratulated me on my selection, detailed the company credentials, and provided the https://lockly.com/help address for immediate assistance.  Within the box, you will find a 7 13/16 inches wide by 7 3/4 inches tall by 3/8 inches thick Lockly Secure cardboard box with Secure Plus/Secure Pro installation manual, Secure Deadbolt Edition User Manual, hanging tab for guests to access your home with their phone, Quick start guide, blue warning panel, a white two-sided FAQ/troubleshooting guide, and an easy interactive build through BILT.  Beneath this box, you will find a removable blue panel with included Initial code/door serial card.  This provided the master key code, which will allow you to reset your lock. The manual noted the importance of not losing that panel because the company will require the number to reset your lock.  Beneath the card, you sill find blue/black molded foam cutouts for the lock and components. 

INSTALLATION:
For the installation process, you can choose to follow the included paper version installation manual or you can use the BILT app, which I highly encourage you to use. I scanned the QR code on the panel, navigated to the App, and downloaded the App from the iOS App Store. The Secure lock installation suggested that the process should take a single person 20 minutes if they follow the listed 30 steps, and it recommended a Phillips screwdriver and optional flathead/drill. I measured my back door and found it to fit the <2 inches wide requirement.  I removed the old deadbolt assembly and activated the BILT App.  If you have not used the App before, it will ask you to download the device of your choosing and will then walk you through a “How-To” feature.  The App will then walk you through the assembly process with visual and auditory cues.  Rotate the image, see into the door to visualize the mechanism.  For this system to work, your door will need standard cutouts. For example, the cross borehole (side holes) must be 2 1/8 inches diameter and the edge bore hole (where the lock sticks out) should be 1 inch in diameter. If your door was cut using standard measurements then the lock should line up just fine. As an added optional step, you can drill an extra hole for the top of the lock, or you can choose to use adhesive to affix the door lock to your door. 

You will need to measure the length of the side borehole to determine the backset distance and adjust if needed.  I had to reduce backset to 2 3/8 inches by pushing the bolt plate inward.  Make sure that the deadbolt is right side up and deployed before fastening it to the door with the appropriate screws. Following the next step, I removed the adhesive strip from the outer lock portion, made sure that the torque blade was vertical, and installed the lock through the “+” of the deadbolt. I used adhesive strips for the mounting plate and removed the backing from the plate and installed the device vertically onto my door. The cable slid through the opening easily and the torque blade fit it into the middle of the circle. I then inserted two screws beside either side of the torque blade. With the mounting bracket installed, I plugged the cable into the internal assembly, making sure that the colors matched. I made sure the connector was securely affixed and tucked the cable under the hook.  I made sure that the inner door section meshed with the bracket and then installed two screws. These steps proved to be easy using the included assembly App.

With the installation nearly complete, I was instructed to install 3/4 of the Alkaline AA batteries.  Before installing the fourth battery, you need to press and hold the program button until you hear a beep from the Lockly.  The device will run an auto evaluation to see if it is a left-open or right-open door. Install the battery cover and install the battery cover screw.  I removed the door strike plate and tried to realign the new one.  I found that it was offset enough that it would not fit flush. I marked the edges of the plate with one of the screws cut down into the wood with a razor knife and then with a hammer and chisel, I seated the plate into the doorjamb. With the lock fully installed, I turned to the user manual for the next steps.  The inner door lock mechanism measured 3 inches x 7 inches and had a thumb turn and a display keypad switch on/off toggle.  If you lift the battery cover, you will find placement for the four AA batteries and the reset button, program button, beep alert button. 

The outer door section had a 2 3/8 inches wide by 3 1/8 inches tall touch screen, and a keyhole cover along the front.  Along the lower edge, you will find a reboot button and 9V emergency charging socket to enter the home.  If desired, you can toggle the keypad display switch to the off position and deactivate the keypad switch.  The outer door section had the same measurements as the inner door section.  If you look along the left side of the outer door section, you will find the circular fingerprint reader.  The main touch screen was arranged into a group of four circles, each with three numbers within the circle.  Each time you turn on the screen, the numbers reorient themselves.  This will prevent someone from guessing which buttons you pushed previously and trying to figure out the number sequence.  I found that feature to be quite intriguing.  

Manual Programming:
Out of the box, the default code for the Lockly was set to 123456.  Locate each of these buttons, tap them and then press the lower okay button for the lock to slide into the open position.  Per the instruction manual, the device will conveniently store up to 8 different access codes.  To program the lock, remove the reverse compartment to access the hidden program button.  Press the program button (deactivated if using app/synced with smart phone) to enter the programming mode.  When you are in the programming mode, the screen will change to 3 circles with 1 (AO) Add Access Code, 2 (OE) Delete Access Code, 3 (CH) View Access Code.  To add a new code, tap option 1 and the screen will return to the numbers 123, 456, 789, 0.  Tap out the desired 6-8 digit code into the circles and then press the lower okay button.  Repeat the code a second time and you will see the code displayed on the screen.  Select yes to move to the next step.  You can add another code by selecting option 1 or you can choose option 2 to delete an access code.  You can touch each of the circles to move amongst the available access codes.  When the desired code is selected, hold the okay button for 3 seconds and it will be deleted from the device.  There must be at least one code on the device.  The instruction manual was quite helpful and noted that the failsafe makes sure that you have at least one saved code.  Thus, you will not be able to delete the factory preset code until you add one of your own.  

There are four ways to access and open the lock from the outside.  You can move the keyhole cover and use the manual key, you can enter an access code on the touch screen, you can use the App or you can use your fingerprint.  While in programming mode (option 1), choose the FP option for fingerprint instead of PD (pad).  The green LED will illuminate around the lockly fingerprint scanner.  This process will require six successful attempts at placing your fingerprint.  Once your fingerprint is scanned, you can tap the fingerprint sensor to open the lock. Similar to the method discussed above to delete access codes, you can delete fingerprints in the same manner.  My older two boys and I were able to use the access code, but my five-year-old daughter could not figure it out.  We did program her fingerprint but the manual recommended against it, as her fingerprints will likely change with time.  Amazingly, this device can register up to 99 fingerprints. To activate the lock slide your hand across it to activate the features.  If the wrong code is entered x 3, it will place the device into safe mode for ten minutes the first time and then twenty minutes the second time. To get out of that mode, you will need to have an approved fingerprint, the physical key, or you will need to enter a correct access code twice in a row.  

Using the App:
To access the App, you can scan the QR code on page 26 of the manual or you can navigate to the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. With the APP downloaded, select a new account along the bottom, enter your name, email, phone number, and then the number texted to you.  You will need to enter the code from the email that they sent you and then enter a password of your choosing twice.  The next screen will allow you to add whichever device you purchased. You will need to locate the security card that came with the device, you will need to scan the door serial number, and then enter the code that was on that card.  It is important to note that you should not lose this number as it is the main piece of information for the setup.  The app will ask you to set the 6-8 digit admin code for the device and confirm the code (can be changed later if desired). Once the app setup was complete, you will see the main screen.  Along the middle of the screen, you will see a 1 3/8 inches diameter blue circle with a lock inside of it.  If you tap this circle, the lock will unlock, and the circle will turn red with an unlock icon in the middle.  Along the bottom of the App, you will see icons for Control, Log, Access, and Settings.  Along the top of the panel, you will see three horizontal lines that will allow you to access home, set up a new device, add WiFi to your lock, I received an invitation, App Security, Save and Encrypt in PG Vault, Store, Help, Share the App, Review the App, About US.  I tapped Add WIFI and it took me to an Amazon page.  I assume this feature was useful for those locks that did not come with the WiFi module. 

Through the App, you can add users, you can generate offline codes, grant temporary access, add fingerprints and you can create a widget (very useful).  From settings, you can change the Lock Name, change the access code, activate quick access widget, adjust auto-lock timer, update the firmware, and more.  I found that the device required an immediate 55MB firmware upgrade and completed the process over a five minute period. To add the secure link feature click the Add New Button, scroll down to the Secure Link, and add the device. Press the button on the secure link for two seconds and then select the device from within the App. Similar to the other steps of the setup, you simply need to follow the instructions.  If you have not installed the door sensor, install it during this step because Alexa cannot know that your door is open/closed without the sensor. 

I continued to play around with the lock, navigated to my Alexa App, and added the lock to the devices. Once set up, I was able to use voice commands for Alexa to find out the status of the lock, open or closed, as well as the status of the door, open or closed. I was able to tell Alexa to lock the door but without special permission, the setup would not open the loc for safety reasons. Although on the pricier end, I do not think that the $249 lock could have incorporated more bells and whistles. The device combined manual entry with a high tech touchscreen, 9V battery emergency access, fingerprint scanner, App integration, Alexa integration, smart door sensor, and an easy to use installation process. I absolutely loved the Bilt app and found it to be very easy to use. I believe the only truly difficult aspect of the installation was adding the strike plate on the door jam because the included plate was slightly larger than the one I had previously. You do not have to be a tech wizard to enjoy this setup and it will work perfectly for home and small businesses alike. I loved the color of the silver, the placement of the screen, and the placement of the fingerprint scanner. The instruction manuals were well laid out, the App was intuitive and the features simply worked. I believe the promised 30-minute installation was right on the money. If this device is out of your price range, you can opt for the Secure Model instead of the Secure Plus with Fingerprint model and save $50. You can also get a few models that have a door latch.

Whether you are building a new home or upgrading your existing home, Lockly seems to be the Cadillac of door locks. Aesthetically pleasing and easy to operate to my wife and technologically appealing to me, I may have found the Unicorn of tech devices.

Learn more about Lockly.
Follow Lockly on Facebook and Twitter.

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Robyn https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[X-Doria Defense Shield iPhone SE Case REVIEW]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80321&preview=true&preview_id=80321 2020-05-20T18:47:10Z 2020-05-20T18:40:30Z

A popular case that protects is available for the iPhone SE

When you get a new phone, you want to make sure it stays new for as long as possible. One way to do that is to put a strong case on it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve nearly dropped, or actually dropped my phone. One time, in particular, the phone slipped from my fingers and hit the hard tile floor below it. The power button was unceremoniously pressed into the case and the phone wouldn’t stop restarting. Ever since I’ve worked to make sure that a case was an essential part of my new phone’s “welcome kit” when it joins my household. One of my favorite case designers is X-Doria. Their Defense line of cases is exemplary in terms of style and protection for the iPhone. When the 2nd Generation iPhone SE was released last month I immediately thought of X-Doria Defense cases as a good companion to that phone.

DETAILS

The Defense Shield is a case that is designed to survive 10-foot drops on concrete. It exceeds the military standard (MIL-STD-810G) for drop tests and is wireless charging compatible. X-Doria offers a lifetime warranty on the Defense Cases. The case is made with a clear polycarbonate back panel and an anodized machined metal frame. The cases also feature a shock-absorbing rubber bumper with an acoustic channel that directs the speaker sound forward. The Defense series of cases from X-Doria comes in four different colors — Iridescent, Black, Red, and Rose Gold.

USER EXPERIENCE

As it happens, I’ve had quite a bit of experience with the Defense Series cases from X-Doria. I’ve used them before with the iPhone XR, the iPhone XS Max, and even the iPhone 7 series phones. The Defense cases for the iPhone SE are the same size case that fits the iPhone 7 & 8. On X-Doria’s website, they are offered alongside each other. So, if you find yourself trying to find this case for your iPhone SE, look for the cases labeled “iPhone 8 & 7.” The iPhone SE directly replaces the iPhone 8 series of phones so it makes sense that the cases would fit this newer phone model.

When you open the box of the X-Doria Defense Cases you will notice that the front flap opens up to reveal a clear window. This window shows off the case inside the box. When you pull the case out you will notice that is it somewhat rigid around the borders with the exception of around the mute switch and volume buttons. That area is a little loose and that helps to be able to install the phone into the case. The cases are lightweight and don’t add a lot of bulk to the phone it’s protecting. Installation of the phone into the case is pretty easy, but the phone stays firmly in place. All the cutouts are in the right places and accessing the Lightning port on the bottom is no problem.

CONCLUSION

I’ve found that it’s really hard to go wrong with an X-Doria case on your phone. If you have acquired a new iPhone SE, then pair it with an X-Doria case to keep it well-protected and still stylish. The case holds up well against daily use and it provides an enjoyable user experience.

For more information, visit defensebrand.com, Facebook and Twitter.

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Robyn https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[Syncmate 8 mac app review]]> https://macsources.com/?p=79750&preview=true&preview_id=79750 2020-05-21T22:21:13Z 2020-05-20T18:07:08Z Keep your life in sync with SyncMate

I am an avid fan of Apple products. An iPhone 11 Pro is my daily driver and my MacBook Pro and iPad Pro are never far away. All three products work together seamlessly and it’s great that my main communication tools — text messages, emails, and calendars — sync between the devices without any headaches thanks to iCloud. Even though I primarily use Apple products I do dabble into the Google/Android world for work. I’m a marketing professional by day and a product reviewer by night. So, during my day job I am actually an administrator for our organizational Google account and I do have a Sony Xperia 10 running Android as its operating system. It’s great for the Google products, but not so great when I want to sync files between my MacBook Pro and the Sony Xperia 10. Fortunately, SyncMate 8 helps with connecting the two devices.

DETAILS

SyncMate 8 is designed to provide Mac users in sync with multiple devices or online accounts. SyncMate offers its own type of SyncService which makes syncing between the Mac and other devices possible. With SyncMate, users can:

  • Sync Mac with Android and iOS Devices: SyncMate fills the service gap between Mac and Android by providing the only Android file transfer app users need. And, while Macs can sync with iOS devices, they are limited by the number of devices that can be registered to a single Mac system. SyncMate has no limit.
  • Sync with MTP, mounted devices and other Macs
  • Sync a Mac with cloud storage options
  • Sync between a Mac and Microsoft Services

There are several different syncing services a user gets when they download SyncMate. Address Book, Calendars, and Syncing in Background are all apart of the Free Edition while Folder Sync, iTunes and Music, Photos, AutoSync, Mount Disk option, SMS management, Safari Bookmarks, Call History, and Data Backup are all apart of the Expert Edition of the software.

The Expert edition starts at $39.95 for a license and that will work for 2 Macs. The chart below shows the differences between the two editions. I discovered that when you got to the website and select Buy Now, a screen pops up for about 5 seconds with the different options for license purchase. It quickly switches to a checkout screen. The different options for Expert licenses are:

  • Personal (for 2 Macs) $39.95
  • Family (for 6 Macs) $59.95
  • Business (for 10 Macs) $99.95
  • Unlimited $199.95

USER EXPERIENCE

The first step in the user experience for SyncMate 8 is to download the software. You do this by going to the website “sync-mac.com.” It is not available in the Mac App Store. Once it’s downloaded, you can start using it with its free version or upgrade to the Expert option as outlined above. I had the Expert version available to me so I took it for a spin.

The first thing I did was to attempt to sync my iPhone using SyncMate. I found the process to be a little odd. First of all, when you open the app, you are given the option to select what device you want to sync to. I clicked on iOS Device and then I was given the option to connect the iOS device via USB. The reason this is odd is that the Android device option gives you the opportunity to connect using USB, WiFi, or Bluetooth. I pulled out a Lightning cable and connected my iPhone. I was then asked to select the plugins that I wanted to use with my device. The options that were presented to me were Calendar, Calls, Contacts, SMS, Folders, Photos, Safari Bookmarks, and iTunes. I immediately opted for the Folders option first.

I unchecked all the other options and clicked Done. The screen that appeared gave me the option to create a new pair. I was instructed to select a folder on the Mac and then select the corresponding folder on the iOS device. When I tried to select a folder for the iPhone I got the following error message. Not wanting to download another app to make this process work, I decided to move on to another feature. As it turns out, this OSXFuse application would have also been needed for another one of the plugins. After I moved on from those plugins, I tried the Safari Bookmark plugin. Safari was opened, but nothing happened. Then, I tried the SMS Plugin. It seemed as though it was going to work, but the process was taking a long time and after the progress bar sat at 40% for several minutes, I canceled the operation.

After it seemed that connecting my iPhone through SyncMate was a bad idea, I attempted my Sony Xperia 10 smartphone. As I mentioned above, I was give the option to connect to SyncMate through WiFi, Bluetooth, or USB. I opted for WiFi and after downloading a companion app from SyncMate, the phone was recognized immediately. I do have a little issue with downloading the app from the SyncMate website that I want to comment on. My phone gave me several warnings that the type of file that was used for the app’s distribution can cause damage to devices. I still installed it, but since the Xperia isn’t my primary phone I wasn’t overly worried about problems this might cause. If it had been my primary phone I probably would have discontinued that process.

Once the Xperia was connected through SyncMate, I attempted to sync the Contacts and Calls with my Mac. Calls weren’t really relevant, but the contacts moved over to the Xperia quickly and easily. I was impressed at how seamless the contacts were integrated into the Android environment. Even though there are other options for syncing digital data using SyncMate, I was nervous enough about the process after the iOS experience that I didn’t want to attempt it and have my information lost.

CONCLUSION

Even though SyncMate is designed to work with different platforms, it definitely seems better suited for Android/Mac connections rather than iOS/Mac connections. I’m still not sure why there were so many issues between my iPhone and Mac, but it really wasn’t a user-friendly experience. On the other hand, the Android sync feature was great. In my opinion, I think that SyncMate seems like a solid, easy to use application provided that you are attempting to sync a Mac and Android system together. I think SyncMate should focus on that development rather than adding in iOS devices since Apple already has a pretty good syncing option between their products.

For more information, visit sync-mac.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Nicholas Calderone https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[Mendi Real Brain Training REVIEW]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80900&preview=true&preview_id=80900 2020-05-19T19:59:16Z 2020-05-19T19:59:14Z Strengthen your brain instantly, scientifically, and naturally

I spend most of my day staring at a computer screen. Most of the time I’m writing or doing research on news and tech products that might be interesting to feature on MacSources. While these activities are not concentrating on stretching my brainpower, I am using my brain actively and that helps my thoughts to process naturally. Even though we use our brains daily, it’s good to have specific exercises that increase our brain capacity and power. This is what Mendi is used for.

DETAILS

Mendi is the world’s most powerful brain training device designed for home use. The Mendi system consists of an app and a headset. The system is safe for all ages to use and it is good for mental wellbeing, better performance, and better overall health. Mendi was created to provide users with the same type of brain training that can be found in neurofeedback clinics but in the comfort of their own home. It’s designed to give users the chance to brain train anytime and anywhere. In addition to strengthening your brain power, Mendi provides a tool for users to relax and find calmness and it’s the only home device that can also help with overall brain function. It enables you to strengthen your prefrontal cortex, which controls every part of your brain.

How It Works

  • Wear your headset. Your headset is used to measure your brain activity. It connects to Mendi’s fun and game-like training app.
  • Control the game. The game represents your real brain activity. By simply controlling the game you are training your brain.
  • Time-efficient. With just 10-15 mins training, 2-3 times per week, you can achieve major improvements.
  • Anytime, anywhere. Unlimited sessions that can be performed from anywhere.

Some results that have been reported by Mendi users can be found on their website at mendi.io. The examples include reports from Mendi users after 30 days of device use. They include:

General Results

  • Mental wellbeing: 94%
  • Creativity: 90%
  • Learning: 87%
  • Self-discipline: 74%
  • Daily functioning: 92%
  • Emotional regulation: 81%

Specific Results

  • Attention/focus: 40% improvement
  • Time to fall asleep: 47% faster
  • Working memory: 36% improvement
  • Mental processing speed: 33% faster
  • Sleep needed: 31 minutes less per night

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Connection: Bluetooth wireless
  • Connects to iOS and Android devices
  • Headset Color: White/Orange
  • Textile color: Gray
  • Battery: Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion
  • Battery time: 20-30 sessions (~5 hours)
  • Charging: USB Type-C
  • Headband size: Adjustable
  • Weight: 55g
  • Lit-up button with logo
  • Accelerometer & Gyroscope
  • Vibrator
  • Non-invasive proprietary brain measuring sensors
  • Recommended min age: 5+

USER EXPERIENCE

I want to start this out by saying that I really don’t know how well this device works. Given that I don’t have sophisticated medical equipment to complete before and after brain scans, I really don’t have a good constant to judge this device on. That said, I did use the Mendi system to complete several sessions and I have some reflections on the process and system as it’s designed. Mendi is still in a start-up phase and isn’t expected to ship production units from their Indiegogo campaign until October this year. I’m not sure if the pandemic has effected that timeline because their campaign page does not have any updates listed.

The packaging includes the Mendi headset and a charging cable. I have a pre-production unit, which charges using Micro USB and according to the Indiegogo page, the product should ship with a USB-C cable. This leads me to believe that it charges using USB-C instead of Micro USB. The headset isn’t super heavy and actually is pretty comfortable to wear. The band is pretty flexible so it can fit most head shapes and sizes. I slipped the head set on and pressed the ‘on’ button. The app, which is currently in testing mode itself, connected to the headset and I started my first session.

I have to admit that the app provides little direction about what you are supposed to do. And everything else I’ve read on the Mendi website and Indiegogo page simple says “control the game.” You might be able to tell what is happening from the screenshots included in this review, but basically ‘the game’ is a tiny ball that appears to have a yin-yang sign on it. The ball travels across the screen and you gain points/stars as the game progresses. There doesn’t seem to be any real connection between how the game progresses and the headset. Aside from wearing the headset, the user doesn’t do anything with the game except watch the ball as it moves on the screen. According to the information provided online, the user is supposed to control the game using their mind. We figured out that the goal was to move the ball up on the screen — so that it’s moving uphill on the screen — but how you get that to happen is kind of beyond me.

Here is some information I pulled from the Indiegogo campaign FAQ:

“Mendi is the first consumer device of its kind to measure blood flow and oxygenation in the prefrontal cortex (PFC). Studies have shown that regulating blood flow in the PFC can help to address existing conditions, such as ADHD and social anxiety disorder. The Mendi headset uses infrared light to monitor activity in the front of your brain. The app provides exercises to train your brain, requiring focus and calm to control the game, and subsequently increasing activity in your PFC.”

Even though I know it’s not really the best way to test it, I decided to run a little experiment. During one of my sessions, I opted to play a few minutes of a video game with the app open as if I was doing brain training. I was curious to see what the difference would be in the results from a real brain training session and one where I wasn’t concentrating on the app and was instead playing a video game. The image below shows the results from both of these sessions. The top session is the video game and the bottom one is the actual brain training game. You can see that there is a big difference in the total energy and increased brain activity, but not that much difference in the longest flow. While this really wasn’t a very scientific test, I found the results interesting.

CONCLUSION

I really like the idea of providing an opportunity for people to ‘train their brain’ using phone app and a sensor type device to measure it, but I really don’t know how well Mendi accomplishes this. I sort of wish that there was a connection between hand-eye coordination to control the game and how that translates to increasing PFC so that the system could measure everyday activities with brain growth better. To me, that would make more sense. It would even be cool if the app could measure that sort of activity from other hand-eye coordination activities like playing a video game.

For more information, visit mendi.io, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Jon Walters https://macsources.com <![CDATA[Smartish Prop Tart loop and phone grip review]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80861 2020-05-19T18:59:53Z 2020-05-19T18:00:00Z

Enhanced selfie grip doubles as a deployable kickstand

Even before the Coronapocalypse of 2020, many utilized their phones as mini theaters and personal cameras. While active and on the go, our smartphones are ever ready to capture a child’s firsts, to photograph locations/products, or to record a selfie/movie. From phone calls, to texting, to videos, to gaming, to navigating, etc., with so many functions, it is no wonder that these devices fetch a lofty sum. Additionally, is it not convenient to chill with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Vudu, Hulu, Redbox, Apple TV, or several other available entertainment options? Considering the above, it would be quite convenient to have a secure gripping option that could also enhance handsfree entertainment.

Excitedly, I was given a Slim Fit Collapsible Loop and Phone grip from smartish brands, which promised to serve as a secure phone grip, while also doubling as a kickstand. The smartish Prop Tart arrived in a 2 3/8-inches wide by 5 1/8-inches long by 1/4-inches thick retail package. The Prop Tart product name was written along the top left of the cover in dark blue font, while the smartish name was listed along the right side of the panel in turquoise. Along the center of the panel, you will find a slightly oblique view of the loop and phone grip device. Along the lower left of the panel, you will find a turquoise phone icon and dark blue text detailing the three main features of the Prop Tart: One-Handed Texting, Selfie Grip, Kickstand. Turning to the backside of the packaging, you will find a short description of the goal of the Texas-based company and a few connection quips. Lastly, you will find a small SKU sticker along the bottom of the package and a “OPEN SESAME” pull tab.

I removed the outer clear plastic bag, gripped the “OPEN SESAME” pull tab and slid the inner box out of the outer slip cover. The back of the inner cardboard provided a few humorous FAQs about the device. 1. What can I do with a Prop Tart, 2. You Mentioned a Kickstand…, 3. Can I use my wireless charger with it?, 4. Where’s the best place to install it?, 5. What does it stick to?. I chuckled a little with their humorous responses to questions three and five. They responded “Nope, sorry. It’s busy doing other cool stuff (see above)” to question three and “Everything but silicone & your dog. Don’t do that to Buddy” to question five. The 0.35-ounce black-nylon dumbbell shaped device had a pleasing touch-feel. On the opposite side, you will find a similarly shaped section of 3M tape.

Before installing the Prop Tart onto my Catalyst Waterproof Case for iPhone 11 Pro Max, I cleaned the back surface with WHOOSH. I removed the 3M backing and pressed firmly into the center of my phone. I liked the look and feel of the loop and the convenience of the deployable finger loop. I found that the gap was a tight fit for my two fingers, which appeared to be both a positive and a negative. I was able to slide my pointer and middle finger into the loop up to the middle phalanx and found that I no longer had to grip the surface of the phone with my hands. This was an added benefit and was quite convenient. The loop deployed and retracted without issue and I was able to do this ~50x without any change to position on the back of my smartphone. As a self grip/loop, the product would have netted a 5* rating from me. However, I quickly found that this device will not work as a kickstand for the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Despite the resiliency of the sticky glue, I was able to remove the device. I tried the loop in the center, offset towards either side and moved it superiorly and inferiorly on the back of my case. No matter where I put the kickstand, the phone toppled over. I turned to their website and found where they noted to install it off-center. I watched the video on their site and saw that they had success with the kickstand. I was not able to recreate these successes with my phone. When I moved the device to the back of my son’s iPod touch, the kickstand seemed to work fine. Perhaps the size/weight of the larger phone preclude the use of the kickstand?

Notwithstanding their reported 25,000 5 star reviews, and a love for many of their products, this one struck out with me. It is relatively inexpensive and could work for smaller phones/devices. I thus relay my experiences with this product. I loved the texture, the loop feature, the finger grip, and the idea of the kickstand. However, the tradeoff of the loss of wireless charging was too great to warrant keeping this device installed on my phone. For now, I will continue to rely upon the included Catalyst Case wrist strap for protection. As for my movie/television watching options, I will continue to use the Ventev Wireless Charge Stand.

Learn more about the Smartish Prop Tart.
Follow smartish on Facebook and Twitter.

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Robyn https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[Eggtronic Power Bar USB-C Wireless Power Bank REVIEW]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80833&preview=true&preview_id=80833 2020-05-20T01:11:21Z 2020-05-18T18:49:28Z

One power bank to rule them all.

How many devices do you use throughout the course of a day? Two…three…more? At the end of that day, do you find yourself scrambling to plug your phone and tablet into charging devices? What if you could charge all your devices from one power bank? This is what the Power Bar attempts to do by providing a 3-in-1 multi-device charging dock.

DETAILS

The Power Bar is a USB-C Wireless Power Bank with Apple Watch Charger built-in. There are multiple types of chargers within the Power Bar including a wireless power bank that has two wireless charging spots, an Apple Watch charger, and a USB-C charger. The USB-C power delivery port provides 30W of output power to connected devices. The Power Bar features a total output of 53W. The wireless charging surface compatible with all Qi-enabled devices including Apple AirPods Pro.

SPECS

  • Model number: CBWH30A
  • Dimensions: 7.30 x 1.02 x 2.67 in
  • USB-C output (PD 3.0): 30W Power Delivery
  • Wireless output: 2x 7.5W Qi-certified
  • Apple Watch output: 5W Apple MFI-certified
  • USB-C input : 5V/3A, 9V/3A,12V/2.5A,15V/2A, 20V1.5A (PD30W)
  • Total output: 53W
  • Battery capacity: 10,000mAh
  • Color: white

USER EXPERIENCE

The Power Bar comes in a nice retail package. The front of the box features an image of the power bank along with some major details of the product (i.e. 53W Fast Charge, Certified USB Charger 30W, Made for Apple Watch, etc.). The front flap of the box opens to reveal a clear plastic window that shows off the Power Bar. I always like when packages do this so you can see exactly what you are getting with your purchase. The back of the box includes specifications about the product including battery capacity and different types of charging that’s available with the Power Bar. The box specifically describes using the Power Bar to charge “All Your Apple Devices” including iPhone 8 and newer, AirPods – AirPods Pro, Apple Watch Series 4 and newer, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro.

One thing I was really surprised about this product is its capacity. It’s impressive that Eggtronic made it possible for so many different devices to charge off of one power bank, but I really thought the capacity would be larger than 10,000 mAh. My main devices — Apple iPhone 11 Pro, Apple Watch Nike+ Series 4, 2016 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro with TouchBar, and Apple iPad Pro 11-inch (Gen 1) — exceed that capacity with one charge. So, if I were in a situation where all my devices were nearly dead, I wouldn’t be able to charge them all to full capacity. I say this because this type of power bank would typically join me on a weekend trip so that I wouldn’t have to pack multiple chargers for my devices. But, knowing that it’s maximum capacity is smaller than what is needed for my primary devices makes me think twice about depending on it for that purpose.

That said, I did attempt charging three devices — my iPhone 11 Pro, MacBook Pro, and Apple Watch — simultaneously to see how the Power Bar would handle that kind of power distribution. The first thing I did was to charge the Power Bar. Out of the box, it had a minimal charge and I wanted to make sure it was at 100% before I started charging my devices. Once it was, I plugged in my MacBook Pro, placed my iPhone on the wireless charging spot, and set my Apple Watch on the charging puck.

The first thing I want to note concerns the Apple Watch charging puck. The manual states that the puck should lift up. The instructions read: “lift up the push button until the spot rises up and place your Apple Watch on it.” I was unable to lift up the push button as the manual instructed so I just laid my Apple Watch on the puck flat. I would have preferred to be able to place it on an elevated charger, but I was able to charge the watch just fine on the flat puck. After 89 minutes, the PowerBar was able to charge my Apple Watch from 0% to 82%. That’s a charging rate of 0.92% per minute. This is slightly slower than other Apple Watch chargers I’ve tested, but still acceptable in my opinion.

Next, we move over to the iPhone. I placed it on the first of the two wireless charging areas on the Power Bar. The user manual doesn’t indicate the procedure for how to charge wirelessly, but I discovered that you have to tap the power button to activate the wireless charging pads. I had placed my iPhone on the charging area a couple of different ways, but the only way it started charging was to tap the power button. My iPhone finished charging approximately 60 minutes after I connected the iPhone to the wireless charging area. The iPhone had a partial charge to it when I started the charging process. That ended up being a charging rate of 0.17% per minute.

Finally, the MacBook Pro took 87 minutes to fully charge from 71% charge to 100%. I was using the laptop for a period of time while it was charging and that may have effected the charging rate, but I calculated it at 0.82% per minute.

CONCLUSION

While the Power Bar is a decent way to charge multiple devices at one time, it doesn’t seem to be the most efficient option. It does speed up when there are less devices connected to it and it works really well as an emergency charging device, but I wouldn’t use it as a primary charging option.

For more information, visit eggtronic.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Jon Walters https://macsources.com <![CDATA[Pebble i345 ipad Mouse review]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80848 2020-05-18T17:22:18Z 2020-05-18T17:21:00Z

Turn your Tablet into a Tablet-Top with the Bluetooth mouse from Logitech.

When it comes to Apple products, I can imagine many may struggle with bipolar feelings.  I have an iPad Pro 11” (1st Gen) and thanks to the Apple Smart Keyboard, I have enjoyed my Tablet-top.  It has been responsive, it provided protection to the back of the case when open and the keyboard provides protection to the case when closed.  Additionally, I have grown accustomed to using the screen as my pointer, when needed.  We all know that Apple will release a slew of new products each year: iPads, MacBooks, iPhones, Apple Watch, Etc.  So far, I have been on a 5 year MacBook cycle, annual iPhone Cycle, and a biannual to triennial iPad purchasing cycle.  I have grown accustomed to the buyer’s remorse typical of my Apple lifestyle.  Essentially, when I purchase something, a newer better device soon follows with better features. The Magic Keyboard from Apple is the most recent example of this frustrating phenomenon.  

Despite the added benefits of the Apple Pencil/touch screen, sometimes I missed having a mouse/trackpad; even though the Smart Keyboard added functionality, it was not the same as my MacBook Pro without the trackpad. Instead of dropping $299/$349 for the new Apple keyboard/mouse combo [close to 50% of the price of a new iPad Pro 11” (2nd Gen) or roughly 1/3 of a new iPad Pro 12.9” (2nd Gen)], I considered adding a Bluetooth mouse to my smart keyboard.  With the addition of iPadOS 13 and further improvement with iPadOS 13.4, mouse support gained function/support. With the iOS support in place, I was excited to learn about the inexpensive Logitech Pebble i345. The device arrived in a 3-inches wide by 4 5/8-inches tall by 1 1/4-inches thick clean-white package.  The cover displayed the “Logitech Pebble i345” title along the top left, and listed the iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Pro model compatibilities.  The main showcase of the cover was the visually appealing 3 1/2-inches long oblique image of the graphite pebble mouse with scroll wheel. 

Evaluating the other sides of the packaging, I was pleased to find that the company chose to avoid over-complicating the product panels.  The right side panel provided the product title, the top panel provided a clear product hanging tab upon a blank surface, and the bottom panel provided contact information and SKU barcodes. The left panel was quite a bit busier than the other panels listed above, showing images of the product contents (mouse/AA battery/instruction manual), detailed the 1-year limited warranty in English/French, and also provided some FCC compliance information.  The back panel, similar to the cover, provided a classy image of the product.  Taking up nearly 50% of the panel, the image of the black graphite mouse fit perfectly adjacent to the Tablet-keyboard combo.  To complement the desk theme, I loved that they chose to include the marble countertop and the trendy cappuccino heart design.  Beneath the image, Logitech included four icons detailing the slim and light design, the high precision optical tracking, 18-month battery life, and Bluetooth low energy technology.  Along the bottom of the panel, you will find the same compatibility list as documented on the cover. 

I removed the small piece of tape along the bottom of the panel and removed the mouse blister-pack, quick start guide, and safety pamphlet from the box.  The 2.68-ounce, 4 1/4-inches tall by 2 3/8-inches wide by 3/4-inches thick mouse had a split click design and a central scroll/click wheel.  The bottom of the mouse had two arcuate plasticized sliders, an on/off slider, a Bluetooth activation button, and the laser port.  To activate the mouse, slide the on/off toggle to the “on” position.  If you do not have the latest iOS update, you will repeatedly receive a “Pairing Unsuccessful: Pairing took too long. Make sure that the Pebble i345 is turned on, in range, and ready to pair.”  I did not realize that my iPad iOS was not up to date and I spent approximately five minutes fiddling with the mouse.  I held the little Bluetooth button and the blue LED flashed rapidly.  I activated/deactivated my Bluetooth on my iPad Pro and after about a dozen failed attempts, I looked to the iOS.  I updated my iOS to 13.4.1, turned the device on, pressed the little Bluetooth button and the Logitech Pebbile i345 paired flawlessly the first time.   

Using a mouse with the iPad proved to be quite the novelty for the first few minutes.  As you move the mouse around your home screen, you will see a little grey dot.  Similar to the trackpad, if you lose this dot, move the mouse around quickly and you will see a larger arrow.  Normally from the home screen, I could use the touch screen to swipe left/right to get to new screens.  With the Pebble i345 I was not able to move screens in that manner.  I found that I needed to touch the little circles along the bottom of the screen to transition between screens. One of the features that I use frequently on my MacBook is the ability to drag to the home screen. This feature was not present with the iPad and was more of a difference in iOS and thus I did not truly feel it to detract from the Pebble mouse. Within an App like pages, as you move the mouse around, you will see a grey vertical line.  If you pause long enough, the grey line will vanish until you awaken the Pebble again. Move the cursor to your desired location and select your option. Choose from one of the items within a toolbar, open/close a file/picture, start/stop music, and click-drag and edit within apps. Many of the features that required finger/screen contact were compatible and enhanced by mouse functionality.

I loved the sleek rounded edges, the graphite color, the click feel of the buttons, the clicking of the scroll wheel, and the middle click button.  Initially, I was concerned for the left-handed mouse users, but I did find the ability to adjust the button mapping.  If you navigate to Settings, to Accessibility, then to Pointer Control, you can adjust several of the settings of the Pebble: contrast, pointer size, pointer animations, and scrolling speed.  I turned the scrolling speed to 75% and noted a significant boost to the scroll wheel utility. For additional control options, select the blue “AssistiveTouch Settings” icon along the bottom of the panel.  Tapping Pebble i345, you can customize the button options.  I set the left button to single click, the right button to secondary click, and the middle button to home.  In total, there appeared to be thirty-eight different options to select from.  This process can allow you to change the mouse from left-handed to right-handed; adjust the right button to single click and the left button to a special/secondary click.  With so many options, you can customize the device to add extra quick buttons.  For example, you can imagine making the left click a scroll to the top option and the right click to a scroll to the bottom option.  Or, if you ware watching a movie, you could make the left button to volume up and the right button to volume down. With three buttons at your disposal, you can add Siri functionality to the middle button, or you can add other options to enhance your productivity.

The lightweight portable Pebble i345 is a steal at $29.99. The more I played around with the button configurations, the more reasons I found to tote the Pebble with me. Without the option to change the buttons, I might agree with those who say “why do I need a this device?”  However, the added utility to change just the middle button to “hold and drag,” Siri, Screenshot, etc. would make the sale.   I kept returning to home and App Switcher as my favorite options for the middle button. Perhaps with future iOS upgrades and tech upgrades from Logitech, we will gain the ability to create quick swap button loadouts. Similar to the Apple Pencil, the Pebble i345 mouse added a layer of precision that my nubby imprecise fingers could not achieve.   My only other wish for the Pebble i345 would have been a semi-rigid carrying case to throw into my Timbuk2 Command Messenger bag. Other than that, I struggled to find a negative for this device. When done, slide the toggle switch off to conserve the 18-month battery, place it into your bag and carry it along. I have not yet used it for any gaming purposes, but look forward to testing the limits of the device.

Learn more about the Logitech Pebble i345.
Follow Logitech on Facebook and Twitter.

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Nicholas Calderone https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[Tonal Integration with Apple Watch Now Available NEWS]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80837&preview=true&preview_id=80837 2020-05-15T17:48:30Z 2020-05-15T17:48:29Z MAXIMIZE YOUR TONAL WORKOUTS WITH APPLE WATCH & HEART RATE MONITORS

This week, Tonal, the world’s most intelligent home gym, and personal trainer added another dimension to its ability to provide highly personalized workouts by announcing the exciting arrival of one of its most highly requested features, Apple Watch integration. 

Tonal is the world’s most technologically intelligent home gym and personal trainer that combines expert coaching with revolutionary equipment providing world-class workouts to help users meet their fitness goals, all from the comfort of their own home. The system offers expert coaching and personalized instruction that takes the guesswork out of strength training. Tonal’s A.I. Coach software is intuitive and learns from users to adapt guidance in real-time providing a highly-personalized and curated workout that’s effective.

Tonal’s Apple Watch compatibility allows users to track their heart rates in real-time and receive summaries on their watch after each workout. In addition, users can now add and subtract weight, turn weight on and off, or pause and play their workouts all through their watch. This integration will also notify users when they reach the last few reps or seconds of a set.  

Features of the Apple Watch App

  • Track your heart rate: See your heart rate in real-time on your Apple Watch, and receive a summary on your watch after each workout. The app also syncs with Apple Health, so you can close your rings for calories burned and exercise minutes. 
  • Remote control: You can use your Apple watch to add and subtract weight, turn weight on and off, or pause and play your workout. Your watch will even notify you with vibrations when you reach the last few reps or seconds of a set. 
  • Get set up in minutes: Pairing your Apple watch with Tonal is quick and easy, and anyone in the household can try it. Read our step-by-step instructions to get started. 
  • Pair your heart rate monitor with Tonal: You can now pair any Bluetooth heart rate monitor with Tonal and see a real-time reading of your heart rate on your Tonal screen. Read our step-by-step instructions to get set up in minutes.

Download the app for iOS or find it on your Apple watch when you update to the latest version. 

For more information, visit tonal.com, Facebook, or Twitter.

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Nicholas Calderone https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[SnapIt Boards Photography Backdrop REVIEW Perfect for Product Photography]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80807&preview=true&preview_id=80807 2020-05-19T19:01:00Z 2020-05-14T18:57:30Z

Turn a great product into something special with a great background

One of my primary subjects as a photographer is products. I spend a lot of time with tabletop set-ups and sometimes shooting the same photo over and over in a white cyc background gets boring. Sometimes you really need to display a product with some life behind it to make it pop. Since my photography area is relatively small, having a wall full of backdrops isn’t very practical. I’ve used different colored paper from craft stores and even pieces of tile from hardware stores before to give photos texture and that just isn’t good enough sometimes. This precise reason is why I love having SnapIt Boards available.

DETAILS

SnapIt Boards are considered Flat Lay Backdrops. They are durable and waterproof, which makes them a great investment. The boards are satin-finished so they can easily be cleaned up when used repeatedly. Each flat lay backdrop is printed in “ultra-realistic 300dpi” and is made with non-reflective, no glare material. The boards are perfect for food photography, brands photography, jewelry, makeup, and product photography. The boards are made with 5mm thick PVC foam and measure 26″ x 20″. Each board weighs approximately 1.6lbs. In addition to the flat lay backdrops, SnapIt Boards also feature the SnapIt Bracket. This small plastic piece makes it possible for you to connect two boards together to provide a surface as well as a backdrop for photos. There are six different designs of SnapIt Boards: Alabaster, Chuck Wagon, Indigo Sky, Midnight, Rustic Rainbow, and Rustic White. You can order them separately or as combo packs.

Image depicting the thickness of one SnapIt Backdrop
SnapIt Brackets

USER EXPERIENCE

Unboxing was very simple. I ended up ordering one of each board design and they arrived in a flat cardboard box with the boards encased in foam to keep from getting damaged. The SnapIt Brackets were included. The unboxing process was a really painless experience. Normally I dispose of all shipping packaging once I start using a product, but I kept the foam around to store the backgrounds in when they are not in use. I thought it would be an easy way to keep them protected and prolong their usage.

I have been working with these now for a few months and I can say they are wonderful. The trick is to choose the right background to complement your primary subject. For example, the photo below shows a wireless charging mousepad that is a solid color. Because it’s a solid, dark color, I chose to use the Rustic Rainbow background so make it pop as a photo.

And in this next photo, I really wanted the photo to feel warm so I used the rich brown tones from the Chuck Wagon backdrop to accentuate the black elements within the charging cable and power adapter featured in the foreground. As an added bonus, since the surface of the board is somewhat glossy in nature, you get a nice reflective surface that adds a little more sparkle to the photo, too.

I chose to get the complete collection since I take lots of product photos and I always want to have some variety to choose from. I will say that since it’s a flat board, you want to be cognizant of the angle of your shot and what is in the background. This is one reason that it’s a great idea to get more than one SnapIt Board — that way you always have a background instead of a messy room or misplaced dog toy that happens to be strewn across your living room floor. Based on the photos I’ve captured using the SnapIt Boards I have actually had companies reach out and ask me how many tables I own since the wood boards look like real wood in photographs.

Satechi USB-C Magnetic Charging Dock for Apple Watch REVIEW
SnapIt Board: Midnight

With a nice collection of colors and backdrop images, I’ve found the SnapIt Boards to be super useful for my photography efforts. The material is durable and easy to clean but they are not indestructible so use them don’t abuse them and find a safe place to store them.

CONCLUSION

For lots of pro-photographers they most likely already have a system they use daily and are too stubborn to try something new. To that type of photographer, I have this message: you’re missing out. The SnapIt Board system makes for a great tool for both the pros and beginners. It allows you to quickly set a background up without ripping apart your studio and it makes traveling to an onsite location for small product photos a breeze. I love these little backdrops and the small amount of space that they take up. My biggest complaint is how much wear and tear the SnapIt Brackets cause on the corners. I have found over time, the boards do show wear and tear. If you are really careful you might be able to avoid this but as someone who takes care of his gear, I wasn’t able to avoid it. This doesn’t mean they are not a great investment because they really are and I can see any photographer getting some great use out of them.

For more details, visit SnapIt Boards, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Robyn https://www.macsources.com/team/ <![CDATA[Cleer Audio Ally Plus True Wireless ANC Earbuds REVIEW]]> https://macsources.com/?p=80527&preview=true&preview_id=80527 2020-05-19T19:03:02Z 2020-05-14T18:26:41Z

Earbuds that are easy to fall in love with.

I have a hard time using earbuds. They are generally uncomfortable to me and typically just don’t sound as good as over-ear headphones do to me. I know that part of the reason for this is because they don’t ‘fit’ me correctly. For quite some time, I’ve been a fan of Apple AirPods, but unless you shell out the big bucks, you don’t have the option of active noise cancellation with them. When CLEER recently released their newest earbuds — the Ally Plus True Wireless ANC Earbuds — I thought they looked promising enough to try out. I quickly fell in love with the product and find them to be a perfect earbud solution for me. 

DETAILS 

The Ally Plus True Wireless ANC Earbuds feature active noise cancelling — as the name suggests. The ANC within the Ally Plus earbuds is designed to suppress ambient noises from the outside world and has a couple of different modes available so the user can switch back and forth between ANC and non-ANC listening environments. The earbuds have 10mm Neodymium drivers that deliver balanced, dynamic sound. These are one of the first earbuds to have the fastest pairing option available with Google Fast Pair 2.0. They also feature built-in touch controls on the soft-touch ear pads that allow you to adjust volume, control phone calls, and play/pause tracks of audio. The Ally Plus earbuds have a battery life of approximately 30 hours — 10 hours from the earbuds and 20 hours from the charging case. They also provide the option of quick charging for the earbuds. With a 5-minute charge, users get 1 hour of playtime. The earbuds are designed to be ergonomic and lightweight. They come with a variety of ear gels to provide a comfortable fit. They are rated IPX4 for water resistance. The case charges with USB-C and the earbuds only weigh 2.47 ounces. In addition to the charging case and USB-C charging cable, the Ally Plus earbuds also come with a soft pouch for storage.

SPECS

  • Driver: 10mm neodymium dynamic driver
  • Audio CODEC support: SBC, AAC, aptX
  • Frequency response range: 20 – 20,000Hz
  • Connections: USB-C cable for charging case
  • Playback time: Up to 10 hours (up to an additional 20 hours with charging case) 
  • Support: BT 5.0, A2DP, v1.3, AVRCP v1.6, HFP v1.7, HSP v1.2 
  • Bluetooth transmission frequency range: 2.402-2.480Ghz 
  • Bluetooth transmission power: <8.0dBm
  • Water resistance rating: IPX4 (for earbuds only)
  • Weight: 6.6g (per earpiece); 79.6g (for both earpieces and case) 

WHAT’S IN THE BOX 

  • Ally Plus Headphones 
  • Silicone Eartips (XS, S, M, L, and XL) 
  • USB-C Cable
  • Carry Pouch 
  • Charging Case 
  • Quick Start Guide 

USER IMPRESSIONS

As I mentioned above, I have a hard time using earbuds. So much so that they are typically my least preferred method of listening to music or watching videos. So, when it came time to test out the Ally Plus, I was a bit concerned that it would be like previous earbud experiences — shallow sound quality, uncomfortable fit that causes earaches and headaches, and a miserable connection between the earbuds and my iPhone or laptop. What I found was the exact opposite. Right from the beginning, Ally Plus over-exceeded my expectations in every way possible. For the purposes of this review, I have graded the Ally Plus based on comfort, sound quality, and special features.

COMFORT 

Out of the box, the Ally Plus earbuds have a medium set of ear tips installed on them. One of the reasons I don’t usually get a ‘good fit’ from ear buds is because my ear canal is pretty narrow. So, I was really happy to see that Cleer included 5 sets of ear tips with the earbuds. This is way more than the normal amount of ear tips I see delivered with earbuds. I’m used to seeing one or two sets included — not five. I popped off the medium ear tips and replaced them with the small size ear tips. They seem to be a bit better fit than the mediums for me and I didn’t have any issue with discomfort — even after wearing them for longer periods of time. So as far as comfort goes, the Ally Plus get an A+. 

SOUND QUALITY

The main reason I’m always hesitant to try out earbuds is because the sound quality just isn’t there for me. Bass depth is almost always lost and I just get left with tinny-sounding music and unbalanced audio tracks with videos. The sound quality of the Ally Plus blew me away. Once I got a good fit from them, I turned the music on, and for the first time ever with earbuds, I got the same sound quality that I normally get from over-ear or on-ear headphones. Music had great depth and I could hear the mix really well. I did notice a little sound difference when you switch between the noise cancellation modes. When the noise cancellation is turned on, the earbuds sounded the best. They started sounding hollow when noise cancellation was turned off, but I think that goes along with the noise cancellation feature. One of my favorite things to do when testing any kind of audio device is to pull up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and watch the first 5-10 minutes of the movie. It’s jam-packed with a rich sound mix that includes vocal track, music, and sound effects. It’s very rare that I get to experience all the different layers of the film’s audio track, but the Ally Plus earbuds gets the job done. 

SPECIAL FEATURES

There are two features I wanted to explore in this review — the touch controls and the ANC. Normally, I don’t like touch controls on headphones. They haven’t been reliable for me in the past and I typically just prefer buttons. When it comes to earbuds, however, I don’t like the added pressure you get when you press the single multifunction button on the outside of the earpiece. So, I’m glad that the controls for the Ally Plus earbuds were touch controls. CLEER kept the controls simple enough to be able to remember the different codes uses (i.e. 2 taps for pausing music tracks, 1 tap for activating the noise cancelling, etc.). I was, however, let down that there was no control for advance/rewind, but other than that, I didn’t have any issues controlling the earbuds. 

In my opinion, it can be very difficult to have successful ANC with earbuds. They are just so open and don’t isolate a human’s ears that it can be hard to actually achieve a full noise cancellation environment. CLEER approaches ANC with the Ally Plus by providing three modes to choose from — On, Ambient Mode, and Off. As I mentioned under sound quality, when ANC was turned off, I could hear room noise and the sound quality of the music I was listening to suffered. When ANC was turned on, room noise was virtually gone (all except for a barking dog) and the music was full and rich. When ANC was on with Ambient Mode, I was getting a good sound quality (but not great) and could hear some room noise. I was able to hear my fiancé talking to me while I had music playing, but I couldn’t hear him when I had ANC turned on without the Ambient Mode. Since I didn’t previously have a set of earbuds with ANC, I was very excited to finally have a lightweight set of earbuds that included that as a feature. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

CLEER has done a really nice job with the design and execution of the Ally Plus True Wireless Earbuds with ANC. They are everything I thought I would never find in a set of in-ear headphones. They do come in either white or black finish and retail for $169 (on sale at the time of publishing this article; regular price $199). While that’s a bit pricier than some earbuds, it’s still less expensive than Apple AirPods Pro. I’ve been very impressed with the performance of these earbuds and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to others. 

For more details, visit CLEER, Facebook, and Twitter.

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