Archive for the Products Category

Review: Stardock Start10

Posted in Products with tags on August 28, 2015 by itnerd

Stardock first came to my attention when Windows 8 appeared and people started telling me that the new (at the time) Metro interface sucked was hard to adapt to. In particular, the lack of the Start button that had been around since 1995. For many who could not cope with that, I helped them out by using a program called Start8 to bring back the Start menu and windowing for Metro apps. Now they’ve done it again with their latest application which is called predictably enough Start10. But let’s step back for a second and understand why Stardock even bothered with this given that you have a real Start menu in Windows 10. For some, that’s not good enough because it walks the line between Windows 7 and Windows 8. What Start10 does is puts it back firmly into Windows 7 country. That will make many dance in the streets. But what’s more is that you can tweak things to make it look exactly the way you want it to.

To find out how well this works, I installed it and snapped before and after pictures so that you can see the difference. For the after picture, I used the default settings.

Here’s what my stock Windows 10 install looks like:

Parallels Picture

And here it is after Start10 is installed.

Parallels Picture 1

This looks exactly like Windows 7 and users who are used to that will be overjoyed. If you want the Windows 10 Start menu for whatever reason, you can invoke it temporarily by clicking on “Windows 10 Menu” at the top of the start menu.

Here’s the best thing. To get this you have to pony up $4.99. But if you’re upgrading from Start8, you can save a buck. Not sure its for you? Stardock offers a 30 day free trial. If you want a more familiar Windows experience, I say you have nothing to lose by trying it and diving in if you like it won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Review: Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030

Posted in Products with tags on August 27, 2015 by itnerd

Best Buy sent me something that really caught my interest. Specifically the Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 projector. This is a a home entertainment projector rather than a home theater projector. What’s the difference? The former typically comes with much higher levels of brightness which allows you to watch TV or movies in a fully lit room (which eliminates the need to have a TV if you so choose), and a built-in audio system as well. Here’s a look at the home cinema projector:

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It looks like any other projector that you would see in an office. But the devil’s in the details.

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Around back you have all sorts of connections frome HDMI to old school RGB. It is even MHI certified so that you can plug in a Roku Stick or a Chromecast. It weighs just over 6 pounds so it is easy to move about if you need to.

All of that is great, but the question is how well does it work?

To test this, I plugged in my Rogers Cable box via the HDMI port and found a wall in my condo that was large enough to allow me to project an image onto it. The distance from the wall to the projector was roughly 70″. I then used Rogers On Demand to dial up X-Men: Days Of Future Past which I saw on the plane to India a few months ago, but my wife had not seen. The results were pretty good. Image quality was very good at 1080p and color reproduction was as the kids say “on point” as it looked as good as my TV. I did notice some noise in solid areas in some scenes and some slight jitter when the camera panned across the scene in one action sequence. But my wife didn’t notice and I doubt you would unless you were looking for it. In any case, I didn’t consider that to be a negative. In terms of sound quality it matched the speakers in my TV from a quality perspective and it filled the living room of my condo easily.

Now this projector will broadcast 2D and 3D content. I didn’t try the latter for a couple of reasons. I didn’t have any content that was 3D, and even if I did there are no 3D glasses in the box. You’ll have to source those separately. I don’t have an issue with the fact that there were no 3D glasses in the box, but my wife thought that there should be at least a pair. I can see from her point of view that some may not be thrilled about the lack of 3D glasses in the box. That’s something that Epson may want to consider.

The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 2030 projector goes for $899 at Best Buy. If you want something that you can move about and still use like a TV, or you want an alternative to having a TV, you should take a look at this home cinema projector because it works very, very well and you will not be disappointed if you put down your hard earned cash for one.

Review: Fluxmob Bolt

Posted in Products with tags , on August 26, 2015 by itnerd

in the age of the smartphone, the one thing that will freak someone out is running out of power. That will leave the user disconnected and going through withdrawal. Specifically, from social media, e-mail and the like. To avoid that, people often buy battery packs to keep their phones topped off. Today I’m reviewing an interesting battery pack that was part of my goodie back from iStore which is the Fluxmob Bolt
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As you can see, it’s in an interesting combo of red and black and it has five lights. One to indicate that it is charging, and the four lights that you see lit that indicate how much charge that it has. Four lights indicates a full charge. It has a nice rubberized feel and it is light. Really, really, light. Plus it is small and fits in your pocket or purse easily.

IMG_1565

It has built in prongs for North American power outlets. It is capable of doing 100V-240V so you can use it overseas. But you will need to source your own adapters to do so. Fortunately, Fluxmob can help you with that. You’ll also note that I have a cable plugged into the USB port on the bottom. Specifically the, Agent18 Charge/Sync Cable With Lightning Connector. One thing to note is that when you plug a phone into the Fluxmob Bolt, it automatically starts charging. That is unlike other batteries that I have tried where you have to turn the battery on for it to charge a device.

The Fluxmob Bolt has a 3000 mAh lithium ion battery on the inside, and is capable of charging at 5V/1A which will get your smartphone up to full charge quickly if it supports fast charging. It also takes about 4 hours to charge from being empty. Speaking of charging, how much can I get out of this battery? Here’s what I did to find out:

  • I charged a half charged ZTE Grand X 2 to full charge. It took 2.5 hours to get the job done and I had three lights left which indicated there was something between 50% and 75% charge in the Fluxmob Bolt.
  • I then charged my iPhone 6 which was at 68% and it got to 95% in 30 minutes before the Fluxmob Bolt ran out of power.

Bottom line, the Fluxmob Bolt will allow you to keep your phone charged during the day and has the power to recharge it once from empty or close to empty depending on the phone. Then you will need to recharge the Fluxmob Bolt. That’s good enough for me and I suspect it will be good enough for you if you need to top your phone’s power up during the day. Expect to pay $60 CDN for one.

Review: Zepp Golf

Posted in Products with tags on August 25, 2015 by itnerd

I play golf. Badly. What I really need is instruction and lots of it. But a golf pro can be on the expensive side. Thus Best Buy was kind enough to give me a second option called Zepp Golf. What Zepp Golf is a swing analyzer that via Bluetooth tracks the following using an app on your iOS or Android phone. Here’s what it looks like: IMG_1578

You get a proprietary USB charger, the Zepp Golf device and golf glove connector. Here’s what the device can analyze for you:

  • Clubhead speed
  • Club plane
  • Hand plane
  • Tempo
  • Backswing degrees
  • Hand speed
  • Hip rotation

These are all factors that make you a good golfer. Or in my case, the lack of ability in some these areas make me a bad golfer.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is a practice device. This is a device that you want to use it on the driving range and take a look at the app after each swing. Otherwise you’ll end up with a ton of swing data, and have no idea what to do with it. Thus, it was was off to the driving range to test it. I selected my club, grabbed a ball and hit a shot. 3 seconds later, I could see my entire swing in full detail along with all kinds of stats about it. Using that info, I was able to try and make changes to my swing to make it better. Now a golf pro could do something similar, but not in the sort of detail that Zepp Golf provides you. After about two hours, Zepp Golf was able to show me that I was making progress in improving my golf swing via its reporting capabilities. Another thing that you can use Zepp Golf to do is to do video recordings at 120 FPS, and compare them to PGA Tour pros. I didn’t try this myself. But I can see how that can perhaps help you to be a better golfer. There’s one other thing I should note about Zepp Golf. It doesn’t just do golf. You can do use it for tennis and baseball as well. You’ll need different apps and mounts though.

So, if you want to improve your golf swing, take a trip to your local Best Buy and shell out $150 for a Zepp Golf. I can say that it does work and it is useful for helping you to be a better golfer by giving you the data you need to improve without shelling out a ton of cash on a golf pro.

Review: Moshi ionBank 5K With Lightning Cable

Posted in Products with tags , on August 24, 2015 by itnerd

One interesting item in my goodie bag from iStore was this Moshi ionBank 5K With Lightning Cable. It’s a battery pack of a different sort that’s aimed at Apple users as you can see below:

IMG_1566

It’s made of anodized aluminum and plastic. It looks very classy and will fit in with the other Apple gear in your bag. But it has a few tricks:

IMG_1567

First of all, it has a built in USB cable for charging they ionBank 5K which is kind of on the short side. It can be stowed away by wrapping it around the ionBank 5K. You’ll have to supply your own USB to AC adapter though, or plug it into the USB port of a computer:

IMG_1568

Slide back one of the aluminum panels and you see this Lightning cable. That way you always have a cable for use with your iDevices. The Lightning cable is not very long however. My guess is that it is about 3.5″ or so, It also means that when stored, the cable won’t get damaged. One thing to note is that you can charge a device via the Lightning cable and the USB port at the same time.

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On this side of the ionBank 5K, there are four lights (though three are lit in this picture due to the fact that I had been using it to charge devices) which gives you an idea of how much charge is left in the battery pack. If you see four lights, the ionBank 5K is fully charged. It also has a USB port to allow you to plug any device into the ionBank 5K: You’ll need to supply your own cable though.

Inside the ionBank 5K is a 5000 mAh lithium polymer battery. That makes it light, and in theory it will provide a lot of charging power. The question is how much charging power. To find out, I charged it for ten hours to get it up to a full charge. Then I went about testing it in the following manner:

  • I charged an iPhone 6 from 72% to a full charge in 47 minutes. I then checked the remaining life in the ionBank 5K and it was 3 dots which meant it had a charge level between 50% and 75%.
  • I charged an iPhone 6 from 90% to a full charge in 45 minutes. I then checked the remaining life in the ionBank 5K and it was 3 dots which meant it had a charge level between 50% and 75%.
  • I charged a ZTE Grand X 2 from 80% to a full charge in 20 minutes. I then checked the remaining life in the ionBank 5K and it was 3 dots which meant it had a charge level between 50% and 75%.
  • I charged an iPhone 6 from 88% to a full charge in 45 minutes. I then checked the remaining life in the ionBank 5K and it was 3 dots which meant it had a charge level between 50% and 75%.
  • I charged an iPhone 6 from 61% to a full charge in 55 minutes. I then checked the remaining life in the ionBank 5K and it was 3 dots which meant it had a charge level between 50% and 75%.
  • I charged my BlueAnt T2 Bluetooth headset in 25 minutes.I then checked the remaining life in the ionBank 5K and it was 2 dots which meant it had a charge level between 25% and 50%.
  • I charged an iPhone 6 from 87% to a full charge in 45 minutes. I then checked the remaining life in the ionBank 5K and it was 2 dots which meant it had a charge level between 25% and 50%.
  • I charged an iPhone 6 from 78% to a full charge in 45 minutes. I then checked the remaining life in the ionBank 5K and it was 2 dots which meant it had a charge level between 25% and 50%.
  • I charged an iPhone 6 from 46% but it didn’t get past 49% before it finally ran out of juice. It was weird that prior to this, it showed two dots which meant I should have had plenty of power left.

All of this was done over two and a half days. Clearly the ionBank 5K has the power to keep one or more devices fully charged while having power to spare. Its size and light weight make it perfect for taking on vacation or any situation where you might be away from an AC outlet, but you still need to keep your devices fully charged. But the fact that it ran out of power without waring was kind of weird. But that doesn’t stop me from saying that if you need a battery pack that will provide a lot of power, the ionBank 5K is worth looking at. It goes for $90 and you should consider it if you need to have extra power handy while you’re out and about.

Review: EarSkinz

Posted in Products with tags , on August 21, 2015 by itnerd

A unique item that was in my iStore goodie bag was a pair of EarSkinz. They are silicone covers that slip over your Apple EarPods so that they fit more comfortably. Now the only person who could have tested this for me was my wife as she uses EarPods when she runs rather than using her RHA MA450 earphones. After I installed them, they looked like this:

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They come in a number of color options. So you can choose something that works for you. The real question is do they work? According to her, the answer is yes. Her EarPods stay in her ears a lot better since the EarSkinz were installed. Prior to the EarSkinz, the EarPods would fall out during her runs because of sweat. That no longer happens. They also feel more comfortable in her ears. So I will say that they work as advertised. They’re $11 USD a pair. If you like your Apple EarPods, consider this a worthwhile investment to make them even better.

Review: Sphero 2.0

Posted in Products with tags , on August 20, 2015 by itnerd

Today I am reviewing something different. I’m reviewing a robotic ball called the Sphero 2.0 which was supplied to me by Best Buy. Here’s what you get in the box:

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In the box are neatly packed ramps for performing jumps, a user manual and inductive charging base which isn’t shown here. Just put Sphero 2.0 into the rounded charging base, watch it quickly spin itself around to properly align itself and light up to signify charging is underway. It’s kind of cool to watch actually.

When Sphero 2.0 is blue, it is fully charged. Just pop it out of the charger and then double tap on its surface with your fingers to wake it. You then download the Sphero app onto your iOS or Android device and use Bluetooth to pair your phone to Sphero 2.0. That’s when the fun begins. The app talks you through the controls for the device via a virtual joy-pad which controls direction and speed, and it has a separate speed setting to limit or increase the overall device speed. Now how easy is it to control? On my wooden floors. I really had to slow it down to have any level of control. I also crashed into lots of things. But it seems to be able take a fair amount of abuse. Once you get the hang of it, you can graduate to completing missions to give Sphero 2.0 new abilities. The missions will challenge your fine motor skills as well as your problem solving abilities. That’s going to be cool and challenging for kids and quite a few adults too. If you want to try something different, there are a number of custom-made games on the App Store of your choice to give you new challenges. I have to admit, it was really engaging.

Gripes? Only one. During my testing I found that the battery inside the Sphero 2.0 only lasts about an hour. That does cut into the fun. But it was better than the remote control cars that I played with as a kid in the 1970’s. There. I’ve just dated myself.

Best Buy has the Sphero 2.0 available for $150 which some will think is a bit steep. But it will provide hours of gameplay which makes it totally worth it in my opinion. Check it out if you want a challenge of a different sort.

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