Category Archives: Computer Hardware Peripherals

Cherry MX Silent

The Cherry MX Silent keyboard is a great mechanical keyboard for gamers or more serious computer users with two versions for quieter or more tactile feedback to your typing.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Cherry MX Silent Keyboard
Cherry MX Silent Keyboard

Cherry is a German company that manufactures computer keyboards and switches that make up mechanical keyboards, with roots in America in the 1950’s. Walter Cherry started a company in Illinois manufacturing electrical components, now several changes and years later the company is manufacturing keyboards and keyboard components.

Mechanical keyboards have come and gone and come again in popularity especially with the venerable IBM Model M keyboard back in the 1980’s. Mechanical keyboards are built with a mechanical spring that allows for a more tactile feedback when pressed down which makes for better typing for many people.

Keyboards have gone from a mechanical spring and contacts to a rubber mat that has individual bubbles that act as springs for each key. The rubber mat types have found themselves inside many keyboards as well as laptops due to their inexpensive design as well as ease of assembly.

Mechanical keyboards have found themselves popular again mainly due to their feel but also I think some nostalgia as well, harken to the good old days. Cherry manufactures both the switches that make up mechanical keyboard and the whole keyboard as well with a main focus on the key switches in the past.

Cherry is mainly known for their mechanical switches which are found in most mechanical keyboards sold today as they have become the authority on mechanical switches. To see how much of the ruler of mechanical switches Cherry is many companies use them in their models but every article I can find also compares one Cherry switch or another to the keyboard being discussed.

Bottom of Cherry MX Silent

Bottom of Cherry MX SilentCherry really is the leader in mechanical keyboard switches so they also have made several  models of their own keyboards but are more of the plain and standard design. My son is an enthusiast of mechanical keyboards, owning several and using them daily in programming.

He has several models he uses all the time and has shown me the differences and even a comparison of the different models you can get in the switches themselves. You can buy a small key set including six different Cherry mechanical switches on a small bracket that also includes rubber dampeners.

The reason to buy this small set of switches is to try yourself the force used to press the switches and to hear how much noise each switch makes. The set only costs $16 from Amazon and includes the rubber dampeners to see how they work as well for reducing noise when the key hits the bottom of the case when pressing the key.

I bought a  set of these dampeners for the keyboard I received to check this part out as well but I also wanted to thoroughly review the keyboard as I usually do. The keyboard works great and is a fantastic purchase for those that use computers often but is also a good investment but I’ll get to that later.

Key Removal for Cherry Switches

Key Removal for Cherry SwitchesThe Cherry MX Silent keyboard is an old style keyboard that looks very similar to the IBM model M down to the keys and look of the whole board. The keys have a smooth feel with a certain bounce that really makes your typing better whether you’re simply gaming or typing long articles.

The MX Silent comes in black or light grey with the international keyboard layout which means mainly the Euro symbol is on the five key. The other keys are the same as any typical US keyboard layout with the usual letters and numbers as well as a good number pad to the right side.

The switches are what makes this keyboard different with keys available in Cherry’s black or red MX Silent design with either 45 or 60 cN of force required to push the switch down. To understand the force needed for each switch you really need to try out that little switch tester that WASD Keyboards sells.

You can get from a higher 80 cN down to 45 cN, cN is the abbreviation for centinewton which is the force needed to press down the key. The higher the number the more force needed to press the key so in typing most people like lower ranges in the 45 to 60 cN but want no noise as well.

The Cherry switches have both varying force as well as audio feedback or lack of for a variety of uses like gamers wanting more of a tactile and audio feedback while gaming. Typists or those using computers a lot, programmers for instance, don’t really want the audio feedback as much but do want the tactile feedback.

Side of MX Silent Keyboard
Side of MX Silent Keyboard

The keyboard has the usual keys and number pad as well as adjustable feet that prop the keyboard top edge up about a quarter inch for more of an angle to your keyboard. The MX Silent keyboard has the USB connection as well as a USB to PS/2 adapter in the package with nothing else but instructions.

The keys of the keyboard can be pulled to reveal the switches below as well as replaced with new ones if you would like to change them out. This is one of the many advantages of the mechanical keyboard that people really like, being able to replace the keys themselves with colored ones or different fonts.

You can buy new key sets or parts of sets with ones for gaming or programs like Photoshop as well as those rubber dampeners in a variety of sizes. Mainly the two I found and would trust are the ones Cherry and another company sell in .2mm red and .4mm blue, some companies don’t put the different sizes of dampeners on their descriptions.

Th red dampeners will give some dampening while the blue will give twice as much due to the rubber ring being twice the thickness. The cost of adding the rings is only about $15 while that switch tester is also about $16 so checking these things out is not much of an expense.

The mechanical keyboard however is expensive and a good investment for anyone who types often or games a lot which brings me back around to that investment. If I was going to spend my money I would buy the Cherry MX switch tester first to see which keyboard switch best suites my feel and use.

I would then look around for the keyboard with that switch that best suites my uses whether gaming or daily use like programming and buying the model I like best. The Cherry MX Silent is a great choice with its basic design for those going for that nostalgic look but it does have those excellent key switches hiding under that plain exterior.

Pros
Two versions for quieter typing or more tactile feedback
Classic IBM design for nostalgia lovers
Ability to add dampeners for quieter typing

Cons
Pretty basic design

Cherry MX Website

Cherry MX Silent Red Switches @ Amazon

Timbuk 2 Spire Backpack

The Timbuk 2 Spire backpack is an excellent pack that includes molle straps for extra storage and a great waterproof interior space for a laptop and more.

timbuk 2 spire
Timbuk 2 Spire Backpack

Ease of Use, Performance: 23/25
Look & Feel: 22/25
Features 22/25
How much I enjoy 22/25

Total: 89/100

A few months ago I contacted Timbuk 2 and struck a deal with them, I got a backpack at a discount and they get a review for their efforts. Here’s the review and it’s just like the backpack, well worth a look.

The Timbuk 2 Spire arrived just in time for my summer walks to work and it’s a real hefty pack with plenty of features including a waterproof roll top. The Spire comes in all kinds of colors and a couple of material choices which affects the final cost as well as durability depending on the material.

That’s not to say that one material is going to only last a couple months while another will last years, this pack will last years no matter your material choice. Timbuk 2 has quality from the start and the pack is solidly built with tough stitching, quality materials and great designs.

timbuk 2 back
Timbuk 2 Spire Back Straps

I wanted a bag for my work laptop, lunch and thermos for a daily walk to and from work so the pack had to be both comfortable and large enough to carry the things I would need during the day. The Timbuk 2 Spire works nicely for all I needed and more with its roll top waterproof design and easy to access smaller pockets.

The Timbuk 2 spire is made from water resistant TPU and canvas that are tough and durable as my several months of daily use has proven. The front of the pack has webbing with slots for clips or carabiners to hang things like keys, water bottles or other extras.

These straps that circle the bag to one side are called a molle system where you can attach smaller pouches to the larger backpack. The MOLLE system is a universal system so you can buy from different manufacturers and be assured that it will fit on your pack no matter who makes the accessories.

side with molle straps
Side with MOLLE Straps

MOLLE stands for modular lightweight load-carrying equipment and is a military equipment system for packs and such but has become a great addition to civilian backpacks. The MOLLE system has even gained traction in smaller waist pouches and even dog vests so you can pack along water and doggy bags for those little accidents along the walk.

One side of the backpack has a water bottle webbing pocket while the other has four rows of those webbing loops for more clip on storage. The two small pockets are unique with several inner pockets while the pocket near the top has an outer and an inner pocket.

The roll top pack has a single clip for securing the main compartment but you can access your 15 inch maximum laptop from a side waterproof zipper. The bag has a two pocket laptop and tablet design with the main area being open for things like books or my thermos and lunch bag.

side with zippered access
Zippered Side Access

The bag protects well enough but for extra protection it does fit a 15 inch laptop sleeve if you want that extra security possibly because that laptop is work property and not yours. I found the roll top design easy to use and had the added advantage of being completely waterproof so when you do get caught in the rain you’re protected.

The straps are comfortable and the bag is easy to carry on one shoulder or both for a quick walk to work while the padding for your back really adds a lot of comfort for longer walks. The middle strap to hold the straps together across your front can be adjusted up or down so you can adjust this for perfect fit according to your body.

In the past I have purchased backpacks for my kids for school and have been very disappointed in some of my purchases due to durability and quality issues. You just cannot buy any real quality packs from stores like Walmart so I have turned to companies like Timbuk 2 where quality does make a huge difference.

interior pockets
Interior Pockets

I am very pleased with my purchase and without a doubt will be able to use the Spire for years instead of months as it shows no signs of wear. I have had absolutely no problems with the Timbuk 2 Spire and I do highly recommend this as an excellent school or work backpack or one for those day trips in the woods.

Timbuk 2 Spire @ Timbuk 2
Timbuk 2 Spire @ Amazon

SoundPEATS Q9A Wireless Earbuds Review

SoundPEATS Q9A Wireless Earbuds Review

The SoundPEATS Q9A Earbuds sound pretty good but the comfort is just not there for these low cost in ear earbuds that are now available from Amazon.

Ease of Use, Performance:  3/5
Look & Feel:  2/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy:  2/5

Recommendation:  2.5/5 Stars

SoundPEATS Q9A
SoundPEATS Q9A

SoundPEATS is a popular low cost choice for earbuds and headphones in the mobile market with a new release in the Q9A earbud set. The Q9A Wireless Bluetooth Earbuds are a sport earbud set that touts sweat proof and secure fit from the 3 sets of cushions.

The Q9A earbuds are Bluetooth and connect easily to any Bluetooth devices wirelessly which accounts for the lack of an audio connection. The Q9A earbuds have a DC in connection and three buttons on the right earbud while the left has no controls or connections.

The two earbuds are connected to each other with a flat wire and the right earbud has three control buttons along with the microphone and power connection. The controls allow you to control volume, to pause and play as well as skip tracks but also control calls when one comes in.

The earbuds work well for phone calls and handle private conversations easily in calls and can also be used for recording with the microphone that’s also on the right earbud. The set includes three sizes of ear cushions as well as a USB charging cable along with a zipper carry case.

whats in the box
Whats in the Box

The ear bud cushions give you a good size variety but my issue was more with the angle the ear buds come into my ears and not the fit of the cushions. I tried wearing the earbuds for a time but the angle for the ear bud on my right ear just did not work out for me.

After a half hour it would rub the wrong way on my ear and was very uncomfortable, so much that I could not wear them for more than an hour at a time. I have worn and used several different ear buds and over the ear earbuds with very similar designs without any issues but the Q9A earbuds just were not comfortable for me.

Sound quality is pretty good and about what I would expect for this price range but looking at Amazons initial price of $100 would be way too much for this set of earbuds. $25 is about what I would expect considering quality and the Q9A earbuds work fairly well and would be worth the price if they were more comfortable.

I would look for a more expensive pair of earbuds for my own personal use as the quality and comfort are just not here for me, I have received more expensive earbuds that worked better. The Q9A Earbud set is just not worth a look for me and given the lack of comfort I would look at a slightly higher price point.

That is where I would put my money, earbuds that are in the $50 to $100 range if I was looking for earbuds that were both comfortable and sounded great. The Q9A Earbuds are just not that good and other than a low price there is not that much here to differentiate them from the myriad others at this price point.

SoundPeats @ Amazon

Pros
Decent sound for the price
Good battery life

Cons
Could not get a comfortable fit

Capresso EC PRO Espresso Machine

Capresso EC PRO Espresso Machine

The Capresso EC PRO Espresso Machine is a professional commercial grade espresso machine that has an open bottom and two shot portafilter for control and convenience.

Ease of Use/Performance: 4/5
Convenience/Storage 5/5
Appearance/Design 5/5
How much I enjoy 5/5

Total: 5/5

A bottomless portafilter shows you exactly how well or badly you are pulling your shot in an honest and direct way that closed filters cannot. Before you can even enjoy or cringe at the quality of your work a bottomless filter will show you whether you got the tamp, grind and dose right.

If you get everything correct when making your preparations a bottomless portafilter will have a smooth steady flow into your cup. An uneven tamp, wrong amount or incorrect grind of beans will splatter all over the machine and possibly your counter.

The bottomless filter is just one way of improving your espresso while a quality commercial grade machine makes for the beginnings of good espresso. The EC PRO from Capresso comes with a removable water tank and the two porta filters as well as a plastic scoop/tamper and instructions.

Capresso EC PRO Espresso Machine
Capresso EC PRO

The machine is stainless steel with a quality pump and boiler for the perfect pressure and temperature that also warms the top of the machine for a cup warming tray. The EC PRO has the usual removal tank that holds 42 ounces of water so there are not constant trips to the sink for filling.

The removable stainless steel tray is handy for cleanup while the machines steel surface also makes the work after a bad shot easy. Just like any espresso machine bad shots are inevitable but pulling good ones comes pretty easily and fast when you do a little research.

Nothing beats using a bottomless portafilter to see what you’re doing wrong but the enjoyment of pulling that perfect shot is almost priceless. The EC PRO is an excellent machine and well worth the cost which is around $250.

whats in the box Capresso EC PRO
Whats in the Box

The steaming wand also makes quick work of frothing or steaming and is easy to use with a little practice just like pulling shots. The wand is not removable for easier cleaning but this is a tradeoff with the quality of the machine and any convenience you may gain.

Controls on the front consist of a main power switch and a heater switch for the espresso or steamer with an on off dial for the espresso and steamer function. The EC PRO really is easy to use and did not require more than a casual glance at the instruction book for me when I first unpackaged it.

I cannot recommend highly enough the EC PRO as an inexpensive espresso machine that makes espresso like the higher costing machines. I have been using the EC PRO for a couple months and have been very pleased with my results and very excited to delve into the very visual bottomless portafilter.

I highly recommend the EC PRO from Capresso as a fantastic espresso machine for the home that is a professional commercial grade appliance.

EC PRO @ Capresso

EC PRO @ Amazon

Pros
Quality materials and workmanship
Large removable water tank
Excellent choice of portafilters

Cons
Plastic scoop/tamper is not good at tamping

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset

The Jabra Stealth Bluetooth headset makes phone calls as easy as speaking a name and a word that includes clear communication with high definition clarity.

Ease of Use, Performance:  3/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy:  2/5

Recommendation:  3/5 Stars

Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset
Jabra Stealth Bluetooth Headset

The Jabra Stealth is a Bluetooth mono headset that includes a variety of ear hooks and gels along with a USB charging cable and quick setup instructions. The main purpose of a bluetooth headset that has only one earpiece is to connect with a phone and allow hands free calling and communication.

The Jabra Stealth does a good job at this but I did have a few issues that made my experience not as positive as other users and reviewers. The Jabra Stealth easily paired with my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone as well as my wife’s but voice recognition has a way to go before it’s useful.

I tried both phones and checked several things but the simple Call Jeff would not work for either phone so I was disappointed from the start. I tried using Samsung’s version of voice recognition called S Voice and it works much better but still has its problems.

whats in the box
Whats in the Box

I could call Chele which is the nickname of my wife if I elongated the e sound or simply changed her name to Shell to make it work better. It seems both Google and Samsung have problems with names that are not mainstream or nicknames but with those common ones it does alright.

Other commands work somewhat well like open calendar but once the current page is open what next?, it seems that voice recognition and hands free have a long way to go beyond calling John, Jane or Susan. I like the Jabra Stealth but once you get past the talking without having to hold a phone to your ear there really is not much else to the device.

You can use it to text and write memos but other commands are hit and miss while having to always touch the headset to wake up Galaxy or say Ok Google gets tiring. The headset has an on off switch, a button for starting communication between the headset and your phone as well as a answer end button.

usb port & power switch
USB Port & Power Switch

The USB connection for charging is under a small door and battery life is pretty good for such a small headset at about six hours. The Jabra has a full set of ear gels and hooks so finding a combination or individual one that works for your ear is pretty easy.

Of course I may not know or have not researched the commands available but sitting at my desk and opening my calendar I can’t do anything else without touching the phone. I can find restaurants and other useful things using the voice commands but they are just too limited for me to worry about.

The main function I was interested in was being able to call someone but this is limited to how well voice recognition works for my contact list. When both Samsung and Google has me changing names so they can recognize them the functionality of a hands free headset goes out the window.

jabra stealth ear gels
Jabra Stealth Ear Gels

The Jabra Stealth works fine for call clarity, ease of pairing and all the other features like being able to redial by double clicking the side of the headset. The battery life seems fine to me for the size of the device and the ear pieces are comfortable once you get a little used to the fit.

The headset is just too dependent on voice recognition and if that does not work well it limits the usefulness of the headset for the cost you’re paying. I did have luck making several calls and using the Jabra Stealth as a general wireless headset which is one of the main uses I wanted it for but controlling my phone without having to touch it is not going to work.

The Jabra also does not have any volume control on the device so you do have to use your phones volume to turn up and down the volume so hands free is not exactly a full time commitment. I like the Jabra Stealth but it is still a long way form being the total hands free headset that people are wanting.

If you need a comfortable hands free way to talk the Jabra Stealth works well but voice control is still a futuristic concept and not today’s technology.

Stealth @ Jabra

Jabra @ Amazon

Pros
Clear sound and phone calls
Good battery life
Easy pairing

Cons
Voice control and hands free are not good
No volume on headset

olloclip 4-in-1 Mobile Phone Lens

olloclip 4-in-1 Mobile Phone Lens

The olloclip 4-in-1 lens for the Samsung Galaxy S4 is a unique lens add on for smartphones that includes a 10x and 15x magnifying lens as well as a wide angle and fisheye lens.

Ease of Use, Performance:  3/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  4/5

Recommendation:  4/5 Stars

olloclip 4-in-1 Photo Lens
olloclip 4-in-1 Photo Lens

The olloclip is a small add-on lens system for phones with the Galaxy S4 and S5 lenses using a metal frame with two lenses side by side. Apple phones and tablets use a similar lens mount system but have a lens on each side of the frame so you simply turn the mount around to change lenses.

olloclip 4-in-1 on S4

olloclip 4-in-1 Lens on S4

Looking beyond the single lens solution I found for smartphone accessories I found the olloclip add on lens that includes four different lenses in a single package. The olloclip 4-in-1 lens comes in designs for both Samsung galaxy s and apple devices with the Samsung Galaxy S4 being my model.

olloclip on Galaxy S4
olloclip on Galayx S4

I wanted to check out the smartphone add on lenses available for my Galaxy S4 that would take photography to a new level and the olloclip does work well. The Galaxy S4 version is a metal clip on device that has two magnifying lenses that center over the camera lens.

If you simply swap the olloclip around it brings the other lens to the camera while the wide angle and fisheye lens simply screws on each magnifying lens. You don’t have to worry about matching the correct removable lens to the proper lens on the olloclip as each uses a different male or female thread type.

Image without add on Lens
Image without add on Lens

olloclip Fish Eye Lens

olloclip Fish Eye Lens

olloclip Wide Angle Lens

olloclip Wide Angle Lens

The olloclip does require you to clip the lens assembly directly onto the body of the phone so no case can be used while mounting the olloclip on your Galaxy phone. According to the images of the apple phones and tablets that also have versions of the olloclip you can also not use cases with other olloclip lenses.

Circuit Board without Magnification
Circuit Board without Magnification
Smartphone 4X Magnification
Smartphone 4X Magnification

The 10x and 15x lenses allow you a good range of macro image photography while the fisheye and wide angle give you a great addition to the cameras ability. I enjoy photography but the smartphones do limit you in what you can do so adding lenses to your devices features just makes sense.

10X Magnifier Lens
10X Magnifier Lens

15x mag lens

15X Magnifier Lens

10x mag len 4x phone

10X Magnifier Lens with 4X Phone Magnification

15X Magnifier Lens with 4X Phone Magnification

15X Magnifier Lens with 4X Phone Magnification

The olloclip works well but the one area I am concerned with is the lack of protection for my phone while using the snap on lens system. I always want to have a case on my phone and want my OtterBox to stay on for my phones protection as I really do know the cost of repairing it.

You simply cannot use a case while using the lens which just makes me concerned for the protection of devices but the olloclip does work well. I had little trouble using the snap on lens but you also cannot use the power or volume buttons depending on which way the lens is on your phone while the lens in on.

The pictures I get from the olloclip look good and especially the macro shots give you a wide range to use for whatever photography you want. I can recommend the olloclip for a good lens system but not being able to use a case while using the lens system does bother me some.

The olloclip lenses for the Galaxy S4 and S% are about $70 while the apple versions range from $50 to $100 depending on the phone model and which lens combination you are interested in.

Olloclip website

Olloclip @ Amazon

Pros
Good range of lenses in a single package
Quality images and good range of magnification
Quality materials

Cons
Cannot use case while using the olloclip
Side button is under clip on lens frame

HUB IT Sync & Charge Station with Qi Wireless Charging

HUB IT Sync & Charge Station with Qi Wireless Charging

The HUB IT is a unique charging station that has several features and can even go the extra distance as a wireless charging station using Qi wireless charging.

Ease of Use, Performance:  3/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Eggtronic is an Italian company that sells a unique product called HUB IT that allows you to connect and charge most of your electronics. The HUB IT uses removable cartridges inside its trapezoid shape to make sure you have the charge and sync cables your devices need.

The three USB 3.0 connections allow you to connect devices like external drives using a USB cable while the USB micro cable connects your device to one computer to use as a transfer point. The cartridges can be either a cable with connector like the Lightning or 30 pin Apple connections or a Qi charger but they are not interchangeable in the slots of the charger.

HUB IT Sync & Charge Station
HUB IT Sync & Charge Station

Eggtronic has 13 cartridges for the wide variety of devices while the Qi charger cartridge uses a devices Qi receiver to wirelessly charge your device. The package you order with the HUB IT Sync & Charge Station comes with the charge station, AC adapter, four cable cartridges and an instruction booklet.

The Qi charger is also available separately or as a set with the charge station which you can use with a receiver already built in some devices or with a receiver you install in your device. You can even use a receiver that has a smaller USB connection to wirelessly charge devices that are not QI ready if you like which works well on my 1st generation Nexus 7.

Whats in the Box
Whats in the Box

I did have a few problems with the Hub-It which shows more about the quality of the device which I will explain along with how the charge station is designed. The cartridges plug into the base of the HUB IT under the top cover which is easy to pop off and put on.

There are nine places for cartridges but two different kinds of plugins that cannot be used in the other slots because of the placement of the connector. The four corner spots and the middle spot has the connector closer to the center while the four middle cartridges have the connector closer to the edge of the square.

HUB IT Cartridges
HUB IT Cartridges

The four retractable cartridges I received only go in the four middle spots while the Qi cartridge can go in any of the other five slots. I’m not sure why you would want more Qi chargers as I can only see being able to fit two smaller phones on the charger at one time using the Qi charger.

The Qi Charger did not work all that well until I opened the cartridge to see how it was built and discovered the foam piece inside the plastic case did not hold the wire disc near the top. I added some fiberglass insulation and got the wire circle that is the heart of the charger near the top of the cartridge and the charger did much better at charging my phone.

HUB IT w/ Galaxy S4 Qi Charger
HUB IT w/ Galaxy S4 Qi Charger

I have a Samsung Galaxy S4 that was in an OtterBox Defender case and when I first tried it with the HUB IT it would not charge but I did find a smaller case that would charge my phone. I then opened up the charger and altered the position of the coil and the charger then worked on my phone with all the cases I have.

Eggtronic did send me a Qi receiver for my phone along with the HUB IT and the Qi charger cartridge that worked just fine in my phone. I also purchased the Samsung Galaxy Qi receiver cover for my S4 which also worked well with my phone even in a protective case.

HUB IT w/ 1st Gen Nexus 7 & Qi Receiver
HUB IT w/ 1st Gen Nexus 7 & Qi Receiver

The HUB IT not only charges phones but can transfer data using the same charge connections but not at a very fast pace but no slower than the same drive connected directly to the computer. Transfer speeds were about the same between my pc and a USB thumb drive and through the HUB IT station so the station does not slow down transfers.

I like the idea of keeping down the amount of cables lying around and having the ability to use the Qi wireless charger means less wear and tear on my charge port. I really like the HUB IT and the only downside I found was the Qi charger not being filled with enough insulation to keep the charger coil at the very top of the cartridge.

The Hub-it sync and charge station works well and is an easy recommendation to keep your charging area neat and under control as well as being able to easily charge and sync your devices.

Hub-It @ Eggtronic

Hub-It @ Amazon

Pros
Charge and sync devices
Can also charge with Qi wireless
Removable cartridges for many USB types
Retractable cords keep clutter down

Cons
Qi Wireless cartridge needed a mod

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Review

Thecus N2310 NAS Server Review

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server is a great home or small business server that allows for fast backup and network storage that is very affordable.

Ease of Use, Performance:  3/5
Look & Feel:  4/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy:  3/5

Recommendation:  4/5 Stars

Thecus N2310 w/ Western Digital Drives
Thecus N2310 w/ Western Digital Drives

The Thecus N2310 NAS Server is a network attached storage device that allows you to use one or two solid state or hard disc drives to connect as network based storage. The N2310 comes as a two disc drive container that attaches to your network using the rear network connection.

You can also connect other devices like USB hard drives or printers using the two rear USB connections with one being 2.0 and the other 3.0 USB connections. The Thecus N2310 is easy to install with the included CD having the setup instructions, a setup wizard and all the drivers the device requires.

After setup you have a browser based control panel to the Thecus operating system where you control the device and all your apps including 3rd party ones. The regular apps from Thecus work very well for backup, connecting to the NAS device and even handle bit torrent downloading.

drive trays
Drive Trays

You can set up two drives in Raid configuration so the backup and data is always duplicated or use two drives in tandem for a lot of storage. You can use the Thecus N2310 to store data and media, backup files, handle bit torrent downloading and access files from anywhere you can get an internet connection.

The Thecus apps contain enough control and access to handle any small business files as well as the things like backup and downloading bit torrent files. Setup only takes a few minutes for the basic single drive or Raid drives but getting a few things like smartphone or tablet access might take longer.

I had a few problems with the setup trying to get my smartphone and tablet to access the files I stored but eventually did figure things out. I did have a little trouble finding out exactly what t use for a network address when connecting my tablet but I did figure things out.

rear of n2310
Rear of N2310

Thecus does have an app for watching streaming video called Plex as well as listening to audio but the streaming video did not work on any of my setups. I tried accessing the files directly on my home network which worked just fine to play a video on my computer that was stored on the Thecus N2310.

When trying to access the same video through the Plex app from my tablet or PlayStation 3 connected to my TV the video skipped and has other problems that made it unwatchable. Streaming audio to listen to music stored on the N2310 worked just fine so the problem I feel is just not enough horsepower in the NAS device or the app itself.

The N2310 has an internal processor but it is only a single core and 800 MHz so it is limited in what it can do but they did keep this at a very reasonable price. The N2310 costs about $140 and is available from websites like Newegg and Amazon but you will also need to buy or have a hard drive to put in it.

thecus control panel
Thecus Control Panel

At this low a price you would not expect much in the way of features and after testing using the Intel NAS Performance Kit found that NAS was plenty responsive. The Thecus N2310 NAS Server worked well and for the price you cannot beat this for a home or small business server for data and files.

I highly recommend the Thecus N2310 for a small business or home network storage device that works well for backup and data storage.

Thecus Video

Thecus N2310 Website

Thecus N2310 @ Amazon

Pros
Easy and fast setup
Apps are easy to access and use
Audio streaming works well
Backup and restore is simple and works effortlessly

Cons
Media Streaming does not work well enough
Some setup may require a bit of help

ROCCAT Kone Pure Mouse & Sense Military Mousepad

ROCCAT Kone Pure Military Mouse & Sense Military Mousepad

The ROCCAT Kone Pure Military is a gaming grade mouse with a Pro-Optic 5000 dpi optical sensor and lift control while the Sense mousepad gives you the perfect surface for your mouse.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

roccat kone pure & sense military

The ROCCAT Kone Pure Military is a gaming grade optical mouse that has the usual assorted adjustments and an optical sensor that includes lift control technology. Lift control means you can adjust what height the optical sensor uses from the surface so when the mouse is lifted above this distance the mouse quits reading.

The ROCCAT Kone Pure in military style is available in three color schemes with the stylized ROCCAT logo on the body of each mouse. The logo has LED lighting you can change and 7 mouse buttons along with the scroll wheel that has the middle click button.

The optical sensor onboard the Kone Pure is 5000 dots per inch and adjustable from a low of 50 DPI up to the maximum 5000 DPI for precise adjustment. The sensor range of adjustment makes it great for gaming or other specific uses like image editing or graphics creation.

whats in the box
Whats in the Box

It’s really nice to use a low setting for more precise control in programs like ArtRage for slow controlled movements while drawing. In games you need a good balance between speed and smooth operation while some may prefer the faster movement of a higher DPI.

The Kone Pure comes with a great control program with all the adjustments in four pages while a fifth page has a trophy system and a sixth is for updating. The trophy system rewards the player for clicks and such which is kind of goofy but it is fun and surprising the first time you hear that you won a trophy no matter what you’re doing.

You can turn off this announcement system as well as the verbal notice of settings changes when not using the settings program so you know what settings has been changed. The mouse buttons are all customizable to your particular needs while the settings program has five DPI settings that can be used for quick changes.

ROCCAT Kone Pure
ROCCAT Kone Pure

The ROCCAT settings program can be set up for five profiles for use with specific programs or for button assignments that are specific for different needs. You can also assign a program to a profile so that the program will trigger that profile when you start it up for quick and easy changes to button assignments and other settings.

One technology that ROCCAT has invented that is very handy is Easy Shift[+] which allows an almost full set of extra button assignments. You can assign one of the side buttons as the Easy Shift and when that is held down a new button assignment can be used for the rest of the buttons.

This will almost double the button assignments for more versatility in any program you use but especially ones where a lot of mouse shortcuts would be nice like image editing. The additional button assignments allow you even more features but this is not just for gaming as I found it quite handy for my image editing.

Bottom of Kone Pure
Bottom of Kone Pure

I have found that a gaming mouse is great for use in other programs and really miss the smooth operation and control when I am forced to use other mice. I really like the control and precision I can get form a smooth gaming grade optical sensor in ArtRage while trying to do precision drawing as well.

ROCCAT has also released a line of mousepads that go well with the Kone Pure and match the stylized design of the Military series. The ROCCAT Sense is a 2mm thick 400 by 280 millimeter mouse pad that has a smooth low friction surface and a foam rubber backing.

The Kone Pure pairs well with the Sense mousepad for a fantastic pair of weapons you can use to decimate enemies or to draw them on your choice of art programs. The ROCCAT Sense has remained a smooth surface and does clean well under simple wiping if you do get it dirty.

sense logo and bottom
ROCCAT Sense Logo & Bottom

I have used a general cleaner and paper towels to clean the pad but the mousepad does not collect dust like some other cloth weave fabrics I have had in the past. The ROCCAT Sense performs very well and makes an excellent purchase along with the Kone Pure for a great set of peripherals.

The ROCCAT Kone Pure in military colors costs about $70 while the ROCCAT Sense is a low price of about $20 at stores like GameStop. The ROCCAT Kone Pure is an excellent mouse and easily works well in both gaming and other programs for an easy recommendation in a performance mouse.

Kone Pure @ ROCCAT

Kone Pure @ Amazon

Sense @ ROCCAT

Sense @ GameStop

Pros
Gaming grade optical sensor with smooth control
Customizable buttons with double the available assignments
Lift Control for better usage

Cons
None

Visonicom EZCast WiFi TV Dongle VMD-EZ155 Review

Visonicom EZCast WiFi TV Dongle VMD-EZ155 Review

The Visonicom EZCast VMD-EZ155 is a WiFi domgle that connects an android, iPhone or PC to an HDMI display so you can stream video and audio.

Ease of Use, Performance:  0/5
Look & Feel:  4/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy: 0/5
Recommendation:  0/5 Stars

Visonicom EZCast WiFi Dongle
Visonicom EZCast WiFi Dongle

The Visonicom EZCast VMD-EZ155 is a WiFi dongle that uses the EZCast app to stream video and audio from your PC or handheld device to your TV. The Visicom EZCast uses DLNA, Miracast and Airplay to broadcast over WIFi from a smartphone, tablet or personal computer.

The EZCast VMD-EZ155 uses an android or iPhone app or a computer program to send the signal to the receiver which plugs into your HDMI display or TV. The dongle also has a USB micro B connection for power while the short antenna connects to your network or device.

There are two basic ways the dongle connects to your TV with either a home based network or directly to your computer or laptop using WiFi. Both ways use WiFi to connect the broadcasting device to the TV or monitor while the device gets all its power from the micro USB connection.

The Visonicom dongle uses the EZCast app or program on your device to send the video and audio to your TV with mirroring and extending the display. You can also turn on and off the audio as well as choose which type of media to work with that makes a difference on how well the dongle works.

EZCast Mirror Setup
EZCast Mirror Setup

The EZCast app has a music and video player built in or can use your smart device or computer to play video or just surf the internet. The dongle would be great for presentations or just watching videos form Netflix or YouTube if it worked well but the video just does not work well enough.

Audio works just fine alone and video works fairly well depending on the source and quality while images work perfectly which is all the difference. This type of device needs to work perfectly almost all the time in order to make it worthwhile or it is not really worth the price.

When streaming video for a presentation or for entertainment it needs to be decent without skipping or pausing otherwise it’s not going to be enjoyable or useful. I tried the VMD-EZ155 Dongle from several devices and it did not work very well at all trying to play video from the internet.

I also tried to use my Nexus 7 tablet to stream video to the TV in my living room and video was unwatchable with stuttering and sound cutting in and out. The Visonicom WiFi Dongle is simple to set up but with such poor performance it just is not worth even looking at.

A WiFi dongle needs to work perfectly almost every time or it is just not worth getting and this is one product I would simply go with the top of the line. The Google Chromecast works in much the same way and for only $5 more it offers consistent video play without any problems from what I have seen of my son’s setup.

The Visonicom WMD-EZ155 just does not work nearly well enough for me to even recommend it at all as I could not get it to play video and audio smoothly enough to enjoy. The stuttering and skipping are so bad that I could not watch a six minute video from YouTube and get enough of it to understand what is going on.

The Visonicom WiFi Dongle VMD-EZ155 is not worth even bothering with and I would recommend going with a more mainstream company for your streaming needs.

VMD-EZ155 @ Visonicom

Pros
Easy Setup
Compact device
Uses EZCast App for streaming

Cons
Video and audio skips and cuts out