Category Archives: Tablet and Accessories

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

Photojojo Lens Set

Photojojo Lens Set

The Photojojo Lens Set for android and iPhones works simply by adhering a small metal ring for each lens to mount on your smartphones rear camera for additional photography features.

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

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

photojojo lens set
Photojojo Lens Set

My first digital camera was the Canon PowerShot A610 with a 5 megapixel sensor which was a powerhouse at the time I bought it in a compact camera. Today my Samsung Galaxy S4 has more than twice the megapixels in a size that surprises me every time I take apart the same model phone.

I work at a cell phone repair shop and see every day the tragedy that befalls phones as well as tablets and other devices but phones have really taken over in today’s technology. They do lack a few features of those standalone cameras with notable features like aperture and exposure settings but most notably lenses.

lens mount rings on s4
Lens Mount Ring on S4

Having the ability to add a lens to the camera would be great but the body of the Galaxy S4 and other similar smartphones does not make this easy. Enter the new market of the attachable lenses for smartphones with the Photojojo Phone Lenses being a really great choice.

Photojojo has a whole set of lenses that attach to your smartphone with a simple magnetic ring and metal adhesive backed ring that sticks to your camera. The metal ring with adhesive comes in two varieties with the iPhone variety having a small dent for the microphone that sits close by the camera lens.

super fisheye lens on galaxy s4
Super Fish Eye Lens on Galaxy S4

The other models of phones including my Samsung S4 can use the full metal ring that has adhesive to secure it to the phone right around the rear camera. Once you install the metal ring you’re ready to shoot simply by placing any of the five lenses right on the ring and taking your shots.

The five lenses make up a six lens series with the wide angle lens being able to split into a macro lens simply by unscrewing the wide angle section. The macro/wide angle lens is the start to a full range of photography add-ons for your smartphone with the two fisheye lenses, telephoto lens and the polarizer finishing up the set.

fisheye lens
Fish Eye Lens

The two fish eye lenses add the curved view with the super fisheye adding a larger amount of distortion to your view with a full 235 degrees. The classic fisheye lens has a 180 degree view while the telephoto lens is a 2X zoom to get you closer to your subject.

The polarizer adds glare reduction so you can take clearer and sharper pictures while the combined macro and wide angle lens adds both close up photography and a larger field of view. All the lenses are made of quality aluminum and high clarity glass that are higher quality.

super fisheye
Super Fish Eye Lens

I have seen cheap photography lenses, add on filters and other things made from plastic and cheap glass that you could see the defects in and the Photojojo lenses are clear and well made. The magnetic attachment is simply a ring magnet on the base of each lens that adheres to the metal ring you stick to your camera.

On my S4 the ring sits right on the rounded square cover over the rear camera and I have not had a problem on two Galaxy s4 phones using the lenses. The lens attaches well and is hard to knock off which was one concern of mine but the major one I had was ease of use while out taking photos.

without polarizer
Without Polarizer

If you purchase the full lens kit you also get a small woolen pouch that zippers shut while each lens in the kit has a plastic cover and a lanyard attached to a small metal disc to protect the lens base. Whether you buy the kit or lenses separately you get a cover for each side of the lens for protection and several of the adhesive backed rings.

I have checked iPhones and several other brands of phones and the metal rings will fit on most of the ones I have seen in the repair shop I work at. The lenses attach easily and have great clarity as well as doing exactly what you would expect which is enhance your photography ability.

with polarizer
With Photojojo Polarizer

I was first interested in the macro lens due to my work on smartphones and wanting to capture the occasional snapshot of detail on a device I’m working on. The macro lens works great and you can see with a comparison between the shots without the lens and with it that you can get much closer with it.

Due to a lack of manual focus the camera just cannot focus on what you want when you’re close so macro photography does not work well with a smartphone without some help. The macro lens adds the ability to get really close and get detail that you cannot otherwise get.

circuit board with macro lens
Circuit Board with Macro Lens

closest my s4 will get and still focus

Closest the S4 will get and still focus

1x zoom with close up lens

1X Zoom with Close Up Lens

4x zoom with closeup lens

4X Zoom with Close Up Lens

The polarizer works well to reduce glare and for more realistic color in photos both indoors and outside but I was surprised at this shot indoors of our foster dog Mysty and how well it turned out with the lens. The other lenses add a great variety to photography using you smartphone and I truly enjoyed checking out the variety of lenses available with the set from Photojojo.

Each lens costs about $20 and the kit of all five lenses comes in at about $100 but you can also order a couple of other kits with an additional lens or just 3 lenses. The Photojojo lenses are the best solution for adding features like macro, fisheye and polarizing without gimmicky apps or software solutions.

Photojojo Website
Photojojo @ Amazon

Pros
Easy to mount and use
Lens covers are easy to use as well
No gimmicky mounts
Can be used with a phone case

Cons
None

CHOE Stadium Qi Wireless Charger

CHOE Stadium Qi Wireless Charger

The CHOE Stadium charger uses Qi wireless coils to magnetically charge your devices including smartphones and tablets that have Qi wireless receivers in them.

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

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Qi wireless charging is a type of technology that is now becoming main stream with its ease of daily use and saving your devices charge port. To use a Qi charger you need both a transmitter and receiver to make up the wireless charging but wireless is a bit of a misleading term.

Wireless actually means you have no wires connecting directly to your device but you still need to plug the Qi transmitter into a power source. Magnetism takes care of the rest and charges your device using the two coils placed close together just like a transformer.

CHOE has a few Qi chargers and the Stadium is a three coil charger that can charge small devices like smartphones and larger ones like tablets. Some phones and tablets have Qi receivers built in but you can also install them on your own in devices that don’t have them easily.

CHOE Stadium Wireless Charger
CHOE Stadium Wireless Charger

There are two ways to do this with the rear contacts being the easiest but some devices have no contacts for this easier way to install a receiver. You can buy receivers for devices like my Galaxy S4 for those rear contacts but some devices also have rear covers with receivers built in.

Some devices like my 1st generation Nexus 7 tablet does not have the contacts but you can buy a Qi receiver with a USB connection that is made as a low profile charger. This connection does have to be removed if you want to transfer data using the USB port but you can use it to charge your de vice without the wear and tear on your USB port.

That is the main benefit but the actual reason you would want to use a Qi wireless charger is simple every day ease of use when needing to charge your device. The CHOE Stadium even works with cases like the Otterbox Defender and the Impact Gel cases I have on my Galaxy s4’s.

Charging with the CHOE Stadium
Charging with the CHOE Stadium

The CHOE stadium simply works, every time you set your phone or tablet on it in about the right place without any fuss or adjustment. I have the charger on a small counter near my kitchen door where I also have a coffee machine for my daily caffeine fix and can simply drop my phone off when I get home on my way to the kitchen.

I set the phone down and a few seconds later the tell-tale tone plays saying it is charging but for my tablet there is no tone to tell you it’s charging. You simply look at the battery and see the lightning bolt in the corner and you’re ready to let magnetism do its thing.

It does take a little longer to charge devices but this is the trade off with the hassle free way to charge your devices without the wear and tear on the charge port or USB connection. Charge times will be longer using any Qi wireless charger so using a wireless charger is more the nightly charging or for when you do reach the office for that round of daily work.

The CHOE Stadium charger simply works and there is nothing I like more than a device that does exactly what it’s supposed to do without hassles. The charger has a USB mini connection to plug it into a power source and you simply set you device on it and the Qi wireless charger even senses a compatible receiver.

The CHOE Stadium comes with a simple instruction book and a USB mini cable but you will need to use a power adapter or computer connection to use the charger. Some computer connections may not have enough amperage to charge your device so you may need to experiment with this type of power supply.

I have no problems charging up my phones and tablets that do not have Qi receivers built in but the CHOE charger also works with built in receivers. The CHOE Stadium Qi Wireless Charger simply works and I have had absolutely no problems with it at all over the past month.

I highly recommend the CHOE Stadium Qi Wireless Charger for a hassle free way to charge your devices that are Qi compatible.

CHOE Stadium @ CHOETECH

CHOE Stadium @ Amazon

Pros
Simply works without hassles
Inexpensive for both receivers and charger

Cons
Does not come with power adapter

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

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

Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard with Hub

Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard with Hub

The Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard is a regular keyboard for your entertainment use with devices like Xbox, PlayStation and Roku.

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

Logitech Harmony Smart Keyboard
Logitech Smart Keyboard

The Harmony Smart Keyboard from Logitech is a new way to control entertainment devices like console game systems and streaming players like the Roku. The Smart Keyboard is available with or without the Hub which is a wireless connection between your network but the hub is required to set up the keyboard.

The Harmony Smart Keyboard connects to your devices through the wireless network you have at home and through infrared using the hub or an infrared receiver. The Harmony Hub connects to your network using Wi-Fi while the keyboard connects to it using Bluetooth with the receiver for in cabinet use of the hub and other devices.

The Smart Keyboard is a great way to type on devices like the Xbox One, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and media streaming devices. Media streaming using the Roku and TiVo work with the Smart Keyboard for an easy way to type in search and for adding email and passwords while signing in.

Whats in the Box Harmony Smart Keyboard
Whats in the Box

The Harmony Smart Keyboard needs a smartphone with android or an iOS to set it up so you do need a smartphone or tablet at least initially. Setup works well but you need to connect a smartphone or tablet to your wifi network so you also need a home network to use the Smart Keyboard.

Once connected and working you can use the Smart Keyboard and the Hub to control your entertainment center like a television and a PlayStation 3. I did have some issues like having to reconnect my tablet every time a certain amount of time passed or when shutting off the system.

When I turned the television or the tablet back on the connection would be gone and I would have to reconnect to the Hub but they did fix this. Since receiving the Harmony Smart Keyboard and Hub I have updated the firmware and that problem is gone but others have crept in.

TV Menu
TV Menu

The system has little issues like power on and off not synching with the television and the Hub where the Hub has forgotten that the TV is on or off. This may not seem like an issue but at times the Hub thinks the TV is off but it is on so you have to navigate to the TV and turn it on or off.

Other times the issue is with the use of the system with a PC like my Windows computer that just does not have the control for watching Netflix. You can use the Smart Keyboard to control a computer but it only works as a keyboard with touchpad instead of being able to perform tasks.

Not to say that they won’t someday but the Harmony Smart Keyboard does not really do much for a computer that a standard keyboard does while the touchpad also only adds so much function. The Smart Keyboard works well with many devices but with others it still has some bugs to work out or just does not work at all.

PC Control
PC Control

The Smart Keyboard costs about $150 with the Hub which is a bit expensive when you’re talking about adding a keyboard to your entertainment system. That may seem like a bit of a pricey keyboard and I would have to agree but for some the features outweigh the price.

The Smart Keyboard does work well but you should make sure your devices work with the keyboard as well as understanding the problems inherent with it. The Smart Keyboard’s touchpad may not work with some smart TV’s as the control may not be used at all because there is no use for a cursor on that particular TV.

For many devices like the PlayStation 3 the Smart Keyboard worked very well and it is handy to use a keyboard with the gaming console. The Keyboard worked just fine for my gaming console but at $150 I had expected it to work better than it does.

The small glitches like having to reconnect and an occasional power synching should not be happening as often as it does but I do expect things to get resolved eventually. The Smart Keyboard with Hub from Logitech may be a bit of an unfinished product but does work well for the devices I tried.

If you are looking for a new keyboard device for your entertainment system the Logitech Smart Keyboard is worth a look to see if it can do what you need. Check out the Logitech Smart Keyboard with Hub for a new way to control yur entertainment system.

Smart Keyboard @ Logitech

Smart Keyboard @ Amazon

Pros
Controls over 225,000 devices
Can Control devices like gaming console and media streamers
Firmware is being updated

Cons
Requires Smartphone, Tablet or iPhone for initial setup
Software may need some upgrades
Lost what power state the TV was on

iRig MIC Cast Microphone Review

iRig MIC Cast Microphone Review

The iRig MIC Cast Voice Recording Microphone is a microphone for android and Apple devices like smartphones that boosts your devices recording ability with an external microphone.

Ease of Use, Performance:  2/5
Look & Feel:  4/5
Features:  3/5
How much I enjoy:  2/5

Recommendation:  2/5 Stars

iRig MIC Cast Microphone Review
iRig MIC Cast

The iRig MIC Cast is a handheld device microphone that is a simple plug and play microphone that can also work with computers as a regular microphone. The iRig MIC Cast comes with the microphone and a stand for your smartphone along with instructions for use.

The iRig MIC Cast is a simple microphone that has a passthrough for earphones and a 3.5 mm plug with four sections on the connection for the earphone and for the microphone. Your handheld device or computer needs to be compatible with this four section plug like my smartphone but tablets can be picky on this type of technology.

The first tablet I tried was a Nexus 7 tablet that does not even have a TRRS four section connection for using a microphone earphone combination cable. The Playbook worked with the iRig MIC Cast but the Blackberry tablet has some pretty good microphones and circuitry inside.

Whats in the Box
Whats in the Box

My testing showed that voice recorded with the Playbook’s internal microphone was actually better than the MIC Cast microphone. The Playbook has noise cancelling to get rid of background noise and uses its two microphones to record sound pretty well.

When using the iRig MIC Cast with the Playbook the single microphone does get rid of some of the background noise but not as much as the Playbook. The iRig MIC Cast works fairly well on my Samsung Galaxy Stellar with clearing out background noise but it does lower the sound level as well.

iRig MIC Cast Recording using Android Smartphone

iRig MIC Cast Recording using Windows PC & Adobe Soundbooth

I tried several tests and was just underwhelmed with the quality of the MIC Cast microphone with actually lower levels of sound both voice and recorded sound from speakers. The microphone worked fairly well for both my smartphone and my computer but I just did expect a little more quality when plugging in an extra microphone over my smartphone.

During my audio tests I did notice a cleaner sound with less noise but the level goes down enough that I would be concerned with loss of volume levels. The sound using the iRig MIC Cast was just not that good overall for me to consider a solid recommendation but if you have a less than adequate smartphone microphone this would surely be worth a try.

I also tested the iRig MIC Cast against a headset microphone recording directly into Adobe Soundbooth and was rather disappointed as well. The iRig MIC Cast does well at getting rid of some of the background noise and creating a cleaner audio file but it lowers the volume on the low setting.

The external MIC Cast microphone worked fairly well but not as well as I thought it should fr direct recording of voice and sound. You can also use and purchase an app form IK Multimedia called iRig Recorder that does well when paired with the iRig MIC Cast.

iRig iRecorder App
iRig iRecorder App

The iRig recorder saves audio files shows audio wave files and has a processor to clean up recordings for handy on android and apple devices. The Recorder can doa  good job of cleaning up files but the main iRig MIC Cast just did not perform for me in the way that I thought it should.

I was just not that impressed with the audio recordings delivered by the iRig MIC Cast and really would prefer to look elsewhere for a better microphone for recording.

iRig MIC Cast @ IK Multimedia

iRig Recorder @ Google Play

Pros
Compact size
Passthrough for earphones
Hi & Lo for distant and close recording

Cons
Not impressed with sound quality

iRig Voice Handheld Microphone Review

iRig Voice Handheld Microphone Review

The iRig Voice Handheld Microphone from IK Multimedia is an affordable handheld microphone for android and Apple devices as well as computers.

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

Recommendation:  3.5/5 Stars

iRig Voice Microphone
iRig Voice Microphone

The IK Multimedia iRig Voice is a handheld microphone for lighter music and recording like karaoke or simple fun while using an android or apple smartphone, tablet or computer. The iRig Voice has a unique connection with a four segment 3.5 mm connection and a pass through for an earphone so you can use the microphone in combination with a headset.

Some devices of course will not allow you to use this type of connection but my Galaxy Stellar had no problem using the Voice microphone and the IK Multimedia app EZ Voice. The EZ Voice app for android and iOS works well for my android phone but my nexus 7 tablet does not allow the microphone to work at all.

The app is free while special effects cost about $1 for each one listed but you can buy a bundle with all them costing $5 for 8 effects. The main features of the EZ Voice is recording voice or recording singing while a soundtrack plays in the background but this is not a karaoke type app.

Whats in the Box
Whats in the Box

Once you have installed the app and sign in with an account if you want to simply record audio or voice you just click on the record button and start recording by pressing the red dot. The app automatically records the audio and when you stop recording will give you the options to discard the recording or save it.

The app can record as many minutes as your phones storage space allows but the more fun aspect is the singing to your favorite tunes. The EZ Voice allows you to pick a song from your smartphone and sing along to it karaoke style but without the lyrics.

You will hear the song playing depending on how loud you have the volume so after a few practice runs you can try your luck at keeping the song barely heard while you belt out your best voice. The main problem with this is you don’t get lyrics to your songs which kind of makes it hard to use as a karaoke machine type app.

EZ Voice App w/ Voice Microphone
EZ Voice App w/ Voice Microphone

I also tried the voice microphone with a free karaoke app that plays the background music and no vocals so the only thing you get for voice is your singing, I suck by the way. The microphone did a good job at recording in another app as well as the general voice recorder app used for taking notes that came on my phone.

The iRig Voice works well and can make a fun microphone and the EZ Voice app also works well but it is more for fun or for use with an actual karaoke app. The iRig Voice microphone does cost about $40 so it does come at a low enough price for a gift but is not really good enough for note taking or serious use.

I highly recommend the iRig Voice for a fun and good quality microphone that only costs about $40 and can be used with a variety of apps including the EZ Voice.

iRig Voice @ IK Multimedia

iRig Voice @ Amazon

EZ Voice @ Play

EZ Voice @ iTunes

Pros
Good quality and affordable
EZ Voice app is free
works on android and apple device
May not work with all tablets depending on design

Cons
EZ Voice app does not give lyrics

Skullcandy Crusher Review

The Crusher makes for a good all-around headset while the bass driver may seem a bit of a gimmick but it actually sounds pretty good so check out my Skullcandy Crusher Review for more.

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

Recommendation:  4.5/5 Stars

Skullcandy Crusher Review
Skullcandy Crusher Review

The Skullcandy Crusher is a stereo headset with microphone that has two drivers in each ear for extra bass while the inline control allows for easy mute of the microphone. The Skullcandy Crusher is a unique headphone that has a separate bass driver which can be adjusted for the amount of bass you want while the other driver delivers the medium and high notes.

Inside the Skullcandy Crusher there are two drivers per ear piece with acoustical porting to allow free movement of the drivers. The drivers in each ear allow separate bass from the mids and highs but the overall sound suffers just a little so there is a tradeoff.

whats in the box
Whats in the Box

The bass sounds good and does have an adjustment on the left ear piece so you can adjust it to your liking which is a great feature of the extra bass. If you could not adjust the bass it would be terrible as each person would want a bit different amount depending on their choice.

The bass is good but the overall sound quality lacks good clear highs so the bass does take away from overall sound quality when listening. The stereo cable is removable from the headset so you can use a different cable while the microphone is an integral part of the cable.

Crusher Ear Piece
Crusher Ear Piece

The inline control does not change volume but does mute the microphone that is also part of the control with microphone control about six inches from the headset. The stereo connections on the left ear piece along with the bass control while the AA battery is under the right ear piece cushion.

The bass is powered by the AA battery so devices like tablets or smartphones will not be drained too much from listening or communicating. You can completely shut off the bass amplifier by sliding the bass adjust down till a red dot shows at the top of the slide.

Skullcandy Crusher Review
Skullcandy Crusher

Listening to music I did not have any problems but the sound quality is just a bit less than I would like when trying to enjoy myself. The highs and mids are a bit less clear but not distorted at all, just not as pronounced when listening to some songs.

The bass at high does not sound nearly as good and it does take some getting used to having your head bounced with bass but at medium it is fun for some music and gaming. I tried the headset during some of my favorite gaming sessions and had no problems wearing the headset for hours on end.

crusher bass control
Crusher Bass Control

The ear cushions are comfortable and the headset does not pinch or squeeze my head more than necessary to keep them on so you can wear them for longer times. I did also try the Razer surround sound and had no problems with 5.1 surround sound virtually without any problems even with bass on full.

The microphone sounds pretty good and using my Skype test I had no problems with understanding and clear chat from one computer to another. Chat in games worked well without distortion and people could clearly hear me so the microphone makes a good feature.

Of course when you don’t want to use it the mute on the inline control works just fine but there is no volume control on the controller. The Skullcandy Crusher is a good headset while the bass is a really decent feature instead of a gimmick which does add a unique feature.

I recommend the Skullcandy Crusher as a good all-around headset for music, movies and video games while the bass drivers do add your desired amount of extra skull thump.

Crushers @ Skullcandy

Crushers @ Amazon

Pros
Good sound and bass
Separate bass driver with control
Inline microphone and mute
Very comfortable

Cons
Overall quality is just a little lacking