Mania’s Summer 2014 Gadget Review -

Summer 2014

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Mania’s Summer 2014 Gadget Review

Great new Gadgets with a summer theme

By Tim Janson     August 05, 2014

Mania’s Summer 2014 Gadget Review
© Tim Janson
Welcome again to Mania’s quarterly gadget review with a look at new and fun gadgets that have recently hit the market.  This time out were looking (mostly) at products that have a fun outdoor purpose to them that are perfect for camping, picnics, or any other type of outdoor activity.
BiggiFi Transformer Platform
By: Digilink
Price: $69 - $89
Grade: B
The BiggiFi is a device that plugs into any HDMI port on your television, allowing you to use your favorite apps from your phone or tablet, stream videos, utilize social media, and much more.  The package comes with the BiggiFi, a USB to Micro USB cable, and a wall plug with a USB port in it.  Setup is a snap…Plug it in, attach it via the Micro USB port on the BiggiFi and plug the device into your HDMI port of choice. When th BiggiFi boots up it will provide a QR code to download the BiggiFi app onto your phone. Once you’ve installed the app from the Google Play or Apple App store, it will launch and then guide you step by step through connecting your BiggiFi to your WiFi. 
Unfortunately, beyond the one page quick start guide, the Biggifi does not come with a manual so you have to figure things out on your own.  Once you figure things out, particularly the controls you can now enjoy any of your phone/tablet apps on your TV.  I found it worked perfectly well with my various apps and games including Clash of Clans.  In fact, the App ability is definitely the BiggiFi’s strongest feature.  Streaming videos from YouTube was also strong although the video quality did not seem as good as on my Roku 3.
Surfing the web was the weakest aspect of the BiggiFi as the interface is simply to clunky.  That said web surfing is by far the thing I would utilize the least.  For that it’s still my laptop all the way so if you’re not looking to surf the Net then it’s definitely worth taking a look at.  The specs of the unit are as follows: Dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor, ARM Mali-400 GPU, OS: Android 4.0, 1GB DDR, 4GB of Nand flash,   Micro-SD slot, Built-in HDMI connector, HD display up to 1080p, USB 2.0 port for peripherals, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
At $89 its retail price is a little high I think.  $65 - $70 seems more reasonable.  While it won’t replace my Roku the BiggiFi is a very cool little device with a lot of potential.
Rapoo Blade 8900P Wireless Compact Ultra-Slim Keyboard and Mouse
By: Rapoo
Price: $90 - $119
Grade: B-
Rapoo’s 8900P keyboard and mouse presents a wireless option in a low profile package.  The Ultraslim keyboard is only about 7/8” thick at its thickest point where the two AA batteries go and tapers down to a mere ¼”.  It is lightweight without feeling that it might break if you look at it wrong.  The package comes with a plug and play nano receiver that goes into a USB slot and will have you up and running in a snap.  The 8900P features 5GHz wireless technology with a range of up to 10 meters.  The keyboard features a 10 key keypad and a full allotment of function keys.
The optical mouse uses laser technology and tracked well on various surfaces.  It features a DPI button on the top to switch between fast and precise modes and also comes with a 4D scroll wheel.  In addition there are two additional navigation buttons and a self-centering slider for zooming in and out while browsing.  The mouse fits well in your hand from an ergonomic standpoint although somewhat on the smallish side.  The navigation buttons can also be a tad unwieldy but not too bad.
Both mouse and keyboard performed well in all basic functions.  I mentioned the mouse already.  The keyboard is also quite comfortable as well as portable due to its lightweight.  Batteries however seem to go much faster than they should.  Obviously it depends on how much you are using it but at what I consider average usage they only lasted a couple of weeks which is below average.
Bracketron Xventure Xolar3000 Solar Powered USB Charger
By: Bracketron
Price: $49.95
Grade: B+
We’ve all seen our need for charging devices increase with the high energy-consuming smart phones and tablets.  Manufacturers have been keeping up with ever more powerful battery packs.  But what about when you find yourself without access to an AC outlet to charge your phone or battery pack?  This is where the Bracketron Xventure Xolar3000 Solar Powered Charger comes into use.  This 3000 mAh pack can be charged normally or by utilizing it’s built in solar panel.
The unit features micro USB port and four charging LEDs lights to alert you to the unit’s current capacity.  A blue LED sun icon lets you know if incoming sunlight level is sufficient for charging the Xolar 3000. The brighter the LED, the more the light it's receiving so obviously you need to find the best spot when charging via solar energy.  It takes about 9 hours to fully charge the unit with sunlight versus 3 hours to charge by AC current.  But if you are in a squeeze then the Xolar 3000 has its obvious benefit of not needing an outlet.  Thus it’s a great item to take camping, hiking, or to outdoor sports events.
The unit is 4.5” by 2.5” X .5” thick and weighs just 4 ounces so it fits comfortably in your pocket or purse.  3000 mAh obviously is on the low end of the capacity side compared to other chargers but again its solar charging ability can mean the difference between having power to your phone or not.

Bracketron SmartLantern
By: Bracketron
Price: $45 - $69
Grade: A-
Here’s another interesting item from Bracketron also geared towards the outdoorsman.  This one is not solar powered but offers a different take on energy and light.  It has dual function as a 7800 mAh battery pack as well as a mini LED lantern.  The 7800 mAh puts it in the middle In terms of the usual battery pack capacity.  Fully charged the unit can charge your smart phone full 4 – 5 times or it can offer 48 hours of light from the lantern.  This is an item that would be great for camping trips, late night bonfires, or just tossing in your glove box when in need of power or light.
Providing 64 lumens of LED light the lantern is bright enough for use inside of a tent and honestly that is my preferred used for this item as I already have a number of battery packs already.  The unit measures 4” tall and 1.75” wide and weighs just one pound.  Thus it is fairly low profiled to carry in a purse, pocket, or backpack.  
The package comes with a USB to Micro-USB cord as well as a carrying case.  4 LED lights on the unit indicate its current charge level.  Really cool item.
Wicked Audio Evac WI8502 Headphones
By: Wicked Audio
Price: #30 - $49
Grade:  B
I’ve been a fan of Wicked Audio’s products for some time and have never been disappointed.  The Wicked Evac headphones are no exception providing high quality sound at a minimal price.  The WI8502 headphones are fully adjustable with well well-padded ear cups that fit comfortably without being too hot and do a great job of limiting outside sound.  The fabric headband fits quite well.  But frankly as a person who sweats a lot from his head I am not sure a fabric headband is a great idea.
40MM drivers provide exceptional sound quality.  The highs are crisp and clear.  The bass tones are solid but not thundering.  I found that any genre of music sounded good although less complex music like rock sounded better than say jazz or classical.  Also some clarity is lost at high sound levels.
The headphones have a 4 foot cord which is decent but not exceptional.  My only issue with some of the Wicked headphones is their durability.  I have snapped a pair in half previously with very little effort in my opinion as the band is just plastic.  Overall a good set of headphones for the money but go easy on them.
Sound Blaster Roar
By: Creative
Price: $149
Grade: A
Wow!  What a speaker.  The Sound Blaster Roar is a party in a package that is smaller than a shoe box.  I have reviewed a number of different standalone wireless speakers over the years and for the quality and price the Roar may be the best yet.  If the name sounds familiar this is the same company that was known as Creative Labs and at one time produced the best sound cards in the PC world.  These speaker systems seem to be where their focus is today and with good reason…this is one fantastic speaker.
The speaker is dual amplified and features five drivers and includes its own built-in subwoofer.  All this means you get thumping bass and crystal clear highs.  A 6000mAh lithium ion battery provides up to 8 hours of play time on a single charge.  It is NFC enabled allowing you to pair two Bluetooth devices at once.  It supports apX and AAC for incredible quality sound.  AAC can better render the higher frequencies produced by certain musical instruments and by the human voice. With AAC, you get richer audio.
Terra Bass is an intelligent system the Roar uses to automatically boost bass at low levels.  It will also compensate for loss of bass when the speaker is in a less acoustically favorable location.  The Roar button is especially useful for outdoors or parties.  It boosts the loudness but does do with depth and without lack of clarity. A Micro SD card reader allows you to play music direct from an SD card and you can browse the contents of a card by hooking it your PC or Mac via USB.   A built-in microphone allows you to record calls to the MicroSD card.  You also get a personal safety alarm, sleep timer, the ability to connect with other Roar units for even bigger sound, a speakerphone, and the ability to charge a phone or other device.
But all the features in the world would be worthless if the Roar didn’t have its incredible sound capability.  I have reviewed speakers that cost $100 to $200 more that didn’t have the quality of sound that the roar has.  Connectivity is also fantastic.  I’ve used it with my laptop and smart phone easily 40 feet away without the connection being dropped.  Simply a must have item for any audiophile!
Surf Sound
By: Pyle Sports
Price: $42.99
Grade: C+
What says summer more than music outside and swim in the pool.  Surf Sound allows you to combine those two pursuits with this 4 GB, waterproof MP3 player.  I used this a bit myself but primarily it was my 11 year-old son who used them the most.  This player has a marine rating of IPX-8 which means its water proof capability is good up to 3.3 feet deep of water.  Now, that might sound like a lot but then again they are meant to be enjoyed lounging in the pool and sipping a cold beverage, not deep-sea diving.  
The player supports MP3 and WMA formats and includes an FM radio receiver.  It features both waterproof and dry use ear buds.  I am not a big fan of ear buds to begin with and prefer over the ear headphones.  I found the waterproof ear buds to be a little on the uncomfortable side.  It features a small LCD display to show track information and includes a pedometer to count your laps.  I have read other reviews which state emphatically that the lap counter works poorly if at all.  I personally don’t care about that particular feature, nor does my son so I will give it a bit of a pass on that one.
The unit isn’t the most user friendly when it comes to wanting to make song changes while swimming.  It has an unwieldy button to unlock the unit to you can switch songs and frankly it’s a pain in the butt.  While the waterproof capability was solid the sound is average to slightly below average at best.  Frankly I would have expected better at a $42 price point.  The waterproof ability isn’t enough to override the sound quality.  The radio, on certain stations, became staticy under water as well.  It’s an ok unit for kids though.
Lepow Impression Power Bank
By: Lepow
Price: $40
Grade: B
I have previously reviewed the Lepow U-Stone which was an exceptional charger but with a rather weird aesthetic look.  Lepow returns with a new power bank called Impression with a much more traditional look and feel.  The Impression is a 13000 mAh battery with the kind of power that will charge your smart phone several times before needing to be recharged itself.  The unit weighs 13 ounces and comes in a removable rubber sleeve which helps keep the unit protected against drops.  Oddly though the rubber is a little slippery, especially if your hands are dry.  The sleeve comes with a small pocket which holds an Apple Lightning adaptor tip for convenience.
The Impression features intelligent technology that will shut the unit off once your device is charged.  It comes with a groove along the top of the unit where you can store the USB/Micro USB charging cable for easy convenience.  Four LED lights on the unit denote the current charge of the unit,  Just press the button on top to check the current charge.
I found the Impression to charge somewhat slower than packs of similar capacity, particularly the New Trent Ultra.  This is especially true if you are using it while charging.  Now I know that’s obvious but Impression really seems to lag a bit if using it.  Like the U-Stone the charging cable is VERY short, only about 5” or so.  It wasn’t available as of this writing on Amazon but the Lepow website showed it priced at $39.99, marked down from $89.


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aegrant 8/5/2014 8:45:10 AM


We don't need no stinking gadgets!

Dazzler 8/6/2014 3:24:59 AM

An article on new DBZ movie would have been nice.

RobertTrate 8/6/2014 2:07:22 PM

 Dazzler, we did get an invite in the two different coasts that we cover. 



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