Category: Product Review


I have been an Android user, we’ll addict really, for a few years now. Like alot android users I started out as as iPhone user. I got an iPhone 3Gs and was blown away by what it could do compared to what I was used to on my old Samsung Jack Windows phone.

But alas after a short while i stated seeing the problems with apple phone. Apple fan boys often ask “what would Steve do”, we’ll the answer was simple, only what Steve wanted you to do. In short Apple restricted you to their iTunes store and only apps from the iOS store. On top of that iPhone were already expensive devices for the 8GB models, you say you want more storage? Better mortgage your house to get it.

So safe to say my trip into ifanboy turf was a very short lived experience. Once I got my first Android phone, the Sony Ericsson X 10,  I was immediately in love with all the possibilities that android gives us as consumers.

Want a cheap phone that can run a few apps and that it? No problem. Want a giant phone with a great screen? Got you covered. Want a decent phone with expandable memory so you can decide yourself how much you want to spend for that extra memory? Yes, yes and oh my god yes.

There are so many great things about android, how many different screen sizes shapes and types there are. All the different styles of manufacture overlays. All the different app stores that aren’t run by Google and so so much more.

But as far as I’m concerned the biggest advantage to alot of android phones is the ability to add extra storage through micro SD and yes even USB.

Many Android phones have micro SD card slots allowing you to choose how much memory you need or more over how much you can afford to spend on that memory. For instance, I recently purchased a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 16GB off of kijiji for under $300. While that may seem like a lot if you look at the fact the the 32GB version sells used for around $400+, but like I said you can add extra memory.

With the price of SD storage dropping every month you can now get a good deal on a 32GB card for around $50 or less if you know where to look.

Don’t have that extra money, or does your phone not have an SD card slot. Well there is still an extremely cheap option out there for you. It’s called a USB on the go cable or USB OTG.  While you can’t really find them is stores you can easily pick one up on eBay for under $3. Here are some pictures of what some of the USB OTG cords and hubs look like and look down to the bottom to see other examples as well of what you can do with them.
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So once you have the cable what can you do with it? Well the first and most obvious reason for getting on is to add extra storage. I’ve had a few of these for my past couple phone and assuming either you android device supports USB Host or USB mass storage or if you are rooted or running a custom ROM like cyanogen then all you have to do is hook up a USB thumb drive or hard drive and you have all the storage you could ever need. But it doesn’t stop there.

The advantage of USB host mode is that you can hook up just about anything USB to you phone. I myself have used the cord to hook up my PlayStation 3  controller for gaming on the go. You can also hook up a card reader if your traveling and away from a computer to take pictures or files off of Sony Memory sticks, SD Cards, Micro SD and more. If you hook up a powered or non powered USB hub depending on the device you need to hook up you basically have a computer I  your bag. Just hook up a USB hub then add on a keyboard, mouse and hard drive and with some good apps you have all you need to be able to stay connected and get your work or play done on the go anytime anywhere.

This is a very little know advantage to android phone and I just hope that I can help enlighten people of the possibilities when using a cord like this with a supported device. So go out and do a little research to see if it will work with your phone. Oh and by the way, it will also work on your tablet too for more or a computer like experience on the go.
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Richard R
@riche_613

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Roku 2 XS Product Review

Streaming media boxes have been out for a few years now and thus far only a few have been of any mentionable success. Apple with its Apple TV is, obviously, the first. The second most well known to most people is the Roku.

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Roku has a slightly different approach to its boxes than apple though. Instead of being locked down into the iTunes ecosystem the roku is a bit more open. Roku offers 3 different streaming boxes at any given time. At the time when the 2XS was realesed, a couple years ago now, they had the 2 XS and XD. Basically each step up just gives you more HD capability for the most part.

The Roku 2 XS was the mid range box at the time and is still on sale at Walmart for around $70. For that price you get HDMI and RCA hookups as well as a motion sensor remote for gaming and a USB port for streaming media from a USB stick.
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The box itself is really small and quite pleasing to the eye. The software is decently fast although it took me about thirty minutes to get set up. To set up the roku box you have to go to their website and get a pin number to sync it. While this should be easy for some reason it didn’t work properly and I had to do it multiple times.

As for content, there is a ton of channels available. They have everything from free Web based content like the twit network or Cnet and Revision3 to paid content like Netflix UFC and MLB. The one thing that disappointed me about the software was the lack of a native YouTube app. As I have two kids and no netflix I use YouTube quite a lot for them and to not have it was a big con for me. Now roku seems to have fixed this as they now offer a YouTube app, though I am unsure if that app will work on older hardware like the 2XS.
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The other thing that really bothered me was the load time for USB devices. It took nearly ten minutes to load my 1 terabyte hard drive I use for media. Yes I know that’s a large drive but my ps3, android box and even my phone all load it up in under 2 minutes, so again another major con.

Overall if you have a netflix account or watch a lot of free online content, or want some paid sports channels without having to pay for cable this is a great choice for the price. But if you plan on loading a lot of media over USB I’d skip this version and either try a newer model or, like I did, get an Android based tv box.

Richard R
@riche_613

Over the past few weeks I’ve taken a look at a number of Bluetooth speakers, so far my favorite has still been the Headrush Back Beat I reviewed a few months ago, until now.
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I recently got a chance to try out the iLive ISB223 which is a relatively small Bluetooth speaker. Its shaped a bit like a rain drop or the silhouette of an egg. The speaker itself features Bluetooth connectivity as well as a 3.5mm aux in jack and comes with a decently long cord for hooking up devices directly to the unit.

It also has a few aces up its sleeve with a USB port for charging your devices volume up and down as well as a play pause button. And as an added bonus it has a built in night light.

But my favorite thing about this speaker is its simplicity. Its one of the fastest and easiest speakers I’ve had to pair with, sans nfc, and there’s no charger cord or block to worry about. That’s right. When you need to charge the speaker you just lift a flap on the back and there is a hidden plug in the back that flips up and you just plug it directly into the wall. Now how easy and awesome is that.

As far as volume goes this is definitely loud enough for about any application. It works great in the car at work and I can even hear it, mostly, when there is a plane getting ready for take off at work.

To be honest the only downside to this speaker is I would have loved a speaker phone option for answering calls on the go. But for $58 at Walmart it really doesn’t get much better than this. I would highly recommend this for anyone. In fact its so good and easy to use I got one for my 65 year old father to use at work for internet radio. A must buy if your looking at Bluetooth speakers this season.

Richard R
@riche_613

Like I mentioned in my last BT speaker review for the iHome IDM8, iHome makes a lot of speakers and accessories. These two Bluetooth speakers are virtually the same with the IBT24 basically being two IBT16’s glued together.

Now, compared to the IDM8, I think these are way cooler looking. They look like “traditional” speakers but are, obviously, much smaller and come in a bunch of cool neon colors as well as black.

I’ll start with the smaller of the two, the IBT16. This is a relatively small speaker. You can hold it in your hand quite easily and it can be packed in a bag easily. For the size the sound is actually very loud. I had no problem hearing this speaker in the car on the highway or at work with the hood fans and equipment going.
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One of the really cool things about this speaker is it not only has a audio in jack for direct connection with out Bluetooth, but even has an audio out jack too. The audio out jack can be used to connect another speaker to expand to stereo sound and is a welcome feature.

While the pairing was not as easy as the Sony or Headrush speakers I tried, the volume and price of $50 made it worth while in the end.

The IBT24 is essentially the same speaker. Its merely two of the smaller ones together in a rectangle shape. The size, while not small, is still small enough to pack in a bag or suitcase easily. The battery is, obviously, a bit bigger than the one on the smaller counter part and lasts for days of mild use without needing to be recharged.
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Again with this speaker I had a bit of a problem pairing but given that this is a bit louder, possibly the loudest I’ve tested, well worth a bit of hassle for the $70 price. And yes this too has the audio in and audio out for expansion too.
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I would definitely recommend both of these speakers to anyone looking for a simple Bluetooth speaker that may only be a speaker, no Bluetooth speakerphone, but for the money are some if the best I’ve tested so far.

Richard R
@riche_613

iHome is one if the better known third party, if not the best known, maker of speakers and accessories for Apple products. As such I took it upon myself to try a few of their products out.
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The IDM8 goes for around $60.00 and for that price you get a Bluetooth speaker, no bells or whistles just a plain speaker. While the design is nice I guess, but its just a round speaker, nothing really extraordinary about it.

As for the sound, while its decently loud it lacks nearly any low end. With that being the case the sound ends up being a bit tinny, which is a bit if a shame considering this is a $60 speaker that does nothing but that. While for $50 I got my favorite speaker so far the Headrush which is a bit louder has much better low end, can charge your phone and even acts as a Bluetooth speaker phone.

To add salt to the wound most Bluetooth speakers have an audio in jack to hook up a device directly if Bluetooth is not available. But the IDM8 doesn’t have one. Sure it comes with a charging cord that has a male 3.5mm jack on it so you can do it, but what happens if you loose this cable. I’ll tell you, you’re screwed. And on top of that this speaker was not easy to pair with. It probably took me 4 or 5 attempts to get it to work with my phone, once it was pair however it worked every time, but still that initial pairing was a bit discouraging.

So really I would not recommend this speaker to anyone for any reason unless you can buy it for under $30.

Richard R
@riche_613

A little while ago I got and reviewed a Headrush Bluetooth Speaker. Recently I got an opportunity to try out a plethora of Bluetooth speakers and I thought what better time to do a few more Bluetooth speaker reviews than right before Christmas .

Well one of the first Speakers I got to try was the Sony SRSBTV5, a bit of a mouth full I know. Anyway, this is quite a small speaker in comparison to the Headrush I reviewed before. The Sony speaker is small enough actually to fit in the palm of your hand and is about the same size as the Bud Light mini speakers that were inside cases of Bud Light in the past year or so, except that it has much more weight to it.
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The way I test the speakers for volume is I not only try them at home, where I have two possibly screaming children, but I also use it in my car while driving and also at work. I think that between those last two tests its gives a good idea of the volume and versatility of the speaker especially since I work in a kitchen which is very loud.

The Sony Bluetooth speaker is actually one of the more unique speakers I’ve tested actually. Not only is it small as I mentioned before, but it actually has NFC for instant pairing with your NFC enabled device. Basically if you have NFC in your phone or tablet all you need to do is tap the top of the speaker and your device will confirm that you want to pair. Click the yes button and that’s it, your paired and ready to use the speaker. In all it takes about 3-5 seconds to tap and pair, pretty cool if you ask me.

The speaker also has the ability to act as a bluetooth speakerphone when you get calls and, although I didn’t get a lot of use of this feature, it works well enough. The battery in the device is pretty good for its size and lasted me a few days of 2-3 hours of use and uses micro USB to charge which is useful since most people have at least one of those already for another device so you don’t have to have multiple chargers.

But alas I must come to the negative part of this review. The volume. While this speaker is great at home, office or at the beach or somewhere not too loud, its not loud enough for places like a car on the highway or, for example, a kitchen with a hood vent on. While I don’t really expect something of this size to be all that powerful, for $60 I would hope for a bit more volume.

In the end I would recommend this if you have an NFC enabled device and want easy pairing and plan on using it in quieter areas. However if you don’t have an NFC enabled device you can definitely get a similar speaker for cheaper or a louder one for about the same price.

Richard R
@riche_613

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As a geek and a father I’m always torn on how much tech to give my two year old son. Is he too young for this? Will this damage his attention span? Will he not want to play with his “regular” toys after? These are all questions that come up every time I think about giving him something electronic.

These days children are growing up with phones and tablets as a regular part of their lives. And while I’m not going to debate a lot of the questions I posed before, I will leave to you and your child, I do know that kids love them. My son has been using my wife’s and my phones and tablet since he was probably about a year old. While we don’t give it to him all the time it is nice when we need to go and do something around the house and need him to be distracted or when in the car for a long drive.

He has in fact gotten so good at using them that he has fully taken over one of our android tablets for his own. The problem is that even with apps that lock them into the app, now that he knows how to work thinterfacen easily get out and back to the home screen. The problem with this is, if its a phone, he could make phone calls (think 911 by accident) or on a tablet download or view something he shouldn’t.

That’s where the XO Tablet by OLPC come in. Now I’m not going to talk specs here because really it doesn’t matter much. Its decently fast enough to handle most kids apps and games, has front and rear cameras, has a micro SD card slot and even HDMI out which was a pleasant surprise.

The tablet, much like the Kurio sold at Toys R Us, is built from the ground up for kids. The interface is built from the ground up to be kid friendly, and it is definitely that. With large on screen buttons leading to apps its easy for kids to find what they want.

From a parents point if view this tablet is perfect for up to three kids to share, that is IF they want to share it. The XO can have up to three accounts for your kids which is definitely handy. On top of that the tablet let’s parents lock down certain things like email, app store, chat and even internet access all together which is a major plus over them using an iPad or regular tablet. Also it has an option to get into the standard Android OS through a password which is great for when the kids go to bed or for when they are old enough to handle the full Android OS.

Another great “feature” of the XO is the fact that it comes housed in a thick rubber case. The case is a very bright green color that is fun for kids and thick enough to be able to protect against most drops. The case itself has two great features, one is that is has a rubber ring on one corner for carrying which is actually quite nice and even come in handy when using the tablet. The second is actually pretty genius really. The rubber case actually has a “lip” that extends a bit above the screen so even if u drop if screen down on a flat surface the screen won’t even touch the ground. For a kids tablet a case like this is one of the best features to protect it, and your large investment.

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Overall I think that for $149.99 this is an amazing deal for parents looking to take their tablets back from the grasp of their children while still letting them have one. Some of the apps are educational and some are just games, but being android you can download any apps you or your kids want and even load movies for them onto it too.

If your looking for a tablet for your kids this holiday season and are looking at the Leap Frog Leap pad or the Vtech Innotab this is a great option that should be strongly considered.

Richard R
@riche_613

Over the next few weeks I will be posting reviews for some tech products that you may be considering for yourselves, children, family or friends. I have gotten my hands on a few fun tech products that I’ve gotten to play around with and thought this would be a good chance to give some quick reviews for our readers and listeners alike.

I hope you enjoy my future reviews starting tomorrow with a review of a kids android tablet worth looking at for your kids.

Please feel free to leave comments on the products I review or even questions about them.

Richard R.
@riche_613

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I’ve heard and seen a lot about Bluetooth wireless speakers. Both through friends and via online review from sites like Twit. I mean they look like a great idea. Being able to take music with you anywhere and not have to listen to it on headphones or have it hooked up to a speaker with wires and a power cord.

Until recently I’d never had any experience with them. Sure I had one of those little battery powered “ball” speakers you can get in Bud Light cases, but that’s as close as I got. Until last week when one of my friends bought one of then on sale from The Source.

I was able to borrow it from him for a few days and was immensely impressed. He got the Headrush Backbeat speaker for $69.99 down from $99.99.

I have to say for $70 this is an amazing deal. Not only is the sound quality pretty damn good for something of its size but its actually louder than you would expect too.

The unit itself has two small speakers on the front and a small “subwoofer” on the back that actually has a bit of kick to it. In fact part of the reason I wanted to borrow it was because the FM transmitter I have for my car broke and this actually works well in the car, its loud enough to hear even over the road noise.

Its interface it extremely simple with only four buttons: two volume buttons and a Bluetooth speakerphone button on one end and a power switch with four small lights to indicate various things on the other. It also has an aux in jack if your device doesn’t have Bluetooth and even a USB out to charge your phone from the speakers 1500mh battery.

The specs on The Source site says the speaker can play music for up to twelve hours and I’d say that’s pretty accurate. Even when I charged my phone with it after using it for a few hours, I got a 30% charge before I disconected it, it still lasted another few hours.

While the speaker phone feature isn’t the greatest it does work and I guess it can be handy although I would just use my phone instead and get better quality anyway.

Over all for the price I was really impressed especially with the fact that you can charge your device on the go if you need to and due to the fact that the speaker charges with a micro USB and has a USB out you can charge both your phone and the speaker at the same time while only using one plug. If I had to find a few con’s for the speaker, I guess it would be nice if it could be a bit louder and water resistant. But really for the price you pay this is more than one would expect.

If your in the market for a cheap wireless Bluetooth speaker and live in Canada I would definitely recommend this speaker. Oh and by the way, at the time I am writing this on Sunday September 15th, its on sale again, now for $49.99 at The Source. A definite buy.

Richard R
@riche613