MecArmy SGN1 USB rechargeable EDC flashlight review

REVIEW – I’m typing blindly right now because just I made the mistake of looking directly at the light from the MecArmy SGN1 flashlight that I’ll be talking about today. Note to self, don’t do that again. And with that warning, let’s check out this 530 Lumens flashlight.

What is it?

Well, this is awkward because I’ve already told you what it is. The MecArmy SGN1 is a  USB rechargeable flashlight that’s small enough for your keychain or stowed in your pocket with your other EDC items.

Hardware specs

LED:CREE XP-G2 S5 LED, max output up to 530 lumens
Material: Zinc alloy
Reflector: PC optical lens
Beam distance: 91m
Waterproof: IPX45
Dimensions: 2.165 x 0.724 x 0.55 inches (55 x 18.4 x 14 mm)
Weight: 1.13oz (32g)
Working voltage: 3.0V-5.0V
Battery: Rechargeable 230mAh lithium-polymer battery
Charging time: 2.5hrs

What’s in the box?

  • SGN1 flashlight
  • micro USB charging cable
  • Keychain split ring
  • User manual

Design and features

The MecArmy SGN1 is made of a Zinc alloy and is offered in 3 colors that include: black, grey, and stonewashed. I was sent the grey version of this mini USB rechargeable flashlight.

This flashlight is a chunky rectangular light with a large built-in metal loop on the end that you can use to clip it to a small carabiner, keychain, lanyard, etc.

There’s a large rubber button on top that controls the light and grooved sides that provide a good grip.

On the side is the charging port that is protected by a rubber cover.

Unfortunately, they are still using old school micro USB to charge the internal lithium battery.

While the SGN1’s battery is charging, an LED under the power button glows red.

Then when the charging has finished, the LED glows green.

Using the MecArmy flashlight is pretty simple. To turn it on, you just have to double click the power button.

It always starts up in low mode which is 5 lumens. In this mode, it can run for up to 10.2 hours on a full charge. Press the power button and it switches up to medium mode which is 50 lumens. It can run in medium mode for up to 2.8 hours. Another press puts it in high mode which is 220 lumens. In this mode, the battery will last for 58 minutes. One last press will put it in turbo mode which is obviously the brightest mode at 530 lumens and the battery should last about 55 minutes. In the image above you can see each mode with the first pic showing what it looks like with the lights off.

There is also strobe mode but the user manual does not say how long the battery will last in that mode. To turn off the flashlight, you just hold the power button for a few seconds.

What I like

  • Small
  • Pocket / keychain friendly
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Hard to accidentally activate in your pocket

What I’d change

  • Add a battery level indicator

Final thoughts

Small flashlights like this one tend to be expensive, so it’s great to see a sub $30 flashlight with a sturdy metal case at this price. Add in the fact that it’s rechargeable so you don’t have to buy small expensive batteries and the MecArmy SGN1 USB rechargeable EDC flashlight becomes a worthy addition to your collection of useful EDC gear.

Price: $29.90
Where to buy: MecArmy and Amazon
Source: The sample for this review was provided by MecArmy.

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MecArmy SGN1 USB rechargeable EDC flashlight review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 18, 2019 at 11:00 am.

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BenQ SW271 27″ 16:9 4K HDR IPS Monitor review


REVIEW – As a photographer, I view myself as an artist and a student of my craft. I am always seeking the next step up towards being better or producing better in anything and everything that I do. Recently, I reviewed the BenQ SW270C monitor that is designed to be a productive tool for the Photographer. I was and still, am very happy with the color reproduction and the monitor overall. Now I have the chance to test and review the BenQ SW271 27″ 16:9 4K HDR IPS Monitor which seems to be the icing on the cake. And since I am such a huge BenQ fan, I am eager to get started. So, here we go.

What is it?

The BenQ SW271 27″ 16:9 4K HDR IPS Monitor features enhanced color accuracy designed to target photo editing, graphic design, and other color-critical tasks. It also features 99% coverage of the Adobe RGB color space, covers 100% of the Rec.709 and sRGB color spaces, and 93% of the DCI-P3 color space. This monitor supports High Dynamic Range (HDR) and HDR10 to guarantee more detailed and realistic images. Specifications include a 3840 x 2160 resolution, a 1000:1 contrast ratio, a 5 ms response time, 10-bit support for up to 1.07 billion colors, and a 14-bit LUT, USB Type-C, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4 inputs, and a dedicated USB 3.0 Type-A hub

What’s in the box



1 x BenQ SW271 27″ 16:9 4K HDR IPS Monitor
1 x Shading Hood
1 x Hotkey Puck
1 x Power Cable (5.9′ / 1.8m)
1 x USB Type-C Cable (3.3′ / 1.0m)
1 x Mini DisplayPort to DisplayPort Cable (5.9′ / 1.8m)
1 x HDMI 2.0 Cable (5.9′ / 1.8m)
1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Cable (5.9′ / 1.8m)
1 x Quick Start Guide
1 x DVD

Design and features

Specifications
Screen Size: 27”
Panel Type: IPS
Backlight Technology: LED backlight
Resolution (max.): 3840 x 2160
Brightness: 350
Native Contrast(typ.): 1000:1
Viewing Angle (L/R; U/D) (CR>=10): 178/178
Response Time: 5 ms (GtG)
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Display Colors: 1.07 billion colors
Color Gamut: 99% AdobeRGB, 100% sRGB,
Display Area(mm): 608.8 x 335.66‎
Pixel Pitch (mm): 0.1554
PPI: 163
DCR (Dynamic Contrast Ratio) (typ.): 20M:1
Color Bit: 10bits
Headphone Jack: Yes
Segment: Photographer
Product Color: Gray
Color Mode: Adobe RGB/ sRGB / Rec 709/ DCI-P3 / B&W / HDR / Darkroom/Calibration 1 /Calibration 2 / Calibration 3 / Custom 1 / Custom 2 / DICOM
HDR: HDR 10
Display Mode: Full, Aspect Ratio, 1:1
Color Temperature: 5000°K / 6500°K/ 9300°K / User Mode
Gamma: 1.6 – 2.6
K Locker: Yes
OSD Language: 18 Languages (English / French / Deutsch / Italian / Spanish / Polish / Czech / Hungarian / Romanian / Netherlands / Russian / Swedish / Portuguese / Japanese / Chinese / S-Chinese / Arabic/Korean)
PIP/PBP: Yes
HDCP: 2.2
VESA Wall Mount: 100mm x 100mm
Display Screen Coating: Anti-Glare
Flicker-free Technology: Yes
3D-LUT: 14bits
Delta E: < = 2 (avg)
Hardware Calibration: Yes
Video Format Support: Yes
Gamut Duo: Yes
Darkroom mode: Yes
Black & White mode: Yes
Black Level: Yes
Hotkey Puck: Yes
Factory Calibration Report: Yes
HDMI: HDMI (v2.0) x2
DisplayPort: DisplayPort (v1.4) x1
USB 3.0 Hub: USB Downstream x 2; USB Upstream x1
USB Type-C: Yes (PD10W, DP Alt mode, Data)
Card Reader: SD/MMC type
Support Format: SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC
Voltage Rating: 90~264V
Mac Compatible: Yes
Windows Compatible: Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7
Technicolor: Yes

Features

  • 4K UHD Monitor: 4K Ultra HD resolution ensures enhanced clarity of fine details and textures for an optimal viewing and visual-intensive work experience.
  • 99% Adobe RGB: The Adobe RGB color space offers a greater range of color reproduction for shades of blue and green, resulting in a realistic color representation for outdoor and nature photography.
  • 10-Bit Color Display: Enjoy smooth color gradations on a 10-bit display that shows more than one billion colors.
    High Dynamic Range (HDR): High Dynamic Range (HDR) increases the overall dynamic range between black and white so the resulting image appears closer to what your eyes see in the natural world. HDR function supports HDR10.
  • 14-Bit 3D LUT: The 14-bit 3D Look Up Table (LUT) improves RGB color blending accuracy, resulting in enhanced color reproduction. Having Delta E≤2 in both Adobe RGB and sRGB color spaces gives you a true and more representative view of the original image.
  • Hardware Calibration: Hardware calibration allows you to adjust the image processing chip in the monitor without changing the graphics card output data. It keeps images consistent with its original copies without being affected by graphic settings.
  • Palette Master Element Calibration Software: With the use of Palette Master Element and a calibrator, you can tune and maintain the color performance of the monitor at its most optimal state.
  • Supported Platforms: Win7 or above, Mac OS 10.6.8 or above.
  • Supported Calibrators: X-Rite i1 Display Pro / i1 Pro / i1 Pro 2 & Datacolor Spyder 4 / Spyder 5.
  • USB Type-C Cable for Optimal Convenience: The SW271 uses the USB Type-C port to transmit video and data with only one cable. So, you can do the hardware calibration with ease. The USB Type-C port smoothly displays 4K contents and offers an up to 5 Gbps transfer rate. The transmission rate of USB Type-C can vary. USB Type-C is compatible with Thunderbolt 3.
  • Advanced Black & White Modes: View your photos in a black & white film effect. Choose from three different black & white presets to preview your photos before you perform actual adjustments in your photo processing program.
  • GamutDuo: GamutDuo enables you to view content simultaneously in different color spaces side-by-side for added comparison. Switch to PIP/PBP mode to enable GamutDuo.
  • Hotkey Puck: The Hotkey Puck allows the user to switch between Adobe RGB mode, sRGB mode and Black & White mode effortlessly. The buttons can also be customized to map other modes or OSD settings, such as brightness and contrast to bring added convenience to photographers.
  • Shading Hood: The SW271 includes a detachable shading hood that effectively reduces the monitor’s screen glare resulting from ambient lighting, ensuring superb color accuracy required for professional work. The shading hood can be used in both portrait and landscape orientations.

The base of this BenQ monitor is similar to all of the bases that I have encountered. It is solid and feels sturdy. It has a built-in metal receiver for the monitor stand. Underneath there is a wing screw that screws into the monitor stand to lock the two together.




The pictures below show the monitor stand with the locking plate at the top the connects into the VESA receptacle on the back of the monitor. Right below the VESA plate, you can see 2 tracks that are the sliding tracks that allow for height adjustment, and below that there is a pass-through hole for cable management. Underneath the stand, there is the plate that connects to the monitor base. There is also a circular slot to accommodate the Hotkey Puck.




Below are close up pictures of the VESA plate and how it connects to the back of the monitor.



The monitor can be used in either landscape mode or rotated clockwise and used in vertical/portrait mode.


Underneath the monitor, there are the connectivity ports. As shown below from left to right they are the AC power input jack, Hotkey Puck / Hotkey Puck G2 socket, 2 x HDMI socket, DisplayPort socket, USB-C port, USB port (upstream; connecting
to the PC), and headphone jack.


On the left side of the monitor when facing the front of the monitor, there are 2 USB ports and 1 SD card port.

On the bottom right of the front of the monitor, there are the control buttons. From left to right they are 5 control buttons and the on/off power button.


The following 2 pictures show the monitor with the hood installed. The views are from the front and rear.


On top of the hood, there is a sliding door that is designed to open and close to accommodate the color calibrating device.



The Hotkey Puck is a nice addition to most of the BenQ monitors that I have reviewed. It gives you access to the controls at your fingertips. (FYI: I do find that I rarely use it).


If you would like more detailed information, click here to read the user manual.

Performance

As has been my experience with all of the BenQ monitors that I have owned and reviewed, this monitor arrived well packaged and padded. The components are easy to assemble and putting the monitor together only took a few minutes.
Once I set up the monitor, the first thing that I decided to do was to look at a side by side comparison between the SW270 on the right and the SW271 on the left as shown below. The picture on the SW271 is shown in Adobe Lightroom, and on the right in Photo Viewer.

As a photographer and Videographer, I work in various software applications to edit and produce my videos and photos. This monitor does an amazing job with color reproduction, and surprisingly it is even better than the really good SW270 model. Below are photos of the monitor with some of the applications that I use.
Adobe Lightroom

Adobe Photoshop

PortraitPro 18


Adobe Premiere

DaVinci Resolve

What I like

  • The amazing color reproduction
  • The build quality
  • The adjustable monitor including 90-degree rotation
  • The connectivity
  • The included vertical and horizontal hood attachments

What I’d change

  • I want a 32″ ~ 35″ version 🙂 (Or maybe even larger?)

Final thoughts

At this point, the following may be considered a very redundant statement of mine, but I am a really huge fan of BenQ monitors. This BenQ SW271 is the icing on the cake, especially in this price range. Every week, I spend a lot of time editing photographs and videos in my home studio and it is such a pleasure to work with a monitor that in my opinion provides just about perfect color reproduction right out of the box and without any needed calibration. I always keep my color calibration kit handy, but as I stated, with this monitor, it is not needed, or at least not needed so far. The colors are precise and brilliant and with it mounted on the wall right alongside the SW270, I feel like I have the 1st and 2nd best photo editing monitors in this price range. I only use my monitors in landscape mode, and while the monitor also tilts forward and backward, my use of the wall mount gives me a greater range for adjustment.

BenQ also gets extra points for including the hood attachments for both landscape and portrait mode with this model. The SW270 only comes with the landscape hood attachments. I do not use my monitors without the hood attachment because the difference with the light control that it provides is fantastic. As I mentioned earlier in the review, The Hotkey Puck is also a nice convenient tool albeit that I do not use it very often. I give the BenQ SW271 monitor a very, very, very well done, and two thumbs way up!!!

Price: $1099
Where to buy: Amazon, B&H Photo, Adorama, BenQ
Source: The sample for this review was provided by BenQ.

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BenQ SW271 27″ 16:9 4K HDR IPS Monitor review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 18, 2019 at 9:00 am.

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Broski Lety Headphones review

CROWDFUNDING REVIEW – The Broski Lety Headphones promise a premium experience to compete with the class leaders, but at a much more affordable price. A lofty goal indeed… and you know what? Despite a few issues, they kind of nailed it. To the review!

What is it?

They are lightweight noise-canceling headphones that are sweat resistant.

What’s in the box?

Broski does a nice job of including accessories in this kit. The package includes:

  • A hardshell carrying case
  • A drawstring carry bag
  • The headphones
  • A 72″ AV cable
  • A 72″ USB-to-Micro-USB charging cable
  • A 2-prong airline socket adaptor

Hardware specs

  • Active Noice Cancellation.
  • Long-range Bluetooth (256 feet).
  • 20 hour battery life, with 200 hours standby time.
  • 3 hour charge time.

Design and features

The first thing that you’ll notice about the Broski Lety Headphones is the packaging. These folks have put together an outstanding kit that looks and feels premium from the get-go. You’ve got a molded hard case for keeping your goodies from getting crushed in your bag.

Unzip the kit, and you’ll find an additional carry bag along with multiple adaptors.

And those adaptors are excellent. It feels to me like a nylon fabric sleeve on the cables, which is classy… and both the charging cable and the AV cable are 72″ long! It’s a little detail that’s a big deal when you’re traveling, or plugged in at your desk (or one of those hotel desks). There’s also a two-prong airline port adaptor so you can plug in during your flight.

The premium feel matches the quality of the headphones themselves. The whole build is designed to be super lightweight and comfortable, with soft leather cups and a headband made from the same leather. You also get a big ol’ indicator of which cup goes on which ear.

The details in the build are top-notch. While the materials are lightweight they are substantial, and length adjustments respond with a satisfying “snick” as you adjust the headphones to fit.

The cups themselves feature multiple points of articulation to adapt to whatever size noggin you’re sporting.

Your right ear cup contains all of your controls. The middle button is for play, pause, answer/end calls, and enabling the bluetooth connection. The right and left button are used for adjusting the volume and skipping songs back and forth.

On the base of the right ear pod is the AV port and your active noise canceling function. The left pod (not shown) is where you’ll find your charging port.

The whole build weighs in at a super-lightweight 6.5 ounces and is sweat resistant for use during your workouts.

Bluetooth setup is an easy and straightforward affair. I won’t belabor you with the details, as most devices like this use the same configuration for pairing and connecting. What I will tell you is that I had no issues connecting, disconnecting, and switching between multiple devices.

Performance

Back in the day, my parents had a pair of those big ol’ lush headphones for listening to records on the turntable. I remember how soft and gloriously comfortable those headphones were… like pillows for your ears. Get the picture? The Broski Lety Headphones feel like that. Just ridiculously plush and comfortable. But unlike those old school beasties, there are amazingly lightweight and streamlined for the quality. Look! Head shot!

The side profile is really interesting. Check out how they’re kicked at a slight angle to match your ear, but the headband orientation is vertical. They just fit really well, even on my oddly shaped melon. I could wear these all day.

You will notice that the “Broski” name is printed in large type on the sides of the cups. Yeah, it’s a bit goofy. Some subtlety in branding would be better here.

Of course, all of that comfort doesn’t really matter if the sound isn’t so good. And I am happy to report that the sound is mostly excellent. The range of sound is outstanding with deep, clear audio notes if you’re listening to music or watching a video. But I did notice some variation when connected to the Bluetooth. Connecting to my MacBook Pro, for example, delivered fairly muted tones for Bluetooth connections as opposed to using the AV plug (which was amazing). I also noticed that my iPad and iPhone XS MAX seemed to provide a better range at higher volumes. That’s not to say that the quality isn’t good overall, but there does seem to be some variation depending on my device.

The Active Noice Cancelling works exactly as designed, removing virtually all background noise when enabled. I also received comments that phone calls were surprisingly clear compared to some other Bluetooth headphones I have worked with. Audio out was reported as very good, while incoming calls tended to be a bit muted (but clear) on my end.

Using the Broski Lety Headphones during a workout is wonderful for sound, and they are designated as sweatproof… but I did notice some sweat buildup during a run. There’s just nowhere for the moisture to go with those full-ear cups, so that’s a thing you’ll need to be aware of. Expect to wipe them down when you get done your work.

What I like

  • Super comfortable and lightweight
  • Adjustable to just about any head size and shape
  • Great quality sound overall
  • 20 hour battery life between charges
  • Excellent package with 72″ charging cable, AV cable, and airline adaptor

What needs to be improved

  • That Broski logo on the cups is a bit overdone
  • Noticed some variation in sound quality testing different Bluetooth connections
  • Some sweat buildup during workouts

Final thoughts

As I said in the intro, I think Broski delivers on its promise of a premium headphone experience at an affordable price. They may be the most comfortable pair of headphones I have tested yet, and I don’t see any of the issues I noted in my review as being deal breakers. You absolutely won’t go wrong here if you’re looking for a versatile pair of headphones for travel, commuting and the gym. You’ll just need to get by that big ol’ logo placement.

Now let’s talk pricing. It looks like the Broski Lety will retail for $195, which is pretty great compared to the high end competition.

Price: $95
Where to buy: Available through the Indiegogo Indemand
Source: The sample of this product was provided by Broski.

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Broski Lety Headphones review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 18, 2019 at 7:00 am.

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Rocketbook Beacons review

REVIEW – I love my Rocketbooks – I have a couple of Executive and Letter sized Everlast notebooks that I routinely use.  So when the folks at Rocketbook announced they would solve the corporate problem of distributing pictures of whiteboards used in meetings, I asked to move to the head of the line to take a look.  Let’s see how well they solve this problem!

What is it?

The Rocketbook Beacon is part of the Rocketbook family of products designed to help you get notes into the tools you use every day.  Beacons are foam triangles with microsuction backs that you can place, use and reuse as many times as you like.  Content within the beacons can be captured and processed by the Rocketbook app on either your Android or iOS device, and then sent to a number of locations like Evernote, OneNote, email, Google Drive, Dropbox and more.

What’s in the box?

Four reusable and restickable foam triangles

How does it work?

I placed the 4 beacons on my whiteboard next to my desk.  Here is the raw picture of the board with the beacons in place:

There is a fair amount of glare on the board from the window on the opposite wall.  I left the blinds open because in a conference room – unless you are using an old-school projector – this is the scenario you will likely be dealing with.  The beacons are placed in the corners of the board and will form the rectangle within which the Rocketbook app will do its magic.

One interesting note – if you contain some text within double hashtags, Rocketbook will process this text as a title.  If your destination is OneNote (for example), whatever is contained within the double hashtags will become the page title.  In this case, I called my board Meeting Smart, although in the real world I would probably have used the name of the meeting.

If you are prolific during your meeting and end up with multiple whiteboards, Rocketbook can handle that, too.  Not as single pages, but rather as a collection, making it easy to keep your meeting information organized and searchable.

So, with content to collect and the beacons in place, it is time to launch the Rocketbook app.

As you can see from the capture screen in the app, you can select either a Rocketbook or Beacons.  I normally use the Rocketbook but Beacons works exactly the same except that once the camera processor senses the 4 beacons, it will automatically snap the picture.

Once the picture is snapped you can continue to collect images (helpful if you have multiple whiteboards of data) or just hit Next to move on to processing.  In processing, Rocketbook will allow you to select multiple destinations.  You could send an email to a distribution group, send the images as PDF files to either Evernote or OneNote, send it to a Slack channel or a Trello board, save it in Google Photos and your usual cloud storage services like OneDrive, Google Drive or Dropbox.  This is Rocketbook’s secret sauce – they support most of the commonly used tools and services, so it easy to get the data where you need it.

I chose OneNote, and here is the notebook it landed in (note – no pun intended – that the Meeting Smart label between the hashtags was processed as the page title).

Well, one minor annoyance: because Rocketbook brings the pictures in as PDF files, the page title, as well as the document title, are the full name – including the PDF extension in the page title.  Seems like that should be something easy to fix, but the problem has been around forever.

Earlier I mentioned that my office has an abundance of light which causes glare/reflection on my whiteboard.  The first few experiments with the Beacons I was unable to get large portions of the whiteboard to capture.  In almost every attempt the hashtag title was not recognized (in the OneNote screen above you will see one such experiment – because the title was not recognized, Rocketbook assigned it a default timestamp as the file name/title).  There were also parts of the main section of the board which were not captured.  After a couple of tries, I closed the blinds and also re-oriented my monitors so I could remove as much light as possible.  The image below from the PDF file shows the best quality I could obtain.

In regular photo captures you can (mostly) see the text that has been obscured by light (see the raw capture near the top).  Rocketbook’s image processing, however, seems to be cropping that out of the end result.  If this is going to be useful in a corporate environment, Rocketbook needs to fix this ASAP.

What I like

  • The number of destinations you can send captures to
  • When it works it is a real time saver

What I’d change

  • There are some image processing bugs that need to be addressed quickly

Final thoughts

Although there are some issues with image processing, these all seem like things that can be resolved quickly.  With the launch of Beacons today, Rocketbook certainly has the time to turn a good idea into a great product via a fix in the app.  The current version of the app on Android is v3.1.11.  If the image processing issues are resolved in the next update, I’d highly recommend Beacons.  At the moment, though, I cautiously recommend it.  If you can live with the issues as they stand today, these could be a great solution to a problem we’ve all had.

Price: $15
Where to buy: From Rocketbook or Amazon
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Rocketbook.

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Rocketbook Beacons review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 17, 2019 at 9:00 am.

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Wasserstein Aqua Dew Alexa shower speaker review

REVIEW – There’s nothing like a hot shower to wash away the day’s troubles, or simply to ease some aches and pains if you don’t have any troubles.  What could make that better?  Music, of course!  Anything else?  Sure – your old pal, Alexa, ready to do your bidding as you wash, rinse and repeat.

Wasserstein’s new Aqua Dew shower speaker with Alexa built-in wants to be your shower buddy.  Is the Aqua Dew worthy enough to share your shower?  Read on to find out.

What is it?

Aqua Dew is a water-resistant Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speaker with Alexa functionality.

What’s in the box?

The Aqua Dew comes well-protected in a sturdy box. The box proudly proclaims that it is available “in four gorgeous colors”, however, the icon to the left of that statement shows the number “3”. It is actually available in three colors, white (my sample), black, and dark blue.

Inside the box, we find the following:

  • Aqua Dew speaker with strap and clip
  • Suction cup hanger
  • USB-A to micro-USB charging cable
  • User manual

Hardware specs

  • Dimensions: 4.73″ round x 2.17″ thick
  • Weight: 12.7 ounces
  • Battery: 2 x 2400 mAh Lithium-Ion
  • Battery life: 6 -8 hours, based on volume
  • Waterproof: IPX5 splashproof (protected against low-pressure water jets from any direction)
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi
  • Colors: White, black or dark blue

Design and features

The speaker is a solid, disk-shaped speaker with an integrated strap. It is all monochrome with shiny silver trim.

The front of the speaker has five buttons:

  • Power – Holding this turns the unit on and off.  When on, a short press flips between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi modes
  • Volume up – raises the volume
  • Volume down – lowers the volume
  • Mute – mutes Alexa microphone.  When on, holding it displays battery charge level.
  • WPS (round center button) – When in Wi-Fi mode, a three-second press starts network pairing.  A quick press accesses Alexa. When in Bluetooth mode, a three-second press starts Bluetooth pairing.

Two microphone openings are to the left and right of the buttons.

Four LEDs below the buttons display the battery charge level in four increments.

The speaker openings are all on the back of the speaker.

We also see the dual-mode strap.

The strap has a chromed loop that can hook on the included suction mount.  The strap also can be unbuckled as I started to do above, and looped over a shower curtain rod.

Finally, at the bottom of the speaker, we find the rubber-covered micro-USB charging port.

The included suction cup mount can adhere to any smooth surface  There is a bar with an indentation designed to hold the loop on the strap. The lever is used to clamp the suction cup onto the surface.

Setup

Like most app-driven gadgets, setup starts with downloading the app from the Apple or Google store.

The Wi-Fi setup is typical for a Wi-Fi device – you connect locally to the unit and then connect that to your Wi-Fi.  That all went perfectly.  The Bluetooth pairing went just as smoothly.  The Aqua Dew can be used either as a Bluetooth speaker or as a Wi-Fi Alexa device/speaker, so I paired it both ways.

I charged up the Aqua Dew. After pressing the suction cup onto the shower wall, I pushed the lever down and it stuck to the wall like it was glued on. I put the silver loop on the mount and *boom* – it was installed.

Performance

To get started, you must turn on the Aqua Dew.  This is where I found my first complaint.  To turn on the Aqua Dew, hold the power button for about three seconds.  The LEDs start cycling clockwise, indicating that it is powering-up.  That part is OK, but as you will see in the following video, it takes a full 45 seconds to power-up and join the network. That seems excessively long to me.  Perhaps in this age of instant gratification, I’m just getting impatient.

The video below shows the power-up cycle followed by the must faster power-down cycle.

Once the speaker was on and connected to my Wi-Fi network. I was able to issue Alexa commands.  Everything worked just like any of my Alexa devices.  “Alexa, open bedroom shades”, “Alexa, trigger open screen”, “Alexa, turn on garden lights”, all worked as expected. I also tried my flash briefing and that worked well.

Music is a big draw for this type of device. “Alexa, shuffle Garry’s playlist”, got the music going. To my ear, this speaker sounds OK, but that’s about it, just OK.  This was my second complaint. There is little to no bass so the music is a little tinny. The beauty with the Alexa functionality is that all music commands can be issued once you’re in the shower.  In Bluetooth mode, you would need to start music from your phone.  While many phones these days are waterproof, most of us still don’t bring them into the shower.

The next complaint arose while in the shower.  I had to essentially yell at the Aqua Dew to get Alexa to wake up.  I’m sure this has to do with the relatively loud ambient noise in an enclosed space like a shower when a showerhead is spraying out large volumes of water.  Still, having improved logic to isolate voices would be much better.  I could just hit the WPS button to invoke Alexa, but it still needs to listen to the commands after that and that still took a raised voice.

Here is a short video showing that the Alexa commands do work in the shower, even if I have to raise my voice.

My final complaint has to do with the LED indicator ring. There are 18 distinct lighting colors/patterns that indicate specific states for the speaker.

I get saving money and reducing components, but wow – there’s no way I will ever keep all the colors and blink patterns straight.  I have to be sure not to lose this manual.

One thing noted in the manual is that the Aqua Dew should be located above the showerhead since at only IPX5, it isn’t waterproof, just splashproof.

Here’s my installation. The Aqua Dew does look nice in my shower.

I also tested it in Bluetooth mode.  It worked perfectly as expected.  I did a distance test, and out in the open, I was only able to move the speaker about 35 feet from my phone before it started cutting out.

As far as the app goes, it is pretty basic, and not really documented.

It shows the connected speaker. The “LR” button toggles between “L”, “R” and “LR”, indicating that the speaker can play left, right or both stereo channels.  I assume you can add another speaker and pair them as a wireless stereo pair.

It seems to support playlists, but there isn’t anything showing how to add them.

You can connect additional music sources when you’re on Wi-Fi – a nice touch.

Additional configuration options exist:

The Preset Content option indicates that you can have presets, but nothing shows how to add them.

The options show an alarm clock, which seems to be of little value since the battery is only rated for up to eight hours.

The sleep timer can be set for between 10 and 90 minutes and powers down the speaker when the timer expires. I plan to use this by setting the timer before I get in the shower – perhaps for 10 or 20 minutes.  Then, I can enjoy music before and after my shower without having to step into a wet shower to turn the speaker off.

I think the app needs some included documentation to be useful.

Epilog

I had completed my review. I happily used the Aqua Dew several times during showers over a week or so.  Then, as we were waking up in the morning – *CRASH*.  I took a quick trip to the shower where I found the Aqua Dew and its suction mount on the shower floor. The mount only held in place for a week. Every time I used the shower, I felt the mount and it was solid every day. In fact, I tested it just the day before the crash and it was mounted quite solidly.

The Aqua Dew did not survive the six-foot drop well.

The cover and decorative ring both popped off. I figured that I could just pop it back in place, but nope. There are four rubber glue-like seals that appear to hold everything together.  They all separated, so there’s no putting Humpty Dumpty back together.

In addition to simply being split open, something inside is loose.

This black thing behind the circuit board now rattles around and doesn’t appear to be attached to anything.

Still, I pushed everything back together as best I could and tried powering it on. Much to my surprise, it did power-up.  Once on, I noticed a hiss – like white or pink noise, that the speaker now continuously emits.  It isn’t loud, but it definitely wasn’t there before the fall.  The speaker successfully joined the network and Alexa responded to commands.  Music sounded much like it did before the tumble, even with the constant hiss. But, no matter how I pressed and pushed, there is no way to reattach the cover and trim ring to the main speaker body.

I decided to take it apart as best I could to see what exactly happened in the fall.  Here’s what I found.

The design of the unit has the entire front of the Aqua Dew secured from the back of the speaker.

This shows the four mounting locations from the back of the speaker as they pass through the circuit board. The black pieces you see in the holes were formerly attached to the front of the speaker.

The screws from the back of the speaker are supposed to screw into stands on the back of the front of the speaker, circled in red.

As you can see, none of them are intact.  The fall and impact on the shower floor snapped all four off the front of the speaker.  Without those stands, there is no way to draw the front of the speaker onto the trim ring and speaker, forming the water-resistant seal.  In addition, without those stands attached to the front, there simply is no way to attach the front (containing the buttons and microphone) to the speaker body.

As for the mysterious rattle – mystery solved.  More brittle plastic is to blame. A cover that goes over and secures the battery, attaching to the back of the speaker in two places – one on the right side and one of the top.  There are (were) two tabs on the cover.  A screw through each tab secures the cover to the back of the speaker.

Here are the two screw locations with the cover removed.

This photo shows the tab on the right sheared off of the cover.  The tab itself is still under the screw.

Here is the former location of the tab on the top of the cover. Like the side tab, it also sheared off and remains under the screw.  With nothing left to secure the cover, it just rattles around freely inside the speaker.

It appears that much of the plastic used in the speaker is quite brittle and not designed to withstand any impact whatsoever.  I would classify this speaker as “fragile”.

What I like

  • Water resistance
  • Alexa functionality
  • Overall attractive design
  • Suction mount works very well

What I’d change

  • Speed up the booting and network joining process
  • Improve the bass response in the speaker
  • Have better voice isolation so I don’t have to scream in the shower
  • Simplify the light indicators
  • Provide some documentation for the app – in-app would be fine
  • A little more durability would be nice

Final thoughts

The Aqua Dew was a nice addition to the shower. My workflow was to first turn on the Aqua Dew and then the shower.  By the time I had hot water, the Aqua Dew was ready to entertain.  Having tunes in the shower was nice. Adding in Alexa and the ability to listen to my flash briefing or other news was a nice feature, as well. Using the sleep timer to turn off the speaker after the shower certainly improved the after-shower experience.

With some fine-tuning and a little more bass response, this could be a terrific speaker. For now, it does an adequate job and would have had a place in my shower until it shattered like an egg.

After the tumble, while it technically still works, it certainly isn’t water-resistant. I might try sealing it up with silicone caulk. If I do, I won’t be using the suction mount.  I would purchase 3M command strip hooks for wet environments and hang the speaker from that.

Price: $114.99
Where to buy: Wasserstein Home
Source: The sample of this product was provided by Wasserstein.

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Wasserstein Aqua Dew Alexa shower speaker review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 17, 2019 at 8:00 am.

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Totallee Thin iPhone 11 Pro Max cases review

REVIEW – Like a lot of people, I recently purchased the new iPhone 11 Pro Max, and I needed a case to protect my new investment. I’ve recently become a fan of minimalistic cases, I’m pretty cautious with my phone, and I don’t like the bulk of most protective cases. Totallee maker of some of the thinnest minimalistic cases sent me three of their new Thin iPhone 11 Pro Max cases to test out.

What is it?

The Totallee Thin iPhone 11 Pro Max cases are ultra-thin lightweight phone cases that help protect from everyday scratches and bumps.

Design and features

First up, the Transparent Thin iPhone 11 Pro Max Case. This case is made from a clear TPU and provides practically invisible protection for your iPhone 11 Pro Max that’s incredibly thin (0.03”).

The back of the case features a cutout for the Pro Max’s new 3-lens camera featuring a camera lens “lip” that provides extra protection.

There are the usual cutouts on the bottom for the lightning port and speakers.

There are also protective covers for the volume and power buttons.

The TPU used to make the case is flexible and has a rubbery feel. This provides a really good grip and keeps the case from sliding around on smooth surfaces. The case’s minimalistic transparent design maintains the original look of the iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

Matte finish cases

Totallee sent me two of their matte finish cases, Frosted Clear and Frosted Black. These cases are the thinnest (0.02”) and lightest (0.01oz) that Totallee makes. The cases fit the iPhone almost like a second skin.

They have a cutout for the camera, with a raised lip for extra protection.

There are also precision cutouts for all buttons, speakers, and the lightning port.

The matte finish provides a surprising amount of grip. I never felt like my iPhone was going to slip out of my hand. There’s no extra bulk with these cases they provide everything you need in an iPhone case and nothing that you don’t.

I love how both of these cases look on my 11 Pro Max. The semi-transparent frosted look is the perfect complement to the design of the phone. And they are impossibly thin.

Another great thing about Totallee’s cases is that there is no annoying branding anywhere on them.

All of these cases are as minimalist as they come. They’re designed to provide some extra grip and will protect your iPhone from scratches and minor bumps. If you’re looking for a case to protect your iPhone from drops, these are not the cases for you. 

What I like

  • Thin and lightweight 
  • Minimalistic design
  • No branding
  • Compliments the design of the iPhone 11 Pro Max 

What I’d change

  • I can’t think of anything

Final thoughts

I love minimalistic iPhone cases, and the Totallee Thin iPhone 11 Pro Max cases are fantastic. I love both the look and feel of all three cases. When it comes to minimalistic cases for the iPhone, they get it Totallee right.

Price: $29
Where to buy: Amazon
Source: The samples for this review were provided by Totallee.

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Totallee Thin iPhone 11 Pro Max cases review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 16, 2019 at 10:00 am.

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WaterField Designs Marqui crossbody pouch review

REVIEW – Sometimes you don’t want or need to carry all your gear with you everywhere you go. For those times when you just need a small bag for your phone, wallet, keys, and a few other things, the WaterField Designs Marqui crossbody pouch is a perfect choice. Or is it? Let’s find out.

What is it?

The WaterField Designs Marqui is a small 8 x 5.5 x 1.25 inch crossbody pouch for a light EDC day.

Design and features

The Marqui Crossbody pouch is constructed of 1050 denier black ballistic nylon for the body of the bag and then you have a choice of five full-grain leather accent colors for the front panel of the bag. As you can see, I went with chocolate leather for the accent panel on the Marqui that was sent to me.

You’ll also notice that the leather has some scuffs and scratches. That didn’t come from my rough use of the pouch, it was like that out of the package, but that’s fine by me because it gives the bag character. The other accent leathers aren’t as rugged as the chocolate leather and won’t have the same “character” as the chocolate leather version of the bag.

The Marqui features a shoulder strap buckle that makes it easy to adjust the strap for the perfect fit. Just lift the lever, adjust, and then lock back in place.

Note that the narrow woven strap (which is 48 inches when fully extended) is not removable and is designed to be worn on the left shoulder which for me is the opposite way that I wear bags because I’m a lefty.

If you don’t care to wear the bag, you can tuck the strap into the open pocket on the back of the pouch.

There are also two small exterior loops on either side of the bag that you can use to attach carabiners to hold AirPods, a tool, etc.

There’s also a zippered pocket on the front of the Marqui that is large enough to hold a large phone or your wallet.

The main compartment of the Marqui is secured with a YKK self-locking zipper.

Inside is WaterField’s iconic gold rip-stop lining that makes it easy to find all your items even in dimly lit areas.

There is a large compartment with two organizational pockets on one side.

Here we see the Marqui crossbody pouch fully loaded with a WaterField Finn wallet, my car key fob, an iPhone X, and a few other small items that aren’t in view. This pouch is small, but it’s amazing how many things you can cram inside.

The style of the bag is modern and classy. I think it’s suitable for either gender. What do the guys out there think?

What I like

  • It’s well made
  • Stylish
  • Pockets to organize gear

What I’d change

  • Needs a removable strap

Final thoughts

I’ve always been a fan of the bags and wallets from WaterField Designs and the new Marqui Crossbody Pouch has only affirmed that feeling. I really like this little bag because it’s the perfect size to hold just the necessities in a minimal way that won’t weigh you down when you’re on the go. So, to answer the question in the first paragraph of this review, yes, the Marqui pouch is a perfect choice.

Price: $79.00
Where to buy: Sfbags.com
Source: The sample for this review was provided by WaterField Designs.

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WaterField Designs Marqui crossbody pouch review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 16, 2019 at 8:00 am.

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Kensington VeriMark IT Fingerprint Key review


REVIEW – A few weeks ago, I tried to navigate to my own photography website and I could not. No matter how many times I tried, my link was being redirected to what appeared to be the website of a modeling agency. Upon further investigation, I found out that someone had managed to break into my WordPress account and basically, I had been hacked. Since then, I have activated 2-layer authentication on all of my WordPress accounts, even at the inconvenience of having to use an app each time I login in order to get the security code for the second layer of authentication. The entire process of locking everything down and using the app can be a pain, so I am very interested in the Kensington VeriMark™ IT Fingerprint Key and the security and convenience it offers.

What is it?

The Kensington VeriMark IT Fingerprint Key is a USB type dongle the adds a secure login layer to your computer and to some websites and services. It seamlessly supports Windows Hello and websites/services like Google, Dropbox, Outlook, etc., to manage passwords and access. It also supports Windows Hello for Business, Azure, Active Directory, Office 365, Skype, OneDrive, including Microsoft services on edge to support enterprise deployment.

What’s in the box


1 x Kensington VeriMark IT Fingerprint Key
1 x Warranty Booklet
1 x Instruction Leaflet

Design and features

Specifications
Operating System: Windows 7, 8.1, 10
Web Authentication: Windows 10 Only
USB Interface: USB 2.0/3.0 Type A
Software: Kensington Fingerprint Application Required (for Windows 7, 8.1)
Fingerprint Match-In-Sensor: Synaptics FS7600
USB Data Encryption: AES-256/SHA-256, SSLv3 for secure session establishment, TLS 1.2 secure communication

Features:

  • Ideal for enterprise deployment and easily integrated into current IT infrastructure. Users keep their key for secure log in to popular services, while IT can easily manage employee access, privileges, and passwords.
  • Enables the latest web standards approved by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). Authenticates without storing passwords on servers, providing business professionals more security, convenience, privacy, and scalability.
  • Exceeds industry standards for False Rejection Rate (FRR 2%) and False Acceptance Rate (FAR 0.001%). Fingerprint data is secured in the sensor, so only an encrypted match result is transferred; versus match-on-host, where unsecured fingerprint data is transferred.
  • Durable zinc alloy body with LED accepted/rejected indicator, and flared tail for easy grip.
  • Designed to secure the fingerprint data it collects, and can be used to support a company’s cybersecurity measures consistent with (but not limited to) such privacy laws as GDPR, BIPA, and CCPA

The Kensington VeriMark IT Fingerprint Key is a small USB-A type dongle that is approximately 1″ long. On the outer surface, there is a black cover that includes the embedded fingerprint sensor. On one side of the long surface of the dongle, there is an LED that looks like a lock symbol. When accessing a website with it, it lights white when you use the correct fingerprint and red when you don’t.

On the other side of the dongle is the USB-A interface.

Performance

This IT security key is truly a plug and play device when using it with the Windows 10 OS. As the instructions indicate, Kensington software is required for use with Windows 7 and 8. Since all of my computers are Windows 10, that is my test platform. (I also have a MacBook Pro but that is not applicable here). I plugged the dongle into a USB-A port on my laptop, and I did notice that it sticks out quite a bit. I sometimes put away my laptop in my bag with the dongle still attached. It could snag or even come loose without me knowing.

The next step is to navigate to the Accounts section in the settings. The device shows up as Windows Hello Fingerprint in the Sign-on options. I selected it and clicked on the setup button. I then went through the paces of touching the biometric surface several times as instructed until it read and confirmed the surface of my finger. I tested the main login (Windows login) on my primary laptop and it worked perfectly. When I am at the Windows login screen I can select login options and in my case, I have the option to login via Facial Recognition, Password, PIN or Fingerprint. If I block the camera and it cannot see my face, I am then prompted to choose one of the 4 login options. The 4th icon on the right in the picture below is the fingerprint option.

I also set up the device with my Dropbox account. The Kensington website provided instructions for doing so. The setup was easy, and when I logged out of Dropbox and logged back in, the security process was in place. After entering my username and password and selecting login, I was then prompted to scan my finger and upon doing so, it logged me in. I tested the process numerous times and was successful each time.

The same process is also offered for other websites/services including Google, but I paused on trying it with Google because I use that account on many computers. The dongle has no capability for me to attach it to a keyring or something that would make it a worthwhile convenience and likely to be in my possession at all times. I do use my personal laptop at my desk during the day, but I do not want to find myself searching for it at inconvenient times, especially if it ends up falling somewhere between the contents in my EDC bag. Regardless, I will rethink this and possibly activate 2-layer security on my Gmail accounts even if not using this as the go-to device. I have set up some relevant websites with secondary 2-layer security options like using an Authenticator app so that I have an alternative to carrying the dongle with me. But then, one could question the need to have it at all.  Its use is a personal choice including how you choose that have it fit into your workflow. It is, in my opinion, a process of balancing the dynamics of security and convenience, with this Key providing the nice advantage of not having to store any passwords on any servers should this be a part of an enterprise security solution.

The following video shows me trying to access my computer first using the wrong finger and then the right one. Notice the LED indicator on the device:

What I like

  • The compact size
  • The approach to security including the option of 2-layer authentication
  • The seamless integration with the Windows OS
  • Authenticates without storing passwords on servers

What I’d change

  • Add MAC support
  • Modify the design to be able to attach the dongle to a keyring or something else for safekeeping

Final thoughts

Account security and data security are major concerns for anyone who interacts via the internet. I have personally experienced security challenges even when I have used relatively complex passwords. The concept of having a portable hardware device/key that adds a layer of security that includes the benefit of not storing passwords on the computer is great. While I do see a few shortcomings with this device, I still think that for the cost it is a worthwhile addition, and if it’s application base can be increased to include many more websites/services, then bravo!!

Price: $59.99
Where to buy: Amazon
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Kensington.

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Kensington VeriMark IT Fingerprint Key review originally appeared on The Gadgeteer on October 15, 2019 at 11:00 am.

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