Reolink Argus Pro is a 100% Wireless Security Cam That Never Needs Charging

Our verdict of the Reolink Argus Pro:Paired with the solar panel, the Reolink Argus Pro is fantastic budget security option that’ll never need recharging. It’s not designed for 24/7 recording, but it does offer reliable motion alerts and unlimited local recordings with no monthly fees. On the downside, it only integrates with Reolink apps for desktop or mobile: there’s no Alexa/IFTTT or Synology support.810The problem with “truly wireless” security cameras is that their Wi-Fi connection is generally terrible, they eat through those expensive little batteries, and most offer horrendous value for money by needing an expensive cloud subscription. The Reolink…

Read the full article: Reolink Argus Pro is a 100% Wireless Security Cam That Never Needs Charging

Our verdict of the Reolink Argus Pro:
Paired with the solar panel, the Reolink Argus Pro is fantastic budget security option that'll never need recharging. It's not designed for 24/7 recording, but it does offer reliable motion alerts and unlimited local recordings with no monthly fees. On the downside, it only integrates with Reolink apps for desktop or mobile: there's no Alexa/IFTTT or Synology support.
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The problem with “truly wireless” security cameras is that their Wi-Fi connection is generally terrible, they eat through those expensive little batteries, and most offer horrendous value for money by needing an expensive cloud subscription. The Reolink Argus Pro is both reliable, offers unlimited local recording, and when paired with their solar kit, never needs recharging.

Join us as we take a closer look at the Reolink Argus Pro with Solar Kit–and at the end of this review, we’ve got one to giveaway.

Specifications

  • 1080p Live view and recording, with night vision.
  • 130-degree wide angle field of view.
  • Two-way audio.
  • PIR motion sensor, with app notifications or email alerts.
  • Siren or custom alarm on motion detection.
  • Rechargeable battery.
  • $99 for Reolink Argus Pro, or $130 when purchased with the optional solar kit.

Reolink Argus Pro: What’s In The Box?

Inside the box, you’ll find:

  • The camera unit
  • Separate battery pack, to be fixed onto the camera
  • micro-USB charging cable
  • Mounting bracket
  • Optional tree mounting strap
  • Screws and template
  • Silicone cover for outdoor installation

reolink argus pro box contents

Note that a MicroSD card is not included. To record clips locally on the device when motion is detected, you’ll need to purchase a MicroSD card separately.

Reolink Solar Panel Power Supply for Wireless Outdoor Rechargeable Battery Powered IP Security Camera Reolink Argus 2/Argus Pro, Waterproof, Adjustable Mount, Continuous Power Supply Reolink Solar Panel Power Supply for Wireless Outdoor Rechargeable Battery Powered IP Security Camera Reolink Argus 2/Argus Pro, Waterproof, Adjustable Mount, Continuous Power Supply Buy Now At Amazon $29.99

If you purchased the optional solar kit too, you’ll find:

  • 3.5W solar panel with attached 2m microUSB cable.
  • Mounting bracket.
  • Screws and template.
REOLINK Argus Pro Rechargeable Battery/Solar-Powered Outdoor Wireless Security Camera 1080p HD Wire-Free 2-Way Audio Night Vision Alarm Alert & PIR Motion Sensor w/Built-in SD Slot REOLINK Argus Pro Rechargeable Battery/Solar-Powered Outdoor Wireless Security Camera 1080p HD Wire-Free 2-Way Audio Night Vision Alarm Alert & PIR Motion Sensor w/Built-in SD Slot Buy Now At Amazon $99.99

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it is. The Argus Pro varies only a little with the Argus 2 that we reviewed before. The differences?

  • Argus Pro is more affordable ($99 vs $129).
  • Argus 2 has better quality nighttime recording thanks to the “StarLight” sensor. Argus Pro is just standard black and white IR nightvision.
  • Argus Pro only has a screw mount for the bracket; the Argus 2 had a magnetic mount option.

Installing the Reolink Argus Pro and Solar Kit

You’ve got a few mounting options for the Reolink Argus Pro camera itself. Firstly, a simple extended mounting bracket is provided, along with screw hole template,  suitable for a wall or ceiling. It’s all fully adjustable and of course you can flip the image in the software if it’s upside down. You’re also supplied with a tree mount strap, which threads through the base of this adjustable bracket and allows you to strap it onto a tree or other pole.

In addition, you’re given a silicone cover for outdoor use. Just pull it over the device, and it offers a little shade, as well as waterproofing the unit to a certain degree.

Mounting options for the solar panel are more limited: you can only screw it in. It’s a little incongruous to not also have a tree mounting strap, but you could always find a nearby fence post to screw it into.

 

The microUSB plug for the solar panel has a rubber hood, ensuring water can’t seep in. In a week of being very exposed to miserable English weather, the camera hasn’t suffered any damage.

rugged micro usb plug on the argus pro

Setup is fantastically simple, it uses the same clever method as other Reolink devices whereby you open the app, scan the QR code on the device, add your Wi-Fi details. Then the app displays a QR code of its own on the screen which you put in front of the Argus Pro, and it reads the connection details from that, and sets itself up. Really easy, I had no issues it all worked first time which is great.

That said, it was awfully picky when it came to microSD cards. I tried a few small 2GB ones, and after formatting them through the app, it refused to recognize them. It worked fine with a 64GB card. In fairness, it recommends cards 4GB or more, but it seems that’s more of a requirement than a recommendation.

Battery Life

Reolink claim 180 days of standby and or 960 minutes of live viewing, and it’s important to point out that this means you can’t leave it on 24 hours a day streaming to your Synology Surveillance Station running on your Network Attached Storage or other software or NVR device. As such, it doesn’t offer third party app integration: there is no ONVIF support.

Unlike the previous completely wireless Reolink Keen that I looked at, this has a removable lithium ion battery with standard microUSB charging port. However, I would encourage you to get the solar kit as well. Even with a modest amount of British sunshine, it managed to trickle charge the camera enough to keep it fully topped up. That was with fairly frequent motion alert, and the occasional drop-in to the live stream.

Adding the solar kit means that you’ll probably never need to charge the device under normal use. However, it still won’t be able to record or stream 24/7. So while the solar kit is a fantastic addition, it doesn’t change the fundamental functionality of the device in that it’s for occasionally checking in on the live stream or low volume motion triggers. If you find that it’s still running out of power, you’ll need to tweak the sensitivity, detection distance, or adjust the angles to restrict the field of view.

You should see a small red LED illuminate when the solar panel is successfully connected, as well as an icon in the camera settings screen of the app. There’s no other feedback to show how much power is being supplied by the solar panel though, so micro-optimisation of the angle or position isn’t really possible. Still, even on a typically overcast British day, it was able to trickle charge the battery.

Unlimited Local Recording on Motion Events

It’s a shame that the home security industry has got to the point where offering free unlimited recording locally is a “feature”, but there we go. Just pop in a microSD card (not included), and enable the option in the PIR settings. As long as the PIR remains active (and for a configurable 8-30 seconds time period afterwards), motion events will be recorded.

You can also enable a push notification to the mobile app, as well as an email. Emails can include a picture of the event, but configuring the email service is a little more complicated. You’ll need to add login details to your own email server. While it can work with Gmail, you’ll have to enable “less secure app access” in your Gmail settings.

If you do want cloud recording, Reolink is currently trailing (US-only) a cloud service plan, which is free while it’s still being tested.

Reliable Wi-Fi, But No Third Party App Support

To really test the ruggedness of the package and reliability of the Wi-Fi, I installed the Argus Pro about 50 meters away from the house. I have an Ubiquity UniFi Outdoor+ access point to provide Wi-Fi to most of the garden (What is Ubiquity UniFi and how can it solve your Wi-Fi woes?), but it generally the signal cuts out around this location for mobile devices, due to various trees and the descending hill side. I was surprised to find the Reolink Argus Pro maintained a solid connection, much more reliably than our mobile devices ever have. Although clear view required a little buffering, fluent mode worked great, with full audio stream. More importantly: the motion alerts were very reliable.

Unfortunately, the entire line of completely wireless Reolink cameras, including the Reolink Argus Pro, still doesn’t support streaming to a third party app, such as Synology Surveillance Station. Nor is there is an Alexa skill to drop in on the feed from an Echo Show or Echo Spot. There’s not even IFTTT support, though you could probably hack one together using the email alert system.

Integration with Reolink Desktop App

If you already have an extensive Reolink security system like the ADK8-20B4 system we reviewed, you’re probably using the desktop app. Thankfully, you can now view the Reolink wireless cameras in the desktop app too, so you can keep an eye on everything at once. You’ll still need to wake them when needed, so you can’t leave them live streaming forever, but this takes a second or so to wake up as needed. It’s certainly better than not being able to view them in the desktop app at all.

Should You Buy the Reolink Argus Pro?

As long as you’re not looking for a 24/7 recording option, and don’t feel the need to integrate every part of your home life with a voice assistant, the Reolink Argus Pro is a solid wireless security camera. It’s affordable, there’s no monthly fees, and you can record as many motion events as you need to local storage. Wireless performance is good, and the motion alerts are reliably delivered to either email or app notifications. Image quality is as good as you’d expect from a 1080p security cam, and night vision is sharp.

The Good

  • Pair with the solar panel and never needs to be recharged.
  • Reliable motion detection and notifications.
  • Unlimited local storage.
  • Affordable; and no monthly fees.
  • Tree mounting option is nice.
  • It has a desktop app, so you’re not limited to just the mobile interface.
  • 2-way audio and custom alarm message.

The Bad

  • It doesn’t integrate with much other than Reolinks desktop or mobile app.
  • No IFTTT support, Zapier, or Synology Surveillance Station.
  • Can’t view on Alexa Show or Spot.
  • Can’t record 24/7.
  • Solar panel needs to be screwed into something.

Enter the Competition!

Reolink Argus Pro 100% Wireless Security Camera and Solar Kit Giveway

Read the full article: Reolink Argus Pro is a 100% Wireless Security Cam That Never Needs Charging

Cut, Burn, and Melt All the Things With This Insane Dobot Mooz Machine (Giveaway!)

Our verdict of the Dobot Mooz:An easy-to-assemble 3D printer kit, with optional CNC or laser engraving modules. This is a versatile machine, albeit a slow one. 910This is the Dobot Mooz. It’s a 3-in-1 industrial grade machine, priced at an entirely reasonable $699. It’s a 3D-printer, CNC machine and Laser-engraving combined machine. Join as us we dig into it and see what it can do. Is it the Jack of all trades, but master of none? If you’d like to own a Dobot Mooz of your own, then enter our contest at the end of the article, where we’ll be…

Read the full article: Cut, Burn, and Melt All the Things With This Insane Dobot Mooz Machine (Giveaway!)

Our verdict of the Dobot Mooz:
An easy-to-assemble 3D printer kit, with optional CNC or laser engraving modules. This is a versatile machine, albeit a slow one.
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This is the Dobot Mooz. It’s a 3-in-1 industrial grade machine, priced at an entirely reasonable $699. It’s a 3D-printer, CNC machine and Laser-engraving combined machine. Join as us we dig into it and see what it can do. Is it the Jack of all trades, but master of none?

If you’d like to own a Dobot Mooz of your own, then enter our contest at the end of the article, where we’ll be giving away our review model!

Design and Build Quality

The Mooz oozes quality. The all-metal construction and modular design ensure it stands out in a very crowded market.

Dobot Mooz parts kit

The Mooz comes with with four identical modular, linear actuators. These parts contain everything required to move the machine in one axis. The sealed units each contain a stepper motor, linear rail, drive screw, and end stops. The self-contained design means assembly is super quick, and you don’t have to spend hours fine-tuning each axis.

Dobot Mooz connections

Each axis bolts onto the solid metal base and then connects to the brain with a single RJ45 connector. It’s all a very simple and straightforward affair.

Three different modules can be quickly swapped out (in minutes, rather than seconds). Each module is for a different function. These are:

  1. 3D printing: melted plastic forms complex shapes in the “traditional” Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) process.
  2. CNC Machining: a drill bit like tool is spun at high speeds to carve a shape out of a solid material.
  3. Laser Engraving: produce complex engravings with this 0.5W laser module.

Each module is covered in greater detail in their respective sections further below. While each module simple bolts on to the linear actuator, don’t expect to be swapping out modules instantly. With practice, you can expect to change them over within a few minutes, but it’s still a slightly fiddly process, involving miniature bolts and hex keys.

The machine bed (where your finished part will sit) comes in two different styles. The heated bed is used for 3D printing or a vise-like bed for holding material for CNCing. Dobot recommends the 3D printing bed for laser engraving as well, but we think the CNC vise works far better for this, and you’re less likely to damage the precious 3D printing bed.

These beds are attached to the linear actuator with four bolts. Dobot has included four oblong shaped holes in the base, for your hex key to fit through. This means you can change beds without having to remove any other parts first and is an excellent idea.

Dobot Mooz controller

The Mooz is controlled through the included touchscreen controller. This looks like a small smartphone, and a small magnet on the base holds it to the base. This interface is rather basic, but it gets the job done.

This interface shows the percentage complete, but not time remaining. This leaves you having to guess at how long is left, based on percentage and time taken so far. Hopefully, a software update can bring this much-needed feature.

Dobot Mooz instructions

While the Mooz is extremely well made, with a lot of consideration put into the design, we can’t say the same about the manual. The English quality is not brilliant, and it can be hard to decipher the instructions at times. It’s not impossible to assemble, as it’s so well designed, but you may need to read and then re-read the manual again to figure things out.

Dobot Support

During our review, we encountered a problem with our CNC module. It appeared to work fine, but the Mooz would refuse to start any print jobs. We fixed it by rotating the X-axis, but the support team told us this was unlikely to stop it working.

Dobot Mooz wires

While attempting to resolve the issue, we contacted Dobot support. Initially, we received no reply to our query, but after messaging our press contact, things starting moving. It’s worrying that we heard nothing until our media credentials spurred things along, and we can only hope that the support team experienced a busy period and that it’s not a sign of a general lack of support.

Laser Engraving

Lasers are quite possibly the coolest toys around. While DIY laser turrets are cool, using one to engrave designs is amazing. You’ll need to wear the included eye-protection, but apart from that, operating the laser is a simple process.

Dobot Mooz laser

The laser on the Mooz is a rather meagre 0.5W. It’s possible to upgrade to a larger 1.5W module, but that still won’t be powerful enough to cut wood, plastic, metal, or glass.  It can cut paper, but you probably don’t want to do that. What it is good at, is laser engraving. This burns the surface of your material and produces a permanent etching. This could be words, artwork, or photos. It’s a bit like a tattoo for objects.

Dobot Mooz laser

This works really well, but you’ll need to experiment with materials. Leather and softwood produce excellent results, but you’ll have a hard time etching metal. The better the surface quality of your material, the better the resulting image.

Dobot Mooz laser etched wood

Despite being so small, this laser is 100% electricity based. This means that there are no costly CO2 tubes to change or mirrors to balance and protect. It ensures the Mooz is small and light, at the expense of laser power.

Much like using a magnifying glass to burn ants*, the laser only works at a pre-set focusing height. For each material you use, you’ll need to experiment to figure out the best height, speed, and power.

* No ants were harmed in the making of this review.

Dobot Mooz etched wood

The laser primarily produces designs in a raster format. The laser head moves left to right horizontally, gradually creeping forwards. It’s a slow process but generally produces excellent results with a reasonable level of detail.

CNC Machining

Moving on to CNC machining is where things get interesting. By spinning a cutting tool at high speed, and moving it around a material, you can cut out complex shapes and patterns. This is a simplified description, but the process remains the same.

Dobot Mooz CNC

CNC machines are nothing new, and a mini DIY CNC revolution almost took off before the 3D printing explosion. The problem with many small CNC machines is their rigidity. Producing designs by carving away material is a tough process, and puts a big strain on the machine.

As it’s made of solid metal, the Mooz has no problems producing designs. You won’t be able to cut metal, but most plastics and softwoods work well. If you need to produce a very deep carving, then you can make repeat passes until reaching the desired depth.

Dobot Mooz CNC

By spinning a tool at 12,000 RPM, the Mooz makes a big noise. Not only that, but you’ll get timber shavings and sawdust all over the place. We highly recommend using the CNC module in a garage or workshop, away from your house.

To prevent dirt from getting inside the mechanical workings, a small cover is included. This moves with the bed and stops almost all the CNC shavings from falling into the linear actuator.

The CNC module produces excellent results. A stunning level of detail can be achieved, and even materials with a poor surface finish are transformed by removing the top layer of material. This is the perfect tool for carving logos or small designs. PCB manufacturing is another excellent use.

Dobot Mooz finished CNC machined wood

Only one tool is provided, and as CNC machining is still slightly specialized, you may need to pay a premium for any replacement tools, especially those that are both quality and small size.

3D Printing

Dobot Mooz 3D printing

3D printing is possibly the main selling point of the Mooz. Producing objects by pushing molten plastic around is always an exciting process to watch, and the Mooz doesn’t disappoint. The rugged metal design is almost overkill for simple 3D printing, but it ensures a solid and stable base that is more than capable of producing amazing prints.

Dobot Mooz 3D printing

The Mooz works like the majority of other 3D printers on the market. It uses Fused Deposition Modeling to produce objects one layer at a time.

While a large cooling fan is constantly running, the Mooz is generally fairly quiet. You wouldn’t want to sleep with it in the same room, but it’s not so loud that it’s a nuisance like the CNC module.

Dobot Mooz 3D printing

A heated bed is included, with a total build volume of 130mm. A reasonable top speed of 80mm/s is achievable, and a layer height of 0.05mm is excellent.

The extruder is a sealed unit, but it’s possible to take apart for maintenance. You don’t need to cover the bed with special tape or glue, as the plastic surface provides the perfect base for prints to adhere to.

Dobot Mooz finshed 3D print

Note: this image depicts a warped print, which didn’t happen with other prints.

As you would expect from such a premium machine, the print quality is fantastic! It is surprising how well prints come out, and how it “just works”. You’ll need to spend some time perfecting speeds and temperatures for your own prints, but the factory-provided models are all ready to go.

Don’t forget to read our ultimate 3D printing guide for detailed 3D printing tips and tricks. If you own the Mooz, or any other 3D printer, then why not learn how to recycle 3D prints?

Is the Mooz for You?

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By using a solid metal design, industrial-grade parts, and self-contained modules, the Mooz is able to achieve an accuracy and ease-of-use which is almost unmatched at this price range.

This machine won’t shake itself to pieces or vibrate your table so much that is must be placed in another room. Yes, the laser can be smelly, and the CNC generates a huge amount of noise along with a big mess, but what similar machines don’t?

Possibly the easiest to assembly 3D printer kit we’ve used, the Mooz “just works”. Even with poor instructions, it can be assembled in less than an hour and enables even a complete novice to produce stunning designs. With a bit of practice and tweaking for different materials, environments, and speeds, you can create jaw-dropping artwork.

Dobot Mooz 3D printing

If you’re on a budget, it’s possible to buy the Mooz without the laser and CNC modules and upgrade those parts later on if required. If you’re looking for a 3D printer which doesn’t transform, then why not take a look at our 3D printer buying guide?

The only downside to the Mooz is the speed. Quality comes at a price, so don’t expect to manufacturer-on-demand at a craft fair, it’s too slow. This isn’t Dobot’s fault, it’s physics. There’s only so fast a laser or CNC can move before the quality is all but lost. If you can wait, the Mooz will deliver designs of the highest quality.

Thanks to Dobot, we’re giving away our review model. All you have to do is enter our giveaway contest!

Enter the Competition!

Dobot MOOZ: 3D Printer, Laser Engraver and CNC All-in-One Giveaway

Read the full article: Cut, Burn, and Melt All the Things With This Insane Dobot Mooz Machine (Giveaway!)

Forget Philips Ambilight: iHoment Retrofit TV Backlight Does The Job For $60

Our verdict of the MINGER iHoment LED TV Smart Lights:Cost-effective, relatively easy to install and retrofit to any TV. iHoment is the perfect immersive addition to entertainment setup.910If you’re looking to set the mood in your entertainment areas, ambient lighting is one of the best ways of accomplishing this. There are a plethora of LED strips available online and at the high end we have systems like Philips Hue and the innovative Nano Leaf. But ambient lighting can also be used to increase levels of immersion by syncing with what’s happening on your screen. Achieving this can prove to be…

Read the full article: Forget Philips Ambilight: iHoment Retrofit TV Backlight Does The Job For $60

Our verdict of the MINGER iHoment LED TV Smart Lights:
Cost-effective, relatively easy to install and retrofit to any TV. iHoment is the perfect immersive addition to entertainment setup.
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If you’re looking to set the mood in your entertainment areas, ambient lighting is one of the best ways of accomplishing this. There are a plethora of LED strips available online and at the high end we have systems like Philips Hue and the innovative Nano Leaf.

But ambient lighting can also be used to increase levels of immersion by syncing with what’s happening on your screen. Achieving this can prove to be challenging for a number of reasons. Has the MINGER iHoment kit solved these problems in a cost-effective and easy way? Let’s find out – and at the end of this review, you can enter our competition to win a kit for yourself!

Specifications

  • Small SKU size: 6.23ft of LEDs for 40″-55″ TVs
  • Large SKU size: 7.22ft of LEDs for 46″-60″ TVs
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth
  • App Support: iOS and Android
  • Video Source: Anything displayed on the TV

What is an Ambilight?

Ambilight is a trademark for the immersive lighting technology that Philips launched in 2004, with lighting on the rear of the TV that reflected on-screen content. To date, they’re the only manufacturers to build this technology into the TV itself. Unfortunately, the TVs aren’t sold in the US any more. Various attempts have been made to retrofit this functionality to other TVs, but have been unsuccessful due to cost, complexity, or limitations.

Our own ambilight DIY project required a Windows PC to playback the content and capture the image, but you can do the same with a Raspberry Pi and HDMI capture device for any input source:

For a ready-made kit, there’s LightBerry, but it costs upwards of $300.

iHoment have an innovative solution that keeps the cost and complexity low: it mounts a camera on top of your TV.

Getting Started

Packaged in the box are the LED strip, the controller, a camera, four electrostatic stickers and a tape measure.

The LED strip is made up of three pieces. One vertical side with a USB connector, followed by the horizontal longer piece, and finally the last vertical piece. Each side is connected via a flexible cable making it easy when it comes to installation.

The first step would be to clean the back and top side of your TV and be sure to remove any dust that may have settled. Ideally, you want to place the TV face down on a soft towel, or if you’re extra lazy like me install it in place and get a friend to help out.

Installation

The orientation of how you install the strips is very important. If you’re looking at the rear side of the TV, ensure the vertical strip with the USB connector is going to be applied on the right-hand side. It may be a good idea to do a test fit without removing any adhesive tape to get an idea of where you’re going to be sticking the strips.

Once you’ve got the orientation correct, remove the adhesive tape from the middle piece and press down along the length of the strip. Do the same with the vertical side pieces and let’s move on to the camera.

The camera is going to be installed on the top surface of your TV and needs to be parallel with the ground. Not all TVs are going to be completely flat on the top so you may need to fashion something out of Sugru or play dough in order to install the camera correctly. If your camera doesn’t seem to be parallel the mount can be bent easily to get the perfect fit.

The camera needs to be precisely in the center of your TV. Using the tape measure, and a whiteboard marker, mark the center of your TV on the bezel. You can also mark the camera mount to make lining up the camera and the bezel much easier. Remove the 3M adhesive tape and stick the camera to the top of your TV.

Finally, stick the four electrostatic stickers on the four corners of your TV. Fortunately, being electrostatic they are not going to leave any residue, which again is well thought out on iHoment’s part. Be sure to preserve these stickers in case you need to recalibrate the LED strips.

Calibration

If there are any red items in the periphery or line of sight of the camera, put them out of sight as it can interfere with the calibration. Ensure your TV is powered off and connect the camera and LED strip to the controller box. Finally, hook up the power (to the iHoment controller that is, not your TV). Quickly move away and make sure there’s at least a meter between yourself and the TV to make sure calibration happens correctly.

The LED strip will cycle through a few colors and when it stays solid white calibration is complete. If for any reason this is not the case you need to leave the stickers in place and re-run the calibration from within the app. I had to recalibrate one more time after initialization for the strip to work correctly. It also helps to keep the room lights switched on when calibrating the strips.

Power on your TV, and run a few quick tests to check if all your hard work has paid off. If you have access to YouTube you can search for “Ambilight Test” and have your TV cycle through a few colors and put the strip to the test.

Sit Back and Enjoy

The result is absolutely stunning. Your TV which once was a simple animated picture frame is now a window into another dimension. It almost feels as if the TV is extending beyond its frame into the rest of the room. The iHoment doesn’t feel intrusive but rather adds to the ambiance complimenting every scene.

It’s quite difficult to translate over video or in pictures but it is something you just have to experience. When technology like this comes along some may not see it as necessary but there’s no disputing how impressive it is. But how does it compare with the likes of Philips Ambilight?

Inherently, this is an apples to oranges comparison as Ambilight have their LEDs baked into the TV. Relatively the Ambilight has a few more milliseconds of latency but it’s by no means sluggish. The colors on the Ambilight are also slightly more accurate for some of the colors but I doubt this will be very noticeable in regular usage.

The App

You can find the iHoment app on the App store or the Play store. Make sure your Bluetooth is switched on and fire up the app. Your mobile device will begin searching for the iHoment controller. When you initially pair, you can rename the device, in case you want to pair to multiple controllers.

The app has essentially three modes; music, video, and color. Music activates a microphone in the controller box and the LEDs change based on sounds. Color, as you guessed allows you to statically set the color of the lights. The color picker does seem a little sparse, compared to a color wheel style picker similar to the Philips Hue.

Having an app to control the iHoment is brilliant. Many of the cheaper LED strips are paired with an infrared remote which is less convenient. Not to mention the app can be upgraded to include new features.

Predominantly you will leave the system in dynamic video mode which is where all the magic happens. The iHoment detects if your TV is on or off and switches both on and off with your TV. This is a great feature that means usage is generally a case of set and forget.

Do You Want an Ambilight For Your TV?

iHoment has put in a huge amount of effort with this device an it shows. The fact that you can retrofit it to almost any TV, isn’t dependant on HDMI, and is simple to install compared to a fully DIY solution, makes the iHoment the ultimate accessory to your entertainment system.

There are some areas where they could improve. Such as making the user manual a little easier to follow and the aforementioned color picker. It would also be nice if the transitions between static colors faded into each other. However, this can probably be added as a firmware update to the controller.

The iHoment has good color detection in my experience and exceeded expectations. If you’re looking to take your video or gaming experience into the next level, there just isn’t another system as cost-effective as the iHoment.

Enter the Competition!

iHoment Retrofit TV Backlight Kit

Read the full article: Forget Philips Ambilight: iHoment Retrofit TV Backlight Does The Job For $60

Can The Audeara A-01 Wireless Headphones Help With Old Age Hearing Loss? (Review and Giveaway)

Our verdict of the Audeara A-01 Bluetooth Headphones:Buy it if you demand absolute audio accuracy and are over 30 years old810Sensorineural hearing loss afflicts around 20-million Americans. The $400 Audeara (pronounced as “AUD-EAR-AH”) A-01 headphones fine-tune audio to compensate for hearing loss. But does it work as advertised? And for the same money, can you find a better headphone? Read on to find out. Read on to see what we think of these sound-enhancing Bluetooth headphones, and at the end of the review, we’ve got a pair to giveaway to one lucky reader. My Experience With Hearing Loss and Testing Method Aside…

Read the full article: Can The Audeara A-01 Wireless Headphones Help With Old Age Hearing Loss? (Review and Giveaway)

Our verdict of the Audeara A-01 Bluetooth Headphones:
Buy it if you demand absolute audio accuracy and are over 30 years old
810

Sensorineural hearing loss afflicts around 20-million Americans. The $400 Audeara (pronounced as “AUD-EAR-AH”) A-01 headphones fine-tune audio to compensate for hearing loss. But does it work as advertised?

And for the same money, can you find a better headphone? Read on to find out.

Read on to see what we think of these sound-enhancing Bluetooth headphones, and at the end of the review, we’ve got a pair to giveaway to one lucky reader.

My Experience With Hearing Loss and Testing Method

Aside from being over 30-years old and suffering from normal age-related hearing loss, I “speak” basic sign language with my mother and know a little about cochlear implants, and how audiologists tune hearing aids. But that doesn’t make me an expert; I’m only familiar with hearing loss. And while I’ve reviewed many wearables, this is the first that has the ability to assist those with hearing loss.

My method for testing the A-01 headphones focuses on determining whether they can help with hearing loss. After that, I examine the standard measures of what makes a wireless Bluetooth headphone any good, such as battery life, connectivity range, audio fidelity, warranty analysis, and build quality.

What Is Sensorineural Hearing Loss and Can the Audeara Headphones Help?

Hearing loss occurs unevenly across the spectrum of audible air vibrations, or audio frequencies, that your ears interpret as sound. The causes for hearing loss range from biological to environmental. For example, those with age-related hearing often can’t hear higher frequencies. Work-related hearing loss, on the other hand, can grind away the ability to hear low, medium, or high frequencies. In short, everyone’s hearing loss is different.

Of the different kinds of hearing damage, the most common type is sensorineural hearing loss. It hits music lovers hardest because it distorts how songs sound. That’s where the A-01 headphones come in. Because everyone’s hearing loss tends to be slightly different, a headphone that can customize the listening experience to each’s user’s needs makes sense. It works on the same basis as a hearing aid, except it doesn’t require a trained professional to tune it.

The A-01 is the first consumer device, to my knowledge, that brings pro-level sound tuning to the consumer level.

What’s Inside the Box?

Along with the headphones, there is an instruction manual, micro USB charging cable, 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable, 3.5mm-to-1/4″ adapter, a dual 3.5mm to single 3.5mm stereo adapter, and a carrying case.

Other than the lack of a USB-C adapter, nothing of importance has been left out.

Audeara A-01 Build Quality and Feel

The A-01’s build quality is solid and rugged. They’re lightweight, thanks to a combination metal and plastic. While lighter materials generally are desirable, having less material usually means weaker passive noise-canceling abilities.

The exact weight of the A-01 headphones is approximately 235 grams. That’s 10.42% lighter than the 274 gram Sony WH-1000XM2 headphones. If weight is what you’re looking for, though, wireless earbuds (our pick of the best wireless earbuds) might be in your future.

In overall build quality, the A-01 ranks high, although it’s not on par with some of the more expensive devices on the market. Compared to its closest competitors, like the Sony’s XM2 headphones, the A-01s come out ahead. The XM2 creaks when manipulated thanks to its mostly plastic construction. And it uses plastic around its joints. The A-01, on the other hand, uses aluminum for its moving parts and plastic in its immobile components. The result is a headphone that doesn’t squeak when adjusted.

The adjustable, swiveling earcups are attached to an aluminum fork, which has visible screws. While visible screws won’t impress anyone obsessed with aesthetics, they make for easy repairs and a longer service life. Unfortunately, I cannot tell from looking at the exterior whether or not the battery can be replaced. I reached out to Audeara’s customer service and am still waiting for a reply.

On another note, the Audeara A-01’s battery shouldn’t decay (why batteries break) very rapidly. In general, small-capacity lithium-ion batteries that receive regular charge-discharge cycles suffer from shorter life expectancies (how to manage your battery). Fortunately, the A01 headphones pack in a whopping 1,000mAh battery that needs less frequent charging, particularly if you use it in wired mode with the customized sound profile turned on.

A Quick Overview of the Audeara A-01 Headphones

On the surface, the Audeara headphones are simple and easy to use. On the right earcup, there’s a noise-canceling switch, which functions independently of the headphone’s power status. Also on the right cup, there’s a microUSB charging port.

 

On the left earcup, there is a power switch, 3.5mm jack, and three buttons: volume up, volume down, and a middle multifunctional button. The multifunction button also handles answering calls, pausing music, and Bluetooth pairing.

 

Like most Bluetooth headphones, turning on the power switch enables wireless connectivity. Unlike other devices, turning the power switch on also enables Audeara’s secret weapon: a listening experience that’s customized to meet the individual preferences of each user.

You first need to configure the headphones through a mobile app, though.

How Do You Use the Audera A-01 Headphones?

Audeara created an app that handles the hearing test for Android and iOS. The app requires iOS 9.3 and newer for Apple smart devices or Android 4.0.3 and newer.

Download: Audeara for Android | iOS

Calibrating the Audeara A-01 Headphones Using the App

In order to pair your smartphone with the Audeara headphones, you must first install the application. Then you need to launch the app and initiate the setup process. The setup process should pair the two devices together.

However, I’ve found that not all Android devices will pair right away. On some devices, I had to initiate the setup process multiple times before it finally connected the headphones with the mobile devices. Overall, though, despite some hiccups, every device I tested on successfully connected to the Audeara A-01 headphones.

The Audeara Hearing Test

It works like this: first, find an area that’s completely silent. Then run the hearing test from the app. The Audeara app will play a series of repeating beeping frequencies. At each frequency step, you press one of three buttons: Can’t Hear, Can Hear, or Barely Audible.

If you hear nothing, press the Can’t Hear button and the volume on the beep will increase. Continuing pressing the Can’t Hear button until you can hear the beep, then tap the Can Hear button. Continue pressing the Can Hear button until the sound becomes inaudible. Once you’ve reached the tipping point where you barely perceive the noise, press Barely Audible. Pressing Barely Audible moves to a new frequency. Repeat the process until you’ve reached the end of the test.

There are three basic test types: Quick, Standard, and Ultimate. I opted to perform the “10-minute Ultimate” hearing test (which took more like 20-minutes to complete). Once the hearing test is completed, you can choose to apply anywhere from 0% to 100% of the frequency tuning to your headphones.

I found that 100% tuning had the biggest impact on higher pitched songs. The 50% setting, recommended by Audeara, allows for songs to sound less alien and more familiar. Though, in all honesty, the 50% setting seemed to have little impact on the way songs sounded. I can’t help but feel that the 100% setting is the way to go because it is a truer audio experience.

Yanny or Laurel Test

A quick summary of what the Yanny versus Laurel test is: Older ears lose their ability to hear higher pitched sounds, regardless of the volume intensity.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Yanny or Laurel Test, check out this YouTube video that explains the mystery behind the debate:

In short, those with age-related hearing loss hear “Laurel”. If you’re younger, you’ll probably hear “Yanny”.

Using desktop speakers, the test clearly sounds like “Laurel”. Using the WH-1000XM2 headphones, the sound is also very clearly “Laurel”.

I ran the test multiple times with the A-01’s tuning turned up to 100% and heard—very distinctly—the word “Laurel”.

Does that mean the headphones don’t work? Not at all. It does mean, though, that it’s likely my ears have completely lost the ability to hear higher frequencies. It also means that the A-01 will not help those with very significant hearing loss.

Results: Do the Audeara A-01 Help with Hearing Loss?

According to Audeara’s hearing test, I can’t hear any frequency above 16KHz. A healthy human teenager should be able to perceive all frequencies up to 20KHz. That I can’t hear anything at and above 16KHz is perfectly normal, though it’s still a sign of hearing loss. Unfortunately, even audio tuning can’t help once you completely lose the ability to hear a particular frequency.

The Audeara A-01 works as advertised. There are musical instruments that aren’t perceptible using other headphones that I could hear using the A-01. However, keep in mind that for the highest frequencies ranging from 16KHz to 20KHz, you won’t hear anything at all, even with sound amplification, unless you’re under 30 years old.

The A-01’s main advantage is that it amplifies frequencies that you’re starting to lose. For most people, that means that the higher frequencies receive a boost, customized to fit your individual hearing loss needs. For others with a decline in the ability to perceive lower frequencies, the same is also true. But the Audeara headphones aren’t a solution for complete hearing loss.

To make sure that the headphones aren’t just boosting all frequencies, I set up several completely fake audio tuning profiles and listened to several songs. The intentionally misconfigured tuning profile had one ear set to only hear high frequencies and the other set to only hear low frequencies.

And indeed, the Audeara works exactly as promised. The left earcup emits bass-heavy sounds whereas higher pitched sounds emit from the right earcup. So we know conclusively that the headphones do in fact tune specific frequencies according to the user’s individual needs, and isn’t just snake oil.

Audeara A-01 Battery Life

As far as battery life goes, the Audeara advertises three battery statistics, depending on which functions it uses.

The Audeara A-01 sports a massive (for headphones) 1,000mAh battery. It has three advertised battery lives:

  1. 65 hours with active noise cancellation turned on, and plugged in through a 3.5mm cable
  2. 35 hours with active noise cancellation turned on, audio tuning enabled, and connected over Bluetooth
  3. 45 hours with audio tuning turned on and connected over Bluetooth (no noise cancellation)

It’s worth noting that Audeara’s official numbers are based on an 80% volume level. A dirty trick that many manufacturers play on us is that they overpromise on battery life—usually by using volume levels that are almost completely inaudible. Audeara is the first company that I’ve reviewed that uses real-world battery life estimates. They actually use an extremely conservative estimate.

I tested the most battery-intensive mode, with active noise canceling and audio tuning enabled, while connected over Bluetooth. My test platform is a Windows 10 computer with an Intel 7260 802.11ac wireless adapter, which has Bluetooth 4.0. I set a music file to play on continuous loop test at approximately 1.5 meters from the Bluetooth antenna. Audeara’s volume level is much higher than what I consider to be a comfortable volume level so I reduced the volume to 33%.

I checked to see whether the battery had expired every hour, so my battery estimate has a potential error as high as 59 minutes.

The total playtime came out to around 51 hours and 11 minutes, which is the best battery life I’ve ever seen on a wireless headphone.

Audeara A-01 Portability

The Audeara A-01 isn’t foldable, unlike a few other higher end headphones. On the other hand, their lightweight and durable construction should allow for greater resilience to drops and other mishaps on the road.

Regarding comfort, the headphones rank above Sony’s models—mostly owing to its light weight.

They’re headband expands, so even those with large heads, like me, can adjust them to fit perfectly. And they don’t hurt my head, even after a long usage session, owing mostly to its lightweight construction and padded lining along its interior surfaces.

Warranty Policy and Customer Service

The A-01 headphones come with a standard one-year warranty along with solid customer service. The headphones also include a 60-day return period where, if you aren’t satisfied, you can return the unit for your money back.

I contacted Audeara’s customer support with a bogus support question. While they didn’t respond to the first request, they did respond to the second. I can only surmise that the first request was dropped either by accident or through a glitch because they responded to the second request very rapidly and with the appropriate support response.

Audeara A-01 Headphones Weaknesses

The Audeara headphones aren’t the be-all and end-all of headphones. They come up short in three ways: first, their Bluetooth connection range is a little short. Second, they have weak noise-canceling. Third, the A-01 headphones should have had Bluetooth 5.0.

Limited Bluetooth Range

Compared to the Sony WH-1000XM2, the Audeara A-01 offers about half the range and wall penetration. The audio quality becomes choppy at around five meters distance, with a plaster wall between, from the Bluetooth antenna.

Weak wireless connectivity is a common audio issue on Bluetooth headphones (what is Bluetooth?). However, in the $400 price range, you should expect a greater degree of quality.

I’m not sure why the Audeara A-01 suffers from poor Bluetooth range. It could have to do with the significant amounts of aluminum used in its construction. Metal, in general, blocks wireless frequencies. The better a metal conducts electricity, the stronger its blocking effect. Aluminum is among the best electrical conductors, which makes it a significant blocker of radio frequencies.

Weak Noise Canceling

The majority of a headphone’s noise-canceling ability comes from passive noise blocking. In other words, the reduction in external sound comes from its physical ability to block out external sound. Passive noise canceling (or noise isolation) comes from thicker construction, heavier weight, and the earcup design. Active noise-canceling, on the other hand, reduces how your ear perceives ambient sound originating from outside of your headphones. (How noise canceling works.)

The Audeara A-01 headphones also suffer from a bug in its ANC. I heard a very faint and regular clicking when not playing any audio (with ANC turned on). I’ve heard similar audio distortion before on low-cost headphones with active noise canceling. This defect is not significant by any means—however, this isn’t something you’d expect on a nearly $400 device.

Keep in mind that the A-01 isn’t primarily a noise-canceling headphone. The intended audience of the A-01 are those who value audio fidelity. Because ANC slightly reduces audio quality, they’re not desirable on a device that focuses on audio quality. If you are looking for noise-canceling headphones, the best options are either the Sony WH-1000XM2 or the Bose QuietComfort 35 II or their wired equivalents. (Our list of the best noise-canceling headphones and earphones.)

Compared to the XM2’s noise canceling, the Audeara A-01 comes up flat. However, that’s a tough bar for comparison. The XM2 offers perhaps the strongest degree of noise canceling out of all headphones on the market. The A-01’s ANC, on the other hand, is about equal to a $100 headphone.

The Audeara A-01 Should Have Had Bluetooth 5.0

The most serious issue with a wireless Bluetooth connection is a loss of audio fidelity. Bluetooth standards older than version 5.0 suffer from a technical limitation; there is a measurable level of audio quality loss in wirelessly transmitted audio streams.

Unfortunately, the Audeara A-01 headphones come with Bluetooth 4.2, which is the previous generation of Bluetooth. Normally, I wouldn’t point this out because almost all major headphone manufacturers haven’t yet implemented Bluetooth 5.0 in their headphones. For example, the Sony WH-1000XM2 comes with the obsolete standard Bluetooth 4.1. However, you would just assume that a headphone dedicated to audio fidelity would use a lossless wireless standard like Bluetooth 5.0. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Audeara has an excuse, though. Bluetooth 5.0 was announced in December of 2016 and there almost certainly wasn’t enough time for Audeara to adopt the technology in time for its first prototype unit, which came out in January of 2016 (according to its Kickstarter page). So while Bluetooth 5.0 would have been an amazing addition, it probably wasn’t feasible. But there’s hope for an Audeara A-02.

More or less, if you want absolute audio accuracy, you’re going to be using these with a 3.5mm audio jack.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good

  • Top-of-class audio accuracy
  • Lightweight and comfortable design
  • At 33% volume, approximately 51+ hours of battery life near the Bluetooth antenna
  • Noise-canceling runs independently of its Bluetooth connection

The Bad

  • Average Bluetooth connectivity range
  • Weak active noise canceling
  • No Windows, Linux, or ChromeOS tuning application
  • Bluetooth pairing process won’t work seamlessly for all devices

The Ugly

  • Should have had Bluetooth 5.0

Should You Buy the Audeara A-01 Bluetooth Headphones?

I normally wouldn’t recommend an MSRP ~$400 headphone with any shortcomings to anyone. The A-01 makes me break that rule. But they’re not for just anyone. Audeara’s headphones cater to two very specific groups: audiophiles with some degree of hearing loss, or audio professionals who need absolute accuracy in discriminating between different kinds of sound—think of musicians, audio engineers, and producers.

Overall, the headphones compromise on a lot of non-essential features, like noise-canceling, but absolutely nail it in the one category that matters: audio fidelity. Because the A-01 is a unique product with no competitors in its specific niche, I have no choice but to recommend them. However, thanks to a recent law, “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act of 2017“, over-the-counter hearing aids are now less regulated, which may open the floodgates to devices with similar functionality as the Audeara A-01 headphones. I’ve heard of a few crowdfunded projects that may provide competition in 2019 and beyond.

Enter the Competition!

Audeara A-10 Hearing Loss Headphones

Read the full article: Can The Audeara A-01 Wireless Headphones Help With Old Age Hearing Loss? (Review and Giveaway)

Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money

Our verdict of the Blackview BV5800 Pro:Blackview’s BV5800 Pro builds on their past successes, creating a rugged phone that is both durable and desirable at an incredibly affordable price. 810Modern electronics are quite fragile; none more so than your smartphone. The irony is that we tend to have our smartphone with us in all conditions—while working, outdoors exercising, or just out in the rain. These often expensive gadgets have a habit of breaking or getting damaged in any number of situations. We buy screen protectors and pricey cases to protect them, but even they don’t always prevent the almost inevitable…

Read the full article: Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money

Our verdict of the Blackview BV5800 Pro:
Blackview's BV5800 Pro builds on their past successes, creating a rugged phone that is both durable and desirable at an incredibly affordable price.
810

Modern electronics are quite fragile; none more so than your smartphone. The irony is that we tend to have our smartphone with us in all conditions—while working, outdoors exercising, or just out in the rain. These often expensive gadgets have a habit of breaking or getting damaged in any number of situations.

We buy screen protectors and pricey cases to protect them, but even they don’t always prevent the almost inevitable cracked screen. Could a rugged device like the Blackview BV5800 Pro be the answer, achieving a balance between performance and durability?

Specifications

  • Operating System: Android 8.1
  • CPU: MT6739 Quad Core
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB internal, expandable
  • Battery: 5580mAh
  • Display: 5.5 inches, 1440×720, Gorilla Glass 3
  • Dimensions: 6.18 x 3.09 x 0.61 inches
  • Front Camera: 8 MP
  • Rear Camera: 13.3 MP
  • Network:
    • 2G: GSM – 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
    • 3G: WCDMA – 850/900/2100 MHz
    • 4G: FDD – B1/3/7/8/20/40
  • Features: NFC, Wireless Charging, IP68 Rating, Fingerprint Reader, Dual SIM support
  • Price: $149.99

Design

As the BV5800 Pro is a rugged device, it won’t come as a surprise that it is quite bulky. It weighs a fairly hefty 250g, compared to the iPhone X’s 174g. The BV5800 Pro is also twice as thick as the iPhone X—0.61 inches versus 0.3 inches.

At first, it seemed awkwardly large, but then I’m used to the relatively svelt Google Pixel. The phone felt uncomfortable in my pocket, but the main takeaway is that it did fit. Like the Pixel, you can find the BV5800 Pro’s fingerprint reader on the rear of the device, just below the camera.

The device is mostly covered in a rubberized plastic, with two metal plates along the side, and one on the rear around the camera and fingerprint reader. The two plates on the side are home to the BV5800 Pro’s hardware buttons; power on the right, volume and customizable SOS buttons on the left.

Although the phone looks like a rugged brick, opening the charging and headphone flaps proves otherwise. Underneath the external casing, is a smartphone like any other but without the outer finish. These flaps are vital as they help the phone to achieve it’s IP68 waterproof and dust-proof rating.

The 5.5-inch screen is protected by Gorilla Glass 3, which sounds exciting, but is actually rather pedestrian. Gorilla Glass 3 was first introduced at CES 2013, and Gorilla Glass products can be found on over five billion devices worldwide.

The design of the BV5800 Pro is unlikely to inspire the kind of enthusiasm often felt for Apple’s devices. However, it isn’t wholly unattractive either. The colored accents add a little flair.

Features

One of the BV5800 Pro’s most notable features is that it runs Android 8.1 Oreo. Budget smartphones often run versions of Android that are at least a year or two out of date. To find the most current iteration of Google’s operating system here is a welcome surprise.

And it isn’t the only one. The phone comes with support for wireless charging and quick charge. It has in-built NFC which means you can use it for contactless payments. The fingerprint reader is a fairly standard feature in 2018, but its inclusion on such an affordable phone is an oddity.

The BV5800 Pro supports 2G, 3G, and even 4G networks. There is even Dual SIM support, with the SIM tray accessible on the right-hand metal plate. The second SIM slot also doubles as the tray for expandable storage. However, this does mean that you have to choose between expandable storage and a second SIM card.

Performance & Battery Life

If you are considering purchasing a rugged phone like the BV5800 Pro, then performance is probably not high on your priority list. The $150 price-tag may also make you doubt how good the device could realistically be.

The BV5800 Pro uses an entry-level CPU and has just 2GB of RAM. Intensive tasks like photo and video editing and many games stutter and occasionally crash. It’s clear that this is not a flagship device. Given those specifications, you’d expect the phone to handle multitasking poorly, but that isn’t the case.

Android 8.1 is the best iteration of Android for multitasking performance and battery life. If the BV5800 Pro ran an older version of Android, it might have been unusable. However, it breezed through almost all day-to-day tasks like checking emails, social media, and taking photos.

The sizable 5580mAh battery is a significant strength. For comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 comes equipped with a 3000mAh battery. The large capacity battery means that, depending on usage, you can expect the device to last up to a week on a single charge. Playing a YouTube video at full brightness and full volume saw the BV5800 Pro last almost nine hours.

Durability

The main selling point of the BV5800 Pro is its rugged design. While its reasonable performance as a smartphone is a bonus, the durability of the phone is what’s important. The two key features here are the phone’s IP68 rating and durable outer shell.

Water & Dust Proofing

The BV5800 Pro achieved IP68 rating, which means that it is completely protected against dust and is waterproof for depths of over one meter. Blackview’s specifications claim that it is waterproof at 1.5 meters for up to two hours.

Blackview BV5800 Pro Water Test

After testing the device, there was no indication that this wasn’t the case. The phone survived multiple submersions and contact with running water. There seemed to be no lasting damage or performance issues. The only observation was that under running water with the screen unlocked, the water would interact with the screen as if you were touching it.

Blackview BV5800 Pro Dust Test

Dust resistance is more of a long-term concern; however, we did subject the phone to incredibly dry soil and dirt. As promised, the device was entirely dust free after a quick wipe down.

Damage Resistance

Waterproofing is an increasingly common smartphone feature. So while its a huge benefit for the BV5800 Pro, the phone’s most distinguishing feature is its ability to withstand damage. The tough outer shell is designed to protect the delicate electronics underneath.

While reviewing the phone, I inadvertently gave it a quick test after accidentally dropping it as I carried it around the back garden. Aside from a few minor scuff marks around the corners of the case, there was no noticeable damage. Contrast this with the Google Pixel, who’s screen shattered after it fell about 20cm onto the same surface.

Knowing it could survive day-to-day accidents, it was time to move on to more challenging tests. Stationed about five meters above ground in the top floor, I dropped the phone onto the concrete in the back garden. Unfortunately, this led to the premature end of the damage testing. The phone landed on the upper right corner, and the impact sent spider cracks all across the screen.

This shouldn’t necessarily count against the BV5800 Pro. The corner of a device is naturally one of its weakest points. As the impact surface area was minimal, the force was concentrated in that area. If it had landed on its front or back, the outcome might have been different.

The important thing to note from this test was that the phone did still work. A simple screen repair would get the phone back in action. However, as many screen repairs often cost upwards of $100, this may not be economical.

Should You Buy The Blackview BV5800 Pro?

Rugged devices aren’t for everyone. They trade modern design for practicality and function. For the most part, they are niche devices for those of us with a higher risk of damaging our gadgets.

The Blackview BV5800 Pro, however, makes a compelling case that rugged phones could be mainstream devices. Mediocre internal specifications aside, the phone checks almost every desirable box.

The phone has 4G and Dual SIM support alongside wireless and quick charging. There is a 13.3 MP camera and fingerprint reader on the rear of the device. It runs the latest version of Android and isn’t crammed full of bloatware. The gigantic 5580 mAh battery means the phone will last for days. It’s even water and dust proof.

To get all of that for just $150 is, frankly, incredible.

Enter the Competition!

Blackview BV5800 Pro Rugged Smartphone Giveaway

Read the full article: Blackview BV5800 Pro: Rugged, Affordable, and Great Value For Money

Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better

Our verdict of the Yi Smartphone Gimbal:Makes silky smooth smartphone video accessible to all, but the offering is a bit barebones with no case included. If you can find it on sale for under $100, it’s a good entry point, but spend a little more and there are more feature packed devices on offer.710The quality of smartphone videography has exploded in recent years, with the latest handsets able to record 4K video, in HDR or 60 frames per second. Unfortunately, our pathetic shakey human hands haven’t improved at nearly the same pace. While smartphones make some attempt at stabilizing your…

Read the full article: Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better

Our verdict of the Yi Smartphone Gimbal:
Makes silky smooth smartphone video accessible to all, but the offering is a bit barebones with no case included. If you can find it on sale for under $100, it's a good entry point, but spend a little more and there are more feature packed devices on offer.
710

The quality of smartphone videography has exploded in recent years, with the latest handsets able to record 4K video, in HDR or 60 frames per second. Unfortunately, our pathetic shakey human hands haven’t improved at nearly the same pace. While smartphones make some attempt at stabilizing your footage in software, nothing beats a hardware gimbal.

Yi Technology–reknowned for their Yi4K+ GoPro killer and superb quality budget dash cams–have turned their attention to the gimbal market. Today we’re taking a look at the Yi 3-axis Smartphone Gimbal, available now. And at the end of this review, we’re giving one away to one lucky reader. Read on to find out how to enter the competition.

What is a Gimbal?

Looking a little like a selfie stick, a handheld gimbal is actually a complex bit of machinery with fast acting motors and a gyroscope sensor. When you move the gimbal, the gyroscope senses the movement, and the motors move to cancel out the motion by moving in the opposite direction. In this way, the camera appears to remain static.

That’s the gist of it anyway, but there’s also different modes of operation that we’ll talk about later. It’s important to remember that a basic 3-axis gimbal can only stabilize rotational movement around an axis (twisting and spinning motions), not positional movement. So if you jump up and down, you’ll still see that reflected in the video. There are limits to how much a gimbal can stabilize for you, but essentially it’s going to somewhat improve everything you shoot.

Design and Specs of The Yi 3-Axis Gimbal

YI Phone Gimbal 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer with APP Control, Smart Track, 360 Degree Pan for iPhone, Android Smartphones - Black YI Phone Gimbal 3-Axis Handheld Stabilizer with APP Control, Smart Track, 360 Degree Pan for iPhone, Android Smartphones - Black Buy Now At Amazon

In the box you’ll find:

  • The gimbal itself
  • Micro-USB cable for charging

Hardly worth formatting that as a list, was it? Notably, there’s no case included. Although the box it comes in has some nice foam padding you could carry it around it, once you’ve fitted the device to your phone, it won’t fit back into the box. You can find a generic gimbal case on Amazon for around $15, but it’s an added expense.

Here’s some other big number you might be interested in:

  • 360° pan (5-120°/s), 320° tilt (3-70°/s), and 320° roll
  • 1,700mAh total battery for around 8 hours usage (claimed)
  • Standard tripod mount
  • Bluetooth LE 4.0
  • Micro-USB port

Once paired with your smartphone, you’ll be able to use the shutter button to start/stop recording or take a photo in any camera app.

There are three buttons on the device, for Power, Mode, and Shutter; plus a flat joystick to manually control angle.

The 3.5cm diameter, 18cm long stick makes up the grip of the device, though it’s a basic matt black ABS plastic with no particular grip texture. It does the job but in the most barebones way. On top sits the 3-axis stabilizer structure, housing three motors and a phone cradle. In total, it weighs 420g, or just under 15oz. The cradle should accommodate any phone from 54-86mm (2.1-3.4″) in width, which includes the “plus” size models (though you may need to remove a chunky case for those).

That said, a good fit depends a lot on your phone model. While my iPhone X worked great, the Sony Xperia XZ2 fared less well. With the power button situated just where the cradle clamps down on the phone, it was unusable when pushed flush to the end. I had to shift it a little more off-balance than it should be. On top of that, the camera sensor is closer to the center of the device, and would often capture the gimbal in the frame. So, it fits some phones better than others, and your experience may vary.

Yi claims 8 hours of battery life, but in my testing I only got about half of that. It’s not bad, but you’ll get longer life with smaller phones due to less weight needing to be counteracted.

Stabilizer Modes

The Yi Gimbal has three modes, accessed by a single tap on the mode button.

The first is Pan mode. Here, both the tilt and roll are locked in place, while the pan (left and right) smoothly follows the motion of the stick. This is the easiest to get your head around if you’ve not used a gimbal before, and that’s probably why it’s the default when you turn the device on. It’s great for filming things that remain at a relatively static height to the camera, like people. The joystick controls the tilt in this mode, so you can set the angle if your subject is higher or lower.

The second is Lock mode. In this mode, everything is locked forward (or wherever you set it with the joystick). I found this to be the most difficult to use effectively.

It’s a bit difficult to convey the effect of a gimbal stablizer in words. If you haven’t already, watch the review video at the top of the article for a sample of shots and mode explanations.

The last mode is Pan and Tilt (often called Follow mode by other manufacturers). In this mode, roll is locked (although you can still roll your phone with the joystick if you want), but both pan and tilt motions follow your movement in a smooth manner. This mode gives you the most creative control over the shot, so you can perform smooth sweeping dynamic shots.

Yi Gimbal App

Though not strictly necessary to use the stabilizer, you probably want to download the Yi Gimbal app. This pairs with the device and unlocks a couple of additional features, the most significant of which is SmartTrack mode.

SmartTrack allows you to choose a subject, then have the gimbal attempt to keep that subject roughly in the center of the shot. You can use this when it’s mounted on a tripod, or handheld.

It works reasonably well for clearly defined objects, but on iOS I found the object selection to be buggy. I tried capturing my dog doing zoomies around the garden, and it just couldn’t keep up. Even with a slow moving subject like a person, if they turn around the tracking is often lost. It could be useful to follow the action of a moving subject like a skateboarder or car chase, but I’m not sure it’s reliable enough for that. Rather than risk it losing the object, it might be best to just use standard modes and rely on your own abilities.

The most frustrating thing about the app (at least on iOS) is that all the shots are saved to a separate library, and you need to individual save each one to the Camera Roll if you want to keep it. If you’ve taken a number of clips, this is frustratingly tedious to say the least. It would be tolerable if the app allowed you to use a Select All feature, but no, that’s only for deleting them.

To save a video, you need to navigate to the app library, find the clip, click on it, click export, confirm, then go back to the list and pick another clip.

Then there’s the disparity with native phone recording capabilities. The iPhone X can record 4K at 60FPS, while the app only offers a cropped 4K at 30FPS. On the Sony Xperia XZ2, which can record superb 4K HDR videos, there isn’t the option of 4K resolution at all.

You could of course get around this by using the native smartphone Camera app to record all your clips, but then you lose on the fly access to gimbal settings and the ability to track objects. Since it’s almost always a good idea to record in the highest resolution and frame rate possible–even if your final project output is going to be of lower quality–I found myself using the native Camera outside of testing specific features.

Should You Buy the Yi Gimbal?

Yi has a habit of entering a market and undercutting all their competitors with a product that doesn’t compromise on quality. In this case, they’ve missed the mark a little on both accounts. The Yi Smartphone Gimbal is not particularly cheaper than other products on the market, yet offers less features and accessories. The buggy Yi Gimbal app isn’t helping, either.

It’s not a terrible device by any means: it works, and you can get beautifully smooth footage. But it’s difficult to recommend when there are just better products out there, for the same price or not much more. The Zhiyun Smooth 4, for instance, features a focus pull dial as well as a carry case and mini tripod. The DJI Osmo Mobile 2, similarly specced, at around $20 more.

If you find the Yi Smartphone Gimbal on sale for $80-90 and you’re on a particular tight budget, pick it up. At that price, it’s a great entry point. A gimbal stabilizer is something anyone who takes smartphone videos will benefit from immensely, regardless of what their skill level is. It’s a cheat code to cinematic smooth video.

Read the full article: Yi Smartphone Gimbal: Silky Smooth Footage, But Could Be Better

OUTXE Savage 2000mAh Rugged Portable Battery Review

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Rugged Power Bank

Our verdict of the OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank:If you’re looking for a tough battery and you don’t mind the weight, the Savage will do the trick. Keep in mind there are tougher models with the full IP68 rating on the market though.710There’s no shortage of portable rechargeable batteries on the market. Manufacturers have started adding new features in a bid to make their lumps of lithium stand out from the rest. One such manufacturer is OUTXE, who have produced a rugged dust and water resistant battery with dual inputs and outputs. In addition to offering quick charging, it’s got…

Read the full article: OUTXE Savage 2000mAh Rugged Portable Battery Review

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Rugged Power Bank
Our verdict of the OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank:
If you're looking for a tough battery and you don't mind the weight, the Savage will do the trick. Keep in mind there are tougher models with the full IP68 rating on the market though.
710

There’s no shortage of portable rechargeable batteries on the market. Manufacturers have started adding new features in a bid to make their lumps of lithium stand out from the rest.

One such manufacturer is OUTXE, who have produced a rugged dust and water resistant battery with dual inputs and outputs. In addition to offering quick charging, it’s got a flashlight and a solar panel to help you out in emergencies.

OUTXE Quick Charge 20000mAh Waterproof Power Bank with Flashlight 4A Dual Input Rugged Portable Charger OUTXE Quick Charge 20000mAh Waterproof Power Bank with Flashlight 4A Dual Input Rugged Portable Charger Buy Now At Amazon $47.99

At just over $50, is this the high capacity rugged battery you’ve been looking for? Read on to find out, and at the end of this review, we’re giving one away to one lucky reader.

I’ve Got the Power

There’s only so much to be said about rechargeable battery. This particular portable power pack will charge two devices at the same time, with its two outputs being:

  • Output 1: USB Type-A delivering 5V/3A, 9V/2A, and 12V/1.5A.
  • Output 2: USB Type-A delivering 5V/2.4A

There are also two inputs, which you can use at the same time to charge the battery twice as fast. This is a neat feature, with the cables you need included in the box, but no wall adapter. Separately these two inputs offer:

  • Input 1: Micro USB accepting 5V/2A.
  • Input 2: USB-C accepting 5V/3A.

Depending on how you charge the device, your charge time varies. The fastest charging method, using both inputs, takes around seven hours. If you go the USB-C route you can expect a full charge to take around 11 hours. The weaker micro USB port brings a full charge up to 13 hours.

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank

Note that you can’t use the 5V/3A input to charge from older computer USB ports. I experienced this on my mid-2012 MacBook Pro, and macOS gave me an error explaining that a device was using too much power. The other input worked fine, though charging via a low powered USB ports takes forever.

There’s a solar panel on top of the device, offering a 2W converter with a full charge quoted at around 75 hours. Of course, you’re not meant to rely on the solar charger and manufacturers recommend topping up from mains power before you head outside.

It’s a nice feature to have in a pinch, and passively charging all day will help keep the battery topped up. The solar panel is always active, whenever enough light is detected. There’s a red LED that lights up to let you know you’re topping up.

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank

In the box you’ll also get a USB-A to USB-C cable, and a micro USB to USB Type-A cable. These are likely limited to 5V/3A maximum, as per the specified power draw. That means these cables won’t double up as fast chargers.

OUTXE stress that their batteries include protection agains over charging, over discharging, overheating, and short circuiting. There’s also a built in “self protection mode” which causes all indicators to flash, letting you know you need to charge the battery as soon as possible to avoid damage.

Assault and Battery

OUTXE stands for Outdoor Extreme. The company’s strapline is “Outdoor Extreme Energy” and the box describes the power bank as a “Savage” 20,000mAh rugged power bank. It seems they’re keen to prove a point.

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank

The battery ships with an IP66 water and dust resistant rating. As a result, the device is dust tight, and protected against heavy seas or powerful jets of water. It falls short of the IP67 rating, which allows devices to be submerged entirely.

I tested this by covering the battery with a strong hose, and the water protection seems to have held up just fine. One thing I noticed is that water tends to get stuck in the screw holes, so it’s best to give the battery a good bash against something to get it all out.

While the outer chassis is rubber and plastic, the ports are covered by tough rubber flaps that sit nicely within the battery’s four power ports. They’re quite tight to close, at least on new models, and they need some serious force in order to close and open them.

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank

Only time will tell how long they’ll remain this way, and it’s probably the weakest part of the whole “rugged” construction. As you’d expect, these covers flap around a bit while charging. I’m not sure the rubber holding these flaps to the battery is going to last long, since it’s so thin.

The battery is housed within a 2.5mm thick black plastic outer shell. On the corners are rubber impact protectors. These protectors are plasticky, non-grippy rubber which offers moderate protection for common impact zones. Inside, OUTXE put EVA shock-absorbant pads on the battery.

Despite the tough talk, OUTXE recommend that you “do not knock, drop or puncture the product.” This is par for the course in terms of sensible recommendations from manufacturers, but it seems  slightly odd given the language they’ve used to describe the product and its unique selling point.

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank

A surprisingly useful feature is the flashlight, which offers up to 35 hours of light on a full battery. There are three modes: bright, weak, and an SOS function. It’s a handy feature that will appeal to outdoor enthusiasts, with a bright LED. It could even double as a tent light when hung from the included karabiners.

The Only USB Charging Bank You Need?

At 20,000mAh, OUTXE have produced a high capacity cell that pushes the limits of what you’d want to carry around all day. While the battery might fit in your largest pockets, at 1.16lbs (530g) you won’t want it there for long.

That said, the design is a pleasing one. The battery is narrow enough to comfortably grip in one hand, and that makes the difference when using the flashlight function. It’s not awkward to hold or pick up, and the ridges etched into the front and sides of the outer shell provide a decent amount of grip.

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank

There’s enough juice to charge your smartphone and other devices multiple times. A full charge is enough to refill the iPhone X’s 2,716mAh battery over seven times. For the Pixel 2 XL (3,250mAh) that’s at least five full charges. While the battery will charge the Nintendo Switch in standby mode, you can’t play games and charge at the same time.

This is a serious battery, not designed to top up your smartphone at the end of the day. Rather, it can provide multiple refills from empty. You won’t be carrying it in your pocket. It’ll live in your bag, or strapped to the outside of it.

This is made possible by two fabric loops on the battery chassis, and two karabiners included in the box. You can use these to strap it to a bag, stop it moving around, and make sure the solar panel is properly exposed at all times.

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank

It’s all backed up with an 18-month manufacturer’s warranty, which is a good sign that OUTXE have faith in their own product.

Cannot Stop the Battery

OUTXE have come up with a thoughtful design that’s ideal for longer trips, camping expeditions, and outdoor adventures. It’s ideal for charging your smartphones and tablets, certain cameras and consoles, headphones, bike lights, and other USB-powered gadgets.

OUTXE Quick Charge 20000mAh Waterproof Power Bank with Flashlight 4A Dual Input Rugged Portable Charger OUTXE Quick Charge 20000mAh Waterproof Power Bank with Flashlight 4A Dual Input Rugged Portable Charger Buy Now At Amazon $47.99

Despite being tough, you should probably opt for an IP68 rated power bank if you’re buying purely for rugged use (OUTXE make those too). If the weight and size of this battery doesn’t bother you, you can do much worse at this price point.

OUTXE Savage 20,000mAh Power Bank

The Savage is designed for small devices, rather than large ones. You’ll need to pick a different power bank if you want to charge your USB-C laptop.

Want to win one for yourself? Enter our competition below!

Enter the Competition!

Outxe Savage 2000mAh Rugged Portable Battery Giveaway

Read the full article: OUTXE Savage 2000mAh Rugged Portable Battery Review

TerraMaster Thunderbolt 3 RAID is a Blazingly Fast Way to Store Stuff

Our verdict of the TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt 3:TerraMaster have hit a home run with the D5 Thunderbolt 3. This awesome raid can keep up with the most demanding of workflows, but it will cost you.810TerraMaster’s D5 represents a significant step forward for this Noontec subsidiary. Offering everything missing in previous models, and boasting speeds of up to 1035 MB/S, the D5 is aiming for the professional storage market. Let’s see if this RAID box is worth the $800 price, and don’t forget to enter our giveaway contest at the end of this revieew, where you can win a D5 Thunderbolt…

Read the full article: TerraMaster Thunderbolt 3 RAID is a Blazingly Fast Way to Store Stuff

Our verdict of the TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt 3:
TerraMaster have hit a home run with the D5 Thunderbolt 3. This awesome raid can keep up with the most demanding of workflows, but it will cost you.
810

TerraMaster’s D5 represents a significant step forward for this Noontec subsidiary. Offering everything missing in previous models, and boasting speeds of up to 1035 MB/S, the D5 is aiming for the professional storage market.

Let’s see if this RAID box is worth the $800 price, and don’t forget to enter our giveaway contest at the end of this revieew, where you can win a D5 Thunderbolt 3 RAID system for yourself.

Design and Features

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt 3 Professional-Grade 5-Bay External Hard Drive Enclosure RAID 0/RAID1/RAID5/RAID10/JBOD Hard Disk RAID Storage (Diskless) TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt 3 Professional-Grade 5-Bay External Hard Drive Enclosure RAID 0/RAID1/RAID5/RAID10/JBOD Hard Disk RAID Storage (Diskless) Buy Now At Amazon $799.99

The D5 looks almost identical to the D5-300C, with the addition of a chunky carrying handle on the top. It uses the same TerraMaster drive bays you may know and love, and even uses the same buttons, chassis, and lights.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

That’s where the similarities end. Inside, the D5 is a speed freak. Designed to be the ultimate device in speed, convenience, and reliability, this device is incredible. Here’s the important stuff:

  • 2 x Thunderbolt 3 interfaces
  • 1 x DisplayPort interface
  • Hardware RAID controller
  • Hot spare
  • Online Capacity Expansion (OCE)
  • Email alert
  • Flash cache
  • Staggered drive spin up
  • Automatic RAID rebuild
  • Event log
  • Hot swapping

Now that’s a lot of features! The dual Thunderbolt 3 interfaces allow you to daisy-chain other Thunderbolt devices, while the DisplayPort is able to drive a 4K display such as the BenQ EW3270U. With a maximum capacity of 60TB, you won’t be running out of storage space anytime soon, but if you do, the alternative D8 is an eight-bay variation.

The D4 is a cheaper four-bay version, but we think the D5 represents an excellent balance between capacity and affordability.

If you choose to use mechanical drives instead of SSDs, you can install an optional SSD as a flash cache. This is a great idea and as an excellent way to boost the speed of your array.

Automatic RAID rebuilding, hot swapping, hot standby, and bad sector remapping are all pro features that you may not need right now, but to see features like these on a consumer level device is a welcome change.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

Seeing so many features included in a model from TerraMaster is a welcome change. Previous models have provided good to excellent performance, but have sometimes been lacking in features. If TerraMaster will continue to build upon this solid foundation, they could soon become a household name.

Inside the box, you’ll find the D5 alongside a power supply, mounting screws, tools, stickers, and a 1-meter long Thunderbolt 3 cable rated to20-Gbps. This cable is a strange choice, given that Thunderbolt 3 can run at 40-Gbps. While you’re unlikely to ever saturate a 20-Gbps cable right now, it’s something that has the potential to limit your connection speed in the future.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

It would have been nice to see a full-speed Thunderbolt 3 cable in the box, especially given the price.

If you install SSDs into the D5, you won’t experience any vibrations, and you’ll encounter very little noise. Noise and vibrations do increase with mechanical drives, but the fans do an excellent job at cooling the drives without excess noise, heat, or vibrations.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

A price of $800 is enough to make you think twice about purchasing the D5, especially when it doesn’t include any drives! While this price may seem high, it’s about equal with other Thunderbolt 3 RAIDs. When you look at the speeds the D5 is capable of, along with its huge spec sheet, it almost seems like a bargain.

User Interface

RAID management is carried out through TerraMaster’s Raid Manager Pro software. This can be hard to find on TerraMaster’s sometimes cryptic website, but it generally works well once installed.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

A RAID driver is available alongside Raid Manager Pro. Windows and Mac OS downloads are available, but Linux is not supported. If you’re running Windows, you can run the .exe file, but it’s much more complicated to install on Mac OS.

You don’t need a degree in computer science to run this program on a Mac—but it helps! There’s no installer. Instead, you’ll need run the build script, or execute a series of commands via the Terminal. This is unacceptable for a modern software package and feels like you’re contributing to an Open-Source software package, instead of installing a RAID manager.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

Once you’ve got it installed, RAID configuration is simple. A dated but functional web interface provides several buttons and tabs, with which you can configure, tweak, and adjust settings all you like. While this works well enough once installed, it would be nice to see a polished native app, especially given the premium price tag

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

Speed

The D5 has got it where it counts, and it can deliver on its claimed speeds when writing data and comes pretty close when reading. For our testing, Kingston sent us five of their 480Gb UV500 SSDs. Capable of transferring data at 520 MB/s for reads, and 500 MB/s for writes, and with excellent hardware encryption, and reliability, the UV500 series SSDs are the perfect match for this Thunderbolt RAID.

Kingston UV500 480 GB 2.5" Internal Solid State Drive - SATA Kingston UV500 480 GB 2.5" Internal Solid State Drive - SATA Buy Now At Amazon $106.65

With five UV500s configured as a RAID 0 array, the speeds you can achieve are quite stunning. We were able to achieve 977 MB/s read and 770 MB/s write. This may not sound great considering the speed each individual SSD is capable of, but there is still some logic involved with RAID arrays, and speeds approaching 1 GB/s are excellent, especially for an external drive.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

As RAID 0 provides no fault tolerance, and SSDs are decreasing in price daily, it would be a costly process to build a huge capacity RAID with only SSDs.

For a more traditional test and a fault tolerant system, we installed four 4TB Seagate HDDs and configured a RAID 10 array. Mechanical HDDs spinning at 7200 RPM are much slower than SSDs, but you do gain a slight performance boost from the RAID alongside redundancy and fault tolerance.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

With 16TB configured as RAID 10, the total available storage is 8TB. The D5 achieved very respectable 444 MB/s read, and 439 MB/s write speeds. This is excellent and almost starts to approach the speed of a single SSD. Considering the price and storage capacity of traditional HDDs, RAID 10 provides the best compromise between storage space, speed, and reliability.

Not sure on the different RAID types? Our RAID explained guide may clear things up.

As the D5 can use the full 40 GB/s provided by Thunderbolt 3, it’s possible to run a 4K monitor, transfer data through the whole raid, and daisy-chain up to seven devices. Whether that’s worth the cost of admission is up to you—we think it is.

Is It Worth Your Money?

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt 3 Professional-Grade 5-Bay External Hard Drive Enclosure RAID 0/RAID1/RAID5/RAID10/JBOD Hard Disk RAID Storage (Diskless) TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt 3 Professional-Grade 5-Bay External Hard Drive Enclosure RAID 0/RAID1/RAID5/RAID10/JBOD Hard Disk RAID Storage (Diskless) Buy Now At Amazon $799.99

The D5 Thunderbolt 3 is an expensive choice, but it’s worth it if you need the speed or capacity it offers. Basic home users may want to look elsewhere for cheaper options, but for the working professional, up-and-coming YouTuber, or redundant storage fan, the D5 is an excellent choice. When compared to the price of similar Thunderbolt 3 devices, the D5 comes up as one of the cheaper options.

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt Raid

Let down by the troublesome Mac software installation, the D5 follows TerraMaster’s tried-and-tested hardware design, along with a huge number of premium features.

Want one for yourself? All you have to do is enter our giveaway contest below.

Enter the Competition!

TerraMaster D5 Thunderbolt 3 Giveaway

Read the full article: TerraMaster Thunderbolt 3 RAID is a Blazingly Fast Way to Store Stuff

Xiaomi Roborock Xiaowa E20 Robot Vacuum: Terrible Name, Great Vacuum

Our verdict of the Xiaomi Roborock Xiaowa E20:Powerful suction and a remote control app sets a new standard for budget robot vacuums, but European users miss out on Alexa integration thanks to GDPR. 810The Xiaomi Roborock Xiaowa E20 is quite a mouthful, but it’s a solid robot vacuum. It’s feature packed, with Alexa support, app control, room mapping, a wet mop, and the most powerful suction on the budget robovac market. It’s available now from GeekBuying.com for $260 with our exclusive coupon code: makeuse5 (normally $289). We’ve also got one to give away to a lucky reader, so keep reading to…

Read the full article: Xiaomi Roborock Xiaowa E20 Robot Vacuum: Terrible Name, Great Vacuum

Our verdict of the Xiaomi Roborock Xiaowa E20:
Powerful suction and a remote control app sets a new standard for budget robot vacuums, but European users miss out on Alexa integration thanks to GDPR.
810

The Xiaomi Roborock Xiaowa E20 is quite a mouthful, but it’s a solid robot vacuum. It’s feature packed, with Alexa support, app control, room mapping, a wet mop, and the most powerful suction on the budget robovac market.

It’s available now from GeekBuying.com for $260 with our exclusive coupon code: makeuse5 (normally $289). We’ve also got one to give away to a lucky reader, so keep reading to find out how to win.

What’s in the Box?

Apart from the robot itself, you’ll find:

  • Charging dock with 1m power cable
  • Mopping attachment with spare pad and filters
  • Spare vacuum filter and cleaning brush

Notably absent is a physical remote control. There are controls on top of the Xiaowa E20, but once connected to Wi-Fi, you can also use the Mi Home mobile app to control it from anywhere in the world.

The Xiaowa E20 weighs around 6.6lbs (3kg), and measures 13.9 inches (35cm) diameter x 3.6 inches (9cm) height. A 2600mAh battery provides ample power, and the device will amble back to base automatically when 30% power remains, ensuring it doesn’t get stuck.

On top of the device are three buttons, for spot cleaning, standard cleaning, and charge.

A large flap lifts up to reveal the dust box, with a capacity of 640ml.

Underneath is an array of sensors, the roller blade, and some large wheels. In my experience, it had no issues getting onto deep pile rugs.

Mi Home, not Mi|Home

It took me a good while to find the app on the UK iTunes store, as searching for MiHome doesn’t work. There is no QR code or download link in the manual. In fact, the manual doesn’t even mention to the existence of an app, despite Wi-Fi being listed in the specifications. For a product that doesn’t include a physical remote, you’d think that would be given a little more emphasis.

I’ll save you the trouble:

Download Mi Home UK | Mi Home US 

For UK users, the app is titled in Chinese characters, but don’t worry, the interface is entirely English. The problem stems from the fact that another UK company called Energenie already owns the MiHome trademark for it’s own line of smart home devices. To be clear, the two companies are entirely unrelated.

The good news is that once you’ve got the correct app, setting it up and controlling your device is simple. A little worrying is the fact that the app requests microphone access, but you can deny that permission.

You can initiate cleaning and send the robot home from anywhere in the world. To fully remote control the Xiaowa, as in with a directional touchpad, you’ll need to be on the same local network though.

Most useful is the ability to see scheduled cleaning times, and you have a wide array of options here. With multiple schedules and weekday or weekend repeat, it should be easy to set a schedule that suits your home.

On the off chance that you do lose the Xiaowa somewhere in your home, a locate function will play a loud “Hello, I’m over here” voice message, so you can see where she got to. I say “she” because the voice is female.

Also optional by enabled by default are notifications, which let you know when the cleaning session starts and finishes. These are presumably very useful if you like to plan your life around the goings-on of a robot vacuum, but can thankfully be disabled.

During, or after a clean up, you can click the map button to see a visual representation of where the Xiaowa has vacuumed. It’s very low resolution, and there’s no functionality beyond simply displaying the map as a report. You can’t click on a specific area, for instance, nor will it be used to be help navigation on future cleans. The map is regenerated each time the cleaning is initiated.

Alexa, GDPR, Roborock and You

As well as app control, the Xiaowa E20 also offers basic Alexa integration: start and stop. It’s certainly basic, but it covers 95% of the interaction you’ll do with your vacuum, and the rest can be done via the app.

For US residents who’d like to use Alexa to control their device, you’ll need to add the Roborock skill to your Amazon account. In addition, you’ll need to ensure your robot is running on the Singapore server. If you chose the US server during setup, delete the device from your MiHome account and add it again.

For European residents who’d like to use Alexa: sorry, not happening. The Roborock skill isn’t available on EU stores, and Geekbuying support told us it was due to GDPR. This doesn’t appear to a temporary issue. Xiaomi or Roborock have simply decided that compliance with GDPR isn’t worth the effort.

How Well Does It Clean?

Really, this is the most important aspect of a robot vacuum cleaner. With a maximum suction power of 1800pa, the Xiaowa E20 eclipses other budget devices on the market. You can set it on a lower power if you want. There’s also the option to automatically detect carpets, so it uses a lower power for tiled floors and max power on carpets only.

In addition to the powerful motor, the Xiaowa E20 used a hybrid brush and rubber blade system. This gives it the best of both worlds, making it an effective all-rounder on carpet and hard floors.

In a head to head spot cleaning test against the iLife V8S (a model designed specifically for hard floors), the Xiaowa performed admirably. The iLife left a little dust behind and tended to push it outward.

To be clear, both do the daily job of cleaning a whole room well. In practice, you aren’t going to spill a tub of coffee grinds on the floor and do a spot cleaning, but it does the job to illustrate power differences.

Wet Mop

The Xiaowa E20 includes a wet mop feature, though the tank reserve is quite small. The tank slides simply onto the underside of the device, with no other modules needing to be swapped out. You can either disable the vacuum power entirely, or use it in addition to the vacuum feature, which is neat.

Like all robot vacuums that offer a wet mop feature, it feels a little like an afterthought. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, the mopping isn’t going to clear up stains or spills, and is of little utility in a country like England. In countries where dry dust and sand is more of a problem, you might find it more useful.

Should You Buy the Xiaomi Roborock Xiaowa E20?

As one of the most powerful budget robot vacuums on the market, the Xiaowa E20 does well on both carpets and hard floors. It’s not the cheapest robovac out there, but it’s great value for the power and features it offers.

Of course, like all robot vacuums, it still has some inherent limitations. It can’t clean your stairs, black surfaces don’t work either as they mess with the drop sensors, you’ll need to tidy up cables and shoelaces beforehand, and it’s not going to replace a full size upright vacuum for most people. If you have pets and carpets, you’ll still need the occasional deep clean with an upright vacuum. But it can help immensely with a quick daily clean to pick up surface dust.

Courtesy of GeekBuying.com, we’ve got one Xiaowa E20 to giveaway. Enter the competition below, or if you can’t wait, use our exclusive coupon code makeuse5 to grab one now for $260 ($30 off the usual price).

Enter the Competition!

Xiaomi Roborock Xiaowa E20 Robot Vacuum Giveaway

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Nebula Capsule is The Ultimate Portable Projector (Review and Giveaway)

Our verdict of the Anker Nebula Capsule:This tiny pod produces a fantastic image for its size. Great battery life, excellent remote control, and Android 7.1 all add up to an awesome mini projector!910Anker’s Nebula Capsule is a tiny, ultra-portable, battery-powered projector. Similar in size to a can of Coke, this projector can go anywhere, and built-in Android 7.1 ensures it can keep up with any of your media needs. Let’s take a deeper look. Keep reading to see if it’s any good, and don’t forget to enter our giveaway contest at the bottom, for the chance to win a Nebula…

Read the full article: Nebula Capsule is The Ultimate Portable Projector (Review and Giveaway)

Our verdict of the Anker Nebula Capsule:
This tiny pod produces a fantastic image for its size. Great battery life, excellent remote control, and Android 7.1 all add up to an awesome mini projector!
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Anker’s Nebula Capsule is a tiny, ultra-portable, battery-powered projector. Similar in size to a can of Coke, this projector can go anywhere, and built-in Android 7.1 ensures it can keep up with any of your media needs. Let’s take a deeper look.

Keep reading to see if it’s any good, and don’t forget to enter our giveaway contest at the bottom, for the chance to win a Nebula Capsule mini projector.

Design and Technical Specs

Measuring 4.7 x 2.6 inches, and weighing under 15 oz, the capsule is an ultra-portable, take anywhere projector. Smaller than an Amazon Echo, this little projector feels very sturdy. It has a metal tripod mount on the bottom and a series of control buttons on the top.

A 5W, 360-degree speaker array handles audio, and a small wheel on the left side of the unit is for focusing. The rear of the projector houses the infrared port, and a Micro-USB and full-size HDMI port.

This projector uses an FWVGA DLP sensor, with a native resolution of 854 x 480 pixels. While this isn’t even 1080p, let alone 4K, it’s a common resolution for portable projectors, and Nebula has managed to make the image look clear and sharp. This bulb will last 30,000 hours, which is an outstanding life. You’re unlikely to ever use it enough to kill the sensor.

The capsule has a brightness rating of 100 ANSI Lumens. This may not sound like a lot when compared to the average of 1500 – 2500 for large home projectors, but this is excellent for a mini projector. ANSI Lumens are a standard for measuring light output. If a projector measures brightness in Lumens, and not ANSI Lumens, it’s always going to be much dimmer than you’d expect.

The throw ratio of  around 1:1.2 is very good, but like any projector which isn’t classified as “short throw”, it means you’ll need a large amount of room if you want to project a huge image.

The focus wheel on the left can be tough to use, and it’s very loose. This can make it difficult to achieve perfect focus, but you’ll soon get the hang of it after a few uses.

Powered by a 5200 mAh battery, the capsule can run for four hours. When it’s time to charge, you’ll need to connect the included micro-USB cable to your own charger.

This projector houses a quad-core processor, with 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of ROM. Like many projectors, a high-powered fan keeps the electronics cool, and this does produce a loud noise, but you won’t hear it over the speaker. The customized interface lets you change a variety of settings, including Keystone. It supports auto-vertical Keystone correction, but this never appears to work very well.

The basic buttons on the top are for power on/off, volume, and mode switching. USB OTG works, and through the included Micro-USB to USB Type-A converter, you can connect flash storage devices for media playback.

By downloading the Capsule Control (iOS/Android) app, you can control this projector over Bluetooth with your phone.

You don’t have to use this app, as the included remote control and built-in Wi-Fi allow you to run apps such as Netflix or YouTube on the projector itself.

No lens cap comes included, but inside the box, you’ll find a carrying bag, remote control, and quick-start manual. The box is well designed and closes with a magnetic catch. If you don’t want to carry this projector around in the bag, you can always store it in the box.

Operation and Remote Control

While it’s possible to control the Capsule with the buttons and remote control, its real strength comes from the control app. Like many smart TVs, fiddling about with arrow buttons and an on-screen keyboard takes far too long to enter text. The app allows you to enter text using your phone and provides an interface to control the projector.

Mouse mode lets you move your finger over your screen, to control a mouse pointer on the projector. For a more intuitive control, controller mode lets you swipe and tap to navigate through apps. This app works very well and is an innovative way of control.

The app connects over Bluetooth, and it can sometimes take several seconds to connect. Once connected, it generally maintains a stable and reliable connection.

By using the USB OTG port, or full-size HDMI port, you can playback media in a traditional way. The real trick here is Android 7.1. By installing a variety of apps such as Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube, you can consume all your media without ever connecting a cable.

All the apps work very well, but it’s a limited selection from the third-party Apptoide TV store. It’s not as limited as the paltry 11 apps available in the previous Nebula Mars (based on Android 4.4), but still. The Play Store is not available, so it’s not possible to install unsupported apps.

It’s possible to mirror your smartphone, but this doesn’t support playback of protected content (such as Netflix). You’ll need to use the built-in apps for this, or connect through the HDMI port.

Image Quality and Brightness

Image quality is fantastic, which is very surprising for such a low-resolution sensor. A 100-inch screen is possible, but only in a dark room.

At smaller sizes, the output is bright enough to use even with ambient light in the room. This won’t work very well outdoors during the day, but providing you avoid direct light on the screen, it works reasonably well in a bright room.

Colors look bright and vivid, and even projecting onto a plain white wall produces excellent results. Dedicated projector screens provide better results, but setting one up almost defeats the point of a portable, battery-powered projector.

Is It Worth $350?

Nebula Capsule Smart Mini Projector, by Anker, Portable 100 ANSI lm High-Contrast Pocket Cinema with Wi-Fi, DLP, 360° Speaker, 100" picture, Android 7.1, 4-Hour Video Playtime, and App Nebula Capsule Smart Mini Projector, by Anker, Portable 100 ANSI lm High-Contrast Pocket Cinema with Wi-Fi, DLP, 360° Speaker, 100" picture, Android 7.1, 4-Hour Video Playtime, and App Buy Now At Amazon $347.99

The Nebula Capsule is a fantastic portable projector. Great image quality, battery life, brightness, and easy remote control are all huge benefits.

Benefitting from Anker’s outstanding after-sales support, the Capsule may be one of the best portable projectors around—but it will cost you. It’s possible to get around the poor focus control, so if you’re after a portable projector, you won’t find much better in a smaller footprint.

If you’re in need of several more advanced features, the Nebula Mars is the big brother to the capsule, and provides better performance, albeit at a much higher price and running an older version of Android.

Interested in building your own home theater? You’ll need something a bit bigger than this projector. Something like the awesome BenQ TK800 4K projector should do the trick!

If you’d like to win a Nebula Capsule for yourself, then thanks to Anker, all you have to do is enter our giveaway contest below!

Enter the Competition!

Anker Nebula Capsule Giveaway

Read the full article: Nebula Capsule is The Ultimate Portable Projector (Review and Giveaway)