Monday, November 25, 2013

Power Practical has multipurpose in mind with Lithium 4400 Power Bank

I am always a fan of portable power packs and the many shapes and sizes they come in, whether big, small, multiport, solar powered, or multipurpose, it is interesting to see what companies think of when providing power on the go. This next power pack comes to us from Power Practical and the company name hit the nail on the head, but the product at hand's moniker is a lot more bland, the Lithium 4400 Power Bank. This is a unique little charger as it also includes a four LED lantern and the charge capacity of this battery pack is 4400 mAh, so it can charge a phone three times before being recharged and fully charges most phones in around an hour, so let's see how it compares.
Since their inception, external battery packs can now be found in just about any size or capacity, so being a one trick pony won't get you very far. Power Practical took this into account by way of including a four LED lantern and a teardrop shape to make it easy to hold. The size is nice and compact to fit in a pocket and not take up valuable space. The lantern works really well at lighting up a tent, dark hallway, or outdoors but unfortunately it would have been a lot more convenient if a clip for hanging or to attach to clothing was included. Aside from the power pack/lantern, the package also includes a three in one fast charge cable, but of those three inputs, lightning is not among the trio.

The Lithium 4400 Power Bank is great for any fan of the outdoors, as it is allows you to both charge your phone without running a car to charge and shed a little light when you have to find a bathroom in the middle of the night. Be aware as it does have a switch to power off, charge, or turn on the light, so it is easy to forget to power off when done charging. The three in one charging cable would have been nice if it included apple's most recent lightning adapter, not a big deal just remember to bring your own cable. Power Practical's two in one is available now for the price of $59.99.

Astro brings forth the next gen headset, the A50 Battlefield Edition

Now it is time for the bad boys, half a year after E3 and one of my favorite accessories from the show is finally available. The highly coveted Astro A50 wireless headset is the product at hand and this next level headset is out right in time for the next gen consoles. I had received the A50 Battlefield 4 Edition, which sports a black and orange look with the Battlefield labeling and should Battlefield not be your flavor, the standard A50's are also available in black and red. Quite possibly the largest difference between these and the previously reviewed A40 is the elimination of the cord and 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. After spending a week on the PS4, playing the games how they should be, loud, let's see how those trying to sleep through this experience felt about the Astro A50.

I did say that these were being used on the PS4 so fret not as the A50 can be used with both current and next gen consoles. The set up is incredibly simple and wires are kept to a bare minimum. Literally just an optical cable and a USB cable to use, granted to charge another USB cable is required and a cable to connect the headphones to the remote. The sound on the other hand is amazing, regardless to the game, and with three audio presets it is easy to select a mode to your liking whether bass heavy or treble heavy or somewhere in between. The Dolby Digital Surround Sound is superb, particularly when playing multiplayer games like Ghosts as it is easy to hear where shots are coming from and people trying to run up on you from behind. The fit is almost as good as the sound as the A50 is comfortable for long periods of time without squeezing my skull. I did however notice that if I moved my head quickly, they sometimes moved forward or backwards, but for the most part the over ear cups did a solid job of keeping the headset in place. When speaking to other teammates or rivals, they picked up everything I said clearly and I was able to hear others in the lobby with no loss of connection.
The Astro A50 is a superior next gen level headset for both current and next generation gaming. The cutting of the cord is almost as great of a new feature as the clear and detailed 7.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound. What I found amusing was that the the packaging states built for the XBox 360 and while this may come from the fanboy in me, I found my experience with the headset playing online on the PlayStation much more convenient. Because the A50 is compatible with both of Sony and Microsoft's consoles, these are easily the last headset you will ever need, my only complaint was that with the price tag of $299.99, I wish some sort of case was included for portability.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Divoom's Bluetune Bean is a pocket sized go anywhere wonder

We have another bluetooth speaker in the house and this one is even smaller and more portable with the ability to clip to just about anything and it comes to us courtesy of Divoom, dubbed the Bluetune Bean. Aptly named the Bean based on it's size and shape, comes in an assortment of vibrant colors, houses a single speaker, and a loop to hook a carabiniere to make it easy to take on the go. On top of being small in size, Everything about Divoom's little Bean screams small, it is time to see if the minimal size and price result in sacrifice in sound or if this will be like Jack's little magic beans.
This little speaker gets loud as I do not think I ever had to turn it up more than half way. Be careful though because once the volume gets up to around seventy five percent it does start to get distorted. I mainly used this speaker for personal audio, clipping it to my bicycle brake cable and on my beltloop when skateboarding. The hook in which I clipped to is very sturdy and the Bean is wrapped in rubber to allow for the impact of clumsy hands and has a microphone built in to take calls on the go without having to stop what you are doing to access your smartphone. This pocketsized speaker was clear during playback and had significantly better sound quality than the previously reviewed BluetuneSolo from Divoom.

I would not use this speaker when entertaining as it does not have the same output as those that have multiple drivers, but it was great on the go and being able to clip it to my persons, backpack, bike, etc. was incredibly convenient. Unfortunately my Bluetune Bean did not include the clip(carabiniere) that was advertised on Divoom’s site, but luckily I have some lying around from other portable speakers, so I got to experience the Beans portability as intended. The speaker totes six hours of playback time which is more than I got from the previously reviewed TouchTone and while I could take calls from the speaker it did lack onboard controls. Divoom’s Bluetune Bean is available now in a variety of six color combinations and priced on the Divoom site at $29.99.

id America's offers big sound in small package

We have received the Touchtone from id America, their wireless bluetooth speaker that gets it's name from the touch controls on the top of the unit. This portable speaker is equipped with two 4 watt drivers to provide loud and clear sound around the house or outside and should you want to connect from a device that does not have bluetooth capabilities, an included auxiliary in cable allows for playback. While many wireless speakers offer some sort of limited onboard controls, the Touchtone allows you to change volume, track, input, and the ability to take or end calls without access to your phone, so let's see how it holds up to my vast playlist.

I was pleasantly surprised by the sound that this small palm sized speaker puts out as it is not only loud and clear, but also put out a pretty wide range, equivalent to that of speakers almost twice it's size. The room filling sound comes directly from the 4 watt dual drivers with the depth coming from the port underneath the touch controls. Speaking of touch controls, they work incredibly and while I was not a fan at first due to the lack of click or response when pressed, but when pausing, answering calls or changing tracks the illuminated controls blink to show the gesture was registered. While I did feel a bit dense that it took me a while to figure out the volume controls, for anyone also unable to figure it out you are done by running your finger around the blue ring clockwise or counterclockwise, and it was refreshing to see id America use similar controls to that of the previous iPods.

The Touchtone is a powerful speaker that packs a punch for its small stature and price tag. Though the only downside would have to be the amount of time I got on a full charge, which was about four hours based on the volume, that is once I figured out how to adjust it. This was also the first portable speaker which has the ability to change inputs at a touch of a button without having to unplug the auxiliary in cable to go back to wireless playback. Id America has once again provided a product that is both unique and functional while incorporating the stand out designs that they are known for. Earlier I stated that this speaker packed a punch without hurting your wallet, doing so with a price point of $79.95 and is available in either black or white.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Zepp Labs, the gurus behind GolfSense have another trick up their sleeve

The geniuses behind the must have golf tech accessory is back and this time sharing the love to fans of baseball and tennis alike. Zepp Labs has just announced a multi sport sensor to help improve your swing with dedicated applications to the golf, tennis, and baseball player looking to improve their swing. The Zepp sensor appears to be smaller in size and has affordable sport specific mounts for your club, racquet, or bat.

The new Zepp sensor will be available shortly, November 19th to be exact and you will be able to find this incredibly useful device at Apple and select Verizon stores or online here for the price of $149.95. Additional mounts will be available for purchase and the lower than expected price of $9.99. Check out the new video below for additional information.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Booq releases it's next bag in the Boa lineup, the Shift

Booq has released another bag to their Boa bag lineup and has provided me with the Shift, a new backpack that is both lightweight and spacious. Inside the Shift, like most other Booq bags, come filled with pockets for easy organization to quickly find whatever you may need without rummaging. Such pockets include a devoted padded laptop pocket that stores any size MacBook or 16.4" PC laptop, iPhone pockets in the shoulder straps, fast access side pockets and I haven’t even gotten to the main compartment yet. The main pocket offers huge amounts of storage for books, gaming console, storing documents or a change of clothes for a long weekend, but also multiple interior pockets for organized storage. Time to pack the Shift full of my gadgets and see how comfortable to this bad boy is for extended periods of time.

The Boa Shift, like most other bags in Booq’s line up has an incredible look and superior build with padded pockets to make sure all gadgets are safe and sound while strapped to my back. The straps pull the backpack flat against my back with little to no movement when walking or riding a bicycle. With the massive main compartment, I didn't have enough to fill it so I took my freshman daughter's text books to fill it along with my laptop and iPad Mini and while heavy once on my back, there was no strain and the padded back offered ample airflow in the 90 degree Arizona November heat. I am still dumbfounded as to how the Boa Shift holds so much and yet still has a low profile appearance. This is something that Booq does extremely well, with strategically placed pockets and well designed bags, I have yet to have an issue with too little space whether it be backpack, camera, or messenger bag.

At the end of the day, this bag is perfect to transport most any mobile desktop by providing a comfortable and snug fit and providing more pockets than I know what to do with. Over the past four years I have been impartial to messenger bags as they had usually been lower profile and easier to get around but as laptops get smaller, backpacks are as well. One of my favorite features that I have seen incorporated to all of Booq's bags reviewed so far is the Terralinq Service which helps locate your lost bag, granted a good samaritan reports finding the bag and it isn't deliberately taken. Booq's Boa Shift is the latest in the high quality bag lineup and is available now for $149.95.

iPhone 5 rugged case face off: bike2power Bravo vs Outdoor Tech Safe 5

It is time for a rugged case face off and the competitors at hand come from Outdoor Tech and bike2power. Both cases come boasting waterproof protection for Apple’s iPhone 5 but on top of protection from the elements and accidents, both offer full touch screen control. The difference between the cases would be the materials used and the access to all ports, as the Bravo case is constructed of alloy and makes sure all features and ports are accessible whereas the Safe 5 is made up of a plastic case that locks your phone inside and while it does have easy access to the charge port, it does not provide access to plug in headphones. So how do these two cases stack up to each other and which one will stand out as the most rugged?

I will begin with the Bravo case offered by bike2power and this case is a beast with it’s alloy structure. It uses seven screws to install this case to my phone along with a screen protector to keep to keep the water out when submerged in up to 2 meters of water. The case is notched on the sides to make easier to hold onto and adds a weighted feel to the phone. The install was easy and quickly learned I had to torque the screws in place as after a day of use when not extra tight, two screws had come loose. Unlike some of the other metal cases I have reviewed, I did not experience noticeable signal loss on calls, wifi, or streaming via Bluetooth. The only two issues I noticed during use was the nuisance of needing a headphone adapter and the other would be the fit, as it took a couple times to install where the volume down wasn’t being held down and I could switch the ringer on or off.

Up next is the Safe 5 from Outdoor Tech, same functionality but different materials and install. Another slight difference is that this case is rated to IPX7 standards whereas the Bravo case is rated at a more rugged IPX8. While the Bravo was used a lot more outside, working around the house and riding, I found it only fitting to take this case to the Glamis sand dunes for Halloween weekend. While I could not keep the sand out of my ports, the Safe 5 definitely could. Being outside for three days, it was three locking screws and and a washer keeping my phone safe from the elements. The case I received was clear, but Outdoor Tech also makes the Safe 5 in orange and aqua to provide a tint to your pictures. I liked how easy it was to lock the phone in but one downside was that there no way to use headphones while inside the case and I rely on my headphones quite often, luckily it is a fast and easy install should the occasion call for protection.

The two cases at hand were definitely up to the task of protecting my iPhone 5 from fluids, sand, and impact, it is just a matter of your preference of material. That and if you need access to use headphones while in the case. I did prefer the sturdy feeling weight of the Bravo’s aluminum case, but install and removal is difficult and requires a special Torx 6 screwdriver which is included. The Safe 5 was great to use out floating in the pool to take pictures, control streaming tunes, and incredibly easy to install, but I missed being able to plug in my headphones and the screen protector got scratched rather easily. If you are one that works outdoors and want a case to keep your phone in for longer periods of time, I suggest the bike2power's Bravo but if you just want to protect your phone from pool parties, the beach, or dunes, and going commando once back to safety, I would suggest Outdoor Tech’s Safe 5.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

XBox One Tour comes to Scottsdale Arizona

I was recently making an observation about how Phoenix doesn’t have PR events like some of the larger cities across the US does. Well someone at Microsoft must have been listening because MashButtons was invited to Scottsdale Studios to attend the XBox One tour. What exactly is the XBox One Tour? It is a boat load of the next gen consoles running the upcoming games on individual playing stations, fueled by loud music, tournaments, Doritos, and Mountain Dew.
Luckily, we were able to head in early without the crowds of people, just a few press sources and any game we wanted, unfortunately FIFA 14 and Battlefield 4 are still under embargo. There was a line out the door in the small studio about the size of a mid to large sized E3 booth and a capacity of 200 people all chomping at the bit to play FIFA 14, Dead Rising 3, Killer Instinct, Battlefield 4, Kinect Sports Rivals, Forza 5, Ryse, Skylanders Swap Force, Crimson Dragon, Peggle 2, and Loco Cycle. My time was mostly spent with Dead Rising 3, Forza 5, and Killer Instinct which are the three Microsoft exclusives that will not be found on the next PlayStation. Killer instinct was beautiful and played so smoothly, but my main squeeze after the party was Dead Rising 3 which gameplay wise and the amount of zombies on screen was leaps and bounds ahead of it’s predecessors.
The energy was amazing from Major Nelson, pictured with us below, to the crowds of gamers looking to play the titles they have only heard about and watched gameplay videos of over the past few months and the Xbox attendants that were handing out high fives  willing to try and help with any questions. The XBox One Tour is taking place in a number of states across the country, but for those that may have missed it in Phoenix, fear not as you have one more day to check out the festivities. For additional information, click here, and be sure to check out this free, first come first served next gen gaming event and good time.