Archives For Reviews

In preparation for the new features of iOS9, specifically around keyboard shortcuts, I thought it was time to finally figure out a keyboard solution for my iPad. After some research, I narrowed it down to either the Logitech Keys-to-Go and the Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard. Both keyboards are similar in terms of features and dedicated buttons for quickly accessing iPad functions. But in the end, I preferred one over the other.

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If you value how the keyboard “feels” when typing, the Keys To Go (K2G) are more responsive compared to the Microsoft Universal Mobile and the soft material makes the keys nicer to the touch. The K2G is water resistant if you decide to spill that drink on it at the office desk or pot of pasta sauce at the kitchen. :-) Also, the K2G has a physical on/off switch which I prefer. You know that the keyboard is actually off. The MS Universal, you turn if off by putting on the top cover which is kinda cool, but there are times when you wonder whether it’s really turned off. Continue Reading…

What if the smart devices around your home could all interact with each other, even if they were from different manufacturers or different systems? Say your front door sensor could trigger a light to turn on in the living room when you get home. Currently, to get this kind of interoperability, you either need to acquire all the components of the same system (like Insteon), or have one agnostic hub that tries to “talk” all the different languages of the smart home landscape (like Staples Connect, SmartThings, and the dreadful Wink).

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What if there was another way? What if each of your home devices could speak the same langauge independent of manufacturer? An Elgato door sensor that opens when you get home could tell an Ecobee thermostat to turn house temp to 72 degrees. Or turning off a specific Lutron light switch in the bedroom could tell the August front door to lock?  That’s the promise of Apple’s HomeKit.

Much has been written already about HomeKit. But now that Apple is officially allowing vendors to start selling devices, we are finally starting to get a better understanding of what can and can’t be done with HomeKit. At first, my thought was that the iPhone now becomes the “hub” to control the devices of your home, but that was the wrong way to think about HomeKit.   HomeKit is much more far reaching. Continue Reading…

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Last year, Logitech announced a new Home Hub which began a transformation of Harmony into a home automation hub by integrating a number of third party devices including as Philips Hue, Nest, SmartThings, and more! Not only could you control your media devices with a single remote / app, but we now also had the ability to control your lights, locks, and temperature of your home. Mix and match devices within your activities to create powerful new automations.

Sadly, at the time, Logitech left their older Smart Hub customers out in the cold. The new Home Hubs seemed to just be software updates, rather than any kind of additional hardware updates. Whether it was a change of heart, the angry voice of Harmony enthusiasts, or a little of both, Logitech has now provided an update for the older Smart Hub bringing it up-to-date with the Home Hub feature set. Continue Reading…

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One thing was immediately clear as soon as I was able get Netgear Arlo up and running: 1) it was very easy to add cameras, and 2) all I wanted was to buy more cameras! But let’s back up a second and explain exactly what Arlo is, and is not. Arlo, the spiritual successor to Vue, is the newest camera security system from Netgear — it consists of a central wireless hub hooks into your home router along with a number of wireless cameras. Arlo also incorporates heat-based camera sensors to record video as motion is detected and stores those clips in the cloud. But Arlo is NOT designed for continuous 24/7 video recording like a Dropcam. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s walk through how to setup the system, and explain the usage at our home. Continue Reading…

The OTA Flatenna Showdown

Dave Zatz —  February 7, 2015

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As many contemplate cutting the cord for basic, yet high-definition television viewing, or to perhaps augment cable with advanced over-the-air capabilities, as we’ve done with Tablo, finding a great antenna is paramount. Most are probably best served by roof-top or attic placement, yet it’s the least practical for a variety of reasons. While Mohu may have pioneered the “flatenna” several others have joined the fray. And I reached out to a few players in this space that have kindly provided their least obtrusive indoor antenna offerings for an OTA receptivity showdown. Which will wear the crown of best indoor antenna?

Comparing antennas is an exceedingly difficult task, as our individual locations in relation to the broadcast towers obviously vary in terms of distance and interference (either within the home or the environment). Not to mention, different stations around the country broadcast with differing strengths and frequencies. To make matters even more complex, not all tuners are not created equal — meaning the televisions, over-the-air DVRs, and other devices we each possess will have varying degrees of reception. So your mileage will absolutely vary from mine. Most small, indoor antennas are rated for receptivity in the 25-35 mile range, but those that are offered with amplification can be extended to 50ish.

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Sling TV from Dish with ESPN on iPad

Many, many other writers have reviewed Sling TV (the new online video service from Dish that was announced at CES), so I won’t belabor the points they’ve already covered. There are licensing issues. Not all features are available on every channel. It’d be nice to have more on-demand television content instead of mainly VOD movies.

But, on the other hand, ESPN is pretty great (plus Disney, HGTV, etc.). And any-screen access for live TV is a plus.

What struck me about Sling TV, however, is how much it doesn’t feel like TV. It feels like Netflix.

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What a long strange trip it’s been. Vudu initially launched in 2006 as a $400 dedicated movie streaming box. The requisite price cuts and pivots followed, including serving up apps like Flickr and then feeding smart televisions, before Walmart swooped in. Since then, the video service has focused on its own mobile and set-top video streaming app … that’s landed on a whole host of set-tops and mobile platforms. And, here we are again, back to a dedicated piece of hardware in the new Vudu Spark. Having launched in Walmart stores just a few weeks ago, at $25, of course I had to pick one up. Continue Reading…

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Back in July, we reviewed the Kevo smart lock ($220) in light of the newer features that had just been released (scheduling, guest keys, performance improvements). Later in 2014, August, another Bluetooth based lock ($250), started to ship both pre-orders and to retail stores. Being the curiously obsessed gadget guy that I am, I had to at least try the August to see how it compared with the Kevo.

Fundamentally the Kevo and August work the same. Using your phone’s Bluetooth as a key, you can lock and unlock the device. Whereas you need to replace your entire door lock for the Kevo, with the August, you just need to replace just the inside portion of the lock. Installing the August was very simple and a much quicker than the Kevo as you are just removing the back of the lock. Continue Reading…