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Background

Three years ago, Nest announced their first smart thermostat clocking in at $250. While others balked at the price, I saw the value of something that could potentially reduce our family energy expenditure. And save money we did! Despite the upfront cost of the Nest, after having used the device that first twelve months, I estimated we dropped our gas and electric bill by $500 for the year. The second year, the savings continued. I offloaded my 1st generation Nest and upgraded to the 2nd generation Nest along with adding a few of the Nest Protect smoke alarms to the house.

But despite seemingly being all-in on the Nest platform, there recently have been a few changes to both their products and the thermostat market in general that have me rethinking our current setup – including potentially switching out to a new brand. First, Google acquired Nest. As much as I appreciate Google’s ability to find pretty much anything on the Internet, I have reservations in providing them too much data, especially when it comes to our home. Call me paranoid all you want, but that’s simply how I feel.

Second, the Protect product seemed so promising at first release. Our Nest is situated in the dining room which is rarely accessed when we are in the house, therefore the Nest can not accurately tell when we are home or not.  With the wired Protects, Nest would be able to monitor our house for motion and help adjust the auto features which would alleviate the Nest from not being able to “see” us when we were home.  I found that this really didn’t work so well when we had our four-legged furry friends running around the house during the day. I was hoping that the Protects would help build a better picture of our occupancy of our home, but it really didn’t seem to add much smarts to the Nest, just false alarms for movement.

Enter Ecobee3

To tell you the truth, I really didn’t pay that much attention to the Ecobee3 launch back in September. For the most part, I was happy with my Nest and really didn’t see much benefit to the Ecobee3. I was wrong. After noticing a few of the tech sites I follow start to post more about the Ecobee3, the more I became interested. This was especially the case when I payed attention to the remote sensors that can be added to the Ecobee3. Could this solve the problem that my current Nest platform has with not being able to determine not only occupancy of the house, but also the correct temperature for the different rooms? Continue Reading…

ipad-air2-vs-galaxy-tab-s

When it rains, it pours. And I had the opportunity to enjoy a few days with the iPad Air 2 alongside the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5. Both are fantabulous ultrathin 10ish inch tablets… that go about things in different ways. The Samsung does more, way more. But what Apple does, it mostly does better. Continue Reading…

Of course within 24 hours of receiving the new Fitbit Charge, Microsoft goes and releases their first product geared towards the fitness crowd. And, of course, being me, I had to find one the day it’s released. I really think this is the first time I have bought a Microsoft product, other than the computers I’m forced to use every day. I even ventured into a Microsoft Store where customers are still outnumbered by staff.  ;-)

With the Fitbit Charge being just a rehash of the Force (it even says Force when you look at your Bluetooth settings on the phone), the Microsoft Band is a much more interesting product as it not only adds GPS to the mix, but also continuous heart rate monitoring. This lines it up nicely with the ChargeHR and Surge from FitBit. The cost is even split as the Band comes in at $199, where as the ChargeHR is $149 and the Surge is $249. Microsoft has one big advantage here of having the product available now, instead of an early 2015 rollout. Continue Reading…

Fitbit Charge Now Shipping

Dave Zatz —  October 29, 2014 — 32 Comments

As the story goes, the Fitbit Force activity tracker was recalled due to steel- or nickel-induced rashes. With hopefully less irritants, along with guidance on fit and hygiene, Fitbit is back with the Charge and Surge (that we broke in June). While the $250 Surge, expected in 2015, is more akin to a Garmin Forerunner, the Charge is effectively the 2014 Force upgrade … that builds upon the Flex with a small screen used to display time, steps, and even callerID from a synced phone. Sadly, while Fitbit Charge ($129) bands have started arriving, auto sleep and call notifications aren’t actually working… yet. Having said that, our very own Adam Miarka (who you may recognize as the hand model above) says the fit is good and that the band may actually be softer than the Force’s.

Speaking of, today Force owners were emailed one-time use 15% off coupon codes. While I didn’t get in on the prior generation activity band, a Twitter buddy hooked me up and I ordered a Fitbit Charge of my own.

As a thank you for using Fitbit Force, we’re giving you 15% off one of our trackers.

I expect the Charge will nicely compliment my existing Fitbit Aria. Yet I plan to decommission the WiFi scale as it’s the only 802.11b device on my network, dragging everything down.

UPDATE: Firmware version 74 has been pushed out, enabling call notifications, tap gestures, and auto sleep!

apple-sim

Along with Apple’s introduction of the iPad Air 2 comes a new take on the lowly SIM card. Not only does the tablet ship with just about every LTE band and frequency one could want, the hardware is delivered preloaded with an agnostic SIM for network authentication. As T-Mobile’s CEO tweets:

So the Apple SIM theoretically saves Apple some packaging expenses and provides us, the end users, with amazing flexibility – buy the iPad and choose whichever carrier we want at any point after we get it home. And, down the road, we’d be free to flip carriers as coverage or pricing changes. It’s a grand, consumer friendly vision. However, the future hasn’t quite arrived. Due, once again, to short-sighted carrier protectionism (and technical glitches). Continue Reading…

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Intro

Back in March, Plantronics announced the BackBeat Fit ($130), a sportier version of their Backbeat Go 2 Bluetooth headphones designed to withstand the abuse of regular fitness workouts (and confirmed sweaty lawn mowing! :-). I’ve been evaluating these headphones the past few weeks and wanted to share a rundown of features and my overall opinion.

Product Info

When you unpack the BackBeat Fits, they come with the headphones themselves, a carrying pouch that doubles as an armband for your phone, and a micro USB cable and charger. The headphones use Bluetooth 3.0 for connectivity which gives you a range of 33ft from your device. As with most new Bluetooth devices, the pairing process was easy with an iPhone 5s. You simply go to the Bluetooth setting page, turn on the BackBeat Fit which goes into pairing mode, and then select the headphones to pair. The BackBeat fit can also remember up to 8 different devices for pairing so it’s easy to switch between multiple sources if needed. Continue Reading…

Soundfreaq Pocket Kick Review

Adam Miarka —  October 10, 2014 — 1 Comment

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Previously on ZNF, we had the opportunity to review two Bluetooth speakers, the massive, if not questionably looking, G-Boom speaker, and the Pringles shaped Logitech Ultimate Ears Boom. Both of these speakers had their pros and cons depending on your situation. The G-Boom was great for parking in one place and letting the music rock. The UE Boom on the other hand offered a smaller package, great sound, and the ability to update features via firmware updates. Today we’ll be looking at an even more compact – the $100 Soundfreaq Pocket Kick.

Hardware and Setup

Compared to the sharp corners of the G-Boom or the circular shape of the EU Boom, the Soundfreaq Pocket Kick features a slab design with rounded off corners. The speaker grills are made of a steel featuring a nice pattern with the Soundfreaq logo in the middle. The outer edges of the of speaker feature a nice rubber material that makes the Pocket Kick easy to hold without slipping out of the hand.  The rubber sides also allow the speaker to stay put on any surface while the music is jamming. Speaking of size, the Pocket Kick is the smallest of the three speakers we’ve had the chance to review. It’s roughly the size of an iPhone 5s from a surface area perspective, and about 3 times as deep. Continue Reading…