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Posts from the ‘Software’ Category

25
Sep

UNITEK 60W 6-Port USB Smart Charging Station (review)


It’s very commonplace for me to see people who move their single port chargers with them whenever they need a charge. Most people stick with the chargers that came with their phones or tablets, only to be forced to swap it out when another wireless device needs power. There are only two plugs per wall outlet, and single port chargers take up half of the plugs even though there’s more than enough power to supply multiple devices at the same time.

It’s time you consider upgrading to a multi-port charging station.

The verdict is in – UNITEK makes solid and reliable chargers. Two weeks ago I reviewed a massive 10-port charging station from UNITEK and since then my desk has been organized and much more pleasant to look at. I’ve been using UNITEK’s 60W 6-Port USB Smart Charging Station and have come to the conclusion that it offers great chargers at excellent prices.

Build and Usage

UNITEK’s 60W 6-Port USB Smart Charging Station has enough ports to satisfy even the most tech savvy consumer. Six ports is enough to charge a smartphone, tablet, wireless headphones, speaker, power bank and smartwatch all at the same time.

UNITEK’s 6-port charger has one Quick Charge 2.0 port for charging smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 at the fastest possible speed. No wireless accessories are capable of charging at QC 2.0 speeds so having more than one QC USB port would add unnecessary cost. This is a well thought out decision by UNITEK considering most people only have one smartphone capable of Quick Charge speeds.

The UNITEK charging station has five 2.4A charging ports with integrated smarts to take advantage of charging most devices at the maximum speed. iOS devices come to mind when I think of 2.4A as the maximum amount of power they can take at any given time.

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The UNITEK 6-Port charging station is compact for its capability of charging six devices at simultaneously. It measures in at 4.5” L x 3″ W x 1.1″ thick. The Amazon description lists it at 6″ x 6″ x 3″, but that is a reference to the product packaging. I didn’t quite think this charging station was anywhere near as long or as wide as six inches, so I measured it myself with a calibrated set of digital calipers. The station is made of high quality plastic, which keeps it light weight at just .8 ounces.

There’s a small vent on the back for releasing heat when it is under full load. The front is where the six USB ports are located, and the one QC 2.0 port is clearly labeled and separated from the rest. It’s a simple yet effective charger.

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One nice feature I came across is the built-in rotating stand. All other multi-port charging stations I have used in the past include a stand, but it is usually a separate piece that can easily be lost.

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This kind of feature normally shouldn’t make news, but it shows UNITEK’s commitment to perfecting its products. The integrated stand is very effective at keeping the charging station upright and is a detail I appreciate. It simply proves to me that while others may consider it an afterthought, UNITEK does not, and that gives me even more confidence in the internals.

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The QC 2.0 port is perfect for charging my Note 7 from 5%-50% in just over 30 minutes. It’s nice to have this feature when I am in need of quick power, although the other five ports suit me just fine 98% of the time.

Being so compact makes this a great travel companion, as the last thing I want to bring along is more than one charger. I can easily fit this into a laptop bag or backpack and set it on my hotel desk to recharge all of my devices at the same time.

Summary

It’s a fact that most of you have more than one wireless USB device. Rather than sticking with single USB chargers, upgrade to a multi-port version. UNITEK hooked up AndroidGuys’ readers with an exclusive discount code so you can grab it for just $16.99 at Amazon with discount code LQCABGRV at checkout. 

You can search for multi-port charging stations on Amazon, but you have to be weary of low-quality versions. They have the potential to fry your devices. UNITEK sits on my desk and nightstand with its multi-port charging stations, and I wholeheartedly recommend both, especially at the prices they are listed for.

Check out the UNITEK 60W 6-Port USB Smart Charging Station at Amazon.

If you would like to read my full review of the UNITEK 10-Port Charging Station, click on the link below.

UNITEK 60W 10-port Charging Station with QC 2.0 (review)

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25
Sep

GekoGrip xM3 Series Modular Magnetic CD slot car mount for smartphones (review)


A couple of weeks ago I reviewed a smartphone mount for your automobile from GekoGrip. It was a modular magnetic vent mount that certainly met a high level of quality for a reasonable price. I can’t emphasize enough how dangerous it is to talk or text with your smartphone in your hand while driving. It’s against the law for a reason, and for your own sake you should obey the rules so you can make it safely no matter your destination.

I’ve switched out my vent mount from GekoGrip for its CD slot mount for those of you who prefer to keep your air vents free of distraction. The GekoGrip CD slot mount is a solid option for those of you who want to keep your windshield free of distraction while giving your antiquated CD players a whole new purpose.

Let’s check it out.

Design and Build

The GekoGip xM3 series modular magnetic CD slot car mount is just as its name describes – a cd slot mount designed to hold your smartphone in place while keeping you safe while driving. It’s designed to fit in the CD slot, without actually intruding into the CD player where the internals can be exposed to dust.

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It has a solid plastic build, which minimizes the weight while offering high durability. There is a screw on the bottom which leverages the center piece of the mount to grip in between the top and bottom part of your CD slot.

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When inserted into the slot and tightened down, the center piece moves several millimeters to position itself neatly in between the top and bottom of the slot. It doesn’t have unlimited range, meaning it won’t destroy your CD player no matter how tight you make it.

Once tightened, which takes a matter of seconds, you can see the Gecko shaped magnetic head in the front of the CD slot that protrudes about 2.5 inches giving you access to the buttons behind it.

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If you still use CDs while you drive to listen to music, this isn’t the mount for you. You will always find yourself pulling it out to listen to a CD, but the reality is most people have gone away from compact disc technology.

I tend to prefer this mount style over windshield mounts, as the latter can create blindspots in your field of view. Depending on the state you live in, some windshield mounts might even be illegal due to that distraction. Or they may be limited by where you can actually mount them to a windshield, like the lower left hand corner of your window. Failure to comply with proper windshield mount placement can result in an expensive ticket, or worse an accident which you will be at fault for.

The GekoGrip CD slot mount offers two styles of magnetic attachment – one rectangular piece of metal for placing between your smartphone and its case, or the second is a very sticky circular disk for those of you who prefer to go case free. What I like about the rectangular metal piece for sandwiching between the case and phone is the ultra soft felt like material which prevents scratches on your phone.

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The magnet is strong enough to hold up to 300g of weight, which is more than enough strength to hold up heavier phones like my Samsung Galaxy Note 7 (169g) in a BodyGuardz case. You’re also free to rotate your smartphone 360 degrees, giving you the freedom to position your device in whatever way you prefer. There’s a swivel too so passengers can turn the smartphone towards themselves if they want to help with the music selection or navigation.

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I particularly like this mount mainly because it is placed where the auto manufacturer decided the safest place for the radio would be. It’s not too low or too high, which may seem like a small detail, but it helps me keep my eyes on the road at all times.

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In a city like San Diego where we have millions of tourists each year who don’t always know where they are going, that little detail goes a long way in keeping me safe. It literally only takes seconds of taking your eyes off the road to get into a bad accident out here.

The magnet is the same as found on the vent mount I reviewed before, which is strong enough to keep my phone in place even with my bouncy off road suspension and pot hole riddled roads in San Diego. This mount is ultra convenient because I never have to tighten my phone down into a mount, instead I just stick it to the magnet and get on my way.

Summary

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I am thoroughly impressed with GekoGrip’s CD slot mount. It’s build very well and will not damage your CD slot. The triangular magnet is strong enough to hold any of my smartphones in place while keeping my windshield free of blind spots.

Priced at $24.95 at Amazon, I can’t think of a more important investment in your safety for when you drive. Personally I don’t care if you get a ticket because if you are using a smartphone while driving you should consider yourself lucky. But I care about your safety first and foremost. $25 is a bargain if it prevents you from being injured or if it prevents you from injuring others. The stories of people crashing while driving distracted are real. There is absolutely no reason with today’s available accessories, for these accidents to occur. A death over a text message is just not worth it.

As we rely more on our mobile devices, accessories like the GekoGrip mount become even more important. If you don’t have a car mount, get one today. I highly recommend the GekoGrip xM3 Magnetic CD slot Car Mount where you can get it from Amazon with free Prime Shipping.

If you would like to read my review of the GekoGrip xM3 vent mount, check it out in the link below. Be smart and stay safe.

GekoGrip Modular magnetic air vent car mount (review)

24
Sep

Zinga Jump should jump back to the drawing board (Review)


Overview:

Zinga Jump is a simple platforming game where you collect coins while running to the end of the stage avoiding obstacles along the way.

Developer: Apps Freax

Cost: free (with ads and micro-transactions)

Impressions:

Zinga Jump is another game that hearkens back to the old days of mobile gaming, where you didn’t need as much substance or style to make a decent game. Unfortunately for Zinga Jump, it’s 2016 now and we have a lot of great mobile games available that offer a ton of content and polish, some even without ads. Zinga Jump is simple and rather innocuous, but there are some elements that make it almost impossible to recommend to anyone. at least for me.

Let’s start with the art and sound of the game. The resolution of the character sprite and backgrounds appear super low and blurry, especially on the QHD screen of my Nexus 6P. There’s also very little variety in the levels, as they all use the same scrolling backgrounds and obstacles all the way through. There’s also no real theme to the game, as you play a sort of cutesy alien character in what appears to be a generic “Mario” type landscape. I could give the simple visuals a pass if it wasn’t made in Unity, which has the potential for much better graphics and is relatively simple to use. The worst part of the style of this game however, has to be the music. A three second loop of annoyingly upbeat noise that plays from the moment you start the app onward to infinity. The music alone is enough to tell you to avoid this one, and sure you could mute it, but then what’s the point.

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Really?


The store page


The only available content

Gameplay-wise, Zinga Jump is a bore. Timed tapping with shoddy accuracy makes it very difficult for something so simple, but just easy enough to beat if you halfway try. The placement of platforms is odd, and makes timing rapid jumps harder than it should since the game doesn’t like to always respond when I tap the screen. When you lose a level, you’re greeted with a poorly-spelled “game over” screen as well, which just further adds to the frustration. Also, you could beat the whole game in an hour since there’s only about 24 stages in total, and no good reason to replay them at all.

The biggest issue, however, has to be the micro-transactions. For some reason, the developer has seen fit to lock the last six levels behind a nonsense paywall, because of course. If that wasn’t bad enough, the whole of the six levels can only be bought individually with coins, that cost $0.99 for 250, which means in order to get all six, you’d be forced to spend another $0.99 for just one level. On top of that, there’s a 1000 coin option for $2.99, but why would anyone ever buy that? You may say “well, surely there’s more to be purchased with coins that justify the existence of such purchases.” well, you’d be wrong. There’s nothing else. Six levels, and that’s all. It would almost be okay if you could unlock the levels with the coins you collect from the actual gameplay, but guess what, those coins are meaningless and aren’t actually in-game currency at all. The game tries to force you to pay two buck minimum to unlock all it’s content and beat the full game, when it’s levels aren’t remotely worth the cost. It’s an awful scam and the developer shouldn’t feel proud of this game at all in this regard.

Oh, and on top of that it has the occasional ad as well.

Conclusion:

All in all, Zinga Jump is probably harmless, but the overall low quality and way it handles micro-transactions make it seem like a scam. I’d be hard pressed to find a less shady cash grab in the Google Play Store today. How it has a four star rating is beyond me, but either way I’d steer clear of this game for now.

Download Zinga Jump (if you must) from the Google Play Store

23
Sep

Must-have mobile apps for Gmail users


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Gmail has been a standout email service for around 12 years, and undoubtedly the most powerful webmail provider in over 10 years. During that time, it has undergone multiple changes varying from the interface and user experience features to deep back end integrations in multiple industry leading communities. That is why on a monthly basis Gmail has over 1 billion (that’s right, over 1,000,000,000!) active users.

Since Gmail has such a numerous fan base, it is only natural that they have found a way to offer their services on mobile phones and tablets. Many software companies have recently started implementing Gmail as one of their importing services for mobile, which allows users to easily export files and forward them to different contacts.

So, without further ado, let’s get into which apps are the best for Gmail users to have on their mobile devices:

  • Networking apps that help you stay in contact with your friends, coworkers and others
  • Data Management apps that let you focus on organizing your files and folders
  • Productivity apps will help you improve your work obligations as well as day-to-day chores

Networking apps

Spaces

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Spaces is one of the newest group work apps on the market at the moment. Launched just several months ago, there were many questions raised regarding the purpose and necessity of Spaces, but it’s slowly getting recognition. In the meantime, Google announced and is in the process of releasing at least 6 more apps. While Spaces is not perfect (yet), we know that almost everything coming from Google’s workshop will be a top of the line product that you can always rely on. Google Spaces does resemble Google+ in the social media sense, however this app is more a group work app than anything else. You won’t be spending too much time with it and with such devotion, as you would with Facebook or Twitter, simply because there are no benefits from overusing it. There are no risks of underusing it, either. Spaces can work as a search app, but also as a YouTube client. As for the group work, it allows you to create a “space” for different topics, invite friends through link-sharing and also allow them to comment on posts you make. Get ahead of the game and join Spaces before the rest of the Internet flocks in.

 

Hangouts

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Perhaps the best definition of Hangouts is describing it as a great alternative to Skype. Hangouts lets you talk to your friends and family through a video feed in real time, as well as send pre-recorded videos and audio messages. You can also broadcast your conversations through Hangouts and, let’s say, run your podcast as well. Hangouts also allows you to send both SMS messages and instant messages online. Along with Google Voice, it makes a great combo when you are not in the position to work on your phone (while you drive, e.g.)

 

Document Management Apps

Pocket Files Pro

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If we are talking about document management and data safety, we simply have to mention Pocket Files Pro. This app is a password protected data vault that will keep your secrets as safe as a Swiss bank, all the while helping you move it around and keep an eye on who else is trying to break into your files. How? Well, the app will snap a photo and tell you the location of when and where there has been an attempt at compromising your files. You can import files from your iCloud, Gmail, and others, but you can also take photos and videos from within the app itself. Pocket Files Pro can also open several complicated file types such as PDF, .zip, GIFs, and both Microsoft and iWork formats.

Air Transfer

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Air Transfer is another must-have app for anyone who deals with data management. This app will let you move your files between your PC, phone and tablet, and it’s also very well integrated into Google’s system since you can move files from both Google Drive and Gmail. Air Transfer supports a bunch of different formats, so you are covered and you don’t have to think about whether most of the common files are supported in this app. You can import photos from your camera roll and immediately move them to other connected devices at the same time. Aside from that, its in-built music player is awesome and you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding the transferred files on your device and playing them since you can do both of those things in Air Transfer. This is a fair substitution for DropBox and its several advanced features are what make it stand out, which is why some people would choose this app over Dropbox any day or night.

 

Productivity Apps

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Image to Word is one of the best apps when it comes to converting your files from .jpg (and other formats) to .docx due to several factors: It is extremely well integrated into Google’s system, and some of the finest OCR engines power this converter. Image to Word will let you import files from both Gmail and Google Drive in order to quickly convert your files and make them editable and searchable. Making quick edits to your images while on the go will never be a problem once you download this app.

Save as PDF

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While having PDF files on your mobile device can often prove to be a bigger problem than a blessing, having dozens of different formats choking up your memory can be an even bigger trouble. Save as PDF will let you save over 20 different file formats to your phone in PDF, and await further instruction. After saving the file, you will be free to export it via Gmail to your contacts.

23
Sep

ARCHEER 2-port 17W wall charger (2 pack): Great value for quality chargers


Admit it. You probably move your single port wall charger with you when you need a charge. Or if you have a family, there is always one member of the household who seems to have all of the chargers, leaving everyone else to fend for themselves.

It’s time you added a few more chargers in your life. The quality of third party chargers is superb these days, while the prices have come down to very affordable levels.

I’ve been using ARCHEER’s dual port wall chargers and think they’re perfect for those who don’t need bulky power stations.

Build and Usage

Admittedly, writing reviews about chargers isn’t the funnest thing to do, but without chargers all of our mobile devices would be useless. They’re essential, even more so now with the explosion of wireless headphones, speakers, smartwatches, power banks and other gadgets that rely on battery power.

I’ve been using ARCHEER’s 17W/3.4A 2-port wall chargers (2-pack) from Amazon and think they are suitable for most needs.

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The charger itself is made from plastic and has a matte finish which resists fingerprints. It’s rather small, measuring in at 1.9 x 1.5 x 1.2 inches making it very portable and unnoticeable when plugged into wall outlets. The prongs are in a fixed position and do not fold into the charger, however they are extremely tight and have minimal chances of breaking. There’s also a small LED light on the front to indicate the charger is receiving power.

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The total power output of the charger is at 3.4A, which means if you have two devices plugged in, it will split the power evenly. When a single device is plugged in, it is capable of Quick Charge 2.0 speeds, as well as charging iOS devices at the maximum speeds they are capable of at 2.4A. For those times when you need a fast charge, simply make sure you only have one device plugged in at a time.

ARCHEER’s dual port charger is capable of charging newer devices like my Samsung Galaxy Note 7 with USB type C since it has built-in circuitry to manage proper charging. It doesn’t have the power output to charge my Note 7 at full speed, but it still gets the job done safely. I also tested the charger with the LG G5, Xiaomi Mi5, iPad Pro, Bose Soundlink II and a whole host of other accessories without issue.

Summary

What is particularly nice about the 2-pack of chargers from ARCHEER is the great price at $16.99 with free Prime shipping. The chargers are well built, smart, and offer dual ports which is a nice option to have with the variety of devices I own that run on battery power.

There’s nothing particularly fancy about the chargers, but in an age where so many devices need USB power, the ARCHEER dual port chargers are essential to staying powered and on the go. Reliability and safety are vital when it comes to chargers and ARCHEER’s deliver on those essentials at an excellent price of just $16.99 for two.

Looking for value? Head on over to Amazon and get the two pack of the ARCHEER 2-port wall chargers.

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22
Sep

Vizio’s SmartCast soundbars don’t work well with Spotify for now


Vizio’s line of SmartCast soundbars and speakers tout Google Cast for wireless audio streaming from a variety of apps. One of those apps is Spotify, a massively popular music streaming service. Unfortunately, the Cast functionality with that particular library of tunes isn’t working like it should. There are a number of posts in both Spotify and Google’s forums from users who say Vizio’s latest soundbars don’t show up as an option for Casting in the streaming app. Spotify’s software isn’t recognizing the speakers as available gadgets for playing music. Reports of the issue go back as far as late July, over a month after the SmartCast soundbars went on sale.

While the situation is certainly a headache for folks who already bought Vizio’s audio gear, the company says a fix is on the way. “Vizio, Google and Spotify are aware of an issue on the soundbars and are working closely on improvements via a firmware update,” the company told Engadget. “Once available, the product will update automatically. In the meantime, we recommend using Bluetooth when streaming from Spotify.”

Bluetooth isn’t the best option in terms of audio quality, but at least the secondary connectivity offers a way for owners to still use Vizio’s soundbars with Spotify in the interim. Vizio doesn’t have a timeline for when the fix will be available, so Bluetooth may be the only option for using that particular music service for the foreseeable future. Users report that Cast functionality works well in other audio apps, so the issue appears to be limited to using Spotify with Vizio’s group of soundbars. The company didn’t mention any issues with the recently released Crave 360 speaker that went on sale earlier this month.

[Thanks, Dan]

Source: Spotify Community, Google Product Forums

21
Sep

J&L 103 Sports Bluetooth Earbuds: Hands down the best wireless earbuds under $50 (review)


Remember this name J and L Real. If you follow my reviews, you would know that I have a major focus on mobile accessories, with a particular focus on audio products. I’ve loved music since I was a child, and even now I prefer listening to music over watching TV and movies. I went through an embarrassingly expensive audiophile phase five years ago where spending $1k on headphones became normal.

After years of testing hundreds of audio products, I have come back to earth and realized that level of audiophilia is unsustainable. The return on my investment dropped off at a certain level of audio quality and music. Since then I have learned to appreciate audio products based on value to sound ratio, and for the first time in many years I have come across a set that made my jaw drop – The J&L 103 Sports Bluetooth Earbuds.

Naturally when anyone makes a statement of that magnitude, it will make you skeptical. You would think I am being paid to say that, but I promise I was not paid one penny to say that. J and L Real even gave AndroidGuys.com readers an exclusive discount code (at the end of the post)where you can save $10 on the 103s and get them for $39.99. At $40 these headphones are without question the best wireless earbuds under $50, and quite frankly they are the best I have listened to under $200.

Let’s get into the review and I’ll explain how I got to this conclusion.

Build

The J&L 103 Sports Bluetooth Earbuds are wireless as the name implies, but are not truly wire free like the latest Apple Airpod or Samsung Gear IconX headphones. The 103s are a familiar design with two earpieces that are connected to each other by a single wire, with an inline remote control and microphone.

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The two ear pieces are machined from an aluminum alloy and are sized to fit most ears. Some wireless earbuds can be quite large due to the internal hardware, but J&L managed to make the canisters quite small. More importantly, J&L made the ear tube that slides into your ear canal very small. I’ll explain why this is important.

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It’s difficult to convey how small the inner ear tube is, so I measured them with digital calipers they measure exactly 4.9mm. If you want to know exactly how small that is, grab a ruler, and on the metric side count out the five little lines. That’s the portion of the earbud where the silicone tip slides over and ultimately creates the fit inside of your ear canal.

In my experience, wireless earbud manufacturers make the ports slightly larger to compensate for a lack in power. It allows more sound to escape because wireless earbuds are underpowered to increase battery life, but this ultimately sacrifices comfort. Earbuds that are uncomfortable ultimately end up being shelved by users. Having a small ear canal tube is probably the most important feature in getting the right fit and seal, and the J&L 103s are designed perfectly for just about all ear sizes.

Included in the box are soft silicone tips, in small, medium and large sizes. There’s also flanges that fit on the outer portion of the ear bud canister which make the headphones even more comfortable to wear. Some ear flanges can be a little too stiff when the ear canisters are heavy, but the 103s are the right flexibility due to the light weight of each ear piece. If you plan on using these while not working out, they are light enough to wear without the flanges.

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Each ear piece also has a strong magnet built into them which gives them a tight fit around your neck when they are not in use.

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Magnets may not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually a feature found in much more expensive earbuds. It’s also very nice to have as the headphones will fit snug around your neck ensuring you will not lose them.

The inline remote control houses the power button which also serves as the Bluetooth connect, play/pause and answer/end phone calls. The + button serves as fast forward and volume up, where the – button does the opposite. The inline remote is also where you will find the microphone for taking wireless calls.

Other specs:

  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • IPX5 Sweat proof rating
  • CVC 6.0 Noise cancelling (for improved call clarity)
  • HiFi Playback
  • Playback time – 8 hours (80mAH)
  • Charge time – 1-2 hours
  • Overall size – 540 x 32 x 20mm
  • .6 ounces
  • 10mm driver

Overall J&L didn’t cut any corners on the build, and the 103s are as premium as you can get under $200, and certainly the best you can get under $50.

Sound

The 103s absolutely shine when it comes to audio playback. The 103s reproduce sound that is rich, warm, spacious, articulate, detailed but not overly analytical. As earbuds get overly analytical, they can be accurate but ultimately no fun. The 103s sound as if a team of engineers spent countless hours tuning the large 10mm drivers to pump out sound that matters to all genres of music.

That’s extremely difficult to do, especially in wireless headphones. Wireless headphones usually suffer from poor playback due to the lack of bandwidth Bluetooth provides, but it is clear the engineers got the most out of their ear buds. Most wireless earbuds jack up the low end because the general user loves their bass. Bass usually makes music more fun to listen to, especially when you can feel it. The downside to bass is it muddles the mids, and highs need to be dialed up for the user to get clarity. While that style of music can be fun to listen to, it’s not the best way to enjoy music.

While I typically listen to a wide range of music, I usually turn to Classical music when I love headphones/earbuds.

The detail in classical music is unmatched by other genres due to the wide range of instruments played by human beings. There’s nothing digital with Classical music, and having the ability to differentiate between instruments on earbuds is something I don’t find as often as I would like. The 103s master the Classical genre with beauty.

I also like to turn to Classic Rock like the Beatles to listen for the guitars, pianos and vocals. There’s a nostalgia when listening to Classic Rock too, as the sound equipment to record in that era was not as clean as it is today. Listening to the 103s with my eyes closed brings me back to a time when I fell in love with music.

Those feelings the 103s generate with the high level of sound quality are why I am in love with them.

From Daft Punk, to Taylor Swift, to Carrie Underwood, you will love your music on the 103s.

If you’re wondering about loudness, the 103s get painfully loud. There are some of you who really like to blast your music, and the 103s can get to painful levels. The abundance of power is what pushes the 10mm drivers to sound so incredibly balanced, spacious and rich.

I am truly impressed with the sound reproduction the J&L 103 wireless earbuds produce, and given the price, I have no doubt you would too.

Battery, Bluetooth and call quality

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I mentioned earlier that the J&L 103 wireless earbuds are powerful. I never listened to them beyond 75%, and I frequently pulled in over seven hours of playback before needing a recharge. It was pretty consistent to get over seven hours of playback over several weeks of usage.

Bluetooth quality is also important when it comes to wireless headphones. The 103s did not drop signal one time, no matter which pocket I carried my phone in. There are countless wireless headphones that do not get this feature right, and can ruin the overall experience due to music dropping out.

Call quality is spot on too. Most budget wireless headphones make call quality and the microphone a “throw-in” feature. Those budget headphones would probably be better served to leave out the microphone since no one wants to repeat themselves over calls. I know it sound too good to be true, but I even use the 103s for business calls. While I use my mother to test out call quality, using the 103s for work calls is the true measure of acceptance as I will not have poor call quality when it comes to my job as a chemist.

Overall

When you consider the build, materials, battery life, Bluetooth connection, call quality, price and most importantly sound reproduction, the J&L 103s are what I would call perfection. That’s a bold statement for anyone to make, but I’ll stake my audiophile reputation on it.

I’ve fallen in love with the J&L 103 Sports Bluetooth earbuds and have no qualms recommending them to anyone who has $40 to spare. Don’t waste your money on any other wireless headphones until you give these a try.

Get the J&L 103 Sports Bluetooth earbuds at Amazon for $39.99 after applying discount code NRADNBFT at checkout. 

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21
Sep

Secret Life of Pets Unleashed is a chaotic reprisal of the classic match-3 (review)


Secret Life of PetsWebsite screenshot

screenshot_2016-09-19-21-53-33There are dozens, if not hundreds, of match-3 style games available in the Play Store. The themes to these games are easily malleable by developers, based on an icon style (fruit, candy, etc), a general theme (island, WWII, etc), or as a extension of the latest popular movie or TV show branding & marketing.

The newer of these offerings falls into the latter category,

Screenshot_2016-09-19-21-53-22-169x300.pYep, 41 and playing this game. It’s what I do.

Secret Life of Pets Unleashed, offers up classic match-3 gameplay with the thematic branding of the recent hit kids’ movie. The game is plenty safe for young children, but can be played by all ages.

Setup

If you’re even remotely familiar with the match-3 style of game, this game won’t take any time at all to pick up and figure out. screenshot_2016-09-19-21-53-43First step is to pick up this free game from the Play Store (link here). After download and opening, you have the customary linking to Google Play Games. There are the usual (if limited) ‘settings’ available, such as music and sound effects on/off.

Gameplay

From here you’re directed right to clicking on the first level (there is no avatar, background, or other setup choices to make prior to beginning). As I stated earlier, in this game’s case the theme is to that of the movie “The Secret Life of Pets” (movie available for pre-order via this link), where the pieces are dog & cat toys, and the thinly-applied plot is for you to help the pet character of the given level to successfully wait at home for its owner, doing what it does best per the movie.screenshot_2016-09-19-21-56-15

Again, it’s thinly applied at best, as most of this game style’s variants are. The core gameplay doesn’t change from most others you’ve played: you have to line up at least 3 of the same icon in a row (or sometimes in other shapes) to make them disappear. This drops all icons above down Tetris-style to fill the void. If you do well (or are lucky), these fall-in icons will align with others of the same look and you get a cascading, or domino effect of icon matches.

You can also gain ‘special’ icons through various efforts of a given level, such as lining up 4 or more (this gives you a special icon that will wipe out an entire row or column once adjoined with two other like icons).

I’ve played over a half-dozen levels, and while I can tell you there are more special icons and cascade effect out there, I honestly can’t tell you definitively what they are.
screenshot_2016-09-19-21-58-44This is because the action in this game is so frenetic, so chaotic, that it is very difficult to track exactly what great thing has been bestowed upon you by the particular aligning of certain icons.

At some points you can only sit back and watch the chaos unfold as icons fly in from off-screen, while others up and fly away, while at some points almost the entire screen of icons is wiped, replace, and almost wiped again. At most times I didn’t feel that I had a very manual hand in clearing a given level; as stated, most times I have no idea how it got cleared to begin with!

 

What I Liked

  • Good colors, not too garish.
  • Easy to pick up and play on a whim.
  • Good for young children.

What Could Use Improvementscreenshot_2016-09-19-21-54-52

  • Gameplay input is “locked out” during lengthly animation sequences; interrupts flow of play.
  • Almost too-simple gameplay, seems hard to fail.
  • Cascade/domino effects are too frenetic, almost impossible to follow what is happening on-screen.

 

Download Secret Life of Pets Unleashed here.

20
Sep

WhatsApp adds user mentions so you can’t ignore group chats


Anyone who has been included in a group chat knows how annoying they can be. You end up muting the thread to keep the notifications from driving you crazy. Sometimes you do need to see a message and WhatsApp is adding a new tool that will make it a little more difficult to ignore group chats. The app now has user mentions so you can make sure whoever you need to see a message gets a notification about it.

Like Twitter, Instagram and other social apps, using the “@” symbol to tag someone will alert them. And yes, it will do so even if they’ve muted a conversation. While the change will make it more difficult to ignore the group chats you want no part of, it does seem useful. When you take into account that WhatsApp allows 256 users in a group, it can be difficult to keep up or making sure the right person sees your note. You can tag multiple users at once, too.

The new feature is available in Android and iOS versions of the app, but you won’t be able to use it on the web. WhatsApp has been keen on regularly adding new features for group chats. Back in June, a new tool debuted that allows users to quote the exact message they’re responding to in a group thread.

Via: Wired UK

Source: iTunes, Google Play

20
Sep

Apple’s macOS Sierra is now available for download


If you skipped the beta releases, today’s the day you can put Siri to work on a Mac. Apple’s latest desktop operating system, macOS Sierra, is now available for download. While the new version debuted back at WWDC and followed with a public beta, this is the first time the finished product will be available to the masses via the App Store on a Mac.

In addition to the aforementioned virtual assistant hitting the desktop, the free update includes features like a universal clipboard, revamped Messages, a storage optimization tool, Apple Pay on the web and more tabs… lots of tabs. For a full rundown of the new features and our detailed impressions, consult out full review right here.

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