Moto Z Review Rewind ⏪

Released in 2016 the Moto Z and its Moto Mods were primed to change the way we use our smartphones. 5 years later, 4 Moto Z versions and no Moto Z5 on the horizon the dream is dead.⁠

But, how has the original Moto Z held up since 2016 and is it still usable in 2021? ⁠

In 2016 Motorola released the Moto Z. This was the phone that was intended to change the way we think of and use our phones. What made the Moto Z special was not so much the phone itself, as it was fairly standard spec-wise when compared to other flagships at the time. It was a small patch around the back of the phone that contained pogo-style pins which allowed users to connect a variety of peripherals to the phone known as Moto Mods that was supposed to make the Moto Z stand out from the rest. While you could argue that the Moto Z did stand out, it was not in the way Motorola, freshly acquired from Google by Lenovo, would have hoped. 


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I recently had been listening to a few Android related podcasts talking about how manufacturers, the media, and tech reviewers (at least the top ones) discard an earlier generation smartphone as incapable of doing the job for users day-to-day. The podcast challenged that, and its hosts/guests discussed how many phones that are 2-3 years old can do just as much as the current generation. I decided to take that and run with it. I pulled my 2016 Moto Z out of the box, charged it up and committed to using it for a month. Let us find out how it went! 



Specs 

As I mentioned, the Moto Z specs were within the ballpark of other smartphones released around the same time. Powered by a Snapdragon 820 processor the Moto Z had a 5.5” AMOLED display, 32 or 64 GB of onboard storage which could be expanded via a microSD card, 4GB of RAM, a 13 MP rear facing camera and a 5 MP front facing camera. Also on board were a front facing fingerprint scanner and a tiny 2,600 mAh battery. It is worth noting that this was also one of the first Android phones to, at least temporarily, remove the headphone jack and provide a proprietary USB C to 3.5mm headphone adapter. The Moto Z launched with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and in true Motorola fashion slowly made its way up to Android 8.0 Oreo. This was back when Motorola committed to 2 Android version updates verses the single version update on its current phones. 


Moto Z Spec Sheet

Experience 

Using the 2016 Moto Z for the first few days had me thinking this was going to be a breeze and that there was no reason a phone of this age couldn’t be used as a daily driver. However, by day three, the battery life of the Moto Z was so poor I was not even making it to noon before needing to charge the device.  

This is where the point or the goal of Moto Mods started to show. One of many Moto Mods were various battery mods. I was fortunate enough to have the Motorola branded battery mod available which doubled my battery to nearly 5,000 mAh. Battery problem solved! 

The Moto Z is stuck at Android 8.0 Oreo which means that it is no longer able to receive security updates and features found in newer versions of Android will never be seen. In my month of use with the Moto Z I did not find I was missing any features that my Pixel or newer devices have. I missed having the option for gesture navigation, but the three-button method that Android used for years was completely adequate. 


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The screen size of 5.5” was good for 2016, but by today’s standards it was a bit of a challenge to enjoy content designed with larger and taller screens in mind. I also couldn’t stop staring at the mammoth-sized bezels found on the original Moto Z. The device has a 72% screen-to-body ratio. Today’s phones are pushing well into the 90% range. Even the final Moto Z, the Moto Z4 had an 84% screen-to-body ratio, while maintaining the exact overall footprint of the original Moto Z. 

The camera on the Moto Z, by any standard, is just not good. In 2016 when I first started using the device it could do ok in outdoor conditions, and in perfect indoor conditions the images were passable. However, anything with any movement or low-light and the camera started to fall apart. Today, it is much of the same. Using it next to a Pixel, or even its older sibling, the Z4, shows how far cameras have come. For me, the camera is the most important function of a smartphone. If the camera is bad, the phone is of no use to me. Battery life is a close second, and as I mentioned already, the Z’s 2,600 mAh battery has pretty much given up. 


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My experience with the rest of my Moto Mod collection is not exclusive to the Moto Z 2016, since all mods with across the entire family of Moto Z phones, but it certainly helped make the phone, which feels otherwise stale, into something more fun. 

The mods I have on hard are: 

  • Battery 
  • Incipio Projector 
  • Polaroid Instashare Printer 
  • Moto Gamepad 
  • Moto 360 Camera 
Mot Z with Mods

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I already discussed how the battery saved me from having to charge 2-3 times per day. The rest of the Mods worked great on the phone and like I said, added some incentive to keep using this phone despite its shortcomings and age. The Alexa speaker is staple day-to-day in my use of the Moto Z. Now, caveat, the Alexa hands-free app does not support Android 8.0 and the Moto Z, so the speaker is just a speaker, sans the smart/connected features. It was a bit of a letdown to be unable to use this feature, but even without it, the speaker sound excellent. 

Moto Z with Moto Mod Battery Pack

The Polaroid is just a party trick strapped to the back of a smartphone, but it is a lot of fun to use.  

Polaroid Instashare Printer Mod

The Instashare Projector did not get much this time around. However, I used to use it daily as a bedroom TV and was also a trusted travel companion ensuring we always had the movie or shows that we wanted to watch available. 

The gamepad had a lot of potential and is fun to use depending on the game, most games I play on my phone are racing games and the gamepad handles hat well for the most part, but the design of the controller can make its use a challenge from time to time. 

Finally, the Moto 360 camera is a fun accessory, makes for a great travel accessory or if you have a specific thing you want to capture. However, in day-to-day use, it is not something you really need. 

Final note on the Mods. They all sound great, and mostly work great, but the cost of Mods on top of what is, or was, an expensive phone is a roadblock to making this practical for most people. This brings me back to what I was eluding to earlier. The Moto Z 2016 cannot really stand on its own as a viable smartphone in 2021, 5-years after its launch. The Mods were the only thing that made the phone usable and to purchase all the Mods I own would cost you about $500 today. 

Conclusion – Can you or should you use a 5-year-old smartphone? 

For the most things sure. However, your experience is going to be severely compromised, and the lack of OS and security updates will leave you vulnerable to issues that do not make the tradeoff worth it. Any other 5-year-old phone, without the ability to augment its function using Moto Mods would leave most wanting to pull their hair out. In the end it was a fun experience, but I am happy to put the Moto Z back in its box and get back to using something more modern and up to date! 


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Happy Plugs Air 1 Wireless Headphones Review

I’ve always said good headphones shouldn’t cost a fortune. However, cheap headphones shouldn’t be bad either. Check why the Happy Plugs Air 1s made me anything but happy.

You should probably just get the Air Pods.

When I first opened the Happy Plugs Air 1 Wireless Headphones, my first impression was that they were close in look and feel to Apple’s ubiquitous Air Pods. However, my experience was far from what you experience when setting up and using Air Pods. 


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What’s In The Box

It was a box of Q-Tips…

The unboxing experience of the Happy Plugs Air 1 was utilitarian, which is expected from lower priced wireless headphones. 

Inside the box were. 

  • Happy Plus Air 1 Ear Buds
  • Charging Case 
  • Silicon Ear Sleeves 
  • Micro USB Cable 
  • Multilingual Manual

Happy Plugs promises 14 hrs of playback time with the Air 1s

What I Liked – Pros 

Comfort & Fit 

When I first tried to use the Air 1 earbuds, the fit in my ear was awful. Anything more than sitting perfectly still led to one or both buds falling from my ear. Then I tried the silicon ear sleeves and the fit in the ear was far better. Time will tell if natural oils from my skin will lead to the earbuds falling out again. Overall, the fit is solid, and they are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time as long as you use the ear sleeves.


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Control, Control, You Must Have Control 

Like many other wireless headphones, the Air 1s offer touch controls built into each earbud, but one thing that stood out was the quantity of controls available. 

There are 14 different touch controls including Play/Pause, Volume Up/Down, Previous/Next Track and Google Assistant/Siri launch.  Sadly my use of them was short lived. Read on to see why!

Sound Quality 

The Air 1 sound quality far exceeded what I was expecting given the price point of $49.99. Music was punchy and there were no issues with overly thin sounds. They were a tad on the bassy side, but I would rather that over the alternative of flat, thin audio. 

Spoken audio from podcasts and audiobooks were handled well and the few phone calls I made with them were great. However, as is the case with all lower-end wireless ear buds, they only have 2 microphones so in some instances, callers on the other end had issues hearing me. 


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What I Did Not Like – Cons 

Reliability 

When I first charged and connected the Happy Plug, both buds worked great. However, since that first use, the left ear bud will power on, but cannot connect to any device I try to pair it with.  I have tried the reset function a dozen times and have had no luck. Without the use of the left ear bud, 50% of the touch functions are unavailable including the Google Assistant/Siri activation.

Design 

There are two types of people in the world; those who like Air Pods and those who do not. While I do not mind wearing ear buds using the Air Pod, or Q-tip, design, they look odd. I much prefer the more bean style like those of the Samsung Galaxy Buds or the Jabra series. The Happy Plugs, using the Air Pod approach have an added layer of design I do not like. The silver trim at the bottom of the ear bud just looks tacky. The Air Pods have it, see below, but it is more subtle and does not look as cheap.

Air Pod 2 (left) | Air 1 (Right)

I will give the case some props though. I like how easy it is to open and pulling the ear bud out is quite easy too. I am also reviewing the Anker Soundcore Life P2 TWS ear buds right now and the orientation used for the case makes it particularly challenging to pull out the buds without having to preform hand gymnastics to get them ready for your ear. 


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Should You Buy The Happy Plugs Air 1

In a word, no. Yes, at about $50 depending on where you find the Air 1s, they cost a fraction of what the Air Pods do and look almost the same. However, the overall form, function and quality leave me doubting that you would get more than a few months out of these. If cost is a factor, there are dozens of other brands out there that make a reliable product. They may not look this close to the Air Pods, but something like the aforementioned Soundcore Life P2’s from Anker are a far better option and cost considerably less.

You should probably just buy the Air Pods…


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Overall, I gave the Happy Plugs Air 1s a 2.5 out of 5. They got some things right, but overall they missed the mark for me.

Let me know what you think about the Happy Plugs, Air Pods or other true wireless headphones in the comments!


Check out other Wireless Headphone Reviews!

Blitzwolf BW-FYE4 Review

Blitzwolf BW-FYE5 Review

Blitzwold BW-ANC1 Review

Best Tech Gifts For Mother’s Day 2021

Treat the Mom’s in your life to the best tech gifts available in 2021.

Looking for the best tech gifts to give the Moms in your life this year? I have rounded up some of my favourite tech gifts to consider this year!


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FOSSIL GEN 5 JULIANNA STAINLESS STEEL – $269 – $390

One of the biggest times draws is picking up our phones to check if that notification was important or not. A smartwatch is a device that is going to save Mom loads of time.  The Apple Watch is always the go to for most lists like this, or a Fitbit, but there are dozens of other great looking smartwatches to consider.

The Fossil Gen 5 runs Google’s Wear OS platform and works with Android and iPhone. 

This watch offers swim proofing, so there is no need to remove it before jumping in the pool, taking a shower or a trip to the beach. 

Other useful features are heart rate tracking, Google Assistant, built-in GPS and Google Pay integration for contactless payment. 


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AIR PODS – $226 OR AIR PODS PRO – $262-$329

If Mom uses an iPhone, there should only be one consideration for earbuds and that is either the Air Pods or Air Pods Pro. 

Both options provide iPhone users with seamless integrations into Apple’s iOS for features like “Hey Siri” and quick pairing. The quick pairing feature begins as soon as the Air Pod case is opened within the vicinity of your iPhone. 

Air Pods (left) and Air Pods Pro (right)

Battery life is also respectable for both options with the regular Air Pods getting 5 hrs. of listening time per charge and an additional 24 hrs. of charge via the Air Pod case. The Air Pods Pro offer only 4.5 hrs. of playing time per charge with the same 24 hrs. of additional charge via the case.  

The only reason to consider the Pro is for their Active Noise Cancellation feature which will block out all outside noise. Something I am sure all Moms could use from time to time!

It is also worth noting that the Air Pods work with Android too. You won’t have access to Hey Siri or Apple’s quick pairing feature.


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EMBER TEMPERATURE CONTROL SMART MUG 2 – $149.99

The EMBER TEMPERATURE CONTROL SMART MUG is something I have had my eyes on for years. The mug has a built-in battery which powers a small heating coil in the base of the mug. Controllable via a smartphone app, you can keep your coffee or other hot drink at your desired temperature for up to 90 minutes.  

Ember Smart Mug 2 & App

This is something all Mom’s, especially those with younger kids, will appreciate. There is nothing worse than making your coffee, sitting down to enjoy it only to have to deal with any number of things your kids may throw at you. When you finally sit down again, your coffee is ice cold!


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FACEBOOK PORTAL MINI – $119-$179

ECHO SHOW 5 – $64.99-$99.99

Regardless of if we are stuck at home due to a pandemic or going about our lives like we used to, and hope to be doing soon, a device like an Echo Show or Facebook Portal is a great idea for Mother’s Day. I have grouped these together because the decision comes down to the ecosystem your Mother and she wants to connect with are in. If your family is firmly in the Amazon ecosystem and you already have echo devices throughout the house, the Echo Show would be the best pick. Not only does it provide the video calling capability to others using an Echo, but the tie into the rest of Amazon’s ever-growing network of services is a big plus. 

However, if Amazon’s ecosystem is not where other friends and family are invested, the Facebook Portal is the next best option. 

Facebook’s Portal allows you to chat with anyone using Facebook Messenger. The device has a camera built in that uses a feature called “Smart Camera” which allows you to move around the room freely while the camera always keeps you in the frame. 

A bonus to the Portal is that it is also Amazon Alexa enabled, allowing the device to perform nearly all the same tasks the Echo Show can. 

Finally, the Portal doubles as a digital picture frame which can display random or selected albums of Facebook photos.  

Facebook Portal Mini
Echo Show 5

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EUFY BY ANKER, BOOSTIQ ROBOVAC 15C MAX – $399

We are all starved for time, especially if you are a busy Mom with young kids running around. Finding time to do housework is a challenge. One item many people think is an unnecessary luxury is a smart vacuum, and until recently I would have completely agreed with that sentiment. Until we got our first smart vacuum. 

Smart vacuums like the Anker Eufy Robovac are not going to do a deep clean, like a Dyson will, but sending it out each day to stay on top of the crumbs, dirt and dog hair that inevitably is spread across the house is a lifesaver. With our kids and dogs there is always some sort of mess being spread around the floors. Having a smart vacuum is a vital part of keeping our house clean, while also freeing us up to take on other tasks. 

If you do opt for a smart vacuum, you will need to consider your needs Anker offers various versions of its Eufy Robovac. The Robovac 15C offers up to 2000pa of suction, is WI-FI connected and is Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant enabled, allowing you to start vacuuming by voice command.

Eufy’s BoostIQ technology allows the Robovac to adjust its vacuuming settings when it detects a different type of surface, which is great if you are moving from hardwood to carpet.


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TILE MATE – 2 PACK – $52.99

The Tile tracker has long been the stalwart of every gift guide found on the internet so I would be remiss to exclude it from this one! 

Tile is a Bluetooth device tracker that lets you keep track of whatever it attached to. Be it keys, a bag, the dog or a toddler, the tile can be found via its companion app. 

If your Tile-equipped item is within 200m of your phone, the Tile app can locate you item by playing an audible tone. If you are beyond the 200m range, the Tile app will show you the last location your item was when connected to your phone. 

Finally, the biggest strength of the Tile, and its long-standing popularity, is the Tile network. If you leave an item somewhere while on a trip, and how no luck tracking it down using the above methods, the next time another Tile user gets within range of your Tile, the app will alert you with its location. 


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That’s all for this years list? Are there any items that you would have added to the list? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t forget to check out my Best Camping Tech for 2021 if you are planning on doing any camping or hiking this year!

Best Camping Tech for 2021

If you are going camping this summer, you are going to want to check out this list of the best camping and outdoor tech.

While it is certainly nice to step away from the busy tech-focused world we live in, leaving our phones and computers behind, there is also something to be said for getting away on an adventure with the best outdoor tech and gadgets available. 

Check out my list of the best camping and outdoor tech for 2021 


BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE 2 – $299.95

I covered the BIOLITE CampStove 2 back in back 2017 when it was first released. The CampStove 2 is a portable wood burning stove that converts heat into electricity. 

BioLite’s patented core technology captures waste heat from the fire through a heat probe attached to the stove’s power pack. The captured heat is converted into electricity via a thermoelectric generator. This powers a fan and sends electricity to a USB charging port. Excess power is stored in the internal. The internal fan injects air back into the burn chamber which improves combustion and creating a cleaner, more efficient burn.

The CampStove also comes with an array of accessories such as a lamp, kettle and cooking grill.

Check out the BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE 2.  


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LUMINAID PACKLITE LANTERN – $49.99

The LUMINAID PACKLITE LANTERN is something I have never considered needing before. However, when I think back to every time my family and I have gone camping, one thing that inevitably happens is we arrive to the site late in the day and are trying to setup camp and cook dinner since we are all starving after a long drive. 

I have used trouble lights, oil lanterns or even our van’s headlights, but none of those are ideal. When I came across the LUMINAID I knew it needed to be on this list! 

The lantern is solar powered so you will need to do a bit of planning to ensure it has a charge to get you up and running. You can also charge via a USB port if solar is not an option, however.

Delivering up to 150 lumens of LED light at max power and can supply up to 50 hrs. of light in low power mode. 

My suggestion is to pick up 4-5 of these lanterns to illuminate your entire campsite. They are also waterproof with an IP67 rating so they can stay setup for the whole trip. 

Check out the LUMINAID PACKLITE LANTERN


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LIFESTRAW PERSONAL WATER FILTER – $25

The LIFESTRAW PERSONAL WATER FILTER is something you are going to want to have on hand if you are going to be away from a potable water source on your next camping or hiking adventure. 

The LIFESTRAW filter removes a minimum of 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites, and filters to 0.2 microns. It does this without the need for iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals. 

You can place this in any body of water like a river or stream and drink through the straw delivery clean, filtered water that will not harm you. A must if you are going to heading into the back county.

Check out the LIFESTRAW PERSONAL WATER FILTER 


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AKASO V50 PRO NATIVE 4K 30FPS 20MP WI-FI ACTION CAMERA WITH EIS TOUCH SCREEN – $189.99

Now we are into some real gadgets in the Gadget Syrup sense! You likely have not heard of AKASO before but think of them as a poor-man’s GoPro. And that is not a bad a thing! 

The AKASO V50 ACTION CAMERA records in up to 4K/30FPS, shoots 20MP stills and has WI-FI to transmit your content a smartphone for editing and sharing. 

This action cam also offers EIS or Electronic Image Stabilization to ensure your videos and images are stable and clear. There is also a 6-position gyroscope onboard to ensure the camera always knows which direction it is oriented. 

This camera bundle includes 2 x rechargeable 1100 mAh batteries, chargers, a remote-control wristband, and lots of other useful accessories. 

AKASO V50 Pro Action Cam
AKASO 14 in 1 Action Camera Accessory Kit

If you really want to step up your action camera game, you should also consider the AKASO 14 IN 1 ACTION CAMERA ACCESSORY KIT. This add-on kit only costs $24.99 CAD and includes useful add-ons such as the chest strap, mini tripod, and floating wrist strap. 

Check out the AKASO V50 PRO ACTION CAMERA 


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JBL FLIP 5 PORTABLE WATERPROOF WIRELESS BLUETOOTH SPEAKER – $149.98

The JBL FLIP 5 is one of the best rugged and waterproof speakers available and comes in a variety of assorted colours. Eleven to be exact.

Look at all those colours!

The 4800mAh battery provides up to 12 hours of playback time and the speaker is IPX7 rated, which means it can be submerged in up to 3 ft of water with no fear of damage. 

Its cylindrical design also makes the FLIP 5 easy to pack in your back, taking up minimal space.

The FLIP 5 also supports pairing with other “partyboost” speakers giving you the ability to create a stereo pair.

Check out the JBL FLIP 5 PORTABLE WATERPROOF WIRELESS BLUETOOTH SPEAKER


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JACKERY PORTABLE POWER STATION EXPLORER – From $259.99

A few years ago, the family and I went camping in Northern Ontario. The site we selected was a no-power site. We figured we would be fine without electricity and we could use the battery from our SUV to keep our cooler running overnight. Using the car each day to keep the battery charged for the next night would be fine. We woke up on day two and the battery to the SUV was dead and our food was warm.  

Sigh. We moved to a powered site immediately. 

Had we planned better we would have brought one of these with us. 

The JACKERY PORTABLE POWER STATION EXPLORER will let you power and charge your devices when you cannot get to a wall charger. You can power up to 4 devices at a time including smartphones, laptops, small heaters, and lights. 

The JACKERY PORTABLE POWER STATION EXPLORER also can be recharged via solar, but you will need to purchase the solar panel separately. 

Its biggest limitation is that it cannot power devices like a kettle because of the wattage requirements. 

Check out the JACKERY PORTABLE POWER STATION EXPLORER 


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VANKYO BURGER 101 3D PICO PROJECTOR – $276.99

The VANKYO BURGER 101 3D PICO PROJECTOR may be a bit of an unnecessary camping item, but it sure is a lot of fun. I have long been a user of the Motorola Z line of phone and Moto Mods. The mod I have used most has been the Incipio InstaShare Projector which snaps onto the back of the phone, turning it into a fully functional projector. 

The VANKYO BURGER 101 3D PICO PROJECTOR does not snap onto the phone, but instead connects via Wi-Fi or HDMI to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. 

This projector provides up to the equivalent of a 100” screen size at 1080p resolution and has a built-in 5200mAh battery which is more than enough to get through a movie or a few TV shows on Netflix. 

All of this comes in a device that weighs about the same as an iPhone 12. 

The projector also supports 3D playback if you have 3D glasses, which are not included. However, I would not buy this for its 3D capabilities, but more for its size and convenience.

Don’t forget a big white sheet and some rope to create a makeshift projector screen!

Check out the VANKYO BURGER 101 3D PICO PROJECTOR 


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That is it! There are hundreds of other fun and useful gadgets you could take camping with you, but these are some of my favourites. I hope you enjoyed and let me know in the comments what type of tech you take with you when venture to the great outdoors.


If you would like to see other guides like this, send me an email HERE.

Kickstarter Spotlight: STORM 2 Sci-Fi EDC Power Bank For Digital Nomads

The STORM 2 EDC Portable Battery is not your average power bank.

There are a lot, like a lot, of different portable battery packs on the market. You see them everywhere. Like Google Home Minis, you find them everywhere you turn, even in the the bottom of the cereal box. For the most part, they are all the same boring black slab of battery with nothing that sets it apart from the others. Ever once in a while, you find one that stands out. However, they’re a pretty boring category of tech gear.


I will admit, the Pikachu one is pretty damn cool. It also has USB C for charging which is nice ⚡

I don’t use these very often any more. Mostly because they either lack the power to run everything I need them to or just don’t like to lug the ugly bricks around. Then I came across the STORM 2 Power Bank courtesy of Daniel Rubino from Windows Central. Much like Daniel, I find these battery packs tend to all be the same, but the STORM 2 has an LCD which ties into the battery pack’s OS/firmware and the housing for the battery is completely clear. It caught my attention.


I have seen a lot of comparisons to a Cyberpunk-style design, but for me it feels more like a prop from Star Trek.


STORM 2 Power Bank from Kickstarter
Microsoft Surface Duo connected to the Storm 2 Power Bank. 📸: Daniel Rubino

What is the STORM 2 Sci-Fi EDC Power Bank For Digital Nomads?

The STORM 2 is a 27,600mAh / 99.36 Wh battery pack at its core, but it has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. The housing that encases the battery is clear, which serves no purpose other than to look cool and nerdy which is right in my wheelhouse. You can see the battery, circuitry and ports.

On the top-side the STORM 2 has a LCD display which allows you to control the power banks OS/firmware. Yes, this battery pack runs its own OS. The OS runs on a 32-bit M3 ARM MCU chip.

Check out the spec breakdown:

Power100W PD In/Out
3.3-25.2V DC Out
Pass-through charging
Battery27,600mAh/99.36Wh
Panasonic-Sanyo NCR18650GA
Ports2x USB Type-C (100W, 30W)
1x USB Type-A (5V)
1x DC Output (3.3-25.2V/3A)
Display1.14″ IPS TFT LCD
FeaturesAirline Safe Compact Battery Bank
Retro Style Monitor
Manual Power Control
Voltage Protection
Short Circuit, and Temperature Protection
Lifespan500 charges
Recharge time1.5 hours
Size151 x 46 x 59 mm
Weight578 grams
MaterialAluminum Alloy/V0 fireproof chassis

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Using the single button on the battery allows you to control the batteries settings for things like temperature control, voltage, etc.



Thanks to the impressive spec list the STORM 2 can fast-charge 3 devices simultaneously. On their Kickstarter page they state you can “charge your DJI drone with the DC port, MacBook Pro & iPhone with two USB-C ports, and your smart watch at the same time to boost your productivity.” It is pretty impressive that a portable pack this small has the ability to charge a MacBook Pro plus additional peripherals.


Charge your DJI drone with the DC port, MacBook Pro & iPhone with two USB-C ports, and your smart watch at the same time to boost your productivity.


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The DC port which allows for passthrough charging is also key for the STORM 2. Many, or rather most power banks do not allow for this, unless you’re breaking the bank and getting something like the massive Anker batteries that are more akin to a car battery in size. It is this kind of convenience coupled with a good price that make this so compelling.


It is also worth nothing the Watt-Hour size of this battery, which is 99.36Wh. Why 99.36? The STORM 2 is “airline safe” and they were able to achieve this by keeping the battery capacity under the 100Wh airline restriction. When we are allowed to do things like fly again and travel you will be able to bring your STORM 2 with you keeping your devices charged, even above 30,000 ft!


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Where can you buy the STORM 2?

The STORM 2 is currently running its campaign on Kickstarter. The team behind this battery pack reached their goal of $10,000 USD or $12,900 CAD about 5 minutes after going live and the project currently has a little over $200,000 CAD in funding. If you would like to back the STORM 2, Early Bird pricing is still available for $138 CAD + $24 CAD in shipping. The campaign runs until March 25, 2021 and orders are expected to start shipping internationally in April of 2021.

Check out the STORM 2 on Kickstarter

Syrup Drop: Keep Your Android Phone Unlocked While At Home And On The Go

Google Smart Lock is a convenient feature that will help you unlock your phone easier when at home and on the go!

There has been a lot of fuss over the upcoming iOS update that will make unlocking your iPhone easier with a mask on if you are paired with an Apple Watch. As a result, I’ve seen a lot of Android users complaining about Googles’ lack of a response on the Android side.

However, Android has had a built in feature to assist with unlocking your phone, or rather keeping it unlocked, for years now.

Smart Lock is a feature introduced in Android all the way back in 2014 with Android 5.0. It has evolved over the years adding some really useful features. The most noteworthy being trusted places and trusted devices.


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Smart Lock Trusted Places

Trusted places is a Smart Lock feature that keeps your Android device unlocked when you are at a designated location. By default it selects your home location as an option but you can add others as desired. Such as work, the gym, or wherever. The setting uses your geolocation to keep the device unlocked.

Use this one with caution though, because if you leave your phone behind, it won’t lock until a period of about 4 hours has passed.


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Smart Lock Trusted Devices

The trusted devices setting is the closest to what Apple is trying to achieve with its Apple Watch tie-in for the next iOS iteration. When your Android devices is connected to a Bluetooth device you can tell Android to keep your phone unlocked as long as this connection is active. This works best with devices that use Bluetooth Low Energy. Below shows the various Bluetooth devices I have paired with my Android device. Anytime these devices are connected by device is unlocked and ready to use. In my case, my Samsung smartwatch is connected to the phone 99% of the time, which cancels the other devices out, but I suggest adding them regardless of that as a fall back.


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Smart Lock On-Body Detection

The final Smart Lock setting available to users is the on-body detection. I do not recommend using this one as it is the least secure of the bunch and Android has been known to think it is in motion even when completely stationary.

When working correctly Smart Lock will lock your device once motion is no longer detected. It is not a secure method, to say the least. Consider this one a major trade off for convenience.


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That is Smart Lock in a but shell. A simple solution to keeping your phone conveniently unlocked while keeping security, for the most part, in tact. If you’re using a device that relies on face unlock, like the Pixel 4 using these features should be a big help when rocking your mask when out and about.


Thanks for reading the latest Syrup Drop! If you have any tips or tricks you would like to share get in touch with me HERE.

Syrup Drop: Turn Off Google Maps Turn-By-Turn Audio.

Turn off turn-by-turn audio in Google Maps with this handy tip!

I was listening to the All About Android podcast recently, and the show’s crew was talking about the annoyance of Google Maps barking out directions while driving that was more disruptive than helpful. One of the show hosts, Ron, said that he had never come across the option to reduce or silence Google Maps voice directions in all his years of using Android.

This is a feature I have used for years while using Google Maps as a passive timer and route avoidance tool. I was pretty surprised to hear someone on an Android Podcast say they had no idea that this feature existed. I also got a laugh out of Ron stating he was too busy with twins to sit down and learn about things like that. This was funny to me, because I too have twins, but they are kid number 4 and 5!

Regardless of the humour and surprise, I thought that if the AA crew didn’t know this function, many of you might not know about it as well.


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Enter Syrup Drop; A series of posts that will feature a quick and useful tech-related tip that you may find helpful!

By default, Google Maps has all voice navigation unmuted and provides users with turn-by-turn directions while navigating from place to place. While this feature is beneficial when visiting a new destination, it can be somewhat distracting and in some case annoying when using Maps to plan you busy drive to work or some other location.

It is a pretty straightforward function to alter as well; there is no Apple-style digging through the settings to find this. The setting is staring right at you during your navigation. Check it out below.



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The options are as follows;

  • Unmuted – Full voice navigation. Each turn, a different route or traffic issue is announced.
  • Alarms only – You’ll hear alerts like traffic, construction, and crashes. You won’t hear the constant turn-by-turn navigation.
  • Muted – This one is pretty self-explanatory. When active, Google Maps will stay completely silent. The only issue with this option is that should Google discover trouble on your route or a faster route, you’re likely to miss the onscreen pop-up.

That is it for this one! Hopefully, we can all get back to travelling soon and put this handy feature to use.


If you have any other tips and tricks like this, please get in touch with me HERE.

Microsoft Surface Laptop Go Review

The Surface Laptop Go Review: Everything you would expect from a Microsoft Surface in a smaller package.

My Favourite Surface Ever!


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Intro

I’ve spent the last two months using the Microsoft Surface Laptop Go. After getting over the lack of a few premium features such as inking support and a backlit keyboard, I am convinced that this is possibly one of the best Surface devices ever released. It is certainly my favourite.

I used the Surface Go and Go 2 in the past few years and enjoyed them; they left me wanting more out of them and feeling like I wasn’t getting the full Surface experience. On the face of it, the Surface Go is a miniaturized Surface Pro, but with the power of the Pentium Gold processor, lack of RAM and a slightly cramped keyboard and trackpad, I felt slightly underwhelmed compared to my times with the Surface Pros and Books.

I went into my time with the Surface Laptop Go expecting the same thing—a boiled-down version of the Surface Laptop. After two months, that absolutely wasn’t the experience I had.



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Specs

The below specs are of the unit Microsoft send me for review. It was a top-end version of the Surface Laptop Go, so please keep that in mind while reading through!

Display: 12.4-inch PixelSense Display, 1536 x 1024 pixel resolution (148ppi), 3:2 aspect ratio, 10-point multi-touch

Processor: 10th Gen Intel Core i5-1035G1

Memory: 8GB LPDDR 4x RAM

Storage: 256GB SSD

Dimensions: 278.18 x 205.67 x 15.69mm Weight: 1,110g (2.45lb)

Camera: 720p HD f/2.0 front-facing camera

Operating System: Windows 10 Home in S Mode

Battery: Up to 13 hours of “typical device usage”

Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, Wi-Fi 6

Sensors: Ambient light sensor Ports: 1x USB-C, 1x USB-A, 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x Surface Connect port

Graphics: Intel UHD graphics



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Display

The display on the Surface Laptop Go is a lower resolution (1536 x 1024 pixels) than what you find on other Surface machines but, as was the case with previous Surfaces I have used, including the Go versions, the Laptop Go’s display was bright, vibrant and for my use, accurate. No, it isn’t Full HD, but this is not a media consumption device. It is geared towards users who are on the go and need something small, reliable and well built.

Like all other Surface devices, the Laptop Go has the same 3:2 aspect ratio. I think that all laptops should have this aspect ratio. I think the world is over 16:9. Some manufacturers have moved to 16:10, which is great, but for productivity, nothing beats 3:2.

Like all Surface computers, the Laptop Go has a touch screen. It works well, but with the laptop form factor compared to the Surface Pro and Go tablet-style, I didn’t use it much. It was more for scrolling webpages and documents.


Ports and Connectivity

I/O ports and Surface devices have always been a point of contention. Microsoft has taken the Apple approach of less is more, but they have also taken a safe approach by being slow to adopt the newest I/O connectivity on their devices.

The Surface Laptop Go is no exception. Onboard you have a Surface connect power port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, one USB 3.0 Type-A port and one USB 3.0 Type-C port.

I read many complaints that the Laptop Go should have had USB-C charging and Thunderbolt 3. While I agree with the charging, this is a budget laptop, and for the target market, Thunderbolt 3 would have driven up the cost of the device.

In my opinion, this is the first Surface to strike the right amount of ports for the type of customer it is geared towards. The single USB-C port is acceptable in this context, considering the most you will need to connect to a machine of this type is a USB-C display adapter, your smartphone or other USB-C peripherals such as a card reader. If the USB-C port is occupied, you can easily fall back to the USB-A port.

I don’t have strong feelings about the 3.5mm headphone port. That was a feature on many devices a few years ago, but TWS headphones are much more readily available and affordable today than wired headphones are nothing more than an inconvenience.

The only port I would change would be to ditch the Surface Connect port for another USB-C port for charging. I am hoping Microsoft takes that bold move away from the proprietary power connection some time in 2021. Fingers crossed!


USB-A – USB-C – 3.5mm
Surface Connect Power

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Performance

I eluded to this earlier, but I had low expectations for the Laptop Go. My previous Go experiences were positive but slightly underwhelming. In my time with the Laptop Go, I was amazed at how well it kept pace with other more powerful devices.

The 8GB of RAM helped, but I think the difference-maker is the processor compared to the Surface Go devices. The Laptop Go comes with an i5, regardless of the model, whereas the Surface Go offers a Pentium Gold processor, which is wildly underpowered by today’s standards.

Microsoft’s decision to avoid a low powered processor is a massive win for Laptop Go customers.

My Surface Laptop Go use was not incredibly heavy, but I did have to jump in and out of Photoshop periodically. Not once did I feel like the Go was lacking. Like all other Adobe apps, Photoshop is a heavy app, but the Go was up for the challenge.


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Fingerprint reader in the power button.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Pen

The keyboard on the Laptop Go is amazing. I can’t really say much more than that. With each new surface device, I use I fall more and more for the keyboard. I used to put Lenovo on a pedestal when it came to keyboards. However, as I type this review between an X1 Carbon and this very Surface Laptop Go for the purposes of comparison, the X1 doesn’t meet the mark. Surface Laptop, to me, is the new keyboard king.

The touchpad, like all other surface devices is large and pleasant to use. I found it to be accurate and responsive.

When I initially received the Laptop Go, I was excited to use my Surface Pen, like all other surfaces. However, I had forgotten that the Laptop Go does not support inking. At first, I viewed this as a disappointment and a mark against the device. Then, when considering my earlier points about the device’s form factor, its intended audience and its price, the pen and inking support would add cost to an already premium-priced device.



Software and Windows 10

The Surface Laptop Go, like its other Go family members and the original Surface Laptop, ships with Windows 10 in S mode. In case you are unaware, Windows 10 in S mode restricts users to install apps from the Microsoft Store only. This is good for organizations that do not want their users getting into trouble installing potentially harmful applications. It is also good if you’re only browsing the web and happy with the default apps like Edge (which you should be because it is great!) and the Mail and Calendar apps. The store does contain many popular apps like Twitter and Facebook Messenger as well.

For someone like myself who likes to test various different applications or has legacy applications, I use for various purposes, S mode does not work for me. Thankfully, you can easily turn off S mode with a quick settings toggle.

Other than S mode, Windows 10 is Windows 10 and for me, that is a good thing!


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Windows 10 in S Mode Settings
A few clicks will free you from the shackles of Windows 10 in S Mode.

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Pros:

  • Premium build quality
  • Outstanding webcam
  • Excellent keyboard and trackpad
  • Intel Core i5 processor

Cons:

  • No backlit keyboard
  • No support for inking
  • Lower resolution display
  • Limited I/O

Conclusion: Should You Buy The Microsoft Surface Laptop Go?

I always find myself hard-pressed not to recommend a Surface device, which is still the case here. I will admit, the Surface Laptop Go is expensive, some may say too expensive, but with a Surface device, you are buying into a family of devices that are incredibly well built, well supported and look great. The Surface Laptop Go makes the perfect laptop for someone on the go who wants to consume the web, send email but can hold its own for tasks like editing photos and consuming multimedia when needed.

If your needs are exceptionally low and you live only in email and on the web, with no need for more power from time to time, a Chromebook may suit you fine. However, a Chromebook boxes you in with no way out, even with a more expensive model. The Surface Laptop Go will have its limits, but the ceiling is considerably higher.



The Surface Laptop Go is available from Microsoft starting at $759.99 CAD and the configuration I reviewed will set you back $1,229.99 CAD.

Check out the Surface Laptop Go from Amazon right HERE!

Is the Moto Z Dead?

What does the Moto Edge+ mean for the future of the Moto Z line?

This week we saw Motorola come back to the flagship game with the Edge + and to a lesser degree the Edge. But, what does that mean for the Moto Z? Motorola has release several devices since the Z4 went to market and since then the company has hardly made a peep regarding what is likely their most polarizing family of devices.


Moto Z4, Launched June 2019

The Edge+ is a true flagship beast. It has 5G, 12GB of RAM, a camera array that is led by a 108MP sensor, a massive 5,000mAh battery and wireless charging. It is a monster! Nearly every tech writer, blogger, pundit, etc. has had a Motorola phone at one time or another and every outlet I have visited since the announcement has had excellent things to say about the Edge+ so far. The only concern I have seen is related to the curved waterfall screen. As device makers move away from that design, Motorola is marking it as a defining feature due to user-complaints over touch rejection, or lack thereof. I will reserve judgement until I get one in my hands, but from a pure looks perspective, I think the device looks great.


Motorola’s new Edge+ flagship

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I have been reading media and fans a like argue back and fourth over the future of the Z Line. Many are saying the idea was a flop, they should have stopped after the Z2. While others are begging Motorola to keep the dream alive and bring out the Moto Z5. Motorola, when the original Moto Z launched in 2016, promised to give this form factor and mod-functionality going for 3 years. After the lukewarm reactions to the Z3 Play and the Z3, I expected that to be the end of the line.

However, one year on from the supposed end of modular phone experiment from Motorola, we were surprised by the launch of the Moto Z4. The Z4 though had a different feel right from the word “go”. It was positioned firmly in the middle-upper end of the mid-range phone market, and there was only one SKU last year. No Z4 Play. The Z4 was a mix of the flagship spec’ed Z and the mid-range focused Z Play line. For example, the Z4 had a mid-ranged Snapdragon 675 SoC and only 4GB of RAM. But it also had 128GB of storage, a 48MP camera sensor, a huge 4,600mAh battery and in-display fingerprint scanner.

I used the Z4 for most of 2019 and most of 2020 so far with a few other devices mixed in. Every time I moved a away from the Z4, I always had to keep it close by because it was a joy to use thanks to Motorola’s take on Android and more importantly the Moto Mods. I have 6 or 7 different mods and while I admit that most of them are not very useful or are too niche to justify there existence, the majority of them have become staples in my day to day. The projector has become the de facto TV in the bedroom, the Alexa speaker packs a serious punch for its size and the battery mod gives me an additional 2,200mAh of juice for a total of 6,800mAh of power.


Moto Mod Connector on the Z4

So, like many I wondered after the Edge and Edge + announcement. Is the Z line dead and gone? Maybe not…

I asked Motorola this exact question and their answer, well… Just read it.


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GadgetSyrup: Does the announcement of these two phones spell the end of the Moto Z and Moto Mods?

Motorola: “We aren’t defining motorola edge as a new franchise like moto z or moto g. We are approaching the top-tier, premium space in a different way than the competition and you’ll see how this unfolds over the years. For fans of moto z and moto mods, these products will continue to be available for purchase in North America.”

GadgetSyrup: Can you comment on if there will or will not be a Moto Z5 released?

Motorola: “Motorola does not comment on future products in our roadmap.”


It’s a pretty standard answer at the end, but as we near the one year anniversary of the Moto Z4, does this response from Motorola mean that there is hope for the Z line to see a 5th generation?

I honestly don’t think Motorola needs the Moto Z anymore. Despite my affinity for the device Motorola has had a tremendous amount of success with the Moto G series and more recently with the One family of devices. It is the success of those two lines that even made the Edge and Edge + possible. I’d be happy to see the Moto Z continue, but I think Motorola would do even better if they left it and the Mods in the rearview.

What do you think? Is it time for Motorola to say goodbye to the Moto Z for good?

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BlitzWolf BW-FYE4 True Wireless Headphones Review

You don’t need to break the bank for good true wireless headphones! Check out the GadgetSyrup review of the BlitzWolf BW-FYE4 True Wireless Headphones

Don’t break the bank on wireless headphones.

True wireless headphones shouldn’t cost a fortune!

This is the 3rd pair of BlitzWolf wireless headphones I have reviewed over the past year or so. I really have enjoyed each pair more than the previous. They are always affordable and provide an excellent bang for the buck. Yet I am still surprised every time I see someone dropping an insane amount of cash on wireless headphones. Sure, something like the Jabra 75t or Galaxy Buds are better if you compare them pound for pound, but most just buy those devices because they are placed in front of them at stores like Best Buy or Costco. I have used both of those headphones too and yes, I liked them, but did I like them several hundred dollars more than what I have tried from other, cheaper brands? Simply, no.

Read on below the break to see a set of true wireless headphones that don’t break the bank but delivery the quality you would expect from a higher priced pair.


Also, check out my other BlitzWolf Wireless Headphone reviews below!


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What if I told you there was a cake in the box?

  • 2 x True Wireless FYE4 Headphones
  • 1 x Large Replacement Ear Tips
  • 1 x Medium Replacement Ear Tips
  • 1 x Small Replacement Ear Tips
  • 1 x FYE4 Charging Case
  • 1 x Micro USB Cable
  • 1 x User Manual

Pretty standard unboxing with BlitzWolf FYE series headphones.


Design

I reviewed the BlitzWolf BW-FYE5 TWS headphones this past fall, and while I mostly liked everything about them, the design, wasn’t my favourite. Overtime I found they started to lose the quality fit and feel from when they were new. When I saw the chance to check out the FYE4 TWS, also from BlitzWolf, I was immediately interested, thanks to the earbuds design.


Left: BW-FYE5
Right: BW-FYE4

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As you can see the FYE4s are considerably larger than the FYE5s, however the larger size is actually deciving. The FYE4s are lighter than their smaller sibling.

Despite the larger size I found that it was easier to press the Play/Pause button. Also, the shape of the bud where it enters your ear provided a more comfortable and snug fit. Wearing the FYE5s for extended periods was pretty easy, but the FYE4s were far more computable, for my ears. I was a little concerned at first that they would look chunky or gaudy in my ears, but for the most part, they are pretty inconspicuous.

The design of the case isn’t ideal due to it’s size. Which makes it harder to put in a pants pocket, but it does come with a button that when pressed shows how much juice the cases battery has remaining. Something the FYE5 lacked.


Sound Quality

If you have read a headphone review on GadgetSyrup before you’ve heard this. If you’re new here, first off, thanks for reading!! But I like to mention in every review, I am not an audiophile and I don’t listen to that much music, especially through headphones.

Most of my listening is tech and Formula 1 related podcasts with the odd audiobook sprinkled in here and there. For the use case I have, and the small amount of Bud I did listen to, the FYE4s had excellent output. Volume was good and loud and there were no points where I thought the sound was distorted or cracking.

Outdoors I had next to no issues with volume and did not struggle with wind noise interfering with the audio output.

I will say though that phones calls are a total no go with these headphones. Most callers said I sounded far away or muffled. No matter what I did, indoors or out, it was a struggle to use these for phone calls.


Ports and Connectivity

The FYE4 use Bluetooth 5.0 to connect to your Smartphone meaning that power usage should be minimal when connected and latency should be less when compared to older Bluetooth devices. Not much else to say on this…

Unfortunately, BlitzWolf elected to continue on using micro USB to charge the headphones. This is fine, but I would have really preferred if they made the move to USB Type C. Yes, using the older standard is cheaper, but we have to make a leap forward at the low-end of this market at some point.


Micro USB is fine… but we really need everything to move to USB C

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Battery Life

I’m not sure if my FYE5s had battery issues or not but despite having the same 50 mAh battery inside, the FYE4s lasted considerably longer. I even went back to the FYE5s for a week to double-check and sure enough I was getting hours more life.

The biggest difference wasn’t just in the earbud use between charges, which choose to 5 hours of continuous use. The battery case, thanks to it’s larger size houses a larger 500 mAh battery. The FYE5 sports a 400 mAh battery.



Ease of Use

One thing I’ve noticed when using inexpensive Bluetooth true wireless headphones from any manufacturer is how difficult it is to get each earbud operational separate from the other. The process is backwards from FYE5s. With the FTE4s the left bud is the primary device. Meaning, if you take out both buds, use them and put away the left bud, the right bud stops working. Take out only the left bud, connection successful! Take out just the right bud… Crickets. You have to manually power down the bud by pressing and holding the button. Repeat to turn on, but hold to enter pairing mode. Then pair from your Bluetooth device.

With the initial setup taking out just the left bud you’re automatically entered into device pairing, but not with the right. Not impossible to sort out and maybe my expectations are too high for this process, but it certainly should be improved.

Once you get them paired, day-to-day use is not an issue at all.


Pros:

  • Comfortable to wear for long hours
  • Excellent battery life
  • Solid build quality
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Micro USB charging instead of USB-C
  • Large charging case compared to other headphones, including the BlitzWolf BW-FYE5

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Conclusion: Should You Buy The BlitzWolf BW-FYE4?

I said you should buy the FYE5s when I reviewed them and they are still decent, but if you’re asking me if you should buy the FYE5s or the FYE4s, it is it contest. Buy the FYE4s. The superior battery life, ease of use and comfort make them a far better choice.


If you’d like to pick up a pair of BlitzWolf BW-FYE4 True Wireless Headphones you can pick them up on Amazon for CAD $49.99.



Thanks for reading and let me know what you think about the process of true wireless headphones. Do you agree with me?

Blitzwolf® BW-VP1 LCD Projector Review

I’ve always liked the idea of having a projector as in my home theater but could never justify the price. Projectors, for years, have been very expensive and often don’t deliver as good as a result as a mid to high end TV can. I do think the latter is the case, but the former is no longer the case. Prices of projectors have come down a lot over the years making them something the average person may consider when setting up with home theater.

I’ve always liked the idea of having a projector as in my home theater but could never justify the price. Projectors, for years, have been very expensive and often don’t deliver as good as a result as a mid to high end TV can. I do think the latter is the case, but the former is no longer the case. Prices of projectors have come down a lot over the years making them something the average person may consider when setting up with home theater.

When my friends at Banggood.com offered me an opportunity to demo the BlitzWolf BW-VP1 projector I figured I would give it a shot and see how it went.


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First a few specs:

  • Resolution: 720p Out, 1080p Input
  • Lumens: 2800
  • Contrast Ratio: 2000:1
  • Lamp Hours: 50,000
  • Projection Size: 50″ to 200″
  • Built-In Speaker
  • Remote Control Included

Ports:

  • HDMI or VGA for Video In and Out
  • 3.5mm for Video In and Out
  • USB for Playing Video from USB Key

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So is it any good?

Before I answer that, you should read the review I recently posted of the BlitzWolf BW-VC1 smart vacuum. It was a bumpy ride to say the least. Check it out then come back…

BlitzWolf BW-VC1 Review


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… OK welcome back. So was the projector from a company that has made its hay making affordable audio accessories any good? Surprisingly, yes.

I used the projector in my basement home theater that has 3 small windows with black-out blinds. Point being, it gets very dark down there, at anytime of day. The projector was throwing an image about 9 feet from the wall which measured out to about 100″ display size.



There is not a whole lot to say about a projector since it serves a single purpose and either does it well or it doesn’t. In the case of the BW-VP1 I would say it performed very well for each use. Most of our use with it centered around light gaming. The NES Classic had made an appearance over the Christmas break and was the console of choice for my kids and myself. We played a lot of Mario Kart, Super Punch Out, F-Zero, Star Fox and for some reason, unknown to me, a lot of Kirby (awful game). For that purpose the projector was spectacular. However, I did hook up our Xbox briefly for some Call of Duty and Halo testing and the results we good, but not great. There was some visible image trailing or ghosting when things really got sped up, but most of the time it wasn’t too noticeable.


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We did watch a few TV shows on the projector, but we’ve been binge watching old episodes of Shark Tank, which isn’t a very demanding show visually. Regardless of the application though, colour quality and clarity was good and I would say I was pleased with the results considering this projector costs only CAD $105 at the time of this review.


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Should You Buy This?

So, should you buy this? I would say give it a shot. For the price point it sits at and the specs it delivers, it is worth trying out. It does lack things like digital focus, longer throw range and multiple inputs for more HDMI enabled systems. However, for $105 I think you can live with a few short comings. while saving a pile of cash. 1080p projectors with more inputs and other features can costs as much as 3 times more.

Want to try the BW-VP1 Projector out for yourself? Check it out over at Banggood by clicking the link below!

BlitzWolf BW-VC1 Review: Not Bad, But Not Good Either (Update: It lives!)

A smart vacuum is a great investment, until it attacks your dog…

BlitzWolf BW-VC1 Robot Vacuum

Part of the journey when building GadgetSyrup out of nothing was to find brands that I can build a relationship with, makes good products and that I hopefully genuinely enjoy using. Relationships with Microsoft and Motorola, for example, have been two of the larger partnerships I have formed and being a fan of those products beforehand made it easy to review their products. Along the way, I have found other companies that, despite not having the notoriety of a Microsoft or Motorola, still manage to check the boxes for me. Up until recently, I would lump BlitzWolf into that category but now I am starting to have some doubts.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the company and they have been great to work with, but I am the most recent BltzWolf product to come across my desk, the BW-VC1 Robot Vacuum cleaner has been by far one of the most frustrating products I have reviewed.

First, let me be clear, I have used only one other vacuum in my home for the last 12 years. The Dyson, DC-15 Animal. I’m not switching vacuums every year or anything like that. I love my Dyson, they have been great support wise and until it no longer does the job, I won’t be replacing it.

Now, let’s dive into the review


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What’s In The Box

Do you ever wake up wondering what was actually in the box…
  • BlitzWolf BW-VC1 Robot Vacuum
    • 5,200 mAh Battery
    • Dust Bin
  • BlitzWolf Charging Station

Key Features

● 5200mAh Battery provides up to 3 hours of cleaning

● Powerful 2200Pa Strong Suction, attention to details cleaning, no leakage

● LDS Laser Navigation, 360° scanning, SLAM algorithm for drawing accurate maps, multi-sensor collaborative obstacle avoidance

● APP remote control, get the status of cleaning progress in time, control and set the prohibited area through your mobile phone

● High-efficiency HEPA filter screen, blocking 99 percent of dust impurities, avoiding secondary pollution of indoor air

● Self-protection, built-in 360° anti-collision & anti-drop sensor, will not fall from a height

● Automatic Recharging, continue to clean the house and then sweep, will not get lost


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What I Liked

I have three kids (soon to be 5 with Twins coming in early 2020), two Golden Retrievers, and until recently a black long-haired cat. Why do I tell you this? To paint the picture that it is commonplace to see tumbleweeds of dog fur or excessive amounts of crumbs scattered across the floor of my house regardless of how many consecutive days I vacuum or sweep. It is just the reality of having kids and pets. The VC1 was set to a schedule to come out of hiding every other day during the week and on both Saturday and Sunday around noon and do its thing. This schedule I found lead to the majority of those day-to-day crumbs and balls of fur were taken care of and really saved me the time of getting out the Dyson for a quick tidy.

I also liked the spread of features offered by the VC1s app. There are many options such as automatic floor type detection, which worked great to go across our area rugs and back to hardwood or tile with ease. Another handy feature was the virtual wall setting that allowed me to block off rooms or the stairs to the basement by setting up a sort of virtual fence thanks to the device’s lidar sensor. I was forced to keep the VC1 out of my office due to the number of loose products and wiring out during any given period. This feature made it very easy to manage that without having to remember to close a door that otherwise is always open.


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BW-VC1 Promo Video

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What I Didn’t Like

The app created for the VC1 is complete and utter trash. I’m not trying to be hyperbolic here, it is just the truth. Far more often than not, I would open the app to be told the device was offline, despite watching it drive across the floor while trying to devour my 12-year old Goldens tail. Sometimes a force stop and cache clear would do the trick, sometimes I just had to keep trying the tap the vacuum icon to access the device while it was in function. Dozens of times though I would resort to tracking the vacuum down and pressing the pause button and carrying it back to the charger



I also feel like the vacuum is a bit of a jerk. It would be off doing its thing, only to do a complete 180, leave the room it was in to come and bang into my feet while working in the kitchen. It also is not a fan of my dog. Especially the older one, Allie. No less than 3 times now I have watched the vacuum excessively drive into the side of the old girl over and over until finally reaching her tail and gobbling it up. The result of this was a terrified dog who would stand up and run away scared with a vacuum stuck to her tail saying “I am suspended, please help me”. I haven’t caught this on camera yet, and I wish I had of because this sounds so far fetched I am not surprised if you don’t believe it

My final major complaint is the dust bin. It is simply too small. Yes, I am aware that I have a heavy workload for a vacuum thanks to the kids and the dogs, but during one cycle of the house, I have to stop the vacuum and empty the bin. I also have to do this without prompting. Despite all the functionality the VC1 offers (on paper) it lacks any sort of sensor to tell you the bin is at capacity and to empty it. Leaving the bin full and letting the vacuum continue does what you would expect it to do. Shoot dirt and crumbs around the room, never succeeding in sucking them up.



I mentioned about the VC1 vs. Golden Retriever confrontations and how I wished I had caught it on video. Sadly I can’t do this because it appears that at this point the VC1 has already given up the ghost and stopped working. Despite many attempts to revive the sometimes psychopathic vacuum, I am met by a permanent lidar error. The VC1s soothing female robot voice tells me her lidar sensor is blocked and to please clear it (it is at least polite). I currently have a ticket open with their support looking for a fix but I have done everything possible to clear this error, both in the app and physically, but have not been successful. I have only had the vacuum for 3 months and this error came up out of seemingly nowhere. It was a pretty common occurrence. The kids had left something on the floor, VC1 decided it was a good idea to try and suck up said a thing and then bark out an error saying that it was jammed. I removed the object, as per normal, pressed start and was met with the friendly lidar error.


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Should You Buy The BW-VC1 Robot Vacuum

Before I received the VC1 I was very excited about what it could do to free up time for me that is spent lugging around the Dyson and for a short period, it delivered the dream. However, despite the app receiving many updates in the short time I have used it, the reliability issues are just too prominent to recommend it.

The VC1 isn’t cheap either. Available only on Banggood right now, the VC1 will set you back just shy of $350 CAD + shipping which is usually about $30 CAD

If you’re looking for a smart vacuum and can’t afford the iRobot or Dyson offerings I would steer clear of the VC1 and look to Amazon for similar, high rated, smart vacuums or wait and see what the VC2 and beyond can offer should you want to try the brand. The brand, BlitzWolf, as I mentioned has been really good to work with and I intend to continue reviewing their devices. Right now I have an HD projector and a new pair of truly wireless earbuds that I am reviewing. The projector hasn’t been put through the paces to have an opinion on yet, but the headphones are looking really good so far.


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Update

After working with BlitzWolf’s support, I wasn’t getting anywhere. They were trying, but coming up with a solution wasn’t happening. You have to remember, BlitzWolf is a small company and are growing fast, with rapid growth, there are often many pain points.

So, with no positive resolution in sight, a friend of mine with a different brand of smart-vac contacted me to let me know his vacuum was throwing lidar errors. He decided to disassemble his vacuum and found a loose connection inside the housing of the lidar unit. I had already taken my device apart once but did not see three hidden screws on the underside of the housing. I decided “Why not” and took them off. Inside I found two more connections, one plug, secure and one ribbon cable, just a bit off center! Reseated and powered up and finally, no more nagging lidar error!!

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