I have a confession: I buy a lot of gadgets. Some of them awesome, many of them crap and a small few get me hooked on them permanently. Whenever possible I try to buy gadgets from Kickstarter or little one man shows, to spread the love and show support for innovative ideas.
So I figured I would put together a post of some of the Stuff I Like.
The Impress Coffee Brewer by the Gamilla Coffee Company
This is without a doubt my favorite thing from the past 2 years. Before, I would make a pot of coffee every time I wanted some (which is often). Because I felt like an idiot just making one cup at a time and like an asshole not making coffee for everyone in the office, I would make a whole pot. That meant that a lot of coffee would go to waste. Even worse was when someone else would make coffee, and it was crap (I’m picky like that).
That’s why I love this little guy. I can brew just one cup of my favorite dark roast, let it brew for just the right amount of time and then enjoy it piping hot.
I had originally planned this to be a lengthy review. Using this thing made me brood over adjectives to forever tarnish it in the eyes of the 4 people who would read this post. My review would to be great (probably not). It would be insightful (they rarely are). It would highlight the flaws and strengths of this much hyped device in a logical and fair way (I don’t have much of either).
But, the more I thought about it, the less I wanted to do it. I realized that I all I really wanted to do was satisfy that most basic of human desire – to bitch about something that’s pissing me off, all the more so because it’s not what you call cheap.
So now, there is no review. There are no bullet points comparing features with the Apple Magic Mouse. There is only this:
The Microsoft Touch Mouse is a terrible, hateful, anger inducing thing. I have now flung mine across the room. Do not buy one, your fingers will hate you.
The TouchKraft auris is a tiny bluetooth receiver that aims to take your non-airplay speaker or dock and make it compatible with your iOS device, Android phone, tablet or laptop via Bluetooth.
When I first saw the concept on Kickstarter, I was instantly smitten with the idea. I would love to make my Onkyo iPad dock bluetooth compatible and stream music off my android phone from across the room. The Kickstarter reached its $40,00 goal and shot all the way to $131,000 which meant the auris made it to production.
Does the Touchkraft auris deliver on it’s promise of upgrading your last gen tech with new school specs?
In short: NO.
Touchkraft Auris Review
The auris is a disappointing, frustrating failure that fails to make good on the promises outlined in the Kickstarter project. Kickstarter is by its very nature a hit and miss affair, and I had braced myself for some beta level quirks, but the lack of functionality in the auras surpassed these expectations, leading me to label this extremely promising concept a middling piece of crap.
Touchkraft auris with Android phone – HTC One X with Jelly Bean 4.2
After a quick read of the instruction manual, getting the auris to pair with my HTC One X was fairly easy. I connected the auris to my dock via the 30pin adapter and hit play.
Nothing. Nada. Zip.
The auris, a device pitched as being ‘Bluetooth for your Dock’ does not work with my dock.
I unplugged the device from the dock and tried the 3.5mm jack. This time I got sound coming through, but it was not what I expected. As soon as I moved the phone even a few centimeters, the sound would cut out. Check the video below of the Touchkraft Auris with an Android Phone (HTC One X) to see how bad the reception is.
Setting up the auris with my Macbook was not as simple as with the Android phone. Though I didn’t know it yet, I was sitting too far from the unit in order to make a proper connection. How far you ask? About 3 metres.
I added the device via bluetooth, then set it to be an audio device, but a few seconds later I received an error message, saying that a Bluetooth error had occurred
Check the video of the Touchkraft Auris playback with a Macbook pro at a distance of only 1m. Note the stuttering, broken sound quality even at this distance.
When I had the Macbook right next to auris and got it to play, the audio still wasn’t up to snuff. The auris shows up as ‘auris’ or ‘auris stero’ under Audio devices on my Macbook. The ‘auris’ setting is attrocious; hardly listenable. The ‘auris stero’ option is lossy and mediocre. I can’t find anything good to say here.
Touchkraft auris with Apple iPad 3 (Retina model)
Connecting the auris with the iPad proved to be the only time I could get it to work. The device was recognized as an AirPlay device, so the iPad music player switched to it with no trouble.
Controls worked fine, with very little lag and surprisingly, the auris even had some good range – about 10 metros when connected to the iPad. At first, I thought that this might be enough to save the device from my shattered expectations and avert my buyer’s remorse, but alas, this is not the case. Even though playback actually works on the iPad, it still doesn’t work well.
This first thing I noticed when connecting the Touchkraft auris to an iPad was that the volume from the dock was significantly lower than normal. If I was to approximate, I would say that the dock had roughly 30% less volume when used with this device.
The auris shaved the detail off the high and the low end of the audio, leaving me a muffled, muddy track. I understand that there is some natural quality loss when streaming over Bluetooth, but all the promises of Bluetooth 4 (which the iPad has) enhanced audio quality seem to have been flat out lies. The audio is not very good.
I was able to move the iPad about 10m away from the auris before the sound cut out. This is on par with the promised 33 feet. The trouble is that as soon as something affected the line of sight, audio would pause. This included me walking from one side of the room to the other, or placing the auris behind the dock. Even if the audio quality was great and the volume was normal, this would take the auris out of contention for any event where people, well, walked.
The Touchkraft auris is a piece of crap.
It doesn’t do what it says on the tin and even the little bit that it DOES do, it does half arsed. More than anything else, the auris is a disappointment. Had the Touchkraft people delivered on their promises, I have no doubt that these little matchbox sized gizmos would have sound by the thousand. I only hope that some smart soul will recognize that their IS a market for a device of this sort and make one that actually works.
Note: At the time of writing there are a fair amount of complaints on the Touchkraft Kickstarter page (I counted about 15) and no word from the company.
I contacted them to ask what the process is for a refund, and was informed that Refunds were not possible. Touchkraft said that they would replace the unit for another Auris, but that they would not pay for the shipping costs because “we have already paid for shipping once”.
When I pointed out that the reason for the extra shipping is because they sent me a broken product, all I got was a “we’re sorry you feel that way”.
While searching for a set of headphones to use at gym, I found the JLab Wave Waterproof MP3 player on Amazon. On the surface, it was just what I was looking for since I could use it when working out as well as for swimming.
I’ve had these headphones for about a year now. They were great for the first 8 or 9 months, but now they’re pretty much busted.
I’ve taken fairly good care of them – storing in a pouch and drying them out after each use.
Right now there are four problems with the unit
The left speaker volume about 50% lower than right speaker, which leads me to believe there is a cable/ connection problem
The Speakers are now distorting, so the drivers are probably blown
Bass is effectively gone. When new the unit had great low end, now there’s nothing there, which is probably also a result of a blown driver.
One of the in ear buds is cracked. The unit ships with 6 different ones, but only one size fits my ears well, so now that those are cracked, I have to use another size, which is uncomfortable.
I now need to get another music player for the gym, and at a rate of $80 per year, the next one will not be from JLab.
Recently, el Goog outed it’s first bespoke tablet, the Nexus 7. From the number you can infer that this is a 7 inch tablet, so the form factor is great. After watching the keynote presentation I came away from it a bit two minded.
One the one hand, if I looked at this as a device for ME, it sucks. It might be pretty and have a cool name, but there are things I want that it just doesn’t have.
On the other hand, when I looked at from the perspective of say, my sister or my girlfriend (i.e less obsessive geek), then it’s GREAT. Now it does everything it should.
Here’s what I mean.
Why The Google Nexus 7 Sucks
1. No 3G, Wifi Only
I use my current tablet when I’m on the go, and I use it a lot. I find it immensely helpful to be able to email, use skype or edit blog posts while I’m having a cuppa at the local coffee shop. Not being able to connect while on the go effectively rules this out as an option for me.
2. No expandable storage
Being able to carry (lots of) my content with me is a big deal. I want my movies, documents, books, games and especially music with me. I don’t like having to delete stuff because I hit a storage limit. The Nexus 7 comes in two flavours – the skinny version at 8GB and the not-so-supersized 16GB.
On my phone, 16GB is just fine, but my phone is still primarily a communication device, whereas a tablet is geared at media consumption. I simply don’t think that this would be enough space for me.
Google’s argument is that I can store my content on my Google Drive and access it in the cloud. If I’m at home. Or the coffee shop has wifi. But I can’t stream music in the train (see point 1).
So, the Nexus 7 doesn’t do two things I think are really important. So it kinda sucks, at least if you’re me.
Google Nexus 7 Introduction Video
Why The Google Nexus 7 Rocks
1. Form Factor
The size is great. For something that’s made for reading books and magazines and playing music, this is a very good size. A 10″ tablet can feel a little wobbly when you fire up the Kindle app, but 7 is just right. It’s small, light and it looks like a book.
If you’re the kind of person mainly accesses your content at home when you’re relaxing (read: most people), then even the lack of 3G is no problem. In fact, if you’re that person you probably didn’t even consider it a problem in the first place. It’s like your computer – that doesn’t have 3G now does it…
2. Looks and performance and updatability
From what I’ve seen, this thing is very pretty.From screen to back, it’s a nice slab of industrial design. My sister likes pretty things, this is a major consideration for her. I think Google has her covered in this department. All they need to do is make the screensaver a pair of shoes.
It’s fast (Quad Core Tegra 3 with lots of GPU cores), which is kind of important and very importantly, there’s no work needed to maintain it. The Android OS has many flaws and many strengths, one of these strengths (imho) is that you don’t ever REALLY need to upgrade it. Some of us might want to, but you don’t need to. Most people are fine with the version they got when they bought their robot thing.
3. The Price
The Nexus 7 starts at $199. This is still a fair bit of green, but compared to what you pay for other tablets (yes Apple, I’m looking at you) this is a steal. The Tegra 3 chipset and the dedicated GPU means it shoudl be fast enough to give most of the bigger contenders a run for their pixels when it comes to playing games and watching movies.
I simply can’t think of anything else this good you can get for $200. Period. But who knows, I might think it’s a cow pie once I get my hands on.
In closing, I think that the Nexus 7 is a good device, depeding on what you need. The tech set will bemoan it’s shortcomings, much like they did when the Kindle Fire was launched, but most will simply see this is a good looking, (very) fast device with a bright screen and a phenomenal price, so it should do very well.
P.S.The fact that they’ve gone to the trouble of pointing out that this is the Nexus 7 (i.e. 7inch) leads me to believe that there will be Nexuses (Nexi?) in other sizes as well, probably a 10″ in they follow the trend.
I’ve been eyeing (or should that be earing?) the Bowers and Wilkins P5 headphones ever since they were released a few months back. The steep $300 price tag (about R2400 right now) is, however a put off.
That is, until you see them. Any doubt that is left disappears as soon as you hear them.
Last weekend the iStore here in Costa Rica (very appropriately name iCon) received a pair and I was finally able to spend some time listening to them. And they certainly do impress.
Design and build quality
The first thing that strikes you about these headphones is the design. Sleek, industrial and minimalist are the words that came to mind when I first saw them. The weight is surprising in that there isn’t much of it. Considering the aluminium construction and the fact that it ‘looks heavy’ I was expecting these to tip the scales, but they were pleasantly lightweight.
The second thing you notice is how sturdy they are. Lightweight as it is, this set doesn’t feel flimsy or ‘breakable’ in the hand. One thing that did bother me on the hardware side was the cable. The way that the joints and connections are made lead me to believe that this will be the first thing to go.
if you’re the kind of person whose ears heat up when you have an idea, it’s something to consider.
As soon as the sheeps’ leather earpads come in to contact with your ears, you suddenly get the feeling that everything around you is somehow classier, more luxurious. They are phenomenally comfortable and even after wearing them for a while, there was no squeezing or movement. One downside is that they do tend to get quite warm, being leather and all. It’s more noticeable than uncomfortable, but if you’re the kind of person whose ears heat up when you have an idea, it’s something to consider.
click images to enlarge
I listened to Bonobo’s “Black Sands” album since it is one I know extremely well and has some great dynamics. The bass was very well represented, though not as forceful as my Sennheiser HD212 Pros (a good thing) but not quite as detailed as the HD200s. I found that I was able to turn the volume all the way without getting the uncomfortable ‘headphone drone’ I often experience with closed design headphones. The sound is warm in a very good way and delivers punch without over-doing it.
I now know what smooth cream cheese would sound like if you could play it at high volume
Treble was crisp and airy and very detailed. On some of the tracks it did seem like there was a little ‘sparkle’ missing in the top end of the treble, possibly around 10khz, but not so much that it would be a deal breaker. If you’re not switching from high end headphones you won’t even notice this.
The mids are were these headphones really shine. I’m not sure how better to describe it other than ‘silky’ or ‘creamy.’ Such esoteric terms might sound like B.S, after listening to the mid range on these headphone, I now know what smooth cream cheese would sound like if you could play it at high volume. It’s delicious.
What adds the extra special sauce to the mids is the stereo imaging. The sound stage is wide as well as deep, meaning you get very three dimensional sound. You can pick out where the instruments are from left to right and front to back (if you were visualising it on a stage) with ease and accuracy. The warmth added to the great mid representation and this excellent imaging made these a pleasure to listen to.
I didn’t have the opportunity to test the included microphone.
The B&W P5 headphones are great. They look fantastic, they are built well and the sound is exceptional. The only problem is the price, which is a bit high when you consider that they are being marketed as iPhone headphones (i.e. not studio headphones) but they certainly get very close to audiophile territory.
That being said, I think I can safely say that it is only a matter of time before I have a pair of these keeping my ears warm. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some noodles to eat…
This week I bought an Apple wireless keyboard. I told myself it’s because I don’t want to damage my Macbook’s keypad with my constant jabbing, but really I just love the way that the keys feel having used one at work for a while. So I bought one.
The guy selling me the keyboard also had a Magic Mouse for sale, and at $30 it was a very good deal, so I went ahead and bought it. After giving it a few days to review it, I can now safely say that buying it was a mistake. Well, mostly a mistake.
Looks and ergonomics – 3 stars
When I got home and connected the mouse I was instantly underwhelmed. The Magic Mouse is a desperately pretty accessory, all curves and reflections. Judging from the way it looks, I thought it would be phenomenal. The first problem I encountered is that I’m not quite sure how to grip it. After using a ‘regular’ mouse for so long, I’m used to the comforting hump in the middle of the mouse for my palm to rest on. No dice on the magic mouse. It’s flat, meaning that my fingers would either be all the way down or I would need to actively keep them raised. Which is tiring.
The mouse is also too heavy. Maybe this is because my current mouse is very light and very nimble, but the Magic Mouse felt like a stone in my hand when I started using it.
Tracking 2 stars
Tracking is way too slow – even with tracking turned all the way up, it was still a pain moving the mouse around. The way to get around this is to install a third party piece of software called Magic Prefs which allows you to boost the tracking speed of the mouse by a further 200%, making it finally usable. Trying to use the mouse with the default settings made me feel like my computer was retarded.
Gaming 1 star
The points raised above mean that the Magic Mouse is not really any good for gaming. Playing Counter Strike :Source I was constantly aware of the mouse. It was no longer an extension of my mind, like my previous mouse, but rather something else to get used to in the game. The slow tracking and inaccurate placement meant I got fragged a lot. The multi touch gestures also get in the way of the games functions when playing, which meant I was often switching weapons unintentionally and sometime literally bringing a knife to a gun fight.
Another reason it’s no good for gaming is that it’s very cumbersome to move around – this is partially because of the weight and partially because of the two plastic rails along the bottoms which make it about as nimble as a freight train.And again, tracking is slow as sin.
I was really hoping that this mouse would work as well as it looked. Actually, I take that back, I was actually hoping that the mouse would work as well as the keyboard. Because the keyboard… oh the keyboard. It is a thing of beauty to use. But that’s a story for another post.
Multi Touch an Magic Prefs
So far, the only redeeming feature of the Magic Mouse is the Multi Touch gesturing. Being able to swipe through apps and view Expose straight from the mouse is convenient, if a little awkward at first. The standard gestures are very limited, which is why I installed a free third party gesture enhancement app called Magic Prefs. This nifty nettle app integrates into your system’s Mouse prefs and allows you to tweak all sorts of things from gestures to the sluggish tracking speed.
Overall ? ?
I would not recommend this mouse. It sacrifices too much functionality for the sake of it’s (admittedly very pretty) form. If you really want Multi Touch, you’re probably better off getting a Trackpad.
As a side note:
My current mouse is a Genius Ergo T355, which unfortunately only seems to be sold in South Africa and Australia. If you can find this mouse, buy it. It’s an amazing mouse – very accurate, 1600dpi resolution. It has a touch scroll at the top which feels amazing and a turbo scroll button on the side, so browsing long web pages is a breeze. If someone from Genius is reading this , I have three questions
1. Do you make a bluetooth version?
2. Can you send me one please (pretty please with a cherry on top)
3. Why the bloody hell don’t you sell the T355 in the US!