Category: Reviews

Google Home Six Months Later – Seemingly Always Improving

In October 2016 I received my Google Home from the Google Store.  I quickly unpacked it, got it setup using the Home app on my Nexus 6P and began issuing it random commands as I tried to learn the limits of the device.  And in that process, I found out there were quite a few.  As I put in my review of the device in November,

Can I without any doubt recommend Google Home? No, not yet at least. There is a lot of growing room to happen with this device and Google Assistant within it. Do I think I will change my view in 6 months? Almost certainly. By that time, Google and other developers will have leveraged the platform and APIs available to integrate more apps and more services.

So here we are, six months later almost to the day.  Has it improved?  Undoubtedly and it is continuing to improve.

What I expect to happen has to a large degree, with dozens of new services now available for Google Home along with better smart home integration.  It feels far more complete than it did back in October, partly because of these new services but partly because Google Assistant, built into Home, has gotten smarter too.  It is continually learning both on how I use it but also behind-the-scenes as Google tweaks it.

Can I recommend Google Home now?  Yes, without question and here is why.

Review – Huawei P10 – Killer Performance in a Small Package

I’ve been reviewing mobile devices for the better part of 15 years now.  I’m often asked, “What is the best phone to get?”  My answer is always the same:  The phone that works best for you.  For some, that’s iPhones.  For some, that’s Android.  But when it comes to any phone, rarely do you find one that ticks all the boxes when it comes to performance, a solid camera, good battery life and user experience.  I’ve found one of these rare phones in the Huawei P10.  It’s not perfect, but it is close and this 5.1″ phone is once to seriously consider.

I’ve had the opportunity over the past few weeks to use the Huawei P10 as my daily driver and it has not disappointed.  It has the power to get me through the day and the performance to do anything I need it to do – from email, to streaming music and video, to playing a game or two.  It is a device that I have no reservation in recommending.  Yes there are some things to get use to with it, most notably the multi-function fingerprint scanner, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll really unlock this phone.

Review – Choetech USB-C Cable 6-Pack – Great Value and Performance

Like many of you, I have a lot of gadgets around my office that require charging.  It is logical, therefore, that I’m usually hunting around for a cable to charge said gadgets.  In my office, I’ve pretty much got it setup the way I want but when I go on the road, I have to take some of those cables with me.  Inevitably I forget one (or two) at home.  Or, worse, I have one break.  That’s where bundles of cables really become a great value for me personally and I suspect I’m not alone.

Choetech has been making accessories for Android and iPhones for several years now and recently they sent me their 6-Pack of USB-C to USB-A cables to review.  I accepted the review cables because, having reviewed several Choetech items here on the site, I suspected that they would be good quality, solid construction and great performers.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I tested all of the cables in the pack for this review and all of them did exactly as I would have expected.  Considering that you are getting 6 of these cables in the pack for $19.99, they are also  a good value.

Review – iClever BTS09 Bluetooth Speaker – Modern Style and Booming Sound

When it comes to Bluetooth speakers, the vast majority of them are rectangles or maybe an elongated pill design regardless of manufacture.  That’s why the new iClever BTS09 Bluetooth speaker stands out in the crowd.  It is a striking, modern design that is dominated by the aluminum disk that covers the dual 10W speakers.  It is a far cry from your run-of-the-mill box style that will get anyone’s attention at first glance.  Looks are one thing but the expectation of a Bluetooth speaker is that it will have solid audio quality.  The BTS09 does not disappoint.  Its design allows sound to project, easily filling a room with music but in a distortion free, crisp way.  Plus, with the 4000mAh battery built into it, it can go for hours without charging.  That makes it great for get togethers, parties or just listening to some music as you work or relax.

A few weeks ago, the iClever team sent me the BTS09 to review.  I’ve been fortunate to review their Bluetooth speakers in the past and I’ve never been disappointed.  With the BTS09, I think it could arguably be their best yet.

Review – Honor 6X – Solid Performer at a Great Price

When it comes to mid-market Android phones, there are a huge number of options at under $300.  Most of those devices have compromises of some sort to keep that price point, some of which are painful to overlook.  That’s not so much the case with the Honor 6X.  The follow up to last year’s 5X, the Honor 6X brings a lot of power and features in its 5.5″ frame and has the features that you would expect for this price point.  But it is not perfect and does have some blemishes, most of which will be addressed when this phone sees its impending Android Nougat update.  With that update, there is no reason to overlook the 6X if you are wanting a good sized, mid-range phone.

I’ve been spending the last few weeks with the Honor 6X and without giving away the plot, I don’t have a problem recommending it.  It performs well, has a good camera and plenty of battery power to get you through the day.  Here is my review and thoughts on the latest phone from Honor.

Review – Huawei Mate 9 – A Powerful & Impressive Phablet

Huawei, and their junior brand Honor, continue to make strides in the US market.  The Chinese manufacture has rolled out several phones and tablets over the past year and one of the latest, the Huawei Mate 9, is nothing short of impressive.  The 5.9″ phablet has a stunning display, powerful specs and is running the all new EMUI 5.0, Huawei’s user interface based on Android Nougat 7.0.  Couple this with a dual-camera configuration that leverages Leica optics and a beefy 4000mAh battery, you end up with a device that not only can handle your mobile computing needs but can take some seriously impressive photos while lasting you all day.  It is a pretty complete package and a far cry better than the 2015 Mate 8 (which wasn’t all that bad).

I recently had an opportunity to use the Mate 9 and I’m sold.  If you are in the market for a larger device that can meet your phone and small tablet needs, this phablet should be on your shortlist.  Here’s my review of the Huawei Mate 9.

Review – iClever BoostCube – Designed for Performance & Travel

When it comes to travel, there is always the need for USB wall chargers.  The question is how many you want to carry and if they are really designed for travel.  For me, when I’m on the road, I have a separate charger for my Nexus 6P, my Nexus 9 and my Fitbit Blaze.  That’s a lot of cables and a lot of chargers.  Then the team over at iClever sent me their recently redesigned dual-port USB wall charger.  I now carry one less wall charger.

The iClever BoostCube series is actually made up of several different models but the one they sent me to review, the IC-WB21W, is perfect in so many ways.  It is truly designed for travel with folding AC prongs and a compact design.  Recently the team at iClever sent me this newly redesigned charger to review and I’m quite pleased with what they have done with this simple yet important accessory.

Review – Choetech Current Voltage Monitor USB-C Cable

Like many readers, I travel a lot and often times I’m trying to charge my Nexus 6P at the airport.  More airports today have seats with USB ports on them so even if you can’t find an electrical outlet, you can still get charged up before or between flights.  The trick, however, is how much you use your phone while it is charging.  We all know that using your phone while it is charging increases the charging time.  But by how much?  Wouldn’t it be great to see how much your phone is consuming energy as you charge it?  Enter the Choetech Current Voltage Monitor cable.

The Current Voltage Monitor cable allows you to see how much voltage is running to your phone as it charges and equally, how many amps are being consumed by your phone to charge it.  Not only will you see how your usage is impacting the charging time, you will see if that USB port in that chair at the airport is only putting out 2-3v instead of 5v which also slows down charging time.  Recently the team at Choetech sent me one of these cables to review and its quite handy having this knowledge in the palm of your hand.  Here’s my review of this handy little accessory.

Review – Microsoft Arrow Launcher – The Best Launcher for Microsoft Users

Earlier this week I posted a review of the Nova Launcher for Android.  In that review, I pointed out that if you are looking for a launcher that has a whole load of knobs to turn, it is the best option for you.  But for those of you who aren’t interested in turning all the knobs or, more particularly, are deep in the Microsoft ecosystem, there is a solid option for you too.  The Microsoft Arrow Launcher.

Arrow Launcher doesn’t have the configurability of Nova Launcher nor does it pretend to have them.  Instead, Microsoft has taken this launcher and focused it on productivity.  Contacts, apps and documents are easily accessible from the launcher, getting you editing that Word file quicker and with few taps than opening the app itself.  But it also does all this with speed and battery friendliness that makes it a great option even for those who don’t necessarily use the Office apps.

I’ve been running Microsoft Arrow Launcher on my Nextbit Robin for the past few weeks and I have no problem giving it a thumbs up.  It works great, has enough configurability for those want to tweak a little bit and gets you deep into the Office apps without having to fuss with it.  Here’s my review and thoughts on Arrow Launcher.

Review – Nova Launcher – The Ultimate Android Launcher?

Over the course of the past few months, there have been two important changes on the Android launcher front.  The first was the announcement of the Google Pixel and its still exclusive launcher back in October.  Then came news last month that the Google Now Launcher is being removed from the Play Store this month.  This latter bit of news has caused a lot of questions in the Android community with users looking for alternative launchers.  That’s were Nova Launcher comes into the picture.

While there are literally dozens of launchers in the Play Store, Nova Launcher remains one of the most loved and used.  But is it the best?  That’s going to depend on what you want and expect out of a launcher.  If you like seemingly endless configuration and customization, you would be hard pressed to find anything better than Nova.  There are a huge number of configuration changes you can make in the launcher, from how your App Drawer is accessed, presented and even your icons for apps.  It is truly impressive and even if you just want to run things “out of the box” with Nova, you likely won’t be disappointed.

Review – Noreve Griffe Laptop Case – Elegance, Style and Protection for Your Laptop

When it comes to laptop sleeves and cases, there are plenty to chose from that give you protection.  But many of them lack in overall quality and style.  Afterall, if you are going to be carrying such a case into a meeting, you want it to look the part, not just be utilitarian.  That’s where Noreve Griffe 2 laptop case becomes the case of choice.

Noreve is based in Saint-Tropez, France and makes hand crafted cases for a wide range of devices as well as travel and office accessories.  All of their products are created out of exceptionally high quality leathers, assembled and stitched by hand and are some of the most luxurious cases you can find.  I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing several of the couture cases over the years, most recently the Ambition Folio cases for the Nexus 6P and Nexus 9 (which are available for other devices).  This, however, is the first time that Noreve has sent me a laptop case to review and it is just as impressive and stylish as their mobile device cases.  No matter what you carry for a laptop – Windows PC, MacBook Pro or Chromebook – the Griffe 2 case will provide great protection and look good doing it.

Review – Acer Chromebook 14 CB3 – An All Around Fantastic Chromebook

If there is one mid-range Chromebook that exemplifies how far the platform has come, it could well be the Acer Chromebook 14.  This comfortably priced $286 Chromebook has all of the features you expect from a device running Chrome OS but it has something that so many others lack:  Style and panache.  The all aluminum chassis is beautiful, the Full HD display is easy on the eyes and it has the performance to keep up with your day-to-day tasks.  But the added bonus of this particular Chromebook is that it has the ability to run Android apps and it can do it on the main production line of Chrome OS (the Stable channel).  That makes it one of the best all around Chromebooks out there.

I recently picked up the Acer Chromebook 14 and after using it for several weeks, it is hands down the best Chromebook I’ve used to date.  My reliable and fantastic HP Chromebook 11 G4 has been replaced and without giving away the entire review, I have no hesitation in recommending this offering from Acer.  It is just phenomenal to use day in and day out.  Here is my review.