Google Home Mini – A Welcome Addition to Any Home

Google Home Mini

In the year since its release, there is little room for debate on the growth that Google Home and Google Assistant have seen.  The smart speaker has sold well and with brains behind it, Assistant, has continued to grow in abilities on what it can help you with in your day-to-day.  I’ve had a Google Home in my home office for nearly a year now and it is so integrated into my day that I can hardly see not having it around.

If there has been one challenge with Google Home, it has been the size.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not huge at just under 6″ tall, but it is noticeable if you have it in a bedroom or family room.   That is where the $50 Google Home Mini comes into the picture.  Standing only 1.65″ tall and covered in an elegant fabric, the Home Mini is designed to go into various rooms of your home and just be there unobtrusively.  It is designed to blend in but remain always available and provide excellent sound quality.  The Google Home Mini truly is for the masses because of all of this and a price point that is hard to resist.

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The Huawei Matebook – An Impressive Windows 2-in-1 PC

Huawei Matebook with Huawei P10 Android Phone

In the ever increasingly crowded world of 2-in-1 Windows 10 PCs, there seems to be a large gap between the have’s and the have not’s.  The have’s are the Microsoft Surface Pro devices of the world with top-end specs but equally, have an impressive price tags.

The have not’s are the $200-300 devices with subpar displays that are usually around 10″, powered by Atom processor and have 64GB or maybe 128GB if you are lucky.

The problem is the gap between $300 and $1200+ dollars.  There are not a lot of choices and the choices that are there generally are lacking in some area.  Huawei, for their part, is trying to fill the gap.

The Huawei Matebook was released last year and it remains one of the best 2-in-1 Windows 10 hybrid devices on the market.  Powered by the Intel m series processors with ample RAM and storage, the Matebook has a lot going for it and is one to consider, as I did, when you are looking for one of these style of devices.  The Matebook isn’t perfect as I’ll cover in this review but it is certainly the solid foundation that Huawei needs in order to penetrate the Windows 10 PC market here in the US and globally.

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Review – Moto Z2 Force is A Force Indeed

Moto Z2 Force

The path that Motorola has taken with the Android lineup over the past couple of years has been interesting.  They have produced some great phones like the Google branded Nexus 6 while others like the Moto E lineup have been lackluster at best.  But through late 2016 until now, the company has been hitting its stride and that is powerfully evident with the new Moto Z2 Force.  This 5.5″ phone runs the latest Android Nougat 7.1.1 build and has all the makings of a true hit.  With battery life that is above average, a zippy Snapdragon 835 processor and excellent cameras, it should be on your shortlist of phones to consider as we wind down 2017.

Motorola recently provided a Moto Z2 Force to review (via my work over at Gear Diary) and I have to say, it’s one phone that I’ll be a little sad to depart with when it goes back to them.  Here’s my review.

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Review – Jelly Comb Charging Station is Funky and Functional

Jelly Comb Charging Station

USB charging stations for your desk are, frankly, dull.  Most of them, while functional, are black or white boxes with a row of USB ports and not much pizazz.  That’s what makes the Jelly Comb Charging Station stand out.  This 5-port USB station for your desktop has a unique design that makes it easy to plug in your accessories while not looking like a slap of plastic on your desk.  It supports Quick Charge 3.0 technology and has a blue LED light to let you know when it is powered on.  It’s a different take on what is usually a utilitarian accessory for most of us.

The team over at Jelly Comb sent me the charging station a few weeks back to test and review.  It is the first product from the China-based company I have reviewed and for its unique look and technology supported, the $14.99 price tag is hard to beat.  Here’s my review.

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Review – Huawei Folio Smart View Case for The Huawei P10

Huawei Folio Case Window

I have always been a fan of book-style folio cases for phones.  I like the look and feel of most of them plus the added benefit of protection for the entire device when it is in use or in my pocket.  The Huawei P10 is one of the best selling phones so far in 2017 and although it has yet to make its debut in the United States, the Chinese company has a line of cases ready for the phone when it hits US shores.  If you live in Europe, your life is much easier and the Huawei Folio Smart View Case for the P10 is one to strongly consider.

The Folio case is designed by Huawei and works tightly with the P10 to provide you not only protection but information at a glance.  It’s Smart View window uses the settings of your P10 to give you time, weather and other information with the case closed on your phone.  No need to open it up to check the time.  But this case provides stylish protection for you investment too.  It protects all the edges of your phone, has precise cutouts to access ports and buttons, and fits your P10 firmly.

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Review – ICZI 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub – Excellent Performance for The Price

ICZI 4-Port USB Hub

When it comes to multi-port USB hubs, especially those that support the 3.0 standard, it is a mixed bag.  Often you can find them at a low price but only one or two of the ports will support 3.0.  The others are only 2.0.  Or, the other side of this coin, is that you have one that supports 3.0 across all the ports but it comes at a steep price.

Enter ICZI.  The China-based manufacture has long produced accessories for smartphones and laptops and one of their latest offerings is a 4-Port USB 3.0 hub.  Not only does it support USB 3.0 across all four ports of the hub, it comes in at just under $13 on their Amazon storefront.  Recently the ICZI team sent me one of these hubs to review and after using it on my MacBook Pro for the last couple of weeks, I’m impressed.  It’s a solid performer… no, an excellent performer, with backlit USB ports and a compact, if not utilitarian design.

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Google Home Six Months Later – Seemingly Always Improving

My Google Home

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.

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