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November 2018 Archives

November 3, 2018

Ventev Portable Batteries

Even with continued technological advances, our portable devices still require power, which becomes more of a problem when we're on the go and bring along more and more such thirsty devices.

Ventev offers a nice range of power accessories, including portable batteries, wall chargers, and car ports -- with its trademark matte light grey finish with orange accents.

For example, the Ventev Powercell 6010+ Backup Battery is a combination external battery pack and wall charger. It has everything you need built in - folding AC prongs to plug in to the wall to recharge the battery, and a built-in cable (Apple Lightning or USB type C) to feed your devices.

The 6000 mAh battery has 12W total output, so it can charge a tablet, or two smartphones at once (using the built-in cable and the additional USB port). It recharges in 4 to 5 hours

But it still is relatively small and light -- shirt-pocket size at 5.2 x 0.7 x 2.7 inches, and 6.7 ounces.

The Ventev Powercell 6010+ is available for around $49 in two versions, with Apple Lightning or USB type C cable.

Another option is a combination desktop charging stand and backup battery like the Ventev Chargestand 3000c Backup Battery/Stand.

This is a lightweight combination portable desktop charger, stand, and battery. It's around 3 1/8 x 2 1/4 x 1 1/8 inches.

As a stand, it pops open so you can position your smartphone in either portrait or landscape orientations.

As a desktop charger, you can dock your smartphone with the included flat cable that nests in the stand.

As a portable battery, you can close the stand and unroll the built-in cable to charge your smartphone on the go. The 3000mAh battery charges one smartphone, and recharges in 3 to 4 hours.

The Ventev Chargestand 3000c is available for around $49 in three versions, with built-in microUSB, USB-C, or Apple Lightning cable.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the Ventev Powercell 6010+ and
Ventev Chargestand 3000c on Amazon.com

November 6, 2018

Ventev - Wireless Charging

Wireless charging sounds like such a great idea -- No more profusion of cables, and no more confusing plugs that always seem to be the wrong type or positioned upside down. Instead, just put your device down on a mat and it magically charges.

Someday, these chargers will be built in to our lives -- bedside tables at home, desks at the office, and side tables in hotels. However, this promise has been hampered for years by confusion in the market between different competing standards.

But now the industry has coalesced behind the Qi standard, from the Wireless Power Consortium (WPC). (Think of qi as meaning "energy flow" from the Chinese.)

Qi wireless charging has the support of major manufacturers, including Apple, ASUS, Canon, Dell, Google, Lenovo, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sony, and is built in to Apple's iPhone 8, iPhone 8 plus, and iPhone X.

These products use inductive wireless power transfer, which requires close contact (basically directly touching), and typically also requires aligning the device with the coils in the charging plate.

A second technology, resonant wireless charging, offers a more relaxed distance (up to 45 mm / 1.7 in), which is especially interesting for devices like laptops and wearables. This is under development by the WPC, as well as the new AirFuel Alliance, which was formed from several competing groups including the Power Matters Alliance (PMA), which has been used in some products.

Wireless chargers are typically designed as mats or pucks that you can lay a smartphone down on. Of course, you do then need to plug in the charging plate.

Ventev also offers the Ventev Wireless Chargestand for smartphones, in addition to its traditional batteries and chargers (see previous post).

The Wireless Chargestand is a combination desktop charger and smartphone stand. The wireless charging puck is removable, so you can use it (and the stand) independently.

The stand and its aluminum frame are adjustable, for two viewing angles, for different positions (portrait, landscape, or flat on table), and for optimal charging centered on the back of the smartphone.

The Chargestand provides 15W of power, so you can use the smartphone while it is charging. And it supports fast wireless charging, so the smartphone can charge 50% in one hour. It also has built-in protection from short circuit, overcharge, overdischarge, and overcurrent.

Interestingly, the Chargestand supports both the Qi and PMA wireless charging standards, so can work with a variety of older and newer devices.

The Ventev Wireless Chargestand is available for around $59. It's a nice flexible design, supporting multiple uses (flat and as a stand), and multiple devices (Qi and PMA).

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the Ventev Wireless Chargestand on Amazon.com

November 13, 2018

TP-Link - Smart Home Power and Bulbs

Smart Home companies like TP-Link make products that you can use to control and manage your home, including the TP-Link Kasa Smart line of Wi-Fi plugs, light bulbs, light switches, and smart camera -- plus the networking routers and Wi-Fi extenders to use to communicate with these devices.

These smart devices can be controlled and scheduled from the Kasa app, or by voice from digital assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. (See Holiday 2017 for more on Smart Home devices.)

While this year's crop of smart home devices does not feature exotic new technology, it is another striking example of how technology continues to advance with better, smaller, and cheaper products.

For example, the TP-Link Kasa Smart Plugs allow you to remotely control anything that you plug into them, for example to turn the holiday decorations on and off.

The new TP-Link Kasa Smart Plug Mini (HS105) has also dropped in price, now at around $26 compared to $34 last year.

But the real fun is the new TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip (HS300), which crams 6 smart outlets plus 3 USB charging ports onto a power strip -- for only around $79.

Yes, the power strip is a tad long at 14.17 x 2.49 x 1.48 inches and 1.55 pounds, but you get full control of the outlets -- you can power them on and off independently, or all together as a group.

The Kasa Smart Power Strip also monitors the energy usage of the connected devices, and provides surge protection.

Similarly, this year's TP-Link Kasa Smart Light Bulb line includes new dimmable (adjust brightness), Tunable (soft to bright light), and Multicolor bulbs that have improved in all three of these ways.

The new TP-Link Kasa Multicolor Smart Light Bulb (KL130) is dimmable, tunable, and can adjust the color (2500K - 9000K). The big difference is the further compaction of the Wi-Fi and color tuning electronics, thinning the shape so that it's even closer to the volume of a traditional light bulb.

Kasa Multicolor Smart Light Bulb is available for around $39, compared to $42 for the previous model last year.

And it's smaller -- 4.65 x 2.36 inches vs 5.14 x 2.56 inches (118 x 60 mm vs 130.5 x 65 mm) -- and lighter -- 0.3 pounds vs 0.4 pounds (139 g vs 180 g).

So it's fun to see the improvement in these products in just a year, and to control devices in your home to make them smart. For example, think about what you can do with holiday decorations -- displaying colors and controlling other decorations directly, or by setting up a daily schedule of changes over time.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the TP-Link Smart Power Strip and
and TP-Link Smart Light Bulb on Amazon.com

November 19, 2018

Altec Lansing Portable Bluetooth Wireless Speakers

The excitement in audio recently has been in Wi-Fi speakers for smart homes that can be coordinated and controlled by voice commands. But Bluetooth wireless speakers still are very useful -- especially as a personal, easily-portable speakers that can move from room to room, indoors to outdoors, and come along when you are on the go.

This year's focus for Bluetooth speakers is on making them more rugged -- and not only waterproof, but even able to float. The Altec Lansing line of portable speakers also integrate with voice assistants, and some support extended range for the Bluetooth connection -- up to 100 feet.

For personal use, at your desk or in a hotel room, you can start with a mini speaker like the Altec Lansing Baby Boom, a compact, rugged speaker that is smaller than your hand (around 4 x 2 x 1 inches, and 1/4 pound).

The Baby Boom puts out impressive sound for its size, with two 1" drivers with neodymium magnets.

You can pair two of them as stereo speakers, with a 30 foot wireless range. And it works as a hands-free speakerphone for your smartphone. It also has a 3.5 mm auxiliary input to play from other wired sources.

The Altec Lansing Baby Boom has 6 hours of battery life, is waterproof and floats, and is available for around $29. It even has a carabineer clip to attach to your backpack.

Or step up to a slightly larger speaker like the Altec Lansing Mini LifeJacket Jolt, a compact speaker with serious bass (around 6 1/4 x 2 1/2 x 2 1/4 inches).

This is not quite pocket size, with dual 1.5" neodymium drives / woofers plus two 40mm passive radiators, has a 100 foot wireless range, and you can pair up to 50 speakers at once for a big house party.

It also has a dedicated button to activate Apple Siri or Google Assistant, and is waterproof and floats.

The Altec Lansing Mini LifeJacket Jolt has 16 hours of battery life, and has a USB port so it also can be used as a charger for your smartphone. It's available for around $79.

Then the Altec Lansing Versa line of smart speakers pairs and plays over both Bluetooth (for on the go) and Wi-Fi (for at home). Use the Altec Lansing VersA Navigator app for Wi-Fi setup and to bridge to Amazon Alexa for tap-to-talk voice control.

The smaller Altec Lansing VersA 2 Go model is still relatively compact (around 4 x 4 x 2 inches).

It delivers impressive sound with a 1.75" woofer and 2" passive radiator, with a 100 foot wireless range.

Altec Lansing VersA 2 Go is waterproof, has 8 hours of battery life, and is available for around $69., It also has a carabineer clip.

So in the range of $29 to $79 you can have a rugged Bluetooth speaker that syncs cleanly with your smartphone to deliver improved sound and relay voice commands. They talk to you to confirm power on and Bluetooth pairing status. These also all have a two-sided design, to fill a space better by pumping out sound in all directions.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the Altec Lansing Mini LifeJacket Jolt
on Amazon.com

November 21, 2018

Altec Lansing True EVO Wireless Earbuds

Beyond wireless portable speakers (see previous post), the best way to hear music is to put the speakers directly in your ears, as wireless earbuds. These are truly wireless, with no cable between the two earpieces and no cable to the audio player.

The issue, of course, is that the earbuds need to be small and light to fit comfortably in your ear, but also need to hold a large enough battery to last for a reasonable length of time. Plus, the earbuds are so small that it's tricky to keep them safe and accounted for when you take them out.

One nice solution, used with the Altec Lansing True EVO Wireless Earbuds, is to provide a carrying case to store the earbuds and keep them safe.

Altec Lansing also builds battery into the case, so whenever you remove the earbuds they can be immediately recharging in the case.

The True EVO earbuds have a 4 hour battery life, plus can add 4 additional charges from the case.

Then, as an extra bonus, the case can be charged not only by USB, but also through Qi wireless charging. So just place the case on a Qi charger and it also can recharge with no wires.

The other issue with earbuds is the hostile environment that builds up in your ears when you move around and exercise. The True EVO earbuds are designed to be rugged, especially for sports, and are sweatproof and waterproof.

These also provide double-tap access to the Apple Siri or Hey Google voice assistant, and have a 30 feet wireless range.

To minimize your audio equipment, the Altec Lansing True EVO Wireless Earbuds are available for around $99.

- See full Holiday Tech 2018 presentation for my local talks in the Princeton area
- See companion article in U.S. 1 Newspaper, Nov. 14, 2018

Find the Altec Lansing True EVO Wireless Earbuds
on Amazon.com

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About November 2018

Entries posted to Manifest Tech Blog in November 2018, listed from oldest to newest.

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