Posts Tagged ‘electronics’

BlueAnt EMBRACE Stereo Headphones

September 25th, 2011 No comments

4 Stars- techdad

BlueAnt Wireless, the purveyor of high-end Bluetooth headsets and speakerphones, has decided to get into the high-end wired headphone business.  Why would a wireless company throw their hats in the ring with industry stalwarts like Sennheiser, Shure, Grado and others?  Well, if Dr. Dre can do it, why not BlueAnt, right?  Right?

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Incipio SILICRYLIC Hard Shell Case w/Silicone Core for HTC Incredible 2

August 18th, 2011 No comments

5 Stars- techdadIncipio SILICRYLIC case for HTC Incredible 2

I’ve tried just about every type of case there is for my smartphones. My Motorola Droid X had a generic TPU case on it and though I didn’t intend to keep it at first, I ended up really liking it. Unfortunately, I had to say “buh-bye” to my Droid X and “hello” to my new HTC Incredible 2. This also meant that I had to say “hello” to a new case.


  • Fantastic fit and finish
  • Beautiful design
  • Good protection
  • Not too bulky
  • Improves operation of volume rocker and power/lock button
  • Improves grip
  • Easily slides in and out of pockets
  • Easy to remove


  • Black silicone case attracts dust and lint

I was happy to see that there were so many case choices for the HTC Incredible 2. The usual suspects like Seidio, Trident, Otterbox and Incipio all had premium cases for the DINC2, as did a number of other manufacturers. Since I’d been so happy with a TPU case for my Droid X, I started out with one for my DINC2. It was a great fit and I loved it for all the reasons why I loved it on my Droid X, but two different TPU cases had the same problem; the volume slider was impossible to operate while in the case. That wouldn’t do. I next turned my attention to Incipio. I’d just recently reviewed an Incipio case for the first time and was so impressed with it, I decided to give the SILICRYLIC case a shot.

SILICRYLIC boxesSILICRYLIC silicone core and hard exterior shell


The SILICRYLIC case by Incipio is beautifully designed. It’s a two-part case, comprising of a silicone core and a hard plastic shell. You simply place your phone inside the silicone cover, then attach the plastic shell around the silicone cover. The two-part case with silicone cover is actually a very popular design right now, but the difference with the SILICRYLIC case is that it doesn’t add a lot of extra bulk. I also like that the plastic shell has a soft coating and that it frames the sides and back of the phone. It makes for a very attractive look when you get one of the two-tone colors. I only wish there were more two-tone color options.



The SILICRYLIC case appears to provide good protection from scratches and minor impacts. The silicone part covers the volume rocker and the power/lock button, but leaves the headphone jack, both microphones and the micro USB port open. The SILICRYLIC adds just enough of a ridge around the display that when you lay it face down, the display does not touch the surface. Similarly, the camera lens on the back of the phone doesn’t touch the surface when laid flat. Since the SILICRYLIC doesn’t have any built-in protection for the screen, Incipio includes a “vanity kit” in the box. The vanity kit is made up of a screen protector, small lint-free cloth, and a cardboard air bubble remover/squeejee thingie.



The HTC Incredible 2 is a pretty slim phone and can be somewhat hard to grip. The SILICRYLIC case not only improves the grip, but makes using the volume rocker and power/lock button significantly easier. It also slides in and out of pockets easily. The only drawback I can think of with the silicone, is that it does attract dust and lint. If you get the black/black color, it will be very noticeable. However, it’s very hard to notice on the white/gray and I imagine it’d be hard to notice on the pink and purple too.

SILICRYLIC back and bottomSILICRYLIC black/black


I spend way too much time contemplating, comparing, and buying cases. As a result, I get a lot of requests from readers, friends, and family members asking me which case they should get for their phones. If someone asked me what case they should get for their HTC Incredible 2, that looks good, offers reasonable protection, but doesn’t add significant bulk, it’d be a simple answer. Go buy the Incipio SILICRYLIC hard shell case with silicone core.

Available from

Leatherman Skeletool

August 11th, 2011 6 comments

5 Stars- techdad

The Leatherman Tool Group owes its great name to its founder, Tim Leatherman. In 1983, Tim Leatherman invented the multi-tool and began selling it himself when knife and tool companies lacked the vision to buy his invention. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Leatherman Skeletool is one of several full-size tools that Leatherman currently manufactures, with more than 60% of the manufacturing work done right from their Portland, Oregon facility. Leatherman’s website recommends the Skeletool for biking, boating, and fishing, but they may want to add that it’s also great for techies.


  • Great build quality
  • Just the right amount of tools
  • Awesome bit driver
  • Easy to operate knife, one-handed
  • Looks great
  • Just 5 ounces
  • Incredible 25 year warranty


  • None

I bought my first Leatherman, the Super Tool, way back in 1995, when Eddie Bauer used to sell them in their stores. For years, it was the only tool I owned or wanted and is still my favorite tool by far. I’m fortunate enough to have added a second Leatherman to my collection and now have two favorite tools––my trusty old Super Tool and the new Skeletool.



The Skeletool’s build quality is indisputably Leatherman-grade. The Skeletool exudes quality and durability. Every piece of the Skeletool lines up perfectly and operates smoothly. If it’s anything like my Super Tool, it’s going to take a lot to break the Skeletool and it should last a very long time.



All told, there are seven tools on the Skeletool:

  1. Needlenose pliers
  2. Regular pliers
  3. Combo straight/serrated knife
  4. Wire cutters
  5. Hard-wire cutters
  6. Bit driver
  7. Carabiner/bottle opener

Whew! I’m going to be honest with you here and tell you that I am not an outdoorsman. I had no fantasies of cutting fishing line or repairing a boat engine with the Skeletool. As a techie, I tend to tinker with computer components, wires, and cables. Also, as a product reviewer and an avid Internet shopper, I open a lot of packages. The Skeletool is very handy for most of my day-to-day needs. I just clip it onto a belt loop on my pants and go about my day. On just the second day of having the Skeletool, I was at a friend’s house and needed a bottle opener for a beer bottle. On any other day, I would have been asking someone if they had a bottle opener, but on this day, I had my Skeletool. Oh, but the Skeletool is so much more than just a fancy bottle opener.

Leatherman Skeletool carabiner/bottle opener

The interchangeable bit driver was of particular interest to me since I work with devices that use different types of screws and in different sizes. The Leatherman bits have little notches on the sides that lock into place, keeping them securely attached to the Skeletool. To remove the bits, you simply press on the release mechanism. Incredibly, Leatherman also found a way to include storage on the Skeletool for a spare bit. Keep in mind that these are flat bits, not your typical hex bits. For light to medium-duty tasks, I expect the flat bits to hold up just fine.

Leatherman Skeleteool driver

Leatherman Skeletool bit storage

The knife is made out of 420HC (high carbon) stainless steel. 420HC is strong, resists corrosion, and stays sharp. The knife is serrated on the inner half of the blade while the outer half is straight. It’s pretty easy to open and close the blade one-handed. You can use the knife, as well as the bottle opener, without having to unfold the Skeletool––very convenient!

Leatherman Skeletool knife

Leatherman Skeletool blade lock
The pliers and wire cutters are very easy to use and the curve of the lower handle makes it more ergonomic than if it were just straight. The Skeletool cut through a CAT5e patch cable well, but wasn’t sharp enough to cut the pull down string. For that, I just used the knife.

Leatherman Skeletool pliers


The Skeletool by itself, is a very versatile tool. However, combining it with a few accessories, takes the Skeletool even further.

Leatherman Skeletool plus accessories

Though a Leatherman sheath isn’t included with the Skeletool, it is available for purchase separately. I originally considered the omission of a sheath as a con, but the more I use the Skeletool, the more I realize that I probably wouldn’t use a sheath very often anyways. Using the carabiner clip is quick and easy and for carrying in a pocket or bag, the pocket clip works well.

The Leatherman Bit Kit is a must if you plan to use the drivers extensively, like I do. It comes with 21 double-sided steel bits and can also be used on many of Leatherman’s other tools.

Leatherman bit kit

The Leatherman Bit Driver Extender is also a must for me. It allows you to extend the driver by 3.25 inches. You can even use regular hex bits with it, in addition to the Leatherman flat bits.

Leatherman bit driver extender

Leatherman Skeletool CX

Skeletool CX

If you’ve already decided to get the Skeletool, you might be wondering what the differences are between the standard Skeletool, and the Skeletool CX. There are two main differences––the knife blade and black DLC coating.

The knife blade on the CX is made out of 154CM, which is a premium stainless steel. It is stronger than 420HC stainless steel, resists corrosion better, and holds an edge longer. The CX knife blade is also straight, while the standard Skeletool’s blade is a combo serrated/straight blade. The black DLC coating on the CX helps resist scratches and corrosion. So, for about a $20 difference in retail price, you get a better knife blade, added durability, and a cool black color.


Leatherman warranties the Skeletool, and all of their other tools, for 25 years. How many products do you own that have a 25 year warranty? I’m willingly to bet, not many. As I mentioned previously, I’ve had my Leatherman Super Tool for 16 years and the only thing that ever went wrong with it is that the wire cutters became damaged. I’m not sure how or when it happened, but I recently sent it to Leatherman for repair. I’ll try to update the warranty process and my experience as soon as the repair has been completed.

Skeletool vs Super Tool closed

Skeletool vs Super Tool open


The Leatherman Skeletool’s value, performance, and versatility is unmatched by any other tool on the market. The easy one-handed knife operation, kick-ass driver bits and the clever carabiner/bottle opener, all work together to provide yet another example of Leatherman’s intelligent designs and precision workmanship. I can’t recommend the Skeletool highly enough.

Available from

Leatherman Bit Kit from

Leatherman Bit Extender from

Leatherman-recommended sharpening kit from

Review unit and accessories provided by Leatherman Tool Group, Inc.

Categories: Reviews Tags: , ,

Incipio iPad feather Ultralight Hard Shell Case

August 8th, 2011 No comments

5 Stars- techdad

Incipio iPad Feather case

You might be surprised to learn that Incipio has been around for 12 years. Based out of Irvine, CA, Incipio is a leading manufacturer of 3rd party accessories for Apple products, as well as other popular mobile gadgets. The iPad feather Ultralight Hard Shell Case is one of 13 iPad cases made by Incipio!


  • Great protection for the back of the iPad
  • Makes the iPad easier to grip
  • Very light weight
  • Nice selection of colors


  • Difficult to install screen protector


Incipio feather iPad case boxWhat's included in the Incipio feather iPad case


Make no mistake, the feather case doesn’t protect the iPad screen from impact, though a self-adhesive screen protector is included to protect against scratches. This is by design, so if you’re looking for something that provides more protection for the screen, you should consider getting something else entirely, or perhaps using a combination of cases.
Incipio feather iPad case (bottom)
What the feather case does protect, is the back of the iPad. If you think about it, the back is where most of the damage is likely to occur during normal usage. The feather case also protects the left and right sides but leaves space for easy access to buttons and switches. The top and bottom are completely uncovered, except for the corners. This allows the iPad to dock with most docking cradles with the feather case left on.
Incipio feather iPad case (right side)
The screen protector that’s included with the feather case is difficult to install. It appears to be too large. No matter how hard I tried to line it up, either the top or the bottom went too far off the edge of the glass, making it impossible to remove the air bubbles from the edges.


The feather case is solidly constructed and fits perfectly around the iPad. Though the case is made out of a strong but light polymer material, it has a nice soft feel to it due to a soft coating. It made holding onto the iPad a lot easier than without it. I also like that it doesn’t create a lot of static, which keeps dust and lint from sticking to the feather case. It comes in black, magenta, purple, charcoal, and frost.
Incipio feather iPad case (front)
Incipio feather iPad case (back)


The Incipio iPad feather case is the perfect case for the minimalist. If you want to give your iPad a little bit of protection against scratches and impact but still want it to look great, give the Incipio feather case a try. Just keep in mind that there’s no real screen protection so you might want to add a pouch/sleeve for traveling or storage.

Available from
or directly from Incipio.

Review unit courtesy of Incipio Technologies

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Veebeam HD Wireless USB Media Streamer

May 23rd, 2011 No comments

3 Stars- techdad
Veebeam HD Front

In the new age of streaming multimedia, there is no shortage of devices and services vying for the attention of consumers. Veebeam is a relative newcomer in the space with a little twist. Veebeam’s device differs from devices like the Apple TV, Boxee, or Roku, in that it works in conjunction with your PC. It also uses a new wireless standard called Wireless USB. Let me walk you through how the Veebeam works and whether or not you should consider getting one.


  • Simple setup
  • Thoughtful design
  • Flexible streaming options


  • Requires a powerful PC
  • Problems with judder (stuttering)
  • Poor solution for presentations
  • Impossible to use for gaming
  • Short wireless range limited to same-room location

The Veebeam comes with a receiver unit that you connect to your TV or home theater system and a wireless USB dongle that you plug into your laptop. You then install the Veebeam software to you laptop, which acts as a screencasting server. To send a media stream to your TV, you just launch the Veebeam software and wait for it to connect to your TV, then start your music, launch your picture slide show or play your videos.

Veebeam HD Contents
The Veebeam HD comes with the receiver unit, wireless USB dongle, a set of RCA cables, and power adapter. If you want to stream in HD, you will need to provide your own HDMI cable.

Installation of the Veebeam was relatively easy. I connected the receiver to my TV and installed the Veebeam software on my laptop. The Wireless USB dongle installed without a hitch. I did have to add a rule in my software-based firewall to allow Veebeam to work but Veebeam’s website had directions on doing this for several popular security applications.

Veebeam HD Back

The receiver unit has a very funky, Star Trek-like design. Is it Klingon? I can’t say for sure, but I can say that it was thoughtfully designed. The front of the receiver unit has a dock for the Wireless USB dongle. When the dongle is removed, it automatically turns the receiver on. When you put the dongle back, it turns the receiver off. There are no power buttons to play with. The back of the receiver has a good selection of outputs. It has standard RCA jacks for connecting to a standard definition TV, an HDMI port, an optical audio out and two USB ports for future use (webcam and USB storage). The receiver is made entirely of plastic that is light, but doesn’t feel cheap. There are also a lot of ventilation holes to keep it cool. The wireless USB dongle is fairly wide and has an antenna that can be placed upright. With the antenna up, the dongle is slightly wider than a standard USB flash drive. It has a glossy finish that looks attractive but gets dusty and attracts fingerprints.

Veebeam Compatibility Test
The Veebeam HD is compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP/Vista/7. It requires at least a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor but doesn’t list memory or graphics card requirements. I tested the Veebeam with a laptop with the following specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4GHz
  • 4GB RAM
  • Integrated Intel graphics
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit

Given that the laptop exceeded the only real requirement listed, I felt confident that performance would not be an issue. Unfortunately, I was wrong. My initial test results were less than ideal. Out of curiosity, I decided to run Veebeam’s compatibility testing application. As you can see from the screenshot, my laptop did not meet the Veebeam’s requirements for HD streaming. The laptop exceeded their minimum requirements but I was disappointed to learn that I’d be limited to SD streams only. What made things worse was that when I did try to stream in SD, I still experienced performance issues.

The two streaming sources that I felt would be ideal to use with the Veebeam were Hulu and Netflix. Veebeam is an ideal solution because there are no worries about content providers banning their streams on devices, unlike Google TV and Boxee. Alas, Netflix failed terribly on my laptop because there was no way for me to downgrade the resolution. Netflix automatically detects the best possible resolution, which on my laptop, is HD. When I tried to watch Netflix, I experienced severe judder (stuttering). This happened whether I used Firefox, Chrome, or IE9 and regardless of whether it was in full screen or not. Hulu was pretty much the same story, but unlike Netflix, I could fiddle with the resolution of the stream. The best balance was achieved at 240p in full screen. The interesting part was that I could watch streams easily in 720p, when I didn’t enable full screen. In that case, the video looked amazing. This obviously isn’t ideal since you want to be able to watch streams in full screen on your TV without the distraction of your web browser’s frame.

Veebeam Player

Local video files didn’t fare much better. I tried DivX, AVI and DVD movies and they all had so much judder that by the time I finished testing, I felt nauseous. It’s about how I felt after watching Blair Witch Project. The only time I could watch a stream in full screen without judder, was when I used the Veebeam player.

Veebeam Settings

Currently, Veebeam support is limited to chat support and an email form. Chat support’s hours are 7AM-3PM Pacific Time. Via a form on Veebeam’s website, you can also request a callback. I elected to use the form to email them and they were prompt in replying and eager to help. The Veebeam is so easy to set up and use that I don’t think most people will need to go beyond reading the manual and FAQ.

In order to use the Veebeam system, both the receiver and the laptop need to be in the same room. Range is limited to a maximum of 30 feet.

Windows Media Center is not supported in full screen at all. You’ll just get a blank screen. Windows Media Player also has a problem where a visible horizontal line splits the screen. Veebeam recommends using Quicktime or VLC to circumvent this issue until it can be resolved.

There is an advertised two second lag between your laptop and TV. This all but rules out using Veebeam for presentations or gaming.

The Veebeam HD Wireless USB Media streaming device has a lot going for it. It is well-designed, easy to install, and has more flexibility than other standalone devices like the WDTV, Google TV, Boxee, etc. However, underpowered laptops need not apply here. Though my laptop exceeded the minimum system requirements, I experienced severe judder (stutter). I recommend using a beefy laptop with the Veebeam and running the compatibility test before buying it to make sure it passes. The Veebeam has loads of potential and I can’t wait to see what features and improvements come down the line.

Available from

* Review unit courtesy of Veebeam

Categories: Reviews Tags: , ,

Etymotic ER-4PT MicroPro Earphones

May 5th, 2011 No comments

5 Stars- techdad

Etymotic ER-4PT box

It took me a while to figure out how to pronounce Etymotic (eh-duh-moe-tick) correctly but not as long to realize just how amazing their earphones are. The pioneers of in-ear monitors (IEM), Etymotic has methodically been adding new products to compliment their award-winning, gold-standard, ER-4 earphones. The ER-4PT is Etymotic’s latest ER-4 model, joining the ER-4P, ER-4S, and ER-4B.

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BlueAnt S3 Compact Car Speakerphone

March 18th, 2011 1 comment

5 Stars- techdad

BlueAnt S3 Compact- Front View

A blue ant, according to the Wikipedia entry, is not a blue ant at all. It is a solitary wasp sometimes known as a flower wasp and is native to parts of Australia. BlueAnt Wireless on the other hand, is a wireless communications company specializing in high-quality Bluetooth mobile devices and is also native to Australia. The BlueAnt S3 Compact Car Speakerphone is BlueAnt’s latest Bluetooth speakerphone. The S3’s big brother, the S4, is widely considered to be the best and most advanced Bluetooth speakerphone on the market today. To make sure the S4 didn’t grow up an only child, BlueAnt gave birth to the S3 Compact.


  • Easy pairing and simple to use
  • Good, loud sound with A2DP audio support
  • Physical On/Off switch
  • Answer/Ignore calls by voice
  • Great battery life
  • Multipoint support
  • Good build quality w/2 year warranty


  • Music sounds just OK


BlueAnt S3 Compact- Product Contents

The S3 package includes a car charger with a USB port, a micro USB cable, 1 small and 1 large visor clip and a manual.

Upon opening the package, the first thing I noticed was how solid the S3 Compact felt in my hands. There were no visible open seams in the plastic and it felt very durable. I went over the the entire unit with my hands and put pressure on it to see if any part of the S3 would flex but couldn’t find any.

The S3 unit itself only has 1 physical button– the on/off switch, which I love. I’m learning to dislike Bluetooth devices that require you to hold a button down to turn it on and off. A switch is quicker and more convenient. The other functions of the S3 are controlled via it’s front touch-sensitive control panel, which include a multifunction button and volume controls.

BlueAnt S3 Compact- Side Angle Clip View
I once helped someone set up an integrated Bluetooth system in their Acura and it was hard to set up and not very intuitive to use. Setup and usage of the S3 was a different experience. When I turned the S3 on for the first time, I was asked to confirm the language by pressing the multifunction button. I accidentally selected Australian English and had a male voice with an Australian accent walk me through the rest of the pairing process. Luckily, I was able to change the language later after a reset. The S3 then automatically entered pairing mode and the male voice instructed me through the pairing process. It was very simple and I didn’t even need to enter a code. It then transferred my phonebook. On my Droid X, I got a prompt to confirm whether I wanted to transfer the phonebook. After I confirmed the transfer, it completed in just a few seconds. I have less than 100 contacts but the S3 can store up to 2,000 contacts, per phone. The benefit of transferring the phonebook is that the S3 will announce the name of the caller if they exist in your phonebook.

Making calls by voice worked reasonably well but the best part was being able to answer and ignore calls by voice. I was able to answer calls by just saying, “Answer” or ignore them by saying “Ignore.” These voice commands are really what help distinguish the S3 from other speakerphones that require you to physically touch a button to answer or ignore calls.

The touch buttons on the S3’s control panel were responsive and changing the volume of the speaker was simple enough–just swipe your finger from the “-” to the “+” to increase the volume or the other way to decrease it.

The S3 also has a sensor to detect vibrations from your car door so that if left on, it will try to reconnect to your phone when you return. Since I have children in car seats, they are the first ones to enter the car. While buckling them in, I could hear the S3 blabbing about something but couldn’t quite make out what it was saying. Once I entered the car myself, I could see that the S3 and my phone had established a connection. I’m guessing that once the S3 disconnects from your phone, it goes into a power saving mode and when the sensor detects that you’ve opened the car door, it takes it out of power saving mode to reconnect. I’ll likely just turn the S3 on and off as needed, but it might be a very useful feature for those who would prefer to just leave it on for most of the day.

I found the sound quality to be good on both ends. The speaker got plenty loud enough to hear at highway speeds and the A2DP support allowed me to listen to music from my phone and hear GPS instructions as well. Music didn’t sound great, but it was an improvement over my phone’s speaker.

On the other end, people said that they could hear my clearly, though one person said that they could hear a slight echo. When I tested the noise cancellation, people on the other end said that they could hear some background noise, but my voice could still be heard over the noise. I rolled my driver’s side window down at about 35MPH and was told that they noticed more background noise but that my voice was still clear.

BlueAnt S3 Compact- Side View Clip
Since the S3 charges via a micro USB port, I was able to use my Motorola Droid X chargers to charge it up. It only took a few hours to completely charge it and is rated at 20 hours of talk time and an incredible 600 hours of standby; that’s over 3 weeks! I can’t think of a headset that comes remotely close to those battery times.

The BlueAnt S3 Compact is a very good Bluetooth speakerphone. It is simple to install and simple to use. Other than an FM transmitter, I can’t think of another premium feature that the S3 lacks. The feature I like most is the ability to answer and ignore calls by using my voice. In lieu of an integrated OEM phone system, the S3 Compact might just be the next best thing. Maybe even better.

Available from

* Review sample courtesy of BlueAnt Wireless

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