GameSir GK300 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review – MBReviews

  • July 10, 2019

The GameSir GK300 is a wireless mechanical gaming keyboard which promises to deliver a comfortable typing experience and a low latency, comparable to its wired counterparts (as low as 1ms), but, are we really at the point where we can give up our reliable wired mechanical keyboard in favor of a fully wireless solution? The truth is that it’s difficult to persuade gamers that wireless and gaming can be used in the same sentence and it’s understandable considering that only recently the wireless gaming mouse has been accepted as a reliable alternative to the wired mice, while the mechanical keyboard’s migration towards wireless was deemed unnecessary due to several factors.

First, the mechanical keyboard was expensive for a long period of time (it’s still not that cheap) and would only cater to the enthusiast user which doesn’t like compromises and secondly, the keyboard is mostly a stationary peripheral and, when connected to a Desktop PC, it doesn’t really have to be wireless (unless it needs to be portable).

gamesir-gk300-wireless-mechanical-keyboard

That being said, a low latency wireless keyboard should be able to maintain a high-quality level of gaming, while also keeping your desk cleaner (especially if you fancy that no cable look) and giving you some freedom of movement, so I think it will be interesting to see if the GameSir GK300 manages to make a compelling case for cutting the cord to the mechanical keyboard.

Design
When I tested the GameSir GM300 gaming mouse, I really liked the fact that it was very sure about its identity and which was its target audience, while not going overboard in terms of design (as it is often the case with gaming devices). The GameSir GK300 is advertised as a gaming peripheral, but it has none of the expected design elements, instead, the keyboard is completely conservative, adopting a very clean, minimalist look. The keyboard itself is rectangular with rounded corners and it has white keys and a gray base made of aluminum for increased sturdiness (the top is metallic, while the bottom is made of plastic) – you can also opt for the black version, which is a lot easier to maintain. The keyboard has its keys positioned on top of the aluminum case, which, unlike the tray type keyboards, offer an easier way to keep the device clean (as a bonus, inside the package, the manufacturer has added a removing keycap tool).

gamesir-gk300

The layout of the keyboard consists of 104 mechanical keys made entirely out of ABS (plastic); the caps are transparent, but painted white, leaving the symbol shape clear to let the LED shine through (the paint will wear out over the years after prolonged use, so the PBT may have been the preferred material). Furthermore, the GK300 uses the DCS standard keycaps which are a bit thinner and taller than the Cherry profile.

After removing a keycap, you will notice that the keyboard relies on the proprietary TTC Red switches which seem to be a clone of the iconic Cherry MX Red switches, being advertised as having the same actuation force (45g ± 15gf) and the same distance to the actuation point (2.0 ± 0.6mm from the starting point and 4.0 ± 0.4mm of total travel distance). When typing on the keyboard, there was a bit more resistance than on the original Cherry MX Red and I know that the gaming community isn’t fond of imitations, but, for the most part, the GK300 did really well and the switches are almost indistinguishable from their more expensive counterparts and a lot cheaper (the switches claim a durability of up to 50 million keystrokes).

gamesir-gk300

In terms of noise, the keyboard is loud – less loud than one of my old membrane keyboards, but loud nonetheless, especially if you are a heavy typer (although that clicky sound is definitely satisfying). Underneath the keys, GameSir has positioned small LEDs which can light up depending on the selected pattern (press FN + left or right arrow to change the pattern): it can be all LEDs enabled, all LEDs flashing, one or some LEDs enabled or a wave-like pattern which reacts differently depending on the pressed key. You can also choose between five levels of brightness by pressing FN + up or down arrow. One thing that you will notice is that you can’t change the color of the LEDs, white (6500K) being the only available option (no RGB).

The GK300 measures 17.2 x 5.0 x 1.6 inches, so it’s neither the largest, nor the smallest keyboard available (I am thankful that it didn’t go with a tenkeyless design which would have made the keyboard smaller, but would have changed the layout and overcrowded the keys). Additionally, the GK300 sits at an angle of 7.5 degrees (there are no adjustable feet on the bottom) and it also has a detachable wrist rest which measures 17.3 x 3.0 inches, so it is going to push the keyboard quite a bit from the edge (it is made of a lightweight plastic that can’t be easily cleaned). While having a detachable wrist rest does allow the GK300 to be more portable, the keyboard is a bit on the heavy side, weighing 3.09 lb – but, as a positive, the increased weight along with the six feet on the bottom do manage to keep the keyboard steady.

gamesir-gk300

On the top right side, next to the Num Lock button, there’s a small switch with an LED that allows you to turn off the keyboard (push it to the middle), set it in wireless mode (to the bottom) or in Bluetooth mode (to the top). As you can see, there is no wired mode, the keyboard being purely wireless and the LED will let you know when you have to recharge the battery (it will pulsate red – otherwise, if it is above 15%, the LED will pulsate green). To recharge the keyboard’s battery, you need to use the cable provided in the package (it is 3.28 feet long) and connect it to the micro-USB port from the left side (would have preferred a type-C). In order to connect the GK300 to your computer, you need to use the small white receiver which can be found on a special slot on the bottom -the dongle uses the 2.4GHz WiFi frequency.

I like the fact that the receiver stands out in terms of design, so it can’t be mistaken for other dongles, but I’m not a fan of the fact that the GameSir GK300 requires two USB ports (one for the connection and the other for charging the battery). So, as you can see, the GameSir GK300 has no elements that shout gaming, instead, we’re dealing with a low profile device suitable for both home and office use. I do feel like the gaming community has matured quite a bit and the toy-like gaming devices are more often being frown upon (even the gaming laptops are starting to look less like RGB toys and instead adopted an office-suitable design), but I suspect that this isn’t the only reason why the wireless gaming keyboard is adopting a more conservative look, instead I think that it is forced in this direction due to the battery limitations.

gamesir-gk300

This may be one of the main reasons why there aren’t any additional built-in LCD screens, audio ports or any other flashy design elements (although I doubt that RGB would have made such a heavy difference in terms of power consumption and the addition of dedicated programmable keys would have brighten some user’s day).

Features and Functionality
Besides being a mechanical keyboard, the main highlight of the GameSir GK300 is the fact that it’s wireless and suitable for gaming. It took a lot of convincing to make the gamers switch from the wired mouse to the wireless gaming mouse mainly because the tests objectively showed that now, there is no difference between the latency of a wired gaming mouse and a wireless gaming mouse. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the wireless gaming keyboards which are a bit more complicated to test (to properly measure the latency of a keyboard, I would need a high speed camera which … well, I don’t currently own).

gamesir-gk300

The traditional mechanical keyboard remains a favorite for gamers due to its low latency mainly because of the way the user interacts with the keys: the shorter the key travel distance, the lower the latency. The wireless mechanical keyboard can accomplish the same feat, but it does come with a new complication: the wireless communication itself which is vulnerable to interference.
There are various technologies to ensure that the wireless connection will have the same low latency as the cable and GameSir calls it the Agility X 2.4GHz. I encountered this technology on the GM300 wireless gaming mouse and it did a great job at keeping the latency low and on the GK300, it should have the same role, featuring the 1000Hz polling rate (1ms) – although you still need to take into account the key stroke delay.

The GameSir GK300 also advertises the 10-key roll-over with anti-ghosting which basically means that you can press up to 10 keys simultaneously and all will be registered at once by the computer (I didn’t have to press that many keys at the same time while gaming, but I did sometimes needed to press 4-5 keys simultaneously and the GK300 performed well).
If you turn the keyboard upside down, you will notice that there’s a tubular protrusion and that’s where the 3600mAh rechargeable Lithium battery sits. The battery is capable of delivering up to 300 hours of use if you don’t turn on the LED lights at all and a maximum of 30 hours of continuous use with the backlight turned on.

gamesir-gk300

In reality, unless you game for 30 straight hours (I don’t judge), you will get a lot more than 30 hours even with the LEDs turned on because GameSir has put some battery-conserving features in place: the backlight will turn off automatically if you don’t type anything for 30 seconds and the the keyboard will enter the sleeping mode if you don’t press any button for one minute. Recharging the battery from 0 to 100 % shouldn’t take more than three hours.

The 2.4GHz WiFi is not the only way to connect the keyboard to your devices, you can also use Bluetooth (4.1). To connect the GK300 to other Bluetooth devices, simply move the switch down and the keyboard should become visible and ready to be paired. If it doesn’t immediately become visible, you need to reset the connection by pressing the FN and PB buttons at the same time (the Pause/Break is the Reset button). The polling rate under Bluetooth is 125Hz (8ms), so there is a noticeable amount of latency when compared to the WiFi connection.

gamesir-gk300

Unlike the GM300 gaming mouse, the GK300 keyboard lacks a dedicated software where you can adjust various functions and, in order to update the firmware, you’ll have to download the GameSir GK300 firmware package from the official website. While making sure that the USB dongle is connected to your computer, extract the folder and double-click the GK300 update tool. This will open a new window, where you will have to select the suitable language (I chose English) and wait until all the available firmware updates are loaded towards the bottom of the page: afterwards, simply install the newest firmware.

Conclusion
The wireless gaming mouse era is in full bloom, so is this the beginning of the wireless gaming keyboard era? GameSir seems to think so and the GK300 is a good example of what a wireless gaming mechanical keyboard should look like (more conservative, therefore suitable for home, gaming and office use) and how it should behave (it should offer a low latency, comparable to the performance of the wired keyboards). Of course, there are some shortcomings, such as the need of two USB ports or the lack of programmable keys but, considering the limitation of using a purely wireless connection and the acceptable price tag, the GameSir GK300 does manage to make a solid impression to anyone ready to give gaming with a wireless mechanical keyboard a try.

Check out the product here:

amazonbutton

GameSir GK300

gamesir-gk300-

Pros

  • Mechanical Keyboard
  • Wireless + Bluetooth Connection
  • Uses The Agility X Technology For A Low Latency
  • Detachable Wrist Rest
  • The Keyboard Is Portable

Cons

  • No RGB
  • No Programmable Buttons
  • It Requires Two USB Ports

iPhone XS Max – Powerful Accessories for Apple’s Flagship Device in 2019

  • July 3, 2019

iPhone XS Max holds the title of being Apple’s flagship in 2019 which means that iPhone XS Max is the best handheld device that Apple has to offer until September when iPhone 11 is scheduled to launch. Even though iPhone XS Max might be equipped with a plethora of powerful hardware specs which make it possible to run heavy-duty tasks without ever having to worry about the device shutting down or getting overheated, truth be told, the only way to unlock iPhone XS Max’s full potential is by pairing it with the right accessories.

Since Apple is one of the world’s biggest and most renowned smartphone manufacturers, then it should come as no surprise that there tens of third-party companies that specialize in creating accessories for iPhone XS Max. We know that picking the right accessory can be difficult because you will need to compare the price of the said accessory with the ones sold by other companies and this is why we have decided to do that for you. Therefore, today we are going to present the best iPhone XS Max accessories which offer the best quality to price ratio. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.

#1 Dongle

Ever since Apple removed the classic headphone auxiliary plug from its iPhone design, dongles have become a “must-have” for all iPhone users. This is why for our first place, we want to present the headphone adapter made by KETURITON. This is a 2-in-1 converter which features support for iPhones that are running on iOS 12 or higher.

The great thing about this dongle is the fact that it features a special system called “Plug and Play”. What this means is that iPhone XS Max users are not required to install any type of software on their devices and that the only thing they need to do is to simply plug in the dongle and then the headphones. We should note that the dongle has two ports, one for headphones and the other one for charging.
Price: $9.99
Purchase it from Amazon

#2 Wireless Charger

Wireless Charger

Getting a wireless charger is a must for iPhone XS Max power users! Having a premium accessory as the wireless charger made by NAMANI will basically change the way you use your iPhone XS Max. The reason why we are saying this is because all iPhone XS Max users can simply place the wireless charger on their desk or nightstand and they will never run out of battery again.

Despite the accessory’s super affordable price tag, it still features 2-coil fast charging technology which is 1.4 faster than the average wireless charger. The folks at NAMANI have also made sure to pair the wireless charger with “Quick Charge 2.0” technology which enables the accessory to charge any iPhone XS Max in record speeds.

We also want to mention that the wireless charger made by NAMANI offers two charging modes. The first one is called “fast charge” and as the mode’s name implies, it is designed for iPhone XS Max users who are in a hurry. The second mode is called safe charging makes sure that there is no way for the iPhone XS Max to face any surges or overheating.
Price: $15.99
Purchase it from Amazon

#3 Enhanced Cameras

Enhanced Cameras

We know that most people choose to purchase iPhones because Apple is always equipping them with the latest camera technology and iPhone XS Max is the perfect example of that because the handheld device is renowned for the high-quality pictures that it takes. However, what if we told you that there is a way to enhance the cameras of iPhone XS Max? The trick to making this possible is to purchase a special lens kit such as the one created by KNGUVTH.

This is a 5-in-1 lens kit and it features 12x telephoto zoom lens, 0.36x super wide angle lens two 15x macro lenses which can be used for their “fisheye” mode. All lenses are made from industrial grade aluminum alongside premium quality optical lenses which means that they are built to last. The last thing that we want to note is that these lenses are compatible with multiple smartphones, including the ones made by Samsung.
Price: $25.99
Purchase it from Amazon

#4 Protective Case

Protective Case

Even though most iPhone users don’t want to put cases on their devices because they don’t want to take away anything from their beautiful designs, a protective case is mandatory. The glass back of Apple’s latest iPhones can easily be cracked or the display can get scratches and as we all know, Apple’s is not too cheap on repairs. This is why it’s always worth it to get a protective case such as the made by OtterBox which is an accessory maker that is renowned for the quality of its products.

This protective case is made from synthetic rubber material alongside a durable polycarbonate shell which will keep the iPhone XS Max safe from all damages. Despite its bulky look, the protective case is actually quite lightweight and it doesn’t make the iPhone XS Max feel heavy at all. In addition, the protective case uses a “slide mechanic” which makes it super simple to put it on an iPhone XS Max or to take it off.
Price: $26.50
Purchase it from Amazon

#5 Sport Armband

Sport Armband

The last accessory for iPhone XS Max that we have on our list is the sport armbar made by LOVPHONE. Obviously, this accessory is designed for people who enjoy sports such as running, cycling and much more. The great thing about this sport armband for iPhone XS Max is the fact that it is adjustable and therefore, it will fit on anyone’s arm. To top it all off, the material has a reflective strip to make the iPhone XS Max user more noticeable to drivers.
Price: $8.59
Purchase it from Amazon

The best smart water bottles of 2019 – MBReviews

  • June 26, 2019

It may not be that easy to spot the best smart water bottles from the variety of available devices since, from the outside, it can seem that you can just snap in a couple sensors to a regular water bottle, add a mobile app which connects through Bluetooth and you’re set, you now have a smart device, but, things require a bit more finesse and a proper implementation of all the necessary elements. That being said, a smart water bottle should be able to accurately track your water intake and, using a proprietary mobile app (it usually connects to either an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth) it should be able to create charts and new goals, as well as send notifications to remind you to drink enough water throughout the day.

The people that would most benefit from this type of devices are those that want to (or need to) keep track of how much water they drink: such as the outdoor workers (which are often vulnerable especially during the summer), those that work in an office (especially if you’re a programmer, professional gamer or working in any other IT-related job, where you are required to focus for longer periods of time, so it’s easy to forget you have to drink or eat), the elderly (which are actually one of the most vulnerable category of people to dehydration, that actually poses a serious threat for their health and may need to be regularly kept in check) and, lastly, it will also be suitable for people that like to keep track of everything that happens with their body (such as active people that practice outdoors sports – there actually are smart water bottles that will work with Fitbit for more detailed stats – when will we actually see a FitBit water bottle?).

UPDATE 06.25.2019: The Hidrate Spark 3 has been added to the best smart water bottles list

 

It’s clear that everybody has at least one smart device inside their home and, while some time ago, the thought of having almost all your electronic devices connected and communicating to each other in order to create a smart home environment was something out of a sci-fi novel. But, since technology evolves at an unprecedented pace, we have become accustomed with having every electronic device interconnected and even the most unassuming objects have now gained the smart prefix.

Some of these devices have been created for medical purposes (which can span from the smart spoon for Parkinson’s sufferers which has a specific demographic to the heart rate and calories-burned trackers which are suitable for a more general public) and there are also a lot of smart devices which aim at improving our lifestyle: including the more popular smartphones, smartwatches, smart thermostats or smart locks, as well as the least common smart mirrors (which display live feed stats), smart toasters (which allows you to choose between different types of bread and let you know through a notification when the bread is done, so you won’t ever really have to worry about burning up the toast) and now, we also have smart water bottles.

So, without further ado, since we’ve already had a look at the best smartphones on the market (at an acceptable budget), as well as the best waterproof smartwatches and had a slight incursion into the world of the smart smoke detectors, it’s now time to have a look at which manufacturer managed to create the best smart water bottles.

 

 

1. Hidrate Spark 3 Smart Water Bottle

hidrate-spark-3-smart water-bottle

amazonbutton

The Hidrate Spark 3 is the third iteration of smart water bottle coming from the American start-up company, with the first version being created after a successful KickStarter campaign, but, since it had some issues that needed to be addressed, the manufacturer released the 2.0 version of the Hidrate Spark (about two years ago) which was an overall improvement to the first smart bottle (a better syncing between the device and the app, a sturdier body, stronger glow). The Hidrate Spark 3 has kept everything that made its predecessor a reliable smart water bottle and it has also improved some key elements: the bottle comes with a better battery life, there’s a better sensor accuracy and the LED is customizable.

One of the main selling points of the Hidrate Spark was and still remains the design of the smart bottle. So, while the other manufacturers of smart bottles didn’t put much thought in the design process, the Hidrate Spark 3 features a nice looking plastic bottle (BPA-Free Food Safe Polypropylene and Tritan) with a geometric pattern all around which will greatly improve the grip. When put next to the Spark 2, the Hidrate Spark 3 is very similar to its predecessor, but you can notice that the bottom area is now significantly thicker (it houses the sensor and the battery and it’s no longer a seamless part of the main body) and, as a consequence, the smart water bottle can now hold only 20 ounces of liquid instead of the 24 oz of its predecessor. The fact that the bottom side is now larger, it may not fit that easily in most cup holders (while the Spark 2 did not have this problem).

hidrate-spark-3

Similarly to the H2OPal, the Hidrate Spark 3 won’t immediately calculate the consumed water while jogging or practicing any other outdoor sport, since it is required to put the bottle down every time you drink from it in order for the sensor to calculate the remaining water quantity (the sensor is a bit different than on the previous smart water bottle, since it now measures the water consumption from the bottom up instead of the other way around). This means that this smart bottle is better suited for people that work in an office environment or are going to the gym (sure enough, you can take the bottle with you and, as soon as you’ve finished running, the sensor will detect the changes in terms of water quantity).

The Hidrate Spark 3 tracks the water intake using a long sensor which lies inside the bottle and is attached to the lid: unscrewing the bottom bottle part will reveal the long piece of plastic – called the sensor stick by the manufacturer – which is now powered by a single CR2477 coin cell battery, instead of the two CR2032 batteries of the previous Hidrate Spark generation (the battery slot is now on the bottom, instead of the sensor stick). Furthermore, the manufacturer has added a series of multicolored LED lights inside the sensor stick which will glow in various patterns that can be set from the app. The LEDs are now more powerful and you can set them to light only when you’re awake: depending on the set goal, the bottle will glow at certain periods of time to let you know when you should drink water or ignore any type of progress that you made and glow at a fixed time; you can also set the LEDs to glow when you are behind your set goal.

hidrate-spark-3

The Hidrate Spark 3 can be washed, but not in the dishwasher (only the lid and the bottom ring can be put in the dishwasher, the rest need to be cleaned bu hand in warm water). The fact that the bottom is removable and it relies on a rubber seal to keep the water from leaking can be seen as a weakness because the seal can wear off in time; at the same time, if the bottle is leaking after you washed it once, you may have put the seal upside down.
Note: Be aware that the bottle is not insulated, so the water will eventually have the room’s temperature.

The Hidrate Spark 3 uses an app which will work with iOS devices and with some Android phones (check the list on the manufacturer’s website to make sure your device is compatible) and, similarly to most other smart bottles on the market, the setup process is simple and straight-forward: after you’ve launched the app, you’ll be asked to sign-up using an email or a Facebook account, the former will require that you insert your name; afterwards, you will have to customize a hydration goal which includes choosing your gender, height, weight and birthday, select how active you are and allow the app to know your location (which will help you find your bottle easily, as well as create a more personalized goal based on the temperature and humidity in the area you live in). Next, the app will attempt to pair with the bottle (you need to place your mobile phone or tablet close to the cap of the Hidrate Spark – it uses Bluetooth) and you’ll be given instructions for calibrating the device (to do so, you first need to set the bottle upright on a flat surface, fill it with water and let it sit for 10 seconds – it needs to be empty beforehand).

hidrate-spark-3

After the setup process is done, you will gain access to the user interface: here, you will be able to see how much water you need to drink (and if you reached your goal), as well as visit the menu: Home, History (Week and Month), Friends, Bottle and Settings (set up your Profile, change your Goal, configure the Push and Glow Notifications, Connect to the Apps, change the Units, view More and Help) – immediately on top of the bottom menu, to the right, you can press Add Water.

 

 

2. H2OPal Smart Bottle Hydration Tracker

h20pal-smart-bottle

amazonbutton

The H20Pal smart bottle is the latest product (and the only one, so far) to come from the technology-based startup ‘Out Of Galaxy’, a device that challenges the current setup of most other smart bottles by choosing to go for a different approach: instead of incorporating the electronic parts into the bottle itself (some have LED indicators or a small display to show you how much water you drank), the manufacturer decided to leave it as a separate part, so it can be used with different types of bottles.

So, H2OPal consists of two separate parts, one is the bottle itself, which is a borosilicate glass bottle (it’s transparent, so you can see how much water you’ve sipped) with various silicone bands positioned towards the top and on the middle for a more sporty look and, connected to the bottom, lies the second part of the H2OPal, which incorporates all the electronic parts and has the role of tracking your water intake.

h20pal

The H20Pal smart bottle can be filled with 18.6 ounces of water (the mouth of the bottle is a bit narrow, so it may be a bit difficult to insert ice), it is dishwasher safe (you need to remove the bottom part) and it comes in two colour variants: pink and yellow or black and blue. If you fear that the bottle may break (and it will if you drop it), you can take off the silicone sleeve (towards the bottom part) and add it to a plastic bottle (for a perfect fit, it needs to have approximately a 3-inch diameter and it needs to weigh at least 2.9 oz when empty) and then simply reconnect the bottom mechanism to regain the smart features (it works fine with gym bottles which are usually made of plastic and it will give you some peace off mind if you think glass is too heavy, slippery and fragile).
Note: The smart bottle uses a single coin cell battery, which should be able to last up to 6 months.

The H20Pal can be connected to an iOS device and all you have to do is download and install the app (an Android app is currently in the beta stage) – the H20Pal app will work with Fitbit, the Apple Health app and will also sync with the Apple Watch.

h20pal

After you’ve installed the app, you will be required to enter your name, choose your gender, set your birthday, height and weight, and you will be asked to select ‘How active are you?’ (can be Not very active, Lightly active, Normal active and Very active). Afterwards, you can enable some Additional Services (such as Location Data – can use the weather reports to adjust your daily goal, the Motion Data and Health Data) and add your H20Pal Tracker (you will be given instructions on how to activate the device which includes activating the Bluetooth and pairing the smart bottle – you will need to insert the PIN number). After the process is done, the H20Pal will ask you if it should send you notifications and you can visit the user interface (the menu includes Home, Profile, Statistics, Levels and achievements, Entry log, H20Pal Tracker, Tutorial and Settings (here, you can also enable Fitbit sync)).
Note: The H20Pal smart bottle can also be connected to Amazon Alexa, which will give you the possibility of asking Alexa to tell you the amount of water that you drank today.

h20pal

Be aware that the way this smart device works is that you need to put the bottle down every time you fill it with water, so the tracker can take all the necessary measurements and, after you drank the water, you have to put the bottle down once again, so it can measure the changes in the quantity. This means that it is less suitable for joggers and more for people that work in an office or those who go to the gym. If you don’t want to keep the Bluetooth enabled all the time or simply don’t have your phone nearby, the H20Pal will also work offline, so, even if you refill the bottle several times, after it can be re-synced to the app, it will take into account all the data.
Note: Every time you add a new bottle, you have to re-calibrate the tracker: it can be done by going to the H20-Pal Tracker option on the app, selecting Advanced settings and choosing calibrate (you will need to enter the volume of the bottle, calibrate it empty and then calibrate it when it’s filled).

 

 

3. Ozmo Active Smart Bottle

ozmo-smart-bottle

amazonbutton

The Ozmo Active Smart Bottle is one of the two devices available from the Hong Kong-based startup company ‘Groking Lab’, especially created for people that need to keep track of their water consumption and, in order to bring a unique feature to the table, it has sensors which can detect whether you have filled the bottle with water or with coffee (the other device available is the Ozmo Java+, which is also a smart bottle, but especially created for coffee drinkers – it can keep the coffee warm at 144 degrees F).

The manufacturer decided to steer clear of the fragile glass bottle and the material choice for the Ozmo Active was ABS plastic, which should provide better protection in case you accidentally drop it and it will look more at home while you’re jogging or biking (although it’s not transparent, so you won’t see how much water is left inside the bottle). That being said, the smart bottle doesn’t really have an attractive design, but it does make up for it with the robust built quality (the bottle also weighs 12.7 ounces and it has a 16 ounces capacity).

ozmo-bottle

The smart bottle comes in blue, grey, purple, red, seafoam green, pink and white, it has a top handle for easy carrying and, towards the bottom, there is a removable tab which exposes the recessed Reset button and the micro-USB charging port (to fully charge the battery, it should take roughly two hours and the battery life is rated at about 3 weeks).

On the side of the device, you’ll notice three LED lights: if the middle LED is enabled, then the lid isn’t properly closed, so the bottle won’t be able to track your drink; if one light is enabled, then you’re reached 20% of your hydration goal, otherwise, if two LEDs are active, then you’re reached 50% of your goal and three lights indicate that you’ve reached your goal (the three LED lights will also become active to let you know when the device is fully charged). Furthermore, the Ozmo Active smart bottle will let you know when the lid is securely closed by vibrating once, will alert you that the lid is open by vibrating three times and, if you haven’t been drinking water for over an hour, it will vibrate six times.
Note: Unlike the H20Pal, which has the tracker and the bottle separately, the Ozmo Active doesn’t have two separate parts, which means that you’ll have to clean the device as a whole: you’ll have to do it by hand, as it is not dishwasher safe.

ozmo-bottle

While the Ozmo Active Smart Bottle will work fine on its own as it has integrated inside the bottle a way of notifying you on your progress (the LED lights), you can connect the bottle to either an Android or to an iOS device using the Ozmo app (the app won’t send any notifications and you’ll have to rely solely on the bottle’s LEDs and vibrations). The Ozmo Active is also compatible with FitBit, Garmin, Misfit and Apple Health apps, and it has an integrated barcode scanner which can be used to scan the nutritional info from all the new food labels.

To do so, you need to download, install and open the app, and tap Get Started: this will open up the Profile window, which will ask for your gender, age, height and weight (all this info will help the app determine your daily water intake goal). Afterwards, you will have to connect the Ozmo bottle to the app: keep the mobile phone close to the bottle and wait until it vibrates and until the trio of LED lights will blink.

ozmo-bottle

After the pairing process is done, you can start adding water (you’ll see a live representation of the amount of water that’s being poured inside the container). From now on, every time you take a sip out of the bottle, the sensors will automatically detect it and you can see in the app how much close you are to your goal. You can also add coffee inside the container and the sensors will immediately pick it up and you will be able to see in the app that a different interface is loaded, especially designed for the coffee intake (the system is not perfect as sometimes, the sensors can mistake water for coffee or vice versa).
Note: After you’ve added the necessary water, make sure that the lid is closed securely to activate the Bluetooth (when it is tightly sealed, the middle LED will turn off).

 

 

4. EQUA Smart Water Bottle

equa-smart-water-bottle

EQUA is a relatively young Slovenia-based company which ran a successful Kickstarter project in order to release its first smart water bottle, a device that still follows the same blueprint as its competitors (leakproof bottle + mobile application) and its main differentiating element is the addition of marble lids. It’s a bit concerning to see that mainly the start-up companies have the courage to try and conquer this new IoT segment, while more established players still don’t really have that much faith in this technology (except for Thermos with its one-time project).

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing since it can allow the new companies to be more creative and find new solutions to older problems, so, let’s see if EQUA has managed to create a balanced device and made the smart water bottle market more attractive.
When compared to the more recent smart water bottles, you’ll notice that EQUA focuses a lot more on its appearance, so the bottle itself is made of high quality stainless steel covered by a satin finish (it’s available in five colours/patterns), relying on the double wall insulation to keep liquids hot for up to 12 hours and cold for up to 24 hours – the bottle is also condensation-free and its dimensions make it suitable to most car cup holders (it measures 9.8 x 2.8 inches and has a capacity of 23 oz).

equa-smart-water-bottle

The upper cap, as well as the handle, are made of electroplated metal, the lid featuring the advertised real marble piece (black marble Drenov Gric from Slovenia) which does give the bottle a premium feel. But, unlike some other smart water bottles (such as Ozmo Active), the lid isn’t attached to any sensor and won’t count your sips (it’s just a regular piece), instead, EQUA adopted a similar approach to the H2OPal, so it relies on the bottom piece to track your daily water intake and to display glowing reminders (using a built-in LED light). In order to ensure that the bottle won’t slip, the bottom of the device is made of silicone and, to recharge the battery, you need to remove the bottom tracker and insert the included cable into the (now exposed) micro-USB port.

But, how does the EQUA smart water bottle works? It seems that the manufacturer relies on an accelerometer (motion sensor) to calculate the amount of water you drink – the claim is that it detects your movement and translates it into data using machine learning, which means that it’s prone to inaccuracies, but will get better in time. So, all you have to do is drink water from the bottle and the sensor should send the data in real time to the application.

equa-smart-water-bottle

Speaking of which, the app will display your daily goal (it will need your height, weight and lifestyle), it will track your daily water intake and it can also display a calendar with all the days in the month to give you a more detailed look on your overall performance (the application is compatible with both iOS and Android OS and it connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth). Furthermore, if you don’t want to use the app, the EQUA smart water bottle can be used in standalone mode by relying solely on the bottom LED. Just a light tap on the bottle reveals your current progress: if you’re on track, the LED will slowly flash and, if you need to catch up, the LED will flash rapidly; furthermore, every time you take a sip from the bottle, the LED will glow.
Note: The bottle is dishwasher safe, you just need to remove the cap and the tracker first.

 

 

5. Drinkup Smart Water Bottle

drinkup-smart-water-bottle

Even though the smart devices market is in full bloom right now, there aren’t that many manufacturers willing to give this rather niche type of device a try, so we are often left with start-up companies that sometimes don’t find the balanced formula between the design, functionality and the price point. One of the latest available smart water bottle also comes from a startup company which focuses to find this perfect balance in the form of the DrinKup smart water bottle and it does seem to be on the right track considering that it accurately shows the amount of water remained in the bottle in a digital manner (on the lid) and it doesn’t annoy the user with ‘smart’ mouthpieces that don’t last that long and are most often than not inaccurate.

The DrinKup bottle looks pretty unassuming and you could hardly differentiate it from the regular water bottle: the device itself features two main parts, the stainless steel recipient (grade 316 (18-10)) and the fairly large lid with parts made of various materials (Aluminium Alloy 6061, High grade Tritan (BPA free plastic) and Food Grade PP). The bottle capacity is 17oz (500ml), it measures 9.8 x 2.87 inches and, when empty, it weighs about 0.77 lbs (also, because of its ergonomic shape, the bottle has a decent grip and taking into consideration that it has a double vacuum insulation, there shouldn’t be any condensation on the outside).

drinkup-smart-water-bottle

Some of you with a more keen eye will notice that this isn’t the first time you saw this type of design and that an older start-up company (Moikit) was the first to develop a strikingly similar bottle through crowdfunding. But, besides the identical design (which I have no idea how and why they procured), there doesn’t seem to be any other ties between Moikit and Baltek (the current developer of the DrinKup smart water bottle).

The most interesting part of this device is, obviously, the bottle cap which features a top-facing circular display (with a 5 x 16 pixels resolution) and, depending on a specific type of movement, you get different stats: tilt the bottle to see your water balance status in percentage (it is advisable to keep it above 90 %); flip the bottle upside down until it vibrates and then turn it back in an upright position to see the temperature of the water (the sensor needs between 5 to 8 seconds to show the temperature). Other info that can be seen on the small display are the HOT indicator (when the water temperature exceeds 122 degrees F), the stale indicator X (when the water has been placed for longer than 24 hours, so it needs to be replaced), the Drink Reminder with an icon in the shape of a heart (when the water balance goes below 80 %), the firmware update indicator, the low battery indicator and more.

drinkup-smart-water-bottle

The fact that it has all this functions available on the lid’s display, it indicates that you can use the DrinKup even if the device is not synced with a mobile device (it will still detect the temperature, remind you when you should drink water, record the water intake and more). That being said, DrinKup will work with Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android OS, but, before you can initiate the pairing process, you need to first charge the bottle’s battery. To do so, you need to remove the lid and remove the rubber piece in order to expose the USB port and the small recessed Reset button.

Use the USB cable (provided in the box) and fully charge the 400mAh Lithium Polymer battery (from 0 to 100, it will take about 2 hours). Next, download and install the app on your mobile device, register a new DrinKup account and then follow the necessary steps to pair the smart bottle to your phone/tablet (includes creating a profile – gender, age, height, weight, record period and daily goal) – it uses the Bluetooth 4.2 BLE for the connectivity. The application’s interface will show you various statistics about your daily water intake, as well as a history of any previous periods of time.
Note: The battery can last anywhere between 30 to 90 days depending on your use.
If you want to wash the DrinKup water bottle, you need to first remove the smart lid (which should only be cleaned using a piece of cloth) and then you can clean the container, but I would not use a dishwasher since it may damage the insulation.

 

 

6. Thermos 24 Ounce Hydration Bottle with Connected Smart Lid

thermos-24-ounce-smart-bottle

amazonbutton

Thermos L.L.C. is one of the best known manufacturers of insulated beverage and food containers (as well as some other consumer products) in the world and one of the oldest (the company has been around for over a century). Thermos has also managed to create a generic trademark for the thermos name (which now refers to the object and it is being produced by many other companies), so, since it’s clear that the manufacturer has a lot of experience under its belt, one would expect for them to create the perfect smart water bottle, but, while the Thermos 24 Ounce Hydration Bottle is a more than a decent device, it does come with some quirks that may not be on everybody’s taste (such as no support for Android OS and not always accurate readings).

That being said, the Thermos 24 Ounce Hydration Bottle features a cylindrical bottle made of BPA-free Eastman Tritan™ copolyester material (a type of BPA-free plastic, which should make it safer and more durable, although there is some research which claims that Tritan is not really safer than regular plastic with BPA) which should not be used with hot beverages, which is a bit ironic since we’re talking about a Thermos made bottle.

thermos-24-ounce

The body of the Thermos bottle is semi-transparent, it comes into two colours, teal and smoke (dark grey) and, since we’re dealing with a 24 oz recipient, it is not really that tall or large (it measures 9.9 x 2.9 x 3.0 inches).

But, the bottle itself won’t offer much over a regular recipient and the most important part of the Thermos Hydration Bottle is actually the smart lid that has the role of measuring how much you drink, as well as the temperature of the water (using a sensor tube). The lid itself is made of plastic, consisting of a matte part which gets attached to the bottle (it gets connected by a latch) and a transparent removable top section that reveals the mouth of the bottle.

thermos-24-ounce

Inside the lid, there’s an integrated flip-up plastic section which reveals a Micro-SUB port for charging the devices – the smart water bottle comes with an internal battery that can deliver up to 12 days of use before needing recharging, but it also indicates that you cannot wash the top part of the bottle because of the internal circuitry (you can only clean it with a dry cloth).

The Thermos 24 Ounce Hydration Bottle has a dedicated app available for Apple devices only (requires iOS 7 and up), so unfortunately, Android users will have to choose a different brand since Thermos does not seem too interested in releasing a compatible app. After you have installed the software from the App Store, launch the application and then follow some simple steps to configure it, such as setting up an user profile, waking the Smart Lid – you may need to first charge the lid if the battery is too low – and allow it to discover the device. Once the bottle is paired to the app (via Bluetooth), it will attempt to undergo some calibrations (make sure that the sensor tube is dry for accurate readings) and, afterwards, you can start creating hydration goals (you’ll need to answer a series of basic questions).

thermos-24-ounce

After that, you can visit the Dashboard, which will display the water temperature, the consumed quantity, the number of sips (it’s not always 100% accurate, but it does its job properly most of the time) and how close you are to reaching your daily goal (a percentage, as well as in quantity). Furthermore, you can visit the Activity page which will display your current stats – the quantity of consumed water over a set period of time, as well as specific hours when you took a sip – or you can visit the Reminders page to enable Goal Progress reminders, create custom ones or visit the Workout section.

Besides the proprietary app, the Thermos 24 Ounce Hydration Bottle will also work with Fitbit (although it’s not as stable as the dedicated app – the data will also automatically sync with Fitbit only after you finish drinking all the water from the bottle).
Note: Inside the package, there’s the Thermos 24 Ounce Hydration Bottle with Connected Smart Lid, a USB charging cable and a Care and Use Manual.

 

 

7. Sportline HydraCoach Intelligent Water Bottle

hydracoach-smart-water-bottle

amazonbutton

The California-based company HydraCoach is one of the pioneers of this new type of portable devices (along with Trago), so the HydraCoach Intelligent Water Bottle had the possibility to develop a blueprint for next devices from the same category and take its time to create the best smart water bottle. After almost four years, it doesn’t seem that HydraCoach made much progress and the smart water bottle retains pretty much the same functionality and form-factor, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since the device is still capable of monitoring the total amount of water that you drank during the day and it helps you create goals, as well as letting you know when you should drink again.

When compared to the more recent smart water bottles, you’ll notice that HydraCoach does not rely on a mobile app, but there is a small display along with physical buttons embedded into the body of the device to offer all the necessary ‘smart’ features. The bottle itself is made of a BPA-Free polycarbonate semi-transparent material which allows for a decent grip and, about one third of the bottle consists of a large bezel to accommodate the internal computer and display, while on the top, there’s an upper cap along with a built-in finger ring for easy transportation (the HydraCoach smart water bottle measures around 10.1 x 2.8 x 2.9 inches and, when empty, it weighs 4.8 ounces, so it’s quite light).

hydracoach

If you remove the upper cap (you need to rotate it counter-clockwise), you will expose the impeller assembly (to which gets connected the detachable silicone mouthpiece and it is the part responsible for the necessary measurements), as well as the draw tube. The entire mechanism can be removed from the bottle and each part can be cleaned properly but the process is not really the easiest, so you will need to follow the guide at least the first couple of times (furthermore, bear in mind that only the bottle itself is dishwasher safe, while the rest can be cleaned with a soft cloth).

You will notice that unlike the other smart water bottles, the HydraCoach does not have any micro-USB port and the reason for that it because the device relies on a CR2032 3V Lithium battery instead. To replace the battery, you have to detach the small computer part and on its rear side, there’s a small battery door that can be rotated to expose the battery slot.

hydracoach

As I said before, the HydraCoach intelligent water bottle does not come with an app, so it cannot be connected to a smart home environment, but, it does offer everything you’ll need on that small black and white display. The small computer is surrounded by a Setup button, a larger Mode button and three Start/Stop/Reset buttons which help you navigate the user interface. To set up the HydraCoach smart water bottle, you need to choose between ounces or litres, as well as between pounds or kilograms, you’ll also need to insert your weight and wait until the computer will calculate your daily PHG (Personal Hydration Goal) – you can either accept this value or adjust it manually to better suit your needs and lifestyle.

Lastly, you’ll need to select the clock format, as well as insert the current time and date.
After the initial set up process is done, you will be able to navigate the interface to see the Total Amount of water Consumed, the Total Elapsed Time and the Average Consumption (available on the first screen), as well as the Personal Hydration Goal (including the percent of the goal) and the average consumption (available on the second screen). You can start, stop or resume the HydraCoach program at any time, you just need to be on either of the two screens when pressing the buttons.
Note: In order to get accurate readings, it is advisable to take pronounced sips, otherwise, lower intensity sips of water may not correctly register with the monitor.

Top 5 Best MacBook Accessories Available in 2019

  • June 19, 2019

Apple’s laptops which are sold under the MacBook brand are renowned for their powerful hardware specs and beautiful designs. However, truth be told their full potential can only be unlocked when the laptops are paired with the right accessories. Although, this shouldn’t come as a surprise since Apple has made a fortune by selling accessories that enable features that their devices should feature out of the box such as support for multiple Lighting ports. This is why Apple fans are more than often required to purchase dongles.

Nonetheless, today we want to show everyone the best accessories for MacBook that Apple fans can find on Amazon. The rule of thumb when making this list of top five MacBook accessories has been to make sure that all accessories are of premium quality and that they bring powerful features which Apple fans are going to love. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.

#1 The PlugBug Duo

The PlugBug Duo

The PlugBug Duo is hands down one of the most useful accessories that MacBook users can purchase. This accessory is basically an all-in-one charger for MacBook and it also supports two additional USB powered devices such as an iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch for example. What makes this accessory worthy of being featured on the number one spot on our list is the fact that it works with Apple MagSafe + USB-C power adapters and any other USB charging cables.
Price: $34.11
Purchase it from Amazon

#2 Classic Sleeve

 

One of the best things about MacBooks is the fact that their slim and beautiful design makes it easy for the users to carry them everywhere, thus making it possible for them to take care of work tasks wherever they might be. However, all Apple fans should make sure to never take their MacBook laptop out in the wild without getting some protection for it because you can never know what might happen and dropping a MacBook on the hard concrete is never going to have a good outcome. This is why we are advising all MacBook users to check out the Classic Sleeve for MacBook Pro 13-inch that is made by Incase Designs. The sleeve is made from 100% nylon with ariaprene and it supports Thunderbolt USB-C charging technology.
Price: $34.95
Purchase it from Amazon

#3 External Battery

External Battery

Is there anything worse other than running out of battery on your MacBook right in the middle of finishing up a work or school project? The worst thing about this is that it can happen anywhere, including in places where there are no outlets that can be used in order to charge the laptop and this is why the Mophie Powerstation makes an appearance on our list. This is a versatile external battery that features an AC adapter and up to 100W of power that can charge a MacBook laptop or any other types of mobile devices in record speeds.

The external battery features USB-C input/output and it charges devices at 30W. In addition, the total capacity of the external battery is 22,000 mAh and the battery features a variety of safety features that will help the MacBook avoid short circuits and overheating.
Price: $199.95
Purchase it from Amazon

#4 Logitech Keyboard

Logitech Keyboard

As we have previously mentioned, one of the best advantages that using a MacBook brings is the fact that users can get work done wherever they are. This is why we want to present the Logitech K750 wireless keyboard because what better way to improve your work productivity other than to use premium peripherals?

Logitech is one of the world’s best tech companies this is why no one should be surprised by the fact that this wireless keyboard is solar-powered. Yes, you read that right! The battery of the wireless keyboard can be charged with solar power which makes it the ideal accessory for people who love to take their MacBook outdoors. In addition, the wireless keyboard features an ultra-thin design that makes it look great in any office space.

The position of the keys on the Logitech wireless keyboard have been specially designed to feature the familiar Mac layout and not just that, but typing on this wireless keyboard feels good thanks to the concave key cap design that will improve the typing speed of anyone.
Price: $54.88
Purchase it from Amazon

#5 Acer Monitor

Acer Monitor

If you ever feel like your MacBook is not good enough in order to watch movies, TV shows or to work in general, then a large monitor might be what you are missing. We know that this accessory is quite expensive, but we assure you that it is definitely worth its money. The folks at Acer have created a premium 27-inch monitor that features USB-C 3.1, HDMI (v.20) and one standard display port connectivity options.

What makes this monitor stand out from all the other ones available on Amazon is the fact that it uses IPS WQDH widescreen technology which puts out a pixel resolution of 2560 x 1440. To top it all off, the Acer monitor features a refresh rate of 60Hz and an impressive response time of 4ms.
Price: $437.54
Purchase it from Amazon

iLintek Smart Bulbs Bluetooth Mesh Light System Review – MBReviews

  • June 12, 2019

The second version of the iLintek mesh smart bulbs are designed to use the BLE mesh technology in order to create a large network of devices which can be controlled simultaneously (or individually), therefore easily covering an entire office floor, a parking lot or simply your house and yard with a reliable lighting system. Bluetooth started as a means to connect one device to another and transmit packets of data from one end to the other, but it has soon mutated to a one to many approach (hub and spoke) and using the Low Energy implementation (LE), a single broadcasting device could connect to a larger number of devices (the BLE tech can be found in smartphones, some routers and almost all IoT devices).

ilintek

The Bluetooth mesh technology is the latest development which takes a many to many approach, so the data can move through multiple devices (hops) using what is called the flooding technique: any BLE device (node) can receive the data and transmit if further, which means that the network will function even if a node fails. The mesh technology is quite popular in the networking market (WiFi mesh systems such as Google WiFi and Netgear Orbi are highly regarded), but, the Bluetooth mesh tech is a bit different and, because of its nature, it allows for up to 127 hops, which means that you can cover a very large area, simultaneously controlling groups of light bulbs without having to be in the direct range of the originating BLE device.

To test this new tech, I used four iLintek light bulbs: a iLintek A19 (A60) smart light bulb, two G95 smart bulbs and a GU10 smart bulb (the package has two, but I only had one socket available); additionally, I used the iLintek WiFi to Bluetooth gateway (a necessary addition if you want to easily control your lighting system using a virtual assistant, such as Google Home or Amazon Alexa).

Design and Features
1. iLintek A19 (A60) Smart LED Bulb

ilintek-a60

amazonbutton

The iLintek A19 (A60 in the EU) is an RGB smart bulb which is built in the same way as the traditional light bulb, featuring a heavier (and slightly taller) ceramic base and a circular plastic top (both parts are covered by a white finish), measuring 4.3 x 2.6 inches (height x top diameter), so it almost identical to the Gosund smart bulb, but the base weighs significantly more (6.4 ounces – the ceramic surface is thicker?). The light bulb was designed to be used indoors, but, if you put it inside an enclosure, it should work outside as well, although the temperature, humidity and other factors may shorten its life span.

ilintek-a19

In terms of features, the iLintek A19 has a luminous flux of 810 lumen (similarly to the Philips Hue A19), the dimming range between 5 to 100%, a color temperature of 6000 Kelvin (can go down to 2700K, so it’s perfect for a home ambiance, where you would want to relax, but it will also be decent in an office), it has a beaming angle of 180 degrees, a voltage rating of 110 V and 9 Watts (which is the incandescent equivalent of 65 W).

2. iLintek G95 Smart LED Bulb

ilintek-g95

button
The iLintek G95 is an E27 (EU suitable) RGB LED smart bulb which features the same traits as the A19, such as the ceramic base and the circular plastic top surface, but it is a lot bigger, measuring 5.4 x 3.7 inches (the entire bulb is covered by a white finish, glossy on the base and matte on the plastic top). Similarly to the A19, the ceramic base is surprisingly heavy, so you need to be careful when you take it out of the box because the top is lightweight (despite its size) and you can easily drop it out of your hand. The iLintek G95 is also an indoor-suitable light bulb, but it can be used outdoors if kept in a proper enclosure (the elements will shorten its life).

ilintek-g95

The G95 features a luminous flux of 810 lumen (identical to the iLintek A19), 16 million colors, a color temperature of 6000 K (can go down to 2700 K), the beam angle is 180 degrees, the dimming range is between 5 to 100 %, it uses 220 V and 13 Watts (which is the equivalent of a 65 W traditional light bulb). The G95 cannot be used with wall dimmers.

3. iLintek GU10 Smart LED Bulb

ilintek-gu10

button

Although the iLintek GU10 is a smart LED bulb, it is a part of a different category, featuring the GU10 double connector (it requires a special type of socket). The device itself is taller than the regular GU10 light bulb, measuring 2.67 x 1.9 inches (the traditional GU10 bulb is usually about 2.2 x 1.9 inches) and, if you’re familiar with this type of bulb, you know that the base goes all the way up, leaving only the top side for the LEDs to shine through. The iLintek GU10 also has a tall base (it’s made of ceramic and, just like its bigger siblings, it is significantly heavy), but it doesn’t go all the way up, allowing about 0.4 inches of the transparent plastic surface towards the top, so the beaming angle is a bit larger (45 degrees). As with the other iLintek bulbs, the GU10 should be kept indoors.

ilintek-gu10

Feature-wise, the iLintek GU10 is advertised to feature a luminous flux of 450 lumen (half than the A19 or G95) which is the average for this type of devices, the color temperature spans between 2700K and up to 6000 K (it’s powerful, but not blindingly bright), has 16 million colors, the dimming range is between 5 and 100 % (the bulb is not compatible with wall dimmers) and the iLintek GU10 is rated at 6W (the incandescent equivalent of 45W) for a voltage of 200 V.

Application and Functionality
All the iLintek smart bulbs (second version) can be connected to the EIQ Smart app (which is compatible with both iOS and Android OS) and to do so, you need to install and open the app: it will immediately launch the setup wizard that will require the location (CN, US or EUR), your email and a password, and after that, you’ll immediately be able to access the main UI (you will be asked if you want to allow the app access to the location, pictures, videos, microphone and camera – the reason for these requirements (except for the location) is because the app will need to access them afterwards for various color scenes). The first page that you’re going to see is the Device List and, if you click the blue button from the middle of the screen, it will summon a list of icons for various type of devices and, since we’re going to be adding light bulbs, you need to choose Lighting (if you have a iLintek hub, you can add it before the smart bulbs).

ilintek

This will display some instructions on how to put the light bulb in pairing mode, as well as an animation to make things even clearer; basically, all you have to do is to turn on the light switch for one second, wait five seconds and again turn the light on 10 times until the light bulb will start flashing green – I noticed that you don’t really have to wait five seconds – 1 to 2 seconds should also suffice. After the light bulb is in pairing (configuration) mode, tick the confirmation box and tap the BIND button.

Immediately afterwards, you’ll be able to see the device (it will show its name, MAC address and the signal strength): tick the small circle on the right and tap Connect and wait until the device is paired to the app. After that, you’ll be able to see the smart light bulb in the Device List, where you can turn it on or off with a single tap and, if you long press the icon, it will take you to the device’s settings.

ilintek

The first configuration section regards the Color of the iLintek smart light bulb and, while other manufacturer let you simply tap the color you want, the EIQ app let’s you choose it by rotating a circle (there are 16 million available) and, to set the light intensity or between a cooler and a warmer tone, you can use the two bars underneath the color palette (by tapping the star on the top right corner, it will save the color in the Favorite area). The next section is the Picture where you can tap on any part of the default images and the bulb will light up in that color – you can also add you own pictures or even take photos.

The third section is the Music which, if you accepted when the app asked to access your music folder, it will load all the music files in your phone which you can then play and watch the light change depending on the rhythm and, you can also notice that the light intensity is going to change depending on the volume level of your mobile device. The last section is the Mic which, as expected, will change the light using the live sound detected from the microphone of your phone or tablet.

ilintek-

Since I also have an iLintek WiFi to Bluetooth hub, I decided to also pair it to the app: on the Home window, I pressed the plus icon which summoned a small menu which allowed me to Add a new device, Add a gateway or Manage the rooms; I chose Add gateway which took me to a new window with pairing instructions and, after I long pressed the power button on the gateway to put it in configuration mode, I ticked the confirmation radio button and pressed next.

On the next step, I had to configure the network (choose the SSID and insert the password – only works with the 2.4GHz network) and, after the pairing process has been concluded, I was asked to link any pre-added device. After that, every new iLintek device that is going to be added to the app will have the choice of linking to the gateway. The iLintek gateway is not necessary for the Bluetooth mesh to function, as you can simply pair the light bulbs to the app and that will be enough, but the gateway increases the signal coverage and allows you to control the light bulbs using a virtual assistant, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.

ilintek

That being said, I connected the rest of the iLintek smart LED bulbs and, out of curiosity, I tried to connect a smart bulb from another company, but, the app would not detect it, so the EIQ Smart app favors the proprietary iLintek environment (which is a bit of a shame since I would have preferred to interconnect all the smart LED bulbs in my home under a single controller app).

What other apps won’t allow you is the ability to control multiple devices at the same time and, to test this feature, after you have added all the light bulbs, you will be able to see the ‘All’ button next to the Device List: if you press it, all the connected smart bulbs will automatically perform the same action. For example, a single tap on a light bulb icon will either turn on or off all the devices and, if you long press any icon to enter the advanced settings, any change you make to that light bulb (Color, Picture, Music or Mic), it will reflect on all the smart bulbs from the network.

ilintek

To make things easier, it is advisable to group the bulbs by rooms, so you can control only certain portions of your home (or office): to do so, you need to press the ‘Plus’ sign from the Home page and select ‘Manager room’. Here, you’ll be able to see all the rooms that are already created and Add a new room. If you use a gateway, it will appear underneath the room name and, on the right, you’ll be able to change the name, link it to a gateway or delete the room.

Also from the Home window, you can navigate to the Scene section, where there are four default scenes (Return home, Leave home, Dinner and Sleep) to help you quickly control all your lighting system, but you can also add your own scenes: you can add devices and images to the scene, to set the light bulb to turn On or Off, the color and intensity and if it will quickly flash or slowly (or even go through different color pattern). Besides the Scene, there’s the Schedule section, where you can set a specific hour and day (or days) when certain room lights or scene will activate and lastly, there’s the Settings section which allows you to configure the connected Gateway, to pair the app to a virtual assistant (such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home), to view the picture Album, to view the favorite Colors, read the Help section or Logout.

ilintek

To test the reach of the iLintek Bluetooth mesh system, I first connected a single light bulb to a lamp in my bedroom and then I went as far as I could to be able to control the light bulb using my mobile phone (without the gateway connected). The signal became unstable at about 30 feet, so I decided to add another light bulb about 15 feet away from the first smart LED bulb and a third light bulb at 30 feet from the first device. The light bulb were kept in a straight line so, I went outside, at about 25 feet from the third iLintek light bulb and tried to control all three light bulbs. As expected, all three LED lights turn on one after the other (a delay of about one second for each bulb) and I could change the color, the intensity and more for all three devices.

Conclusion
The Bluetooth mesh technology is future-proof feature that I expect will be implemented on more and more smart devices and the fact that iLintek is exploring it in its current form is definitely praiseworthy. The fact that it is adjusted to be proprietary is understood, but, as a consumer, I would have preferred the possibility to control more smart light bulbs regardless of their brand name (or to simply use a different app).

The iLintek light bulbs themselves look similar to the traditional bulbs (the base is heavier) and, in terms of features, none lack anything important (there’s music and microphone synchronization), while the app, after you get to understand how it was designed, it will make a lot of sense. But, even if there is some documentation, it is still easy to feel lost about certain functions (such as how to control multiple bulbs at once). It’s clear that the current implementation still needs some polish, but, overall, for a small site, the iLintek Bluetooth mesh system can be a reliable solution.

Ulefone introduces the rugged Armor 2 phone

  • June 5, 2019

Ulefone Armor 2 Rugged Smartphone with Fingerprint Sensor

The Ulefone Armor was a budget-conscious rugged smartphone that didn’t sacrifice too much in the way of specs and was one of our top rugged smartphone picks. Now Ulefone is introducing the Armor 2 with significantly upgraded specs and a still affordable price.

Like the original Armor, the Armor 2 has an IP68 rating meaning it is dust, dirt, and sand-proof and can withstand submersion underwater to a depth of 1.5 meters for one hour. The Armor 2 is built to offer superior water resistance. Waterproof adhesive tape and film, sealed rings, and a high-density macro-molecule coating protect vulnerable parts of the phone, while key junctions are held firmly in place by screws. The casing is also very rugged and shock-resistant, built with TPU, glass fiber reinforced polycarbonate material, and metal. The phone is resistant to cold and heat with an operating range of -40C° to 80°C.

The Armor 2 increases in size and resolution to a 5-inch FHD (1080p) screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 3. The phone is powered by an octa-core MediaTek Helio P25 2.56GHz CPU running Android 7.0 Nougat, and is also equipped with a Mali-T880 GPU. 6GB of RAM and the 64GB of internal storage round out the impressive base specs. Other features include a front fingerprint sensor (which has so far been a rarity on rugged phones), 4700mAh battery with quick charge, 16MP rear camera, 8MP front camera, and LED notification light. The phone is 4G LTE-compatible with a dual nano sim slot and a USB-C charging port. Other communication features include NFC, 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4G/5G Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.1. The Armor 2 measures 159 x 78.3 x 14.5mm and weighs 270 grams. It is available in two color schemes, dark gray and golden.

The Ulefone Armor 2 has a retail price of $299 which puts it in the budget range. It is a big upgrade from the first Armor model and offers a lot of value at this price. This is a phone that is powerful enough to serve as a main phone, yet tough enough to be used for hazardous work, outdoor recreation, and adventurous travel. The Ulefone Armor 2 continues the line’s tradition of ruggedness, performance, and affordability and is one of the top choices in the rugged smartphone niche.

ulefone.com

Buy Ulefone Armor 2 at Amazon

Ulefone Armor 2 Rugged Smartphone Back

Top Five Best iOS Games for iPhones and iPhones

  • May 29, 2019

There are lots of benefits that using an iOS powered device such as an iPhone or an iPad brings and one the most important ones is the fact that you will never get bored. The reason why we are saying this is because iOS fans can access the App Store and iTunes where they will find millions of useful apps and fun mobile games that are a perfect distraction for the times when you would usually get bored. To make things even better, Apple has a bunch of rules that guarantee that all games which arrive on the App Store are of premium quality and that they deliver fun gameplay experience.

While the variety in mobile games that iOS fans can download and install is great, this does come with a downside. It’s almost impossible to pick and choose a good game to play from a list of millions and with that said, we have decided that for today we are going to present a list with the top five games that can be found on the App Store in May 2019. Without any further ado, let’s jump right into it.

#1 Tropico

Tropico

If you like the idea of building and running an empire all by yourself, then you are going to love Tropico. This game was first made famous on PCs but now, it has arrived on smartphones as well. Players will take on the role of “El Presidente” and they will be given free reign over the proud nation of Tropico. The cool thing about this game is that players can actually do whatever they want which means that they can be either a good president or a bad one who only see his own interests. The choice is up to you!

Download Tropico

#2 Fortnite

Fortnite

 

You had to know that this game was going to be featured on our list. Fortnite is not only the most popular online game in the world, it’s also a global phenomenon. Everyone is playing Fortnite starting with famous movie celebrities, sports athletes and ending with even Drake himself.

What’s great about this game is that it features the famous Battle Royale mode where 100 players get thrown into the same map and they need to pick up weapons and other types of items in order to defeat their foes and become the last one standing. Fortnite is not only a fun game for iPhones and iPads, it’s also really challenging.

Download Fortnite

#3 Hearthstone

Hearthstone

Blizzard is one of the world’s most successful game developers with massive franchises such as Diablo, World of Warcraft and Overwatch under its belt. Hearthstone is a card strategy game that is based on the lore (story and characters) of World of Warcraft and what makes it stand out from all other card games available for iOS devices is the fact that Hearthstone’s cards feature lots of amazing spells and effects that make it possible for players to come up with rather interesting strategies. To top it all off, Hearthstone is updated on a regular basis which means that the game doesn’t really have a meta and that players need to always come up with new strategies in order to keep outsmarting their enemies.

Download Hearthstone

#4 PUBG

PUBG

We previously talked about Fortnite, but now we want to introduce its archnemesis, PUBG. PUBG is in fact the first game to bring the super fun and challenging Battle Royale mode to a global scale and this is why hundreds of millions of people from all over the world are playing the mobile version of the game which is also available for iOS devices.

The difference between PUBG and Fortnite is the level of realism and immersion that PUBG has to offer. Not just that, but the weapons of PUBG are amazing well done and shooting a big weapon such as a sawed-off double barrel shotgun does feel amazing, even on an iPhone or an iPad. In addition, PUBG is giving players the options to join matches solo or in squads of up to four players.

Download PUBG

#5 Lara Croft Go

The Tomb Raider movies and game series are some of the most famous ones in the world. In fact, Lara Croft which is the protagonist of these movies and games is one of the world’s first female heroes and this is what makes this series so beloved. If you have finished all the Tomb Raider games that are available for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, then you might want to consider giving Lara Croft Go a try.

This is a super fun game where players take control over Lara Croft’s actions and they need to solve difficult and rewarding Tomb Raider-themed puzzle games. The make the game sound even cooler, players will also need to take out enemies similar to a hitman. The last thing that we want to mention about Lara Croft Go is that each level in the game has been purposely made short so that it doesn’t take up too much time. The reason behind this is to make Lara Croft Go the perfect game to play during boring times such as waiting for the bus.

Download Lara Croft Go

These have been our top five games available for iOS powered devices. We hope that you like our picks and that you are going to give some of them a try, especially those which are free to play because you don’t have anything to lose, only a fun gameplay experience to check out. In addition, interested readers can also check out our top 6 iPhone XS Max rugged cases.

Linksys WRT3200ACM Dual-Band Tri-Stream 160 Router Review – MBReviews

  • May 22, 2019


The Linksys WRT3200ACM is among the two most powerful wireless routers from the Linksys WRT series (along with the WRT32X) and a successor to one of the most popular AC1900 router, the WRT1900ACS. As the name suggests, the WRT3200ACM is an AC3200 device, but this may be misleading for some, because we are not dealing with a tri-band router (which means that there’s no additional 5GHz radio and the router features the usual dual-band radios), but instead Linksys implemented the Tri-Stream 160 technology, therefore making the WRT3200ACM the first router to support contiguous 160 MHz bandwidth channels in 5Ghz.

I already had a look at another router which also supports 160MHz bandwidth mode (the NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S R7800) but it is implemented in a 80 + 80 MHz setup.
I’m glad that Linksys wanted to go further with the technology development, but even in 2018, the devices that do support contiguous 160 MHz bandwidth channels are very difficult to find, so, this new feature will be useful only if you have at least two devices of the same kind (two Linksys WRT3200ACM or WRT32X) linked in bridge mode (I did get fantastic results with the Asus PCE-AC88 as well). While the usual client won’t be able to take advantage of any of the main selling points of the WRT3200ACM, this router will help improve some networks, so let’s see if it’s worth upgrading over the WRT1900ACS and if it’s able to rise up to its newer competitors.

UPDATE 05.20.2019 A few days ago, it was disclosed that a significant number of Linksys routers are vulnerable to an info disclosure exploit so, considering that Linksys WRT3200ACM is a part of affected routers and Linksys hasn’t yet released any patch to fix the problem, the only way to be sure you’re protected is to install a custom firmware, such as OpenWRT. For this reason, I compiled this guide which should help you install OpenWRT (Project LEDE) on a Linksys WRT3200ACM router.

UPDATE 11.21.2018: I have been using the Linksys WRT3200ACM for the most part as the main router, so considering that almost four months have passed, I have retested the device in a new location (which is more difficult to cover with WiFi) and the results are consistent with what I got in July (comes at no surprise considering that Linksys hasn’t updated the router in a long time now). To give you some spoilers, I have not encountered any of the expected problems on the 5GHz band and the LEDs so far are still bright enough.

UPDATE 07.22.2018: The Linksys WRT3200ACM has gone through multiple radical changes during its two years of existence, so, while at the beginning the router would function properly and had a fantastic wireless performance, sometimes last year, lots of users started complaining that the WRT3200ACM was having serious issues with the 5GHz radio (some have hinted that it may be a hardware problem and that the Marvell chip needed to be changed) and that the LED lights would become dim after a few months of normal use. Considering that the review I did a year and a half ago may not portray the current condition of the WRT3200ACM, I re-purchased it and retested the device to see if Linksys has managed to release a stable firmware which would at least solve the 5GHz radio instability.

Design

linksys-wrt3200acm

A few years ago, Linksys made the decision to take inspiration from the design of the iconic Linksys WRT54G and create a soul successor which will take the Linksys legacy further. That’s how the WRT1900AC was born, a device which besides being one of the fastest AC1900 router on the market, it used a very unique case design which not only gathered the nostalgic fans, it also caught the attention of a new audience which was exasperated by the continuous release of the similar-looking black or white consumer-focused routers.

The designers from Linksys liked the new appearance so much that they decided to keep it for the entire series, making it pretty hard to tell the routers apart (except for the WRT1200AC, which has two antennas and the LINKSYS WRT32X AC3200 which is just completely black). I know that the design is the least important aspect in a router, but I find it a bit ridiculous that I can’t really tell apart the WRT1900ACS from the WRT3200ACM (it’s been almost two years, bring something new to the table!).

linksys

Despite borrowing the design of the WRT1900ACS, the WRT3200ACM looks a lot better than a lot of other routers on the market, the case being divided into two parts: the back side which is covered by a black matte finish and with lots of holes on top for a proper airflow and the blue front side, which is a bit glossy (but does not retain fingerprints). The dual-band removable antennas are positioned in the same manner, with two of them on the back side and the last two, each on one side of the router (since they’re reasonably small and close to the rear side, it won’t pose any inconvenience).

The footprint of the WRT3200ACM remains the same, with 9.68 x 7.63 x 2.04 inches and the weight is a bit lighter (28.16 oz), so it falls into the fairly large routers category (along with Asus RT-AC88U and Netgear Nighthawk R7800 X4S). By default, the WRT3200ACM can be positioned flat on a surface, but it can also be wall-mounted if you lack enough space to keep it properly ventilated (every feet has special holes to use for wall-mounting).

linksys

On the bottom side of the router, there are four rubber feet that are large enough to keep the device sturdy even if you connect all the ports and there are another two sections of numerous puncture holes that help keep the case well ventilated (and the WRT3200ACM definitely needs it since Linksys decided to remove the fail-safe fan on the early model of WRT1900AC). Also on the bottom, there’s a small label which contains various info about the device (such as the Serial Number, the MAC Address and the default SSID and password).

linksys

On the front of the device, on the black glossy plastic, there is a series of white LED lights (seven directly on the front and five slightly towards the right), which show the status of Power (if it blinks, it means that it is booting up or it’s in self-diagnostic mode), Internet (if it’s solid amber, it means that the connection is down because of some configuration issues and if the LED blinks an amber colour, then the connection is down because of hardware problems), the 2.4GHz and 5GHz band (if either of the two LEDs are blinking, then the router is receiving or sending data), eSata, USB 1, USB 2 (there are two indicators, on top of each other: the line and the dot indicates a USB 3.0 device has been connected and if the dot is turned off, then a USB 2.0 device has been connected), the four LAN Ethernet ports (every port has a primary T indicator and a secondary dot indicator: if the dot is turned off, then there is a device connected at 10/100Mbps, otherwise, the connection is at 1000Mbps) and for the WPS (if the LED is solid white for 5 seconds, then the connection has been successful, otherwise, if the LED blinks an amber colour, then the process has failed).

linksys-wrt3200acm

Source: FCC ID Image

UPDATE: A quick look inside the case has revealed that the port LEDs are big and will function properly for a long time, while the rest of the LED indicators are smaller and ‘forced’ to produce the same level of brightness, so this may be the reason why so many people have complained about the LEDs getting dimmer over time – after four months, the LED indicators are still as bright as the day I purchased the router, but this could still change in the future.

Flip the router around and you are greeted by lots of ports and buttons: from the left, there’s an antenna connector, a WPS button, four Gigabit (10/100/1000) Ethernet LAN ports, an Internet port, a USB 3.0 port, a combo USB 2.0 / eSATA port (it’s nice to see that Linksys didn’t put any USB ports on the front or lateral sides), a small red recessed button (press it for 10 seconds to reset the router to factory default settings), the Power port and another antenna connector.

linksys

Just like with any other model from the WRT series, the WRT3200ACM does not really have an elegant design and it may not feel at home in a living-room with classic furniture, but, the case is not ugly by any means and it will fit in on a desk along with a modern desktop PC.
Note: Inside the package, you can find the Linksys WRT3200ACM unit, a Quick Start Guide, a CD with documentation, an Ethernet cable, the Power adapter and the four antennas.

Hardware
On the inside, the Linksys WRT3200ACM is equipped with a dual-core 1.8GHz Marvel Armada 88F6820 ARMv7, Marvell 88E6352 switch, 512 MB of RAM (Micron DDR3) and 256 MB of flash memory (Spansion NAND). Furthermore, the 2.4GHz radio band uses the Marvell 88W8964 chipset, along with a Skyworks SKY85309-11 2.4GHz front-end module and the 5GHz radio band also uses the Marvell 88W8964 chipset, along with the Skyworks SKY85728-11 5 GHz front-end module.

linksys

The Linksys WRT3200ACM features a maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 600 Mbps using the 2.4GHz radio band and the maximum theoretical data transfer rate of 2600 Mbps using the 5GHz radio band (added to the advertised 3200 Mbps).
Note: The power consumption, while operational, is approximately 33 Watts.

Features and Performance
The Linksys WRT3200ACM is a 3×3 AC3200 class router, but, as said in the introduction, we are not dealing with a tri-band router and one of the main signs is because it uses the MU-MIMO technology (as expected the AC3200 line is commonly used by routers that feature the Broadcom’s XStream Tri-band technology, such as the TP-Link AC3200, D-Link DIR-890L and Asus AC3200).

linksys

The usual tri-band router features an additional 5GHz radio band, besides the common dual-band setup and it helps a lot with the network stability by balancing the load between the three radios, therefore increasing the throughput (not the link rate!). This means that a tri-band AC3200 router will work as an AC1900-class device, but will be able to handle a lot more wireless connected clients and ensure a better network stability.

The Marvell’s MU-MIMO technology is a totally different beast and the way it works is that instead of serving one client at a time (the usual SU-MIMO approach), multiple users can be served simultaneously. This means that every connected MU-MIMO client receives an individual data stream (thus removing any competitiveness for the bandwidth), allowing users to play online games or perform any video streaming at the same time, without experiencing any latency. This technology sounds fantastic and a must-have in every household, the only problem is that the market hasn’t really caught up with the velocity of the networking technology development (there are still lots of people and companies that consider the 802.11ac standard as something exotic – this statement remain true even in 2018, when we’re already entering the realm of the 802.11ax!).

linksys

So, the MU-MIMO technology isn’t a solution for the present and more likely for a possible future where MU-MIMO compatible wireless cards are something usual and wide-spread (although at this point in time, I’m not holding my breath).
The main selling point and the reason why Linksys WRT3200ACM has been developed is the Tri-Stream 160 feature. To get a better understanding about how this tech works, let’s take the usual three-stream AC1900 router (3×3), with each stream maxing out at 433 Mbps using the 80MHz bandwidth mode (therefore going to the maximum advertised rate of 1,300 Mbps for the 5GHz radio band). The Tri-Stream 160 technology uses pretty much the same concept, but instead of using the 80MHz bandwidth mode, you get three streams at 160Mhz channel width, therefore driving data at 867Mbps on each stream (adding up to the advertised 2,600 Mbps on the 5GHz radio band).

The Tri-Stream 160 sure sounds like a game-changer, but can the usual person actually use it with any of the currently present devices? Umm, no. The only device that supports this tech is another WRT3200ACM router (internal data streams will be fantastic using the bridge mode, without a doubt) and, since there aren’t many compatible wireless adapter on the market (smallnetbuilder.com says that the Intel Wireless-AC 9260 supports this feature), but if you use 1×1 or 2×2 wireless adapters, the WRT3200ACM will perform similarly to a higher end AC1900 router and nothing more. This is a sin that almost all router manufacturers are guilty of, inflating the box number as much as they can, while the usual person will be hypnotized into thinking that they’ll get the link rates from the box.

linksys

That being said, the WRT3200ACM is definitely future-proof, but I’m not really sure that this is the future of the networking world (Linksys thinks so and it has prepared way ahead of time) and my opinion is that a tri-band router (while definitely not being superior), has the advantage of not needing any special compatible wireless adapters, just ones which use the 5GHz radio band (furthermore, the tri-band approach has worked out great for the WiFi mesh systems (such as the Orbi, Eero 2nd Gen or the Velop) that needed a reliable way of handling the backhaul traffic).
UPDATE: As an update to my previous statement, the 802.11ax may prove me wrong and the 160MHz channel bandwidth is going to become the norm, therefore indeed making the WRT3200ACM one of the most future-proof wireless routers that I have tested.

The last feature that I want to mention from the Linksys WRT3200ACM is the Beamforming technology which has the role of optimizing the network performance by scanning the area, identifying the connected devices (wireless) and focusing the signal directly at them, instead of broadcasting it everywhere, hoping it will reach the connected clients.

linksys

In order to test the wireless performance of the Linksys WRT3200ACM, I took a laptop with a compatible wireless adapter and a desktop PC (also with a built-in compatible wireless adapter equipped with one of the most powerful wireless adapter on the consumer market, the Asus PCE-AC88) and I measured the speed performance at different locations inside a large house.
UPDATE: I have kept the initial test results to showcase the improvements that Linksys has made over the years and the new tests have been done after three days four months from the purchasing date (in a new location) and the router has been kept running continuously during this period in order to see when (and if) I will experience the same problems with the 5GHz radio band – the WRT3200ACM has been updated to the latest firmware, the v1.0.6.186168 (Linksys decided that their router series is perfect and no updates are needed anymore).

So, using the 2.4GHz radio band (and implicitly, the 802.11n standard – 20MHz bandwidth mode), from the client to the server at close range (5 feet), I measured an average of 231 Mbps 151 Mbps (it peaked at 156 Mbps). Afterwards, at 15 feet, the speed decreased to 144Mbps decreased to 164 Mbps and at 35 feet, I measured an average of 115 Mbps 70 Mbps. Even if the new location is not that WiFi-friendly as when I tested the device in July, I still got better results than a year and a half ago, so the WRT3200ACM is still doing good on the 2.4GHz band. From the server to the client, at no more than 5 feet away from the router, I managed to measure an average of 182 Mbps, while at 15 feet, the speed went down to 129 Mbps and at 35 feet, I measured an average of 81.3 Mbps.

linksys-wrt3200acm

Since I got an overall better wireless speed performance on the 2.4GHz band, I switched to the 5GHz radio band (the 802.11ac standard and the 80MHz bandwidth mode) and using the Asus PCE-AC88, I got the following results from the client to the server: 5 feet away from the router, I managed to measure an average of 811 Mbps (with the peak at 930 Mbps), while at 15 feet, the speed went down to 720 Mbps (a welcomed improvement over the 647 Mbps from the last time I tested the device) and lastly, at 30 feet, I measured an average of 534 Mbps (obviously, unless you use the best WiFi adapters on the market, you won’t see this type of performance).

From the server to the client, I got the following results: at close range (no more than 5 feet), I managed to measure an average of 235 Mbps, while at 15 feet, the speed decreased to 233 Mbps. Lastly, at 30 feet, I measured an average of 165 Mbps. As you can see, the speed performance on the 5GHz radio from the client to the server has remained pretty much consistent to what I measured the second time I tested the WRT3200ACM, but the server to client performance is really nothing to brag about and significantly below what the Asus RT-AC86U can deliver.

linksys-wrt3200acm

Because the router has a USB 3.0 port, I had to measure the storage performance and see how it stands against its predecessor, the WRT1900ACS. So, I took a 2.0 GB folder containing multimedia files (videos, music and books) and I measured a writing speed of 88.5MBps and a reading speed of 113.1MBps. This makes it one of the fastest router from the storage point of view available on the market right now.

Setup and Interface

linksys
The setup process of the WRT3200ACM is as simple as with any other modern wireless router: connect your PC to the wireless name and use the password shown on the label (from the bottom of the device) and open a web browser to launch the Linksys Smart Router Setup (if the wizard doesn’t launch instantaneously, go to linksyssmartwifi.com). The setup wizard will guide you through configuring the Wireless Settings (the SSIDs and the password for both radio bands), create a new router password (along with a hint) and create a Linksys Smart WiFi Account (which allows you to access your network remotely). By default, the connection type settings are done automatically, but you can also get the option to perform the manual configuration. After finishing the initial setup, you gain access to the UI to configure your router at a more in-depth level.

linksys-wrt3200acm

UPDATE: The second time I configured the WRT3200ACM, I used the Linksys mobile app (the same that is used to configure both the tri-band and the dual-band Velop systems) and the steps were pretty much the same as on the browser-based interface: selecting ‘A Linksys Router’ instead of ‘A Velop System’, connecting to the router’s WiFi network and waiting until the device gets detected by the app, installing the latest firmware update, setting up the two WiFi networks and that’s pretty much it – from here on, you’ll be able to freely roam the mobile and the browser-based interfaces.

The main page of the browser interface has a menu on the left with all the important sections with options, each showing a new window in the centre. On the right side, you get nine small windows which show the Status of the Network, the Linksys Home Networking shortcut, the WiFi Settings, the Guest Access, the status of the Parental Controls, the External Storage, the Media Prioritization status and the Network Map. The first section is the Smart WiFi Tools and has the following options: Network Map (a graphical representation of your network, including the Guest Network and the Internet Usage), Guest Access (allows you to create guest network names with passwords and you can choose the maximum number of guests allowed), Parental Controls (you can restrict access to specific devices, block the Internet access during specific times or always and block specific websites), Media Prioritization (drag and drop devices in the normal or high priority section and choose the Applications along with the Online Games for those sections), Speed Check and External Storage (Status, Folder Access, FTP Server and Media Server).

linksys

Directly underneath the Smart WiFi Tools, you can see the Router Settings: Connectivity (the Basic settings – Network Name and Password, Router Password, Firmware Update, Time Zone and Activity Lights; Internet Settings – IPv4 or IPv6 Connection Type, MAC Address Clone and MTU; Local Network – Router Details and DHCP Server; Advanced Routing – NAT, Dynamic Routing and Static Routing; VLAN – VLAN, Internet(Trunk) and Ethernet; Administration: Local Management Access, UPnP and Application Layer Gateway), Troubleshooting (Status, Diagnostics and Logs), WiFi Settings (Wireless settings, MAC Filtering, WiFi Protected Setup and Wireless Scheduler), Security (Firewall – Firewall, VPN Passthrough, Internet filters and IPv6 Port Services; DMZ; Apps and Gaming – DDNS, Single Port Forwarding, Port Range Forwarding and port Range Triggering) and OpenVPN Server. While the app was quick and intuitive, I noticed that the web-based interface was slow and I had some trouble finding some options (such as something as simple as finding where to upgrade the firmware – as a hint, it’s under Connectivity).

linksys

Besides the MU-MIMO and the Tri-Stream 160 feature, the third main selling point of the Linksys WRT3200ACM is the support for Open Source firmwares. Since the router is made with this type of compatibility, the OpenWRT or DD-WRT custom firmwares will be more stable than on the other routers, but there’s something I did not quite understand. While the WRT3200ACM is advertised as being Open-Source Ready, on their website it is written: “Installing 3rd party firmware is done at your own risk and replacing factory-installed firmware with open source firmware will void your warranty.” So, while Linksys encourages you to go for third party firmwares, it will not fix the product if something goes wrong.

UPDATE: The support for open-source firmware has been one reason why so many people decided to go with routers from the WRT series, but, unlike other manufacturers that have been generally well regarded by third-party developers (such as Asuswrt-Merlin for Asus routers), Linksys seriously lacks in this department. At this moment, I would not recommend using DDWRT with the WRT3200ACM (it brings almost nothing new in terms of features and it feels dated), but I did notice a lot of positive feedback from the LEDE project team, so, if you want to use a third-party firmware, I would go for OpenWRT.

Conclusion
I’m not really sure what to think about the Linksys WRT3200ACM because for me, it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, you get an above average wireless performance (and as an update, the router did really well in a more difficult location), a fantastic storage performance and a simple-to-use app interface (while the browser-based interface is very slow – this hasn’t changed). But, on the other hand, all of these new features lack any usability in the real world and the only people to take advantage of them would be those that actually purchase two of these units and use them in bridge mode lacked usability for a long time, but the emergence of the 802.11ax standard could reshape the market and make the WRT3200ACM a device way ahead of its time (although it can be too outdated by the time this happens).

Furthermore, the support for custom firmwares had the potential to make this router one of the fastest on the market, but so far it didn’t happen, so considering the great advances of the LEDE Project, I’ll also try to install it on my unit and retest it after some time has passed. Overall, in its current condition (and four days since I have it four months since I got it), the WRT3200ACM is still performing really well, so I’ll keep it for a while longer to see if Linksys managed to fix all of the issues and has made the WRT series great again and although I can’t speak for the large majority of the devices out there, the Linksys WRT3200ACM that I have used until now performed better than expected.
Note: As a side note, I had to reconnect one client a couple of times during this period of time, the Android devices would stay connected to the 5GHz network without problems and, as for Apple device, unfortunately, during the last four months I had none to test the connection.

Check for the latest price here:

amazonbutton

amazonbuttonuk

Linksys WRT3200ACM

Linksys WRT3200ACM

Pros

  • Good Wireless Performance
  • MU-MIMO Technology
  • Tri-Stream 160MHz
  • Easy-to-Use Interface
  • Support For Custom Firmware

Cons

  • Not Many 160MHz Compatible Clients Available
  • LEDs Can Dim Over Time
  • The Support From Third Party Developers Is Underwhelming

CAT S41 and S31 rugged smartphones

  • May 15, 2019

CAT S41 IP68 Rugged Smartphone

The S41 is CAT’s latest rugged smartphone release. Known for its advanced S60 smartphone with a thermal imaging camera, CAT appears to be positioning the S41 as its mainstream rugged model with a mid-range price. The S41, successor to the S40, does not have thermal imaging but does offer some major upgrades from the S40.

The screen size has increased to 5 inches with full 1080p HD resolution and Gorilla Glass 5 with wet-finger and glove-on support. Under the hood is is a MediaTek P20 octa-core 2.3GHz CPU with 3GB RAM and 32GB ROM running Android 7.0 Nougat. Cameras include a 13MP rear with LED flash and 8MP front. The battery is a hefty 5000 mAh and can be used to charged external devices with the USB adapter. A micro USB port is used for charging and there is also a headphone jack. As a rugged model the S41 is “beyond” IP68 certified, waterproof up to 2 meters for 1 hour and drop proof to 1.8 meters. It is also resistant to vibration and extreme temperatures, with an operating range from -25°C (-13°F) to 55°C (131°F). Other features include 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 & 5GHz) wi-fi, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC, FM radio, GPS, and microSD slot. The S41 measures 152 x 75 x 12.95 mm and weighs 218 grams. The S41 will be released in single and dual SIM configurations.

The CAT S41 has a list price of $449 USD.

CAT S41 Promotional Video:

CAT S41 Official Site

CAT is also releasing the S31, a more budget-oriented rugged smartphone. The S31 has a 4.7-inch 720p HD screen with Gorilla Glass 3 featuring wet-finger and glove-on support. The S31 is powered by a Qualcomm MSM8909 quad-core CPU with 2GB RAM and 16GB ROM. It is IP68 certified, waterproof to 1.2 meters up to 35 minutes, and drop proof to 1.8 meters. Battery size is 4000 mAh. Cameras are 8MP-rear with LED flash and 2MP-front. The S31 does not have NFC like the S41. The S31 measures 146 x 74.42 x 12.6 mm and weighs 200 grams. List price is $329 USD.

CAT S31 Promotional Video:

CAT S31 Official Site

Top Eight iPhone and iPad News Apps

  • May 8, 2019

If you enjoy reading the latest news, then you more than surely know just how fast the news can spread at times. This makes it difficult to stay ahead of the “curve” when it comes to the latest and most interesting topics. However, Apple fans don’t have to worry about that since they can access lots of premium news apps on iPhones and iPads that will keep them updated on everything that interests them.

Apple has recently announced that it is planning to launch a subscription service called Apple News+ which will provide subscribers with the world’s most trustworthy and reliable news publication. Although, picking the right ones to follow can be quite tricky since there are so many. This is why we have decided that for today we are going to present the top eight best news apps that iPhone and iPad users can follow in order to stay informed.

#1 Apple News

Apple News

We are going to start our list with the obvious choice, Apple News. The reason why we have picked Apple News to sit on the first spot is because this is a native iOS app that offers all types of coverage and a premium reading experience. What makes this app stand out from the rest is the fact that it features a “For You” section that is filled with the user’s favorite stories and topics. Therefore, making it easier for all iPhone and iPad users to learn everything that is going on in the world.

Download Apple News

#2 Pocket: Save Stories for Later

Pocket: Save Stories for Later

Pocket is an innovative news app for iPhones and iPads that makes it possible for users to collect stories that seem interesting and then save them in a special list in order to check them out later. To make things even better, saving stories for later with Pocket is fairly simple and the only thing that users need to do is to tap on the share button and then pick the “Pocket” option. In addition, Pocket offers a recommendation tab where users can find all their favorite stories and journalists.

Download Pocket: Save Stories for Later

#3 Google News

Google News

Even though Google News is renowned as being one of the best news apps that Android users can access, this doesn’t mean that the app is exclusive to them. Google News can also be downloaded on iOS powered devices and what this app does best is the fact that it collects news sources from all over the world and places them in the user’s newsfeed. Furthermore, Google News offers a cool feature called “Full Coverage” which provides additional details without Google’s curation system. Not just that, but there is also the option to save a story or download specification publications to read at a later date.

Download Google News

#4 Flipboard

Flipboard

Apple’s iOS operating system is renowned for offering a premium user experience, but what really makes it stand out is the millions of apps and mobile games that iOS users can download whenever they want. One of these apps is called Flipboard and it is known for being an established news app that provides users with a constant stream of all the latest headlines. Just like Apple News, Flipboard features a “For You” panel that iPhone and iPad users can customize to their liking.

Download Flipboard

#5 TL;DR

TL;DR

We know that some of you have busy lives and that you don’t have time to read all the news that might be interesting. Well, here is where TL;DR comes in and saves the day. For those who are unfamiliar with this acronym, TL;DR stands for “too long, didn’t read” and it automatically provides iPhone and iPad users with shortened versions of articles that they want to check out.

This is a really great app for iOS and it will definitely make it easier for all iPhone and iPad users to find out everything they need to know about the topics that interest them in record time. However, we do have to mention that there is a big downside to TL;DR. This app sometimes fails to provide detailed and accurate information since it’s restricted to a limited number of characters.

Download TL;DR

#6 Bloomberg

We think it’s safe to say that Bloomberg is one of the world’s most reputable business news outlets. Everyone who works in finances and wants to learn about all the latest reports in the business world should consider giving Bloomberg a try. Moreover, Bloomberg also provides users with great coverage on topics such as the stock market which can be quite helpful at times.

Not just that, but iPhone and iPad users who have their own investments can create a personal portfolio on the Bloomberg app and track all the latest news that include information about their personal portfolio.

Download Bloomberg

#7 CNN

CNN

When it comes to famous news publication, CNN is sitting in the top five. The folks who are in charge of CNN have also created an iOS app that will help iPhone and iPad users get access to all the latest headlines from the world’s biggest publishers. The cool thing about the CNN news app for iOS is the fact that it also provides video snippets, exclusive coverage and featured news. Furthermore, the app is equipped with a friendly and intuitive UI (user interface) which is easy to navigate and “scan” for all the latest news.

Download CNN

#8 Feedly

Feedly

Remember Google Reader? This used to be a really fun mode that made it easier on the eyes when reading news and unfortunately, the mode was removed. Luckily, here is where Feedly comes in and provides users with an alternative. Feedly is a reliable news app that offers Google Reader which means that users can select multiple publications, save articles for later viewing, sort them into topics and much more. Nonetheless, Feedly is a powerful news app and it can more keep iPhone and iPad users updated on everything that is going on in the world.

Download Feedly