Friday, August 15, 2014

GoPro HERO3+: Black Edition Review

GoPro HERO3+: Black Edition Review


UPDATE: 03/26/2014 - GoPro has recently released a firmware update v2.0 for the Hero3+ Black. Quoting the GoPro website:
"Camera software update 2.0 has lots in store for your GoPro. HERO3+ Black Edition cameras will get new SuperView(tm) video modes, new Auto Low Light settings, advanced Protune(tm) controls and more. For HERO3+ Silver Edition cameras, update 2.0 increases the field of view on all photo and video modes for even more immersive, wide-angle footage. And with new wireless camera software updates via the GoPro App, updating your GoPro has never been easier."

UPDATE - 12/9/2013 - I've just updated my video with additional video samples from the Hero3+ compared to the Hero3. I also stuck in a short video of the Sony HDR-AS30V for additional comparison.

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Just about a year ago I bought the GoPro Hero3 Black. It was frought with issues and I felt it had been rushed out the door without adequate testing. Fortunately, some 3 firmware updates later, the GoPro Hero3 Black has become a reliable sports cam for me.

I was both happy and frustrated to learn that the GoPro Hero3+ Black was being introduced. With promises of improved battery life and sharper lens, I wished I had waited to buy the Hero3+ instead of the Hero3. But now that I"ve also got the Hero3+ Black, I've learned that it's not that big of an upgrade really and I still use and thoroughly enjoy using the Hero3. In fact for some things the Hero3 Black is superior to the Hero3+ Black. But battery life is definitely better and some people will love the new "super wide" mode that really gives you a stronger fisheye effect.

I have been using the Hero3+ a lot for time lapse phtography and for recording bike rides. I also travel with it and use it for capturing stunning wide-angle still shots. A recent Hot Air Balloon ride enabled me to use the GoPro to caputre some utterly amazing video and stills from 1000 feet above ground.

As for the claimed increased sharpness... well that's a mixed bag. What they've actually done is slightly decreased the depth of field so that you now get increased sharpness for closer objects (like yourself) while the more distant background has become ever so slightly less sharp. I use mine more for photography where I want as sharp a focus as I can get for scenic shots but I have not noticed a very significant decrease in sharpness for distance. This is a non-issue for me. Some people complaining of significant loss of sharpness actually have a defective camera and this has been confirmed by GoPro.

One huge improvement I've noticed is the significantly better color accuracy. There is a pronounced color shift of the Hero3 Black when compared to the Hero3+. The Hero3+ has a much more accurate, neutrual color bias which is more pleasing to me. The Hero3 had a more yellowish bias.

The Hero3+ does much better in bright, snow (and probably sand) situations as can be seen in my video.

The new "super" size setting gives a significantly wider field of view. As such you will notice a marked curvature of the image at the edges. This bending is most noticeable when an edge is present, You notice this much less if you're shooting at sky,,, skydiving, ski jumping etc. This is typical of a super wide angle, nearly fisheye, lens.

▶︎ Battery LIfe:
The Hero3+ comes with a marginally higher capacity battery (AHDBT-302.) It's rated at 1180mAh vs the prior battery which was rated 1050mAh. That's not much of an increase but it is an increase nonetheless. Apparently GoPro has also made some internal tweaks that results in a claimed 30% longer battery life. I generally get no more than slightly 1;15 of recording time with the Hero3 but I'm really happy to discover that the Hero3+ gives me a solid 2 hour recording time. So the battery life has most definitely been improved in the Hero3+.

▶︎ Waterproof Housing:
The housing has seen a significant change. It is much lighter in weight, less bulky and the 2-step latching mechanism has been completely redesigned. It is now just a single latch. It doesn't feel as sturdy to me as the previous latch and I'm not sure I like it or not yet. I'll have to use it a while to see how it holds up and how it works in the field under more extensive use. One good thing is that the Hero3 and Hero3+ will fit and operate in either housing... they are interchangeable. The Hero3+ housing is rated to 30M (131') underwater vs 60M (197') underwater for the Hero3 housing. The best thing about the new housing is the ease with which the buttons now work. In the previous housing pushing the buttons required quite a bit of force and they were very inconvenient to use. This has been improved significantly in the with the new housing. The buttons are a larger diameter and much easier to push.

▶︎ Low Light setting:
The Low Light setting does improve video in lower light situations but there is still visible grain. I have compared video from both my 3 and 3+ and the 3+ allows more definition and brings out a lot more detail in what was just darkness in the conditions when compared to the Hero3 when the lighting level is low. It is a definite improvement but it's still not excellent... just a lot better.

▶︎ Firmware updates:
GoPro has made the process of updating the firmware on the Hero3+ different. On the Hero3 all you needed to do was download the firmware to your computer, unzip it and move the files from the firmware update folder to the top level of a formatted MicroSD card. You then inserted the card into your GoPro and then turned the camera on... the firmware would be installed.
The Hero3+ firmware update process has changed. When on the GoPro website you go through a web-based update process before you can download the firmware. You have to decide whether you want to update the WiFi and the camera firmware or just one or the other. Then you download the update and unzip it, you do not move just the files from the firmware update folder to the MicroSD card, but rather you move the entire firmware update folder to the MicroSD card which you then put into the GoPro Hero3+ and turn on the camera to initiate the firmware upgrade process.

▶︎ Blurry backgrounds:
GoPro has already acknowledged that a random number of cameras are exhibiting the exceedingly blurry background issue. My camera is perfect and has no such issue but others are having the problem and downgrading their review of the camera because of the issue. If you get a camera that has a really bad lack of sharpness, you may have gotten a defective camera and should either immediately exchange it or at least contact GoPro for further guidance.

I like the Hero3+. It's more evolutionary of an update rather than revolutionary. If you are a current Hero3 Black owner, I wouldn't necessarily feel like you are stuck with a dinosaur. The Hero3 is still a very respectable camera in many ways. But there are some definite improvements in color balance and shooting options with the Hero 3+ and the new housing is easier to use but may not actually be as sturdy... that remains to be seen.

I'd also like to mention that I recently got a Sony HDR-AS30V and the short story is that it's not nearly as good as the GoPro Hero3+ Black. It is much more basic in its availabe shooting modes. The Sony has downright lousy battery life. The waterproof enclosure is only good to 16' underwater and the display is pretty poor if you ask me. I find it difficult to read because Sony has chosen a some kind of a segmented font that looks like a 1970's Texas Instruments calculator. It's really really bad.

I'll be updating my review as I use the Hero3+ more and more. But for now I can say that if you are feeling like you are "stuck" with your Hero3, just know that you've still got a great camera. The main improvements that are most significant for me with the Hero3+ are: improved battery life and somewhat better low light image capture.

-review by M. Erb Amazon

Amazon Fire TV - Streaming 1080p media player with voice search, Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, games, and more

This box is a GAME CHANGER for on demand content! Amazon knocked it out of the park. Refreshed & UPDATED with Tips!


I am not a casual user of on-demand content and devices. Having tried smart tv's from 3 brands, smart dvd/bluray players, Apple TV, WDTV, HTPC, Chromecast and too many other competing products to mention--for streaming content, before this box you really had two options (for a simple to use box that doesn't require additional items or tweaking):

First is Apple TV which is easy to use (interface) but Apple limits the content you can get greatly (including no Prime Streaming built in) and it lacks a lot in features as well and is slow. The reason for selecting Apple TV is if you have other apple products that unlock features (like Amazon's content).

The second option you could consider was Roku--which really means a Roku 3 box since it is heads and tails better than past Roku boxes in terms of remote and speed. Now Roku stands out with the most content and the most features of any box with the Roku 3. It is for that reason you will see me address the Roku 3 so often in this review.

I have added quick summaries of other options to make sure everyone knows about the other options out there.

WDTV: Are great for streaming your own content but not very user friendly.

Chromecast: Is very cheap at $35 but requires other items to use (no remote included!), is limited to 16 channels according to their own site with other content broadcast via Chrome's browser not at the same quality level. This does allow you to browse the internet on your tv and is amazing for the cost but is more of a niche market than FireTV/Roku/Apple TV. But if you can live with the short comings, it is worth a look at 1/3 the price of these devices.

Smart TVs: Most of these are FINE for occasional use but not nearly as pleasant to use daily like separate boxes. Normally you pay $150-$400+ extra for features that are found in these $100 boxes. I have not found a smart tv that is decent and is also a good value for what you are getting. The advantage is that you can use your TV remote to access the content. (and that is about it!)

HTPC: These are desktop computers or Mac Minis or Android Sticks that you load software on to stream video to your TV. These can add content that no normal streaming box can access, without giving up quality but they are only recommended for something comfortable with technology that doesn't mind fixing the issues that come up from time to time.

Video Game Consoles: Xbox/Playstations can access some of the content that streaming boxes do and have plenty of power to deliver the streams. The downside is the cost (unless you already have one) and the interfaces. These consoles are not designed to stream video exclusively so the interfaces are decent but can be clunky.

(You can use other options but frankly they aren't worth the hassle for the amount of hair pulling you would do.)

Now this Amazon product has changed everything. It might not be the box for you...but honestly there is a good chance that it SHOULD BE. This is a brand new category for Amazon and they got a lot right, but there are a few shortcomings (at least at launch) as well so read all of this to see what those are.

Amazon's Fire TV box

Pros:

+ Nothing else is this fast. While Roku 3 impressed the world, this raises the bar dramatically. With a quad core processor and 4 times the memory of any other streaming product, it speeds through menus, boots quicker, starts videos quicker and honestly has the muscle to not struggle with higher end resolutions and surround sound like other boxes can do at times. The best way I can explain it, you will have extra hours at the end of the year because this box is THAT much faster.

+ Voice search is amazing. It really works. Less using a four directional keypad to enter in titles is a real time saver and makes you wonder why this wasn't done before but it is only for Amazon content and VEVO (music videos) (at least for now). You can not use the voice search with Netflix for example.

+ Ready for gaming, well at least once you spend another $40. The $40 gaming controller feels a bit pricy for this type of gaming and really should be $25 or less in my opinion. That being said, this box has real games you would actually want to play instead of a VERY limited selection on Roku 3 but it is not a "REAL" console at $100 and honestly shouldn't be compared to them.

+ Better image quality? I know you are thinking I am imagining things or have changed my setup but both myself and my wife have noticed that generally (in different apps) the video is slightly sharper and clearer. We are using the exact same tv, settings, even the same HDMI cable that we used with the Roku 3 until we switched it for the Fire TV box. We have noticed that especially on poor quality feeds that the image quality is noticeably better than under the same feeds with Roku 3. Now I don't know if there is better graphic chips or if the bigger processor can do more tweaking while streaming but it seems to be something. As image quality is a huge deal for most folks (and normally us streamers have to suffer with "decent" quality) this is certainly worth noting. So far we have noticed this under Netflix, VEVO and Plex.

Cons:

- It lacks soul. Yes, soul. The Fire TV box and remote are built like a dvd player or appliance--cold, fast, efficient. Unlike Roku 3 where the box seems to have a bit of the personally of TiVo--it feels warmer, more inviting. Everything about this box is business like, including the interface and the lack of options to change it.

- The interface is more than merely "cold". It is simply less flashy/pretty than the Roku 3 interface. While fast, I am less tempted to wander around like I do on Roku 3. It seems like they are being pretty dependent on the voice search function which is great but it leaves you missing out on the random items you find along the way with the Roku 3 interface. I will update this more upon extended use.

- The voice search only works for Amazon's own content (and VEVO) and not most 3rd party channels like Netflix.

- The remote is not ready for gaming use, compared to the Roku 3 remote with gaming buttons when you turn the remote sideways and more sensors for detecting movements/motion.

- Another feature about the remote I don't care for is the use of Bluetooth instead of WIFI. Roku used to use Bluetooth on their former high end box but instead replaced it with wifi to increase battery life and to add the headphone jack in the remote. It will likely take a few weeks of use to report battery life but this has me concerned.

- No headphone jack function like Roku 3. Now to be honest, if you use that on the Roku 3 it can be a battery drain but it is a cool feature.

- Missing some popular channels at launch. There is no HBO-Go, no M-Go and no Vudu. In addition, the channel count is much less than Roku's at launch.

- Channels operate differently on FireTV than the do on Roku 3. See my notes below for more information.

Overall:

This Fire TV box took so much from other company's products with only a few missing items. They focused on delivering smooth, fast performance with less frills than Roku 3 for the same price. While there are missing channels and features, the biggest failure for me PERSONALLY is the cost of the gaming controller. Without it, this box isn't ready for gaming but adding 40% more for the ability to try out the functionality seems pretty steep. Had Amazon included it with every Fire TV box, they would have sold a lot more games and had everyone calling the Roku 3 a poor value.

If you do not have any streaming box yet, I would HIGHLY recommend this box over every other product on the market right now. I don't make this endorsement lightly. I currently own 3 Roku 3 boxes because I liked them so much, until I used this Fire TV box. This box means Roku will have to really work on improving their product for Roku 4 or they will lose the high end market. (An update, my wife officially asked to replace the Roku 3 boxes with more Fire TV boxes tonight. Yes, these things are that good folks!)

If you have a Roku 3 box, really look at the missing channels and features--are they something you could give up for faster performance? (Also look at my notes on the features of the various common apps.) If the answer is yes, then grab one of these and try it. If no, wait to see if Amazon adds features/channels. At the very least, consider an Fire TV box for your next box.

I do not personally recommend Apple TV as they are still too slow and lack too many features and functions. Apple keeps promising something amazing but delivering minor improvements.

If you are on a budget and have an Android based tablet, consider Chromecast. It is a good value for the price but you do give up features and content to save on the cost compared to Roku 3 & Fire TV.

I am giving this box a 4.8 rating, compared to a 4.2 for Roku 3.

I will update this review regularly for a while, so check back for more information! Also if you have questions or comments, please feel free to ask them in the comments section. Either myself or other helpful people will do our best to respond to them.

UPDATE 1:

Based on comments, I wanted to add a few points.

Regarding comments that I received the item free or are paid by Amazon to write this review, etc.

I paid the full list price and local sales tax for this box (grrr). Nothing was provided to me nor was I paid anything to write about this device. I do not work for Amazon, I own my own company. For this item, I am just a customer. In fact, I didn't expect to even purchase a Fire TV prior to it being announced because I figured it would only deal with Amazon's own content which I feel is much weaker than Netflix. In fact, I have talked two different family members into getting Netflix over Amazon's Prime Streaming service in the past month alone.

HBO Go:
This has been repeated over and over in the comments but HBO Go support for me is not something I am interested in as I do not have cable service anymore nor do I feel that HBO is a better value than Netflix. I would not go without Netflix support at all but I personally think HBO Go is more niche for many people and honestly I bet this device will get that channel before too long. Clearly the HBO Go people seem to be pushing the issue but I know 11 streaming box users and none use HBO Go so while I noted the missing feature above, people still seem to want to beat me up over it.

UPDATE 2:

CHANNELS:
It needs to be said that some channels require cable/satellite subscriptions (to those channels) like HBO Go (not currently on this box), Showtime, ESPN, etc. Even if you have HBO, it does not mean that your provider allows the HBO Go, so look into that before purchasing any box with that in mind. I do like the Bloomberg TV (not available on Roku 3) App which actually features a LIVE TV feature.

NETFLIX APP: Is the "older" style with the tall covers (like VHS boxes) instead of the "new" Netflix interface that uses short wide covers (like on Roku 3). Netflix has said they are moving everything to the new software but the Fire TV box doesn't have it yet. That makes comparing performance harder from Roku 3 to Fire TV. On my ISP provider Comcast (Netflix recently agreed to pay Comcast so they have faster streams to customers) I do not see a HUGE improvement in performance in buffing like you see on other channels. What it does seem to do is start in better quality and/or speed the improvement in quality. My guess is that the Netflix app needs to be tweaked to maximize the performance of this hardware. One positive with the FireTV app is that it plays the entire TV episode BEFORE switching to a small window with the countdown starting for the next episode. I can't tell you how many times I had to click, click, click and click just to see the end of an episode under Roku 3.

Also, the FireTV Netflix app has two features that were removed from the updated Roku app. Before going into a TV show, FireTV tells you how many total episodes that Netflix has. On the Roku it shows you the number of seasons instead. I personally prefer the number of episodes but clearly that is a personal preference. Another point worth mentioning is that the FireTV Netflix App shows you how many items you have in your list and what item number you are on. That information is missing from the Roku 3 Netflix app.

AMAZON PRIME CONTENT: Does not loop--a "feature" they should add (and likely will). This means once you get to the end, it just stops instead of keeping going.

VOICE SEARCH:
Voice search DOES cover some 3rd party content, despite everyone reporting it works on Amazon's content only. I have repeated confirmed it supports the VEVO app and will find music videos in that app. That may mean that other 3rd party apps are covered as well, or certainly might be able to be in the future. If you search for something that has PRIME content and VEVO content, it will default to the option with the most options. To switch to the other, simply arrow up and either left or right to see the music videos or PRIME search results.

OPTICAL OUT:
I noticed this box featured an optical out port but normally run everything through my LG TV (via HDMI) and then use an optical out to my receiver (so I never have to change the receiver's settings) so I wasn't excited about this addition to the Fire TV box over my Roku 3 boxes. I stand corrected. I decided to run my audio via the optical cable into the receiver directly from this Fire TV box (something that I can not do with Roku 3) and it fixed all random lip-sync issues I have from time to time on the Roku 3 box (and the same with the HDMI output on this box).

Now I know this is not a typical setup for many people but I do know that tons of people have lip-sync issues with HDMI connections so being able to bypass the HDMI minefield is much more important than I expected.

VEVO APP:
This app works better than the Roku 3 app performance wise...one quick example is that some content simply fails on the Roku 3 app--try watching Britney Spears's Work B**CH (don't make fun of me!). Vevo can play this video fine on YouTube and on the Fire TV app but struggles on Roku 3's app. SOME of VEVO's content is also available via VOICE SEARCH too.

REMOTE:
I do miss the jump back button on the remote that Roku 3 features. It is a tiny thing but it once you are used to jumping back to see that painting in the background or catch that line that you didn't hear because the phone rang, or someone was talking, you feel lost without it. UPDATE! They did include this feature but hid it abit. You simply double click the reward button to skip back. I haven't seen anyone else mention this tip so you saw it here first people!

I do like that the "enter" button is back in the center of the directional keys. This is the way it used to be on Roku boxes before someone at Roku decided to move it below the directional keys, so you have to move your thumb oddly to press it.

MULTITASKING:
What multitasking you ask? Since you haven't seen this advertised or mentioned elsewhere, I can understand your confusion but try this: Load a Pandora stream...then click on the HOME button and browse for movies/tv you want to watch. As long as you are in the Home/Amazon Prime content, you can browse WHILE Pandora continues playing. Now Pandora dies when you enter another APP like Netflix but it shows you that Multitasking is built into the operating system and may be utilized in future features. (Again, this TIP is only found here!)

Another update: This tip also works when browsing PLEX content before you play something. So even when utilizing a 3rd party app, it can keep going. When it changes to a new song, a small window pops up on the lower right hand side of the screen to tell you know the new song title and artist.

PLEX APP:
Compared to the Roku app, PLEX for FireTV is totally different. There are some cool features, like the backgrounds, the screensaver using your photos and the MUCH faster menuing (night and day from Roku 3) but I do miss the channels not requiring a couple clicks to switch to ONLINE to see. I do miss that clicking the play button doesn't play a clip, instead you select it (click) and then play it (second click).

SCREENSAVER:
FireTV has a screensaver that is honestly pretty cool in my opinion. I am not saying you can't do this with other boxes but no other box comes set up to display random photos (and includes a decent amount of beautiful photos as well.) This functionality covers 3rd party apps like Netflix and Plex too so you have a seamless slideshow no matter what you are using when it starts. This is the sort of thing you see on PCs not streaming boxes and it is a nice touch.

GAME CHANGING:
Many commenters have argued that this device is not gaming changing and many have rating my review not helpful because of that title.

I said "Nothing else is this fast" to which one commenter said, "Nobody cares how fast an streaming box is. That's not a game changer"

Actually using it you will see what I mean. This is the first time a company has put so much $$ into creating a very solidly made hardware device. Like a fast computer (which this basically is), it will depend on software that is written for it to fully show off its abilities.

When AMD created their first processor that competed directly with Intel's higher end processors, it was a game changer, correct?, because it changed the landscape of personal computers forever, lowered pricing, etc.

People will look back in 5 years at this moment and say Amazon's FireTV changed how consumer streaming video boxes were made (instead of barely enough processing power to stream, they became able to compete with HTPCs and Mac Minis). This is the beginning of a new generation of streaming boxes.

I said "Voice search is amazing." and they said "Not unique, by any means. My xbox, ps3, tablets, all have this, and all work amazingly."

Find one person who owns this that doesn't say this voice search works better than anything from Google, Apple or Microsoft. The fact that little old Amazon could out deliver those tech giants is SHOCKING. The fact this works via a tiny remote makes it very easy to get use to. There is no other product in this price range that does this and no other streaming box even offers it at any cost.

I said "Ready for gaming, well at least once you spend another $40" to which they said: "And stick to basic android games. No thanks. I have a REAL console (or a couple of them) that can play REAL games..."

This isn't meant to compete with more expensive game consoles. It is meant to bring gaming to streaming boxes, just like tablets/cellphones have brought gaming to millions. They have not replaced gaming consoles (and likely never will) just like this box will not have you ditch your gaming console either but instead it opens you up to tons of games you CAN'T play on that same console. Just imagine all the cheap under $5/free games you can enjoy on your FireTV box. As I said above in my main review, I think Amazon really should have thrown in the controller to really get peopling playing the games but I can understand why they needed to limit their losses.

Again, this is a best in class hardware device with real gaming and the best voice search on any tech device (and the only one for a streaming video box). Every future streaming box will be measured against this one. Tell me how that isn't game changing?

Please understand that everyone has different priorities and requirements so no one box is going to be perfect for everyone. I am attempting to do my best to address most of the many options and provide a decently balanced opinion of them.

Hopefully this review has been helpful to you. If so, please let me know by clicking the button below. Remember you don't have to agree with everything I said to think it was helpful! ;)

-REVIEW BY WILLIAM HARDIN ON AMAZON

DAN20 More Color Available 2" Inch Skinny Tie Five Package Set 5PT By Dan Smith

DAN20 More Color Available 2" Inch Skinny Tie Five Package Set 5PT By Dan Smith



-Decent quality for 5 pack of cheap ties.

-Very skinny (a little under 2", see pictures) so make sure you read that before buying.

-Im 6'1" and tie length is able to fit me perfect

-Colors accurate to product pictures

Highly recommend for the price.



Martinson Coffee Capsules, Donut Shop Blend Package compatible with Keurig K-Cup Brewers, 48 Count

Has become my new favorite K-Cup coffee for the mornings



With K-Cups being so expensive, I have become more picky at finding deals. Most prices are over .60 per cup. That's a lot of money a month for daily cup of coffee. Nothing is cheap, and neither are these at about .50 per cup. I remember the good ol' days when the K-cups were not more than about .35 each, and it wasn't that long ago.

I have been buying K-Cups at Costco when I lived in Arizona, and the Tully's they carry are okay. Newman's Own are just okay too. Those run .475 per cup, so that's been a little better. I recently moved to NYC so started buying K-cups on Amazon. This Martinson coffee comes close to the same price as the ones at Costco, but the flavor is superior. This is the first cup of coffee I have in the morning. It's got a richer flavor, fresher somehow, than the others I have tried.



It does make a nice, heart large cup of dark roast coffee, and $25 for 48 cups as the preorder price was outstanding. At that price, I don't think I've ever really seen better, but at the same time the brew doesn't seem quite as bold or earthy tasting as a cup of Green Mountain Dark Magic or Emeril's Big Easy Bold. I prefer a robust large cup on almost every brew, and I've realized that even the Ice Brew K-Cups are basically the same thing; a cup of coffee with extra grounds for brewing a small amount stronger...so I brew iced coffee with my Extra Bold k-cups. I did the math on weight, and these weigh in at just under a cup of Dark Magic or Sumatran Reserve, but I'd still say my favorites (by taste,) are the brands I've listed above or Tully's Italian or French Roast, Caribou Obsidian, Starbucks Dark Sumatra, or even Barista Prima French and Italian Roasts. 



The only other thing I can note about these is that the construction of the pods is about perfect; I didn't find any grinds in the box leaving me to believe there were no leaking pods. Almost all the pods had a little air puffing the foil out; which I've noticed a lot of the Keurig brands have flat foils, anyways, so I'm not even sure if it matters that much, although I've had grinds brew through on some of the flat pods. The only other difference I can mention is the material of the foil top is different than Keurig brand pods; these are slightly harder and smoother (almost like a plastic or polymer,) but it doesn't seem to effect the brew process at all, and I didn't seem to get any grinds in my cup, so all in all it just doesn't matter to me. Still better than brewing through a regular coffee pot (even from fresh ground beans,) and I don't think I'll ever get tired of my Keurig coffee maker.

Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity + Sleep Wristband, Black vs Pebble Watch vs Nike Fuelband

              

My journey with personal monitoring devices/pedometers started with Nike Fuelband. I really liked the ability to track steps and also act as a cool clock/watch. After about a year I moved on to the Pebble watch. The pebble was a giant leap forward in having ability to connect to my iphone and also act as a watch. Unfortunately the constant connectivity issues plagued it and I returned it. I decided to give the Flex a try even though its not a watch/clock.

Hardware itself

The Fitbit Flex does have visual feedback in the form of small white lights: They blink as you're charging, they have a special blink if you put it into sleep mode. The fuelband has a very bright and easy to see LED bar.

I find myself fumbling a bit with the clip mechanism of the Flex like I do when I have to button my own shirt cuffs. After it was clipped though, it feels secure and I am not one to put on and remove devices like this. I want to set it and forget it which this does very well.



Fit & Feel

The Fitbit Flex feels very comfortable on the wrist. The pictures don't do it justice. For me personally this is the one defining factor that really makes the Flex shine compared to Pebble and Fuelband. It feels super light weight, doesn't grab, and doesn't look nearly as big/thick as the pictures make it look.

When typing on at a keyboard, I prefer the feel of the Flex. The rubber is flat and thin so it adds very little against the edge of a keyboard.

The Flex does have replaceable bracelets and colors, which means the device is more convertible and flexible going forward. The fuelband wins on the look with the LED clock. The pebble was nice in that you could customize the face to whatever you could find to download.

I wear mine in the shower without issues.



Battery Life & Charging

The battery charging is my biggest gripe with the FLEX. You have to remove the little pebble from the band and plug into port on computer (dont recommend plugging into usb wall outlet). This means you would need to have computer hooked up with power going to this gadget. It does charge fast and mine would easily last 5-6 days if I dont have bluetooth constantly connected but rather sync once a day.

Syncing:

The Flex syncs wirelessly with Bluetooth 4.0 via the smartphone or via an adapter to a computer. For those without a smart phone or a locked down phone that work doesn't allow you to install apps, this could be a deal maker for you. It's not a constant sync but initiates as soon as you open the app on the smartphone. I haven't noticed any significant battery life loss. Not all phones are supported with Bluetooth 4.0-- most phones on the market don't yet have Bluetooth 4.0. You'll want to check Fitbit's website to see if your phone is supported. On the upside, the Flex does come with a Bluetooth adapter you can plug into a PC or Mac to sync wirelessly via the computer. It really adds extra work and decreases the usefulness of wireless sync, but it's do-able.



Software:

The software, to me, is the major differentiating factor between the two devices. The hardware looks entirely different, and there are some small differences in what the hardware can do, but the delivery through the app is what makes them clearly meant for different targets.

The Fitbit software is the same software in use for all current Fibit devices. As soon as you launch it, a sync begins and your latest data will be presented. While the UP presents more current data on the "HOME" page, Fitbit has other tabs where you can explore the data they present. UPDATE: I discovered that the Fitbit software does do single activity trending if you turn the phone sideways: Hours/days/weeks, etc. It doesn't compare it to another statistic, but better than nothing.

Both devices sync your data to a website. The Flex presents a more insightful view of your data on the website.

I am going to keep this until Apple releases their smartwatch

Monday, August 11, 2014

Johnston & Murphy Men's Ellington Wing Tip Oxford Men's Dress Shoes Review

Johnston & Murphy Men's Ellington Wing Tip Oxford Men's Dress Shoes Review




Received compliment from young secretary 30 sec after walking in the door! Chick magnet shoes!

Johnston & Murphy deserve credit for the style and comfort. Style and colors are awesome without going overboard. I have 3 pairs of expensive Tod's (Italian leather) shoes and these are even a little more comfortable ($500 vs $100). It's a shoe that you can be creative with mixing colors but still be conservative.

I recommend going down a 1/2 size (I wear a 11 so I ordered 10 1/2). Half size smaller is definitely the way to go with this shoe.

I picked up the grey and red first because it was slightly cheaper to try on the size. I immediately ordered the light grey and orange once I knew fit was good. Mine came with grey and red laces for me to choose.

Pros
-Ladies love the look
-Super comfortable, can last all day
-Great value for the money ($100)

Cons
-None


HGST Touro S 1TB 7200RPM High-Performance Portable Drive, Platinum (0S03694) - Works with Xbox One

HGST Touro S 1TB 7200RPM High-Performance Portable Drive, Platinum (0S03694) Review




Speeds - Tested on OSX 10.9.4 Macbook Pro Retina 13" USB3
Read 138MB/s
Write 141MB/s




Bought this as a backup for my Macbook Pro. Wanted small form factor, reliability, and also wanted it to be fast! This Touro S 1TB drive satisfies all my needs.

In the box you get manual, warranty card, HDD and USB cable. Very simple to plug in USB cord and other end into your computer. Be sure to plug into USB3 port on computer to get the fastest speeds (also works in USB/USB2 ports).

After a few seconds, the computer should recognize the drive and you can now copy files to/from the device. Comes formatted NFTS for windows so if on mac will need to format drive to work properly.

You can also install the included software onto your computer, if you want, to allow you to connect to the "Free" 3GB of Cloud Storage available for purchasing the device. This is a nice option, though if you need more you can only purchase up to 250 GB for $59 a month. There are much less expensive services out there for this amount of space, so you may or may not want to look around for a different cloud storage option. Software comes with mac and windows versions.

                        

In terms of speed, this isn't quite as quick as you might expect if you have other USB3 hard drives, but is very fast compared to most 2.5" form factor because of the 7200rpm HDD inside. And because this is powered by USB, it's very easy to travel with - you just need the cable and the drive and you're ready to travel. No power adapter needed.

I used Magic Disk Speed test on my Macbook Pro Retina 13" with 10.9.4 Maverick installed. I got 138MB/s write and 141.5MB/s read (see customer photos for full specs).

In the end, this is a good drive. I am going to purchase another for my Xbox One, just like others here have reported. It works well there, and it works well on my Mac.

Highly Recommended.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Brita Everyday Water Filter Pitcher, 10 Cup Price: $25.99 Review



Needed way to store large pitcher of cooled water since moving to NYC apartment. This fit the bill and are very happy so far.

-Claims to filter the water which is a bonus but I can't taste any different

-Handle has nice design and easy to carry even when full

-Very nice having cold water instead of sink water

-Really enjoy having the larger pitcher so I don't have to refill after every drink

-Only negative, takes awhile to filter water so in order to fill the entire pitcher at one time you have to sit and wait because the top compartment does not hold enough to fill the bottom.

L'Oreal Professional Series Expert Absolut Repair Cellular with Lactic Acid, 6.7-Ounce Jar



I think this is a better product than others out there (nature's therapy, etc). This is my favorite product that I have now bought 5x on Amazon after trying them all.

They provide similar results, but this product just leaves my dyed and damaged hair a little bit softer. I find it easier to comb and tangle free. I use it as an everyday conditioner.

Pros
- I like the texture, it's thick. This means I use have to use less product each time.
- I prefer the smell of this product over Nature's Therapy, whose apple scent is a bit much. This one has a slight medicinal smell
- Packaged very nicely. The nature's therapy jar is so big. Plus the nature's therapy is hard to handle when wet as it is very slippery

Overall, the amazon price I paid was 30 for the larger version (16.9oz).

********Beware there are cheaper ones but some claim fake products so pay the premium for amazon version

Caden K3 DSLR Camera Shoulder Case Strap Bag for Canon EOS T3i 1100D 600D 300D 500D 350D 60D 7D 5D Nikon Sony Olympus Pentax Review


Decided to try this as it looks identical to Case Logic SLRC-205 (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002ISXBFI/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002ISXBFI&linkCode=as2&tag=homeenteguid-20&linkId=VRY25J5EFCSFTNOB)

After some research and trials of different bags, Caden K3 Camera Sling Bag is my current favorite bag to carry my Canon 70D + 50mm Prime + 18-135 IS STM + 70-300 IS lens

It's very easy carry this bag. It feels very light and the shoulder strap is very comfortable for awhile.

In the main compartment, I put my Canon 70D DSLR with 18-135 IS STM lens, this is tight fit but works. The difference between this and the Case Logic is the Case Logic has a sling with circle opening for camera to hang. This Caden just has room to put your camera with velcro strap on top to secure. This makes your camera less secure than the Case Logic version but I feel sufficient padding so I don't care.

In the extra lens pocket I was able to put a Canon 70-300 IS II lens and a Canon 50mm prime lens stacked. The nice little touch about that pocket is it has an elastic band near the bottom. A nice feature is elastic band at bottom of lens case to hold it in tighter.

There is also a spare pocket for small things like memory cards, battery, filters etc. It is more accessible than the side pocket, which is blocked by the tripod holder.

There is a filter pocket. The two filter nets inside it hold 67mm filters fine, though the smaller one is better suited for a 58mm filter.

The tripod holder is a very very nice feature. I have a full-size (62") tripod that I got on amazon and fits very nicely. There are two velcro strips to hold tripod in without the risk of losing it.

The shoulder strap is very comfortable and well padded for awhile. After having it on my shoulder for couple hours it started to get sore from the weight.

The interior padding is decent. It's not super thick, but should be okay for minor impact.

The reason I returned Case logic was zipper quality. ONE OF THEM BROKE WITHIN 2 MINUTES OF USING. I could deal with using one, but the SECOND ONE BROKE THE NEXT DAY. I returned mine to amazon and ordered another and same thing happened after one day. The Caden version seems to have a weird alternative zipper. So far it seems to hold up much better than Case Logic so I hope this lasts and will update over time.

Overall, it's a very well-designed bag for a small DSLR with 3 lenses (one small and 2 large). Importantly, it is in a compact design with good ergonomics and holds all the crucial items.

Pros:
- Holds many essential items for daily casual shooting
- Well Built
- Well thought-out design
- Very accessible pockets
- Excellent value, $5 cheaper than Case Logic version
- Bonus! You get an orange cover that you can put the case in to keep water out if needed
Cons:
- Should add the main compartment sling for DSLR like the case logic has

Differences in this vs Case Logic
-Case Logic has main compartment sling for DSLR
-Caden version seems to have a much better zipper, so far
-Caden is $5 cheaper
-Caden comes with an orange cover that you can put the case in to keep water out if needed


Purina One Classics Canned Dog Food, Lamb Grain Rice, 13-Ounce (Pack of 12) Review



We have always done dry food for our dog and wanted to add a little taste so he would keep eating this instead of always begging for human food. This really has done the trick as he loves it. Be warned that our dog now goes to bathroom 3-4x a day instead of 2x as I think this helps speed up his digestion.

Purina One isn't the highest grade dog food, but its considered to be good. It smells good and looks healthy.

Pros
-Looks good and healthy
-Dog loves it

Cons
-Our dog goes to the bathroom more often when adding this (3-4x vs 2x with only dry food)

You can compare dog food at dogfoodadvisor.com if interested

Gillette Venus Sensitive Skin Disposable Women's Razor 6 Count Price: $15.47 Review



Friend recommended these so decided to give them a try. I was not sure what to expect, yet these have proved the best out of all I have used

1) Shaves my legs and underarm areas closely and safely. No cuts or nicks!

2) Pink color is a bonus

3) Easy to hold and use

4) Lasts about 3x that of my old brand of disposable razors.

Highly recommend


PoochieBells The Trusted Name in Dog Training Doorbells in Classic Peace Love Dog Design


Moved to NYC apartment and dog no longer knew how to let us know when he needed to go out. He used to scratch glass door because he could see outside. Gave this a try.

This product comes with nice large bells that are easy to hear and has plenty of length to reach even small dogs.

I am very pleased with the quality.

Tip, If you are training your dog with bells, you need to take your dog outside at regular intervals in order to show the dog that they can ring the bell first, then give a treat. This way, they learn that Bells=Treats.

My dog took a couple weeks to learn and now she is loving the fact he can get our attention to take him out when he needs to.

Poochie Bells are a very nice alternative to the frequently handmade and improvised bells at the door, which allow a dog to alert the owner of the need to go out.

Many owners have mentioned their dogs lack a voice when needing to tell them they have to potty.  Often these are the same dogs that bark up a storm when the doorbell rings or they see a person on the sidewalk, yet alerting at the most important time, eludes them.

Poochie Bells solve all those problems.  They are available in many patterns, solids and even leather.  The bells can be adjusted up or down depending on the height of your dog.

The one con was that like some children, it does take some dogs longer to pick up that others, but that is an individual learning curve and in no way the fault of the product. 

Keep in mind that with any training method, consistency by the owner is what will make it a success.  I found that taking the dogs paws and hitting the bell, followed by an immediate opening of the door, at which time I excitedly (some say downright crazy ass fashion) praise the dog, works the best.  Dogs want to please us, and if they get such a great reaction, well then, they had to have done a near miracle, right?