Wireless Earbuds: BackBeat FIT 300 by Plantronics

Here’s another set of wireless and sweatproof earbuds that will get you through your workout without being connected to your device. The Plantronics BackBeat FIT 300 are one of the Plantronics products we’ve received to review recently. We have reviewed some other Plantronics items in the past, including another BackBeat wireless earbuds set, but here goes our first review of these earbuds.

                                  photo credit:Plantronics

What you get with BackBeat FIT300

The earbuds are the expected item in the box, of course. There is a small box on the right side with battery and relief buttons that adjust volume, manage tracks, and houses the mic and battery. Also included is the micro USB charging cable, and various eartips to help you get the right fit for your ear. If you get the 305s, it comes with a mesh carrying bag. I’m not sure exactly what the difference is. They are the same price.

FIT300 Features

The silicone tips on these earbuds are oval shaped, which is different from what one might see on most earbuds these days. The shape fits snugly in the ear to provide noise isolation. The threaded cord helps to prevent the cord from tangling up in itself. There is a promised battery life of up to 6 hours, and although we’ve seen better, it’s still a decent amount of battery life for a workout. There is a deep sleep mode that will save the battery life for up to six months, so you won’t have to worry about recharging again if you haven’t used it for a while.

The loops on the tips hold the earbuds snugly into your ears, so you can sweat and shake around, and they won’t budge. They are also lightweight at 14 grams, although the inline mic/controller might be a little bulky. It’s probably similar to other wireless earbuds like these.

The sound on these earbuds are pretty great, and worth the $80 price tag.

BackBeat FIT300 buying options

We received the lime green color ones to review, but these earbuds also come in dark blue, black and coral color options. They all cost the same, and as mentioned before, the 305 ones come in the same color, but with a bag. I’m not sure of the difference in quality. You can buy a pair on the Plantronics website, or shop around on-line.

Disclaimer- Plantronics sent us this model for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. No other compensation has been provided.

Berlin Backpack Carries Your Tech in Style

Toffee is an Australian company that offers many sleek and stylish bags of different types to carry your laptops, tablets, phones, and anything else. Their cases and backpacks offer padded protection for your gear, while adding a classic look. In this review, we’ll talk specifically about the Berlin Backpack.

credit:Toffee

What You Should Know About the Berlin Backpack

From the Toffee website:

  • Outer Fabric: 100% waxed cotton canvas and genuine leather
  • Side pockets: 100% genuine naturally milled leather with a subtle pebble grain
  • Lining: 95% Cotton, 5% Spandex
  • Bag Size: 260 mm/11.4 inches (L), 410 mm/15.3 inches (H), 14 cm/5.5 inches (W)
  • Compatible With: MacBook Air/Pro, Surface Pro 3 & 4 and other similar sized notebooks up to 13-inch.

 

Design

This backpack is very nicely designed. Pulling it out of the plastic wrap it came in, I can smell the leather and cotton canvas. It has a new, clean smell. The straps are slightly padded, but not as thick as most backpacks. Still it provides comfort. The Berlin Bag seems like it would be a bit awkward looking on a big person, as it’s size is really not that substantial.

The backpack comes in these three colors. We received the green one to review. As you can see, there is a leather cup holder on the side, and the front pocket could hold some small things like pencils or calculators.

The inside has a winning craftsmanship with pinstripes, and a quilted pocket to provide some nice cushion for your (13 in.) laptop. The smaller pocket in front of that is just the right size to hold a tablet. Of course, there’s also the additional room in front of that to carry books, or other essentials you might need to take along.

The bottom of the bag has four metal feet, which will allow the bag to better sit upright, and also keeps the material up off the floor. The whole build of the bag looks to be very durable, which is good because:

Berlin Backpack Price

The sleek design and durable build will come with a pricetag. You can buy the bag for about $165, which looks to be in the mid price range for the backpacks/carrying cases offered by Toffee. It does qualify for free shipping off their website.

We would recommend this backpack to students looking for a fashionable way to carry their devices. While Toffee sent us this backpack for free to review, we will remind everyone that we are not sponsored by this company, and our review is done without bias.

Controversial: Boy Scouts of America Announce New Name

The announcement was made in October 2017 that girls would be welcomed into the Boy Scouts of America. Since then, people have wondered what changes that would bring about. Many questioned if the name would change, and what that might look like. The answer to that question came today, and we’re going to discuss it here.

Scouts BSA is the newly announced name for the older program for youth age 11 to 18. This program isn’t slated to start until February 2019, but the Cub Scout program(still called Cub Scouts) has already had some early adopter Packs sign up some girls this year. The BSA has created new brochures to draw in families, and they are going with the welcoming slogan:

Of course, not everyone is feeling the love for the changes BSA is making to the program, and I wanted to address some of the things I’ve seen on various sites today.

“What about Girl Scouts?”

Naturally, we’ve seen this question asked a lot. As someone who has youth in both Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, I’m going to address this from what I’ve seen. Not all programs are alike everywhere, and your mileage may vary. I have seen my daughter start in Girl Scouts as a Brownie. She was enthused to have a place to meet with friends, make crafts, sell cookies, and even learn to cook. Our experience in this troop has varied over the years, and now she is a 1st year Senior. They become Seniors in 9th grade. Her current Troop leader works really hard at putting things together for the girls, and Kyrie learned many things under her guidance- including how to sew.

The thing about Girl Scouts is that much of the activities are done with what the girls are interested in. It doesn’t seem to me that the girls in our area are interested in high adventure activities, camping, backpacking, or building fires. When my daughter turned fourteen, she was allowed to join Venturing- the co-ed, high-adventure program for youth ages 14 to 21. Our Boy Scout troop that I was involved in with my son has invited them along on many adventures- rock climbing, skiing, backpacking, and more. My daughter has really enjoyed those activities, and Girl Scouts hasn’t kept up with her interests like Venturing.

Girl Scouts is a great program, but it seems like the Boy Scouts programming may have more of a draw. The Eagle award seems to be more prestigious than other awards in other programs. I’m not certain as to why that is. I always hear about Eagle awards, and I very rarely hear about Girl Scout Gold awards. I doubt that girls joining Boy Scouts will make the Girl Scouts program go away. There are many girls who enjoy what they do in Girl Scouts.

“Boys need to be taught to be boys”

What does that even mean? Girls have been coming on troop activities with us for many years, and our boys are not less boy because of it. BSA isn’t focused on teaching boys how to be boys anyway. They teach leadership skills, team work, and overcoming obstacles.  These are things both boys and girls can learn. They also learn life skills- things like cooking, first aid, personal management, physical fitness, and more.

Girls are going to be their own troops, though, so I don’t see that they’ll be interfering with the safe spaces of boys. On our backpacking trips that have the Venture crew girls along for the ride, the girls do their own thing, and no boys have had to carry their stuff for them(a ridiculous argument I heard today).

My daughter’s first backpacking trip

“Why would you let your girls go camping with boys?”

People seem to think that some bad things are going to happen when you put members of the opposite sex in tents in the wilderness. Let me start by saying that girls and boys aren’t sleeping in tents together. I’ve been on several trips with Boy Scouts and girl Venture crew members. They slept in separate tents in different areas with leaders nearby. I kept a watchful eye out. Again, girls did their own thing and stayed away from the boys for the most part. Two deep leadership in Venturing requires at least one adult(over 21) female to be present. There is no hanky-panky going on. Scouting is co-ed in most countries, with the U.S. being one of the last to get on board, for many years. All the abuse stories I hear seem to come from the U.S., and always involving men. Yet, girls joining scouting seems to be the problem that is signalling the end of times to some.

I, for one, am looking forward to the new changes, and I hope that I’ve shed some light on why this isn’t a terrible thing. Please feel free to leave comments or questions on this controversial issue. Respectful comments will be approved by us, so please remember the Scout law that includes “friendly, courteous and kind.”

PhotoSpring Digital Photo Frame to Share Memories

Photo credit:PhotoSpring

It used to be that I’d see a lot of digital photo frames on the market, but I must say that they’re not out there as much as they used to be that I’ve noticed. Looking back, most of our digital picture frame reviews were in 2009. We did talk about the one for Instagram pictures in 2012. At any rate, technology has advanced since then, and this digital photo frame from PhotoSpring is impressive.

What You Get

The 10″ high definition touch screen display (1280×800) has a mostly plastic white frame, and a base to set it in. It runs on a four hour Li-ion battery. 2W stereo speakers are located on the bottom of the frame so music can be played in a slideshow, or you can hear the video you might play. The display can be set in portrait or landscape orientation. It’s lightweight at 1.6 pounds. You can use iPhone, Android, Mac, or your PC to work with it, and once you get an account set up on your device, it’s easy to work with, and can wirelessly send pictures from your device to the screen, and even allows friends and family to share to each others’ accounts.

Back View
Credit:PhotoSpring

A wide variety of formats are supported, including: JPG, PNG, GIF, MOV, MP4, M4V, and AVI. Depending on how many pictures/movies you want to be able to store on the device at once, will determine how much you spend. $149 will get you 16 GB worth of space. $199 will max you out at 80 GB.

This gadget is a great way to display your memories on a table, or even viewing as a photo album with your friends and family. Check out more on the PhotoSpring website, and take a look at this video commercial.

Anker PowerWave 7.5 Stand for Quick Wireless Charging

Photo credit:Anker

Here we go with another product review from the company that is popular in charging of mobile devices. I recently reviewed a different Anker wireless charger, and  Anker has given us another great product on the market that will charge multiple types of phones quickly and conveniently. This is the Anker PowerWave 7.5 Stand.

What’s Inside

When you open up your box, you’ll find the items in the image above- the 7.5 stand, a USB to micro USB 3.0 Quick Charge cable, and the 3.0 Quick Charge wall adapter. This adapter is what I was looking for in the last wireless charger we were given, as it truly brings speed to your charge.

What’s to Like About PowerWave 7.5 Stand

The design of the stand puts your charging device at an angle for easy viewing- whether you want to place your phone vertically or horizontally. This is particularly good for the iPhone X with it’s facial recognition, so you don’t have to pick up your phone to look at the screen. There’s also a PowerWave 7.5 Pad, which might not be as convenient.

The PowerWave 7.5 will work for multiple types of phones that are able to be wirelessly charged. It charges up to 7.5W for Apple devices, and 10W for Samsung. The charging speed is about as fast as the charging cord that comes with Apple phones. A little faster for Samsung devices, though. Still good if you don’t want to be dealing with wires constantly.

The base has an internal cooling fan to prevent overheating which isn’t too loud, but you might hear a slight whirring noise. I think one would have to be extremely sensitive to sounds to be annoyed by it.  It also delivers a powerful current able to charge through cases- even thick ones like OtterBox.

Want to buy the PowerWave?

The price tag for this product is about $49.99, which is a pretty good price for what you get. The Anker page directs you to buy at Amazon.

Thanks to Anker for sending us the product to review for free in exchange for our fair and unbiased review. No other compensation has been given.

Otterbox Pursuit Series Case for Samsung Galaxy S9

OtterBox is a well-known company for their cell phone cases. We have certainly completed many reviews on their products at The Geek Church. The most recent review was an offering for the iPhone X. The new Samsung Galaxy S9 can also be protected by OtterBox. Today’s review is for the OtterBox Pursuit series.

photo credit- Otterbox

Pursuit Features

The Pursuit case promises by Otterbox to be “the thinnest, toughest, most protective case” of their products. It protects from dust, mud, dirt and snow. It’s not waterproof, but the Galaxy S9 is waterproof in and of itself, so that feature isn’t really needed. It has Otterbox Certified Drop Protection with a limited lifetime warranty.

Although there is the raised, beveled edges on the front of the case to help protect the screen, it is recommended by many reviewers out there to get a screen protector for full protection. Many screen protectors will work with this case.

There are nice cut outs to fit your cords and such, and the one on the back for the fingerprint sensor and cut well to prevent the flash reflection. There is a chamber at the bottom of the case to pull the sound to the front- giving an enhanced audio feature in the case. The buttons are easy to manipulate.

Pursuit Set-Up

The case takes a little work to put on, but fortunately there is a how-to video:

Buying the Pursuit

If this kind of protection is what you want for your phone, it comes with a steep price-tag. It costs about $70, and you can buy it on the OtterBox site in three options of colors. It comes in black, black with a clear back so you can see your phone through the case, or Coastal Rise- which is pink with black accents.

OtterBox was generous enough to send us this case for free in exchange for a fair and unbiased review. No other compensation has been provided.

AQUAPHONICS AQ10 by LifeProof Review

We’ve done a lot of phone case reviews from the LifeProof company, like the FRĒ but LifeProof is branching out into things like “WaterProof, DirtProof, SnowProof and DropProof” Bluetooth speakers. The one we’re reviewing today is called the Aquaphonics AQ10.

photos courtesy of LifeProof

AQ10 Specs

This Bluetooth speaker is 8.5 inches long, about 3 1/4 inches tall and wide, and weighs about 27 ounces. This rugged, portable speaker is great to take to the beach. This one is the middle size of the two speakers offered by LifeProof. You can buy it in this basic black color, or you can jazz it up with the Laguna Clay Grey color- which is a grey speaker with green accents. An AC 12V/2A power adapter is included for charging. It probably would have been better to have a USB charging option. This is something many have found strange. You can use the 13 hours of battery life to charge your phone through a USB out port, but it doesn’t charge very fast.

Other Details

As you can see, the buttons to operate the speaker are extremely tactile, making it easy to use the speaker for controlling your music from the speaker.

Another button to power on the speaker and a switch to lock controls, plus LED lights that indicate how much power is left in the speaker are on the one side, while the other side hosts the charging port, a 3.5mm aux in port, and a USB port hidden under a protective waterproof flap.

The bottom of the speaker has a dry box that’s small enough to hold some cash, credit cards, and other small items. It also contains a USB power port and 3.5mm auxiliary in port. The dry box is too small for a cell phone on this model. If you had an old iPod Nano, you could plug that in and play it inside the speaker maybe, with a small enough cord. Again, if you want to store your phone inside your speaker, you better get the bigger size.

Another great feature is that this speaker floats. It has a IP67 rating, which means it can be submersed for 30 minutes at 1 meter. Like the LifeProof cases, it stands up against dirt, dust and snow, and can be dropped from close to 4 feet and survive.

 Sound

So how does this speaker sound? Well, the sound quality has been a big complaint for reviewers. This device is definitely not for true audiophiles. Common complaint is lack of bass. The Bluetooth range is decent, so go ahead and walk through your house with your device. You should still stay attached. You can also answer phone calls on this speaker.

Buying the AQ10

If you want the AQ10, it comes with a price tag of about $200 on the Lifeproof site. We can suggest that those looking for a highly durable, waterproof Bluetooth speaker might go for this one if waterproofing is what you desire. The AQ10 is available at Best Buy stores, and you can also buy online.

This speaker was provided free to us in exchange for our fair and unbiased review. No other compensation has been given.

The Louie by Coal Power Will Give an Extra Charge to Your Devices

When I was out doing Pokemon Go the other day for Community Day, I noticed many people walking around using external batteries, powerpacks, portable chargers- whatever you may call them. We’ve reviewed many of these things like this one from Nomad and this one from Cygnett. At CES this year, Mark picked up one from COAL Power that a representative gave him. We thought we would do a little review on it today. “Louie” is the name of this one.

The Louie Specs

There are three outputs on the 12,000 mAh capacity charger that we received- A Qualcomm 3.0 Quickcharge 5V/3A, a type C ouput 5V/3A, and a USB-A output 5V/2.1A. The input is a typeC 5V/2A. The Louie also comes in an 8,000 mAh version. That one just has a USB C and USB A output, and a type C input.

The device also comes with a nifty charging cord that has a triple-headed adapter cable that includes a micro end, lightning end, and  USB Type-C to USB-A.

The Louie Design

The covering of this pack has a nice geometric design on a brown background. The texture of most of it feels rubberized almost, with the exception of the top, where the display with the LED is a black plastic. The white LED numbers will give you a good feeling of how much battery life is left.

*Side note, if you try to jam your backpack into the overhead compartment on a plane, you might want to take this out. The display cracked a bit, but the charger still continues to work.

Should you Buy the Louie?

We’ve found this charger to be on the heavy side of the different chargers we’ve tested. It’s about the size of two Samsung Galaxy S7 phones stacked on top of each other- same length, and I’m guessing it weighs about that much, too. The bonus of this pack is that it will charge your device a couple of times at least, and it has charge protection that protects your devices from overcharging and overheating. So, all-in-all, a good product.

The COAL website says that it will be available on Amazon.com by April 15th. We have not seen it show up yet, and there’s also no price available. When the company gets back to us, we’ll update the article.

The Louie was given to us for free in exchange for our honest and unbiased feedback. No other compensation has been provided.

Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

Once again, we get to review a nice pair of headphones from the German company of Beyerdynamic. The headphones we’re about to review are the Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro. In the past, we’ve reviewed the 1990 Pro, among others. The 990 ones are similar, but we’ll tell you more about these ones that don’t cost as much.

 

photo credit-Beyerdynamic

DT 990 Pro Features

Similar to the 1990, you have the soft, velour earcups. These feel so soft and comfortable- maybe the best feature of the headphones. They’re very lightweight, although the 9.8 ft coiled cord (which comes with a 1/4″ adapter) can be a bit cumbersome unless you are sitting still. These headphones are designed more for professionals who do mixing and are in studio settings, so I don’t suppose they will be using them to listen to music on their phones.

The cord is not removable like on the 1990 cans. The headband is made of a metal material, but covered by a soft, padded material that can snap off when if it needs to be replaced.  A cloth carrying bag is included, as well.

DT 990 Pro Sound

There are different ohm impedance models, and the ones that we are reviewing have a 250 ohm impedance. You’ll want to make sure to get the right ones for the device you plan on using them on, as that can affect sound quality. The sound is what you would expect at this price level- without an emphasis on any certain sound levels. They are open back headphones, so you won’t be blocking out sound from around you, and they aren’t something you want to use in the library. Of course, these headphones are really made for studio listening, so that probably won’t be an issue for buyers.

DT 990 Pro Price

While the 1990 Pro headphones are an upgrade in many ways from the 990 Pro, there is also a significant price difference. With these, you will only be spending about $179 as opposed to the $599 price tag of the 1990s.

That concludes our review. What headphones do you like the best? Let us know in the comments below.

This review was a hands-on review thanks to Beyerdynamic lending us a pair to review. No compensation has been given in exchange for our fair and unbiased review.

Phone Cases from Tech21 to protect your iPhone X and Galaxy S9

It’s been a while since we’ve reviewed products from Tech21, but they are a good company if you are looking for some cases and protection for your phones. They have sent us some more cases to consider and tell you about. So get ready for our assessment of four different Tech21 cases.

Tech21 EVO LUXE

This classy looking case looks like leather, but it’s really “Vegan Leather,” or what seems to be some PVC material. It kind of has a leather smell, but I don’t know if that’s chemicals I am smelling. The drop protection on this black case is made of 3 layers with ribs on surrounding the sides of the case on the inside. This design with FlexShock is said to protect your phone from 12 ft. drops. The lip wraps around the front so you can place the phone face down and have protection. The part that covers the buttons on the sides are not very prominent, and might be a little tougher to maneuver than other cases I have seen.

If this ultra-slim, 1.8mm thick case that works well for wireless charging appeals to you, you can find it for $49.95 on their website. We were sent the case for Samsung Galaxy S9, but it’s also available for iPhone 8 and up.

Tech21 EVO WALLET

This case is good for those looking for something to totally envelop their phone. It contains the same FlexShock drop protection from 12 ft. This one, though, has a leather- like front (maybe this one is actually leather) that wraps around your phone. There is a clasp to close it on the side. It seems a little difficult to open and close the clasp. That may get easier with time. I can see it becoming problematic if you want to access your phone in a hurry, but there are cutouts and buttons so that you can answer calls with the cover still on. The tactile buttons on the left side, again, are not very prominent.

A cool feature is the ability to carry a couple of credit cards in a concealed compartment in the front of the phone. The case comes in pink or black, and they have different textures. I can’t tell what the texture of the black case is, but it definitely has a different texture from what I see. We received the pink case. This one for the Galaxy S9 is $49.95. It is the same price for iPhones, and from reviews I have seen on those, there is a way to take the Folio cover off and just use the basic case. I don’t see that on the case for the Samsung Galaxy S9, though.

Tech21 PureClear

If you want a clear case for your phone, this could be the one for you. It has a 10 ft. drop protection of two layers- the ribs like the cases above, and BulletShield material, which is used in bulletproof glass. It’s thin(1.2mm), and can be charged wirelessly. It also says that the case resists UV damage for longer and therefore won’t yellow. The button covers on this case seem much better to me than the others.

This case, also available for other phones has a cost of $39.95 on the Tech 21 website.

Tech21 EVO Check Evoke Edition

Finally, the last case we are about to review is a beautiful way to protect your phone. In this case, we received the iPhone X cover in clear and blue. It also comes in pink, with red flowers.

This case also has the FlexShock impact protection, and has a promised protection of 10 ft. drops. Again, a thin, light-weight design for easy access to wireless charging. The back of the case has a texture with checks, and the floral design that really stands out. This design costs $49.95, and this Evoke edition only seems to come for the iPhone 7 and up, but the Evo Check is available for other phones as well.

That concludes our review of these phone cases. Our usual disclaimer- these cases were sent to us for free to review in exchange for our fair and unbiased analysis. No other compensation has been given.