The month of April is coming to an end, meaning we get to reflect on some of the best tech we had the pleasure of testing for all of you. This particular episode has a ton of variety so you should find at least one product that appeals to you. With that said, let’s get started.
First we have a product that would easily win the most potential awards. It’s a security camera called Lighthouse AI and it’s from a Palo, Alto startup funded by Google. In addition to the 3D sensor and Full HD camera sensor with 112-degree field of view and night vision support, the camera uses artificial intelligence to detect who is in your home. The app, which is available for Android and iOS devices, has a last seen section that will show you video footage of all the people the camera has detected. What’s cool is that you can have the camera remember certain faces so that you won’t get a notification every single time that person gets viewed by the camera. It doesn’t work flawlessly but it’s a neat concept that certain cuts down on the number of notifications I received on a daily basis.
The functionality is only going to get better with future updates. There is so much potential here with this camera. The other big area where AI comes in handy is for filtering through the footage. You can literally ask Lighthouse if it saw anyone it didn’t recognize.
Overall, I like the color scheme and rounded design but the sheer size of it is rather intimidating. When I have guests over, they usually always notice it and comment on it, which is something I don’t necessarily want to have happen all the time.
The price is $300 with a $10/month service plan. But you can pay a little bit extra to avoid the monthly charges. If you’re in the market for a new security camera, you should look into Lighthouse AI.
Audioengine just launched some new connected speakers. These are the A5+ Wireless Speakers and they’re kind of an adaptation of the wired A5 speakers that really helped put Audioengine on the map for audiophiles. Wireless speakers are generally frowned upon by audiophiles as some sound quality is lost over Bluetooth. But what’s neat about these speakers is that they still have all the hardware necessary for wired music playback, if that’s what you desire. As a music enthusiast and smartphone connoisseur, I welcome the ability to wireless send audio to these speakers.
Update 4/24/18: Audioengine has reached out to us to clarify that the A5+ speakers feature aptX-HD, a 24-bit Bluetooth codec that puts audio quality on par (or arguably even better) with wires.
The A5+ speakers come with a premium price of $500 but the sound quality makes them well worth the investment. The best way I can describe the sound is warm and balanced allowing each instrument to shine through clearly with little distortion at high volumes. Whereas more inexpensive speakers tend to bump up the lows and crank up the bass, these don’t. The bass doesn’t overpower the mids or highs. If you are looking for overpowering lows, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere as the A5+ speakers are not designed with you in mind. They are designed for those who are looking for a flat style frequency response. The speakers themselves come in a bookshelf-form factor in black, white, or bamboo finishes. The bottom line is this: if you’re looking for audiophile quality speakers with the option to stream audio via Bluetooth, you should look into these speakers.
You might have noticed a weird bar attached to the top of my monitor. This is BenQ’s ScreenBar. It fastens the top of the monitor and can be used to illuminate your desk or keyboard. It’s perfect if you’re a college student working late hours on homework or studying. The bar features auto dimming with various brightness levels and you can adjust the color temperature to increase focus and comfort.
There are touch sensor controls up top and the device can be powered by a simple USB port. It’s $100.
Anker has released one of the coolest gadgets I’ve seen in a while. It’s called the Roav VIVA by Anker. It’s essentially an Amazon Echo for your car. After you plug it into your car’s cigarette lighter, you can quickly set it up using the accompanying app for iOS or Android. The product and software is incredibly well-developed. I was actually really surprised. But there are definitely some limitations associated with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. For starters, you can’t use Spotify so playing music will have to be done via Amazon Music. It can do directions but you have to be very specific. Sometimes it will require you to whip out your phone.
If you have a car but no Bluetooth support system, then I definitely think the $40 Roav VIVA can be worth it. The product is in its infancy and it’s one of the first of its kind so I can only imagine this device getting better and better as time goes on and more updates are pushed. Spotify support, for example, is being worked on and it should be available soon.
The other Anker products that really caught me off guard because of how well it works is the Nebula Capsule Smart Projector. It’s a portable pocket-friendly projector that can display up to 100 inches of video onto your wall. It features everything you need to start streaming content right out of the box since it’s powered by Android 7.1. Right when you boot this device up, you can start installing apps like Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Plex, Amazon Prime, and a host of others. It uses Wi-Fi so you don’t have to connect a computer up to this device although if you want, you can. It actually features a full-size HDMI port down below in the bottom.
There’s a 360-degree speaker here as well, which actually sounds really good. I was able to play a few episodes of Friends without any complaints. This is coming from a guy who has some pretty high-end audio equipment. What’s also neat is you can use it as a standalone Bluetooth speaker, if you want. There’s a dedicated Bluetooth speaker mode here in case you’re out and about and you don’t want to cast content onto a wall.
It is fairly pricey at $349. But if you’ve been eyeing a portable projector, this is the one you should get.
Blue Microphones has released a really nice Boom Arm for mics weighing up to 2.4 lbs. For demo purposes, I just threw on my Seinnheiser MKH 416 Shotgun Mic but a traditional broadcast mic like the Yeti or Blackout Spark SL would be ideal in this setup. For $100, what you get here is a predominantly metallic build construction with internal springs and built-in cable management.
There’s a C-clamp on the bottom that will fit almost any desk, including relatively thick cork desks like mine. It’s able to swivel a full 360 degrees and bend to your liking. The only complaint I have is that the knobs used to tighten the boom mic are made of plastic and they do feel like they have the potential to break when overtightening.
The other premium speaker we have for you today is Soundcast VG5 Portable Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker. This thing is unlike anything else I’ve ever used before. It comes in this tower fan design that has some seriously powerful hardware that really helps this thing blast sound even outdoors in an open environment. Inside is a 6-inch woofer and two 3-inch full-range drivers. The top features a capacitive touch interface. There’s a battery capable of lasting close to 10 hours on a full charge though your mileage might vary slightly. I personally wasn’t able to kill this speaker in one session.
The sound quality is certainly not as balanced or rich as the Audioengine speakers we reviewed earlier but that’s a good thing in this case. The VG5 actually outputs intentionally overpowered lows a.k.a. bass to help the sound travel further and louder outdoors.
For $500, the VG5 is really expensive. There’s just no denying that. But it’s one of the best at what it’s designed to do and that, I believe, is to play music for outdoor parties and events.
Are there any gamers out there? Roccat has a sweet Gaming Lapboard with a mechanical keyboard and mouse pad big enough to help you game comfortably on a couch. So in general, a lapboard is a board with a keyboard and a mouse pad designed to be used on the lap as a table or desk. This particular lapboard weighs 5 lbs, which might sound like a lot but it’s certainly not overbearing. There are some lap cushions on the bottom to help disperse some of this weight for longer periods of gameplay.
In terms of ports, we have two USB 2.0 ports to connect to the mouse. The keyboard itself is wired and I think some might view that as a complaint or negative. But it’s wired to reduce latency. Any kind of lag is going to give you a disadvantage when gaming.
The cherry on top is support for key backlighting with 6 different brightness levels. This lapboard costs $150.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of autonomous tech, especially autonomous vacuum cleaners. It’s just so neat to have robots controlling, or in this case, cleaning my home. ECOVACS sent us their newest vacuum dubbed the Deebot N79S. What’s special about this vacuum is that it features Alexa support so you can control your vacuum with a single voice command, smart app, or a remote.
You can create schedules for this vacuum to automatically run at certain times of the day and even control the vacuum remotely through the app. It will automatically charge up via its dock and let you know if it gets stuck. Those are pretty basic functions. There are also several different cleaning modes, some that use the brush and the suction in tandem; others that just use the suction abilities and no brush.
As of making this video, you can pick this vacuum up for less than $200. As someone with a more expensive Roomba, it’s really hard to go wrong with this price.
So I did want to end this video one last, premium audio product. Master & Dynamic sent us their new silver edition MW60 Wireless Over-the-Ear Headphones. These were created in partnership with Leica and features silver metal on top of black leather. They look so good. These are two of the most premium build materials one can imagine on a pair of headphones.
Master & Dynamic makes products that excel in sound quality. We’ve been reviewing their products for years now here on PhoneDog but there’s no denying the aesthetic appeal of their products. It’s really neat to see them experiment with the look of their headphones and partner with companies like Leica.
With that last one, those are some of our favorite tech products for April 2018.