Review: High-Quality Videos Sans High Costs with Sony HDR-CX240

If you’re not trying to be the next Steven Spielberg and have video needs more like mine (meaning you occasionally say “Man, where’s the video camera when you need it?”), then Sony has what you just might need.
The Sony HDRCX240/B Video Camera with 2.7-inch LCD screen is about as simple (and cheap, $228 at Amazon) as they come without sacrificing quality. That means 1920×1080 Full HD 60p videos and 9.2 mega-pixel photos.

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Apps: Sling TV Might Be the Scissors to Cut the Cable Cord

(Updated: March 5, 2015)

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The lack of live sports and news is often cited by those holding out on cutting the cable cord as the big missing piece of the streaming media puzzle, but (and to borrow a beloved sports metaphor) the new Sling Television app could be a big game changer.

Simply put, Sling TV is an app that delivers live streaming TV to multiple platforms: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, and my personal favorite, Roku. Additional options like Xbox and Nexus Player are coming soon, too. Yes, that’s live as in live – want to watch Wolf Blitzer deliver breaking news via CNN or watch ESPN’s Sportscenter deliver scores and commentary as it happens? You got it.

And to be clear, yes, Sling is owned by DISH Network, but you don’t need any kind of subscription to anything DISH or any other kind of cable or satellite service.

It delivers 16 so-called over-the-top channels for $20 a month with more reportedly on the way. (Note: AMC and IFC added to base package March 4, 2015)

Currently, the channels are:

Audio Review: Dude, Where’s My Fugoo?

According to the press kit pics, the Fugoo Bluetooth speaker is designed mostly for use by beautiful people at beach-like settings and/or ON surfboards. Conversely, I am more likely to use it while mopping the kitchen or re-grouting the tile in my bathroom or pretty much anything other than surfing.

Either the best press photo or the worst

Still, I can’t help but be impressed by the Bluetooth-based Fugoo (available in three styles -Sport, Tough, and, well, Style).

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Fugoo Sport

Sure, the name is goofy, but the sound and versatility are anything but – able to deliver a nice, big, full sound without having to make room for a much larger system or speaker. This speaker is not cheap. Fugoo Sport and Fugoo Style are around $200 each, the Fugoo Tough is $229.

It’s pretty amazing, in fact, that this unit sounds so good since it’s just under 8 inches and weighs about a pound.

The Fugoo Tough

Fugoo Tough

Of course, a lot of it has to do with how much is packed into the unit. There are six symmetrically-placed drivers – two tweeters (for highs), two mid/woofers for mids and two passive radiators that bring out the full, deep bass sound. That’s a mouthful of geek-speak meaning that this little thing gives your music (or favorite podcaster’s voice… hint, hint) a full, awesome sound.

And it’s built for the elements, too, meaning it doesn’t just have to sit on your shelf. It’s actually snowproof, sandproof, AND waterproof and the company says it would be ok when submersed in up to 3 feet of water for as long as 30 minutes. While that scenario, of course, doesn’t seem likely for non-kinda shady situations, it does suggest that Fugoo wouldn’t have any issue sitting by the campfire or on the picnic table when it’s raining/snowing or otherwise damp out.

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There are accessories, too, for when you want to actually take it off the shelf. For example, the available bike mount ($39.99) allows you to put it on your bicycle for when you don’t want to go through the arduous task of putting earbuds in your ear. Also available are the multi-mount ($29.99) which consists of a camera tri-pod mount, rope or carabiner loop or belt spring-clip. And there is a strap mount ($29.99) that allows Fugoo to hang out on a pole or tree (sorry, only goes up to 3 feet in circumference so no redwoods). Oh, there’s a remote control you can get, too ($49.99).

Part of the reason Fugoo isn’t meant for sitting on a shelf is it’s just well-built – able to stand a fall of 6 feet (allegedly). To help protect it, there are different, interchangeable “jackets.” There is the Fugoo Sport ($39.99 when purchased separately), which is the one that belongs in sporty settings only.

(Seriously, that’s what the pictures on the company’s press site imply – stuff like there’s a surfer dude or two out there who want to listen to tunes or a podcast while in the water waiting for the next big wave.)

There is Fugoo Tough jacket ($49.99 alone), which is made for “the shop” and has a more industrial-looking design and offers a bit more protection, and Fugoo Style jacket ($39.99 alone), which is simple and kinda boring-looking next to the other two styles and also apparently designed for the slob demographic.

Less cool? Trouble using plates? Fugoo Style is meant for you (Photo courtesy of Fugoo)

Less cool than others? Trouble using plates? Fugoo Style was designed with you in mind (Photo courtesy of Fugoo…seriously)

All joking aside, we get it Fugoo. You want to make/over-emphasize the point Fugoo is versatile. And it’s true. But what really drives home the point is the way it sounds and performs – the battery life, for example, promises up to 40 hours without needing a charge. A human voice (unexpected and slightly jarring at first) “tells” you in a nice clear tone everything you need to know – when it’s on, how much battery is left, when Bluetooth is connected. Fugoo also includes an integrated mic for speakerphone, Siri, Windows Phone or Google Now. It charges with a microUSB and also has a 3.5-mm stereo input for connecting sans Bluetooth.

All-in-all, Fugoo is a great entry in the ever-expanding Bluetooth-based speaker market and worth considering if you have limited indoor and/or unlimited outdoor space.

Smartphone Review: Ryobi’s High Tech Home Improvement Gadgets

Tool giant Ryobi knows tools and just about everyone knows smartphones, so it only makes sense to try and marry the two – and that’s exactly what the company aims to do with its new Ryobi Phone Works line.

Ryobi Phone Works Line

The idea is simple enough: your smartphone (iOS or Android) serves as the brain for a bunch of handy home improvement devices by using Ryobi’s free Phone Work app.rtyobe2

To use the app, you need one or more of the following Ryobi Phone Works-branded items (ranging in price from $25 to $70 each):

Audio Review: Audioengine’s Classy B2 Bluetooth Speaker

My house is usually full of music in one way, shape, or form. And since the music more oft than not consists of the jazz greats, I’m always on the hunt for the best ways to hear the vast dynamic range of Louis Armstrong hitting the highest trumpet notes and Charles Mingus’ low bass – without costing too much, taking up too much space, nor looking out of place. Enter the Audioengine B2 Bluetooth speaker.

Audioengine B2 (Walnut)

Audioengine B2 (Walnut)The speaker ($299 at B&H) is a hefty 10 pounds, making it feel like a quality product. The speaker unit is 4 inches high, 12 inches wide and 5.3 inches deep. It comes in black ash, zebrawood, or walnut. I tested the walnut version with a gray grille that covers two woofers (each 2.75 inches, Kevlar) and two tweeters (each .75 inches, silk dome).  There is a total of 60 watts of output.

On the back, a Volume knob, Bluetooth pairing button, 3.5mm Aux input, power button, connection for included power cable, and a connection for the included Bluetooth antenna. Pairing took less than a minute once the power switch was flipped on, appearing on my smartphone almost instantly.

If you are concerned about style and design most, this is the unit for you. It looks beautiful on a bookshelf and doesn’t take up a lot of room. It definitely would not be out of place in an office, either. Since there aren’t a lot of nooks and crannies for various buttons, etc., cleaning it with a simple wipe occasionally is all it takes.  In short: it looks classy – like it SHOULD be playing the jazz I had pumping through it. That’s opposed to my Bose SoundDock Series III Digital Music System, which to me still looks like something from the Sharper Image catalog circa 1999 (though is less pricey at $249 through B&H).

The sound of Audioengine’s B2 should meet the needs of most when it comes to sound. It doesn’t have any kind of bass boost and instead aims to provide a more complete sound that covers all aspects of a composition. Audioengine claims the unit employs “similar high-end technology, components, and design philosophy” behind studio monitors used by producers. I wouldn’t expect this to become the studio standard by any means, but you can definitely hear what they mean.

Audioengine B2 (Back Panel)Specific for this test, I played Sonny Rollins’ “The Bridge.” The rolling bass was clear and not overbearing, while the sax and guitar were balanced perfectly. With the Bose SoundDock, the bass often overpowers the other instruments and there isn’t much you can do about it. That being said, if you are more into dance music and using a Bluetooth speaker to power your party, the Bose SoundDock might be a better, wall-shaking choice.

However, for its refined look of style, design and simple elegance – and focus on providing a more complete music experience you don’t want to spend a ton – Audioengine B2 is the way to go.

Drone Review: DJI Phantom 2 Quadcopter with Zenmuse H3-2D 3-Axis Gimbal

When it comes to tech, 2015’s hottest gizmo so far this year is the personal drone. It’s only the end of January and they’ve been making more headlines than any other piece of tech gear, for better or worse.

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I’ve jumped into the drone pool already, taking a chance on adding a big ticket item to my photographic and video arsenal of reporting tools: a Phantom 2 drone. Here’s a review and video

Streaming Media: Google Chromecast vs. Roku Stick

The idea behind Google Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player is enticing – broadcast to your HDTV whatever you would watch on your smartphone or tablet, from Netflix and Hulu to movies, music, and photos stored on your computer.  After six months of frustration with it, however, I know for sure of just about one thing it can do without issue: fly fast across the room.

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