First Impressions – Apple AirPods

After purchasing Christmas presents for everyone on my list this year I decided to get myself a gift.  After 3-weeks of waiting the package finally arrived…  Apple AirPods!

I love listening to music (mostly Spotify) whenever I can and after seeing the AirPods announcement last fall I was curious about how they performed.  Thanks to a lot of media outlets getting advanced units the reviews were out there before the AirPods were even available for order. For the most part they were very positive.

I’ve tried the inexpensive Bluetooth earbuds connected with a cord that is supposed to go behind your head and I’m not a fan.  The cord gets caught up in your clothing and makes the entire process rather uncomfortable and annoying.  Now, with the AirPods, you can actually go completely wireless and it addresses all the issues I was frustrated with.

The AirPods sound better than the EarPods that come with the iPhones.  They are just slightly larger and, in my case, fit very comfortably in my ears.  The bass is noticeably improved and the overall sound is very nice.  Battery life and bluetooth range is very impressive too.

These are not going to replace my Bose noise canceling over-the-ear headphones that I use when I want to tune the world out but they will be part of my daily carry for those times where I need a little music to make the day go a little better.

It’s to early to say if they were worth the $159 asking price but so far I haven’t regretted the purchase!

Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro Bluetooth Keyboard Case for iPad Air 2

Wow, that title is long!  I’ve used the Belkin Qode Ultimate Pro Bluetooth Keyboard Case (Qode for short) since last December and it’s been put into service on a daily basis.

I get pulled into a lot of meetings at work and client sites and I always grab my iPad to take notes in Evernote.  Having a fully functional keyboard makes that task so much easier.  I can type pretty well with the on-screen iPad keyboard but the physical alternative is so much better.

The Qode offers good protection of the iPad, front and back.  One of the things I really like about the keyboard is it’s a separate piece so you can easily detach it and use the iPad on its own.  You can also attach the Apple Smart Cover as an alternative while leaving the back of the iPad covered and protected.

As with any portable device there are usually some compromises.  The only one I can think of with the Qode is the keys are a little on the small side, but nothing drastic.  Switching back and forth between the MacBook Pro and the Qode is pretty effortless.

The Qode offers multiple backlight levels as well as two angles of viewing for the iPad screen.  Battery life is rated at 1-year with normal use and I can honestly say that claim is conservative.  9-months of regular use and I’m sitting at around 50% battery capacity.

When activated (by propping the iPad into one of two magnetic slots) the Qode instantly connects to the iPad.  It has a lot of shortcut keys you can program as well as dedicated keys for cut/copy/paste/volume etc.  You can even pair it up with a second device (phone?) and toggle back and fourth with dedicated buttons.

All in the Qode ads about 1-pound of additional weight to the iPad.  not bad when you consider you are getting a nicely padded rear shell and a fully functional backlit and aluminum clad keyboard on the front.

This has been an awesome addition to my daily carry and you can pick one up yourself for around $100 on Amazon.

Every Day Carry – P-7 Suspension Clip

TEC-Accessories-P7

The P-7 Suspension Clip by TEC Accessories is one of those EDC accessories that makes a lot of sense once you see how well it works.  I try to keep a small key chain but even what I carry can be a little bulky in some situations.  The P-7 helps keep your keys and accessories from bunching up in the bottom of your pants pocket.

slide_pocketclip_4b

By clipping the P-7 to the edge of your pocket the keys can hang vertically and all but disappear.  It also keeps your keys from falling out of your pocket accidentally.

 

When I received the P-7 in the mail it was even smaller than I expected and adds very little bulk to your key chain once installed.  The clip is very sturdy and all but impossible to bend during normal use.

If you have more items on your key chain than you want, and hate the way it gathers at the bottom of your pocket, give the P-7 a try!

823379

 

 

Need a Little Light?

Light is something we all need.  Whether naturally or artificially generated light is necessary for humans to discern distance, color and motion.  For years I’ve carried some form of light or another, normally in the form of a small flashlight on my key chain.

My key chain light of choice for the past 10 years was a Photon light.  Small, inexpensive and very durable the Photon has been useful in countless situations throughout the years.  Recently while reading the Every Day Carry blog I stumbled upon a new light that I just had to try.

The Streamlight Nano has some pretty impressive specs:

  • Up to 8 hrs. run time
  • Machined aircraft-grade aluminum with anodized finish
  • Powered by 4 alkaline button cells (included)
  • 100,000 hr. lifetime high-intensity LED
  • LED available in white (10 lumens)
  • 1.47″ x .51″
  • .36 oz.

But I think the most impressive spec is the price!  This light can be purchased for less than $10 on Amazon and it’s worth every penny.

Now 10 lumens does not seem like a lot of light, especially when compared to other lights like the $40 Quark Mini 123 which can pump out 180 lumens, but it’s perfect for everyday tasks like looking under a desk, or simple task lighting.  I’ve used it for lighting up a dark hallway and changing the air filter on my car at night.  The tiny size all but guarantees it’s going to be with me at all times.

Top – Surefire 6Z
Middle – Quark MiNi 123
Bottom – Streamlight Nano

Operation is simple.  Twist on, twist off.  That’s all there is to it.  No special functions or flashing patterns with this one.  Compared to the Surefire 6Z and Quark Mini the Streamlight is practically non-existent.

The unit comes with button cell batteries (4 of them) as well as a split ring and spring-loaded clip.  Once installed on a key chain it’s not even noticeable.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive key chain light that really performs I recommend you check out the Streamlight Nano.  If you do, leave a comment below and let me know how you like it!

 

 

Leatherman Micra Revisit

I posted back in 2011 about my all time favorite Every day Carry (EDC) item the Leatherman Micra.  Well, I finally misplaced mine & thinking it would eventually show up I held off on buying a replacement.  After a little more than a month I had to break down and buy another one.

Amazing how you become so accustomed to having something with you at all times and really missing it when you don’t.  Ordered it from Amazon and had it in just a few days.  SO glad I replaced it.  I’m impressed that after over 15-years of these things being made the new one is EXACTLY like the old one.  That’s pretty unusual these days when it seems like there are differences in products even after only a few months.  Welcome back my old friend, I’ll be sure to keep a better eye on you then I did your sibling.

 

Review – Fitbit Ultra

My day can be pretty active at times and after the end of one of those days it’s always nice to see what you’ve done physically (mentally is an all together different issue).  If you’ve ever used a pedometer to measure your daily activity I’m sure you’ve wished it could do more than count your steps.

Enter the FitBit.  This little piece of technology can do some pretty amazing things. Now in its 2nd generation (FitBit Ultra) the unit has worked out the quirks of the 1st generation unit and added some cool new features.  I’ve been following this product since I first heard about it 4 years ago (before it was completed and on the market)

The FitBit Ultra is a tiny, lightweight (0.4 oz), device that you wear on your body during the day to measure activity and at night to measure the lack of activity (sleep).  It’s so light you can easily forget you have it with you.

The FitBit Ultra measures the following activities:

  • Steps taken
  • Distance traveled
  • Calories burned (based on activity, height, weight)
  • Floors climbed (1 floor for every 10′ in elevation change while walking)
  • Overall progress towards the activity goals you have established online

One of the many cool features of the FitBit is that it will auto-sync with the web-based dashboard when you are in the same room as the receiver (which is plugged into a computer).  I have my receiver plugged into the home theater PC since I’m usually in that room once a day.  The receiver also functions as a charging stand, something you will need to do every 5-7 days.

Once your data is uploaded the website compiles all of the information into an easy to understand dashboard.  This dashboard shows historical data as well as averages and goals you have set up (loose 5 pounds, walk 10,000 steps a day, climb 10 flights of stairs a day, etc.).  The dashboard is also where you can enter in the food you’ve eaten to do some calorie calculations (calories consumed vs. burned).  There is a premium, subscription based, dashboard that has additional features like a trainer, more detailed analysis of your activities and food intake.

One FitBit feature that I specifically wanted to try was the sleep analyzer function.  I’ve always assumed I was getting a good nights sleep but never knew how to tell.  By clipping the FitBit on your shirt sleeve (or using the included wrist band) the device measures how many times you “wake up” during the night.

Last night I woke up (moved) 5 times during my 7-hour slumber and that worked out to an efficiency rating of 99%.  I guess I slept good last night!  I just bought the unit last weekend and I’m still getting used to everything I can do with it.

If you’re into mobile apps (and who isn’t these days?) you can access your dashboard with an iPhone, Blackberry, and Android device.

For $99 the FitBit Ultra is an interesting toy that I’m going to plan on using for the foreseeable future to measure my activity level.  Having something like this is a huge motivator and has already convinced me to take the stairs vs. the elevator today (and in the days to come).

Here’s the promotional video that does a great job explaining how the FitBit can “fit” into your lifestyle.

 

Daily Carry – Quark MiNi 123 Flashlight

4Sevens Quark MiniX 123

Every once in a while a product exceeds my expectations so much I have to tell the world about it.  This is the case with my latest Every Day Carry (EDC) item the “4Sevens Quark Mini 123” flashlight ($39 retail price).

Not only is this one of the smallest flashlights I have ever used it far surpasses my old standby the Surefire 6Z that I reviewed back in January 2009.  I first learned about the Quark Mini 123 while looking around on the Every Day Carry site.

The EDC site is a place for people to submit photographs of the items they carry with them every day (tactical and otherwise).  A common theme of these user submitted photos was the Quark Mini 123.

With my curiosity piqued I did some searching on the web and found several reviews on YouTube, all of which were very favorable regarding this flashlight.  That was enough for me to order one to see for myself.

123 Size Lithium Battery

I’ve included the specifications of this flashlight at the end of this review but here’s one spec you need to know.  This little light can produce 180 Lumens of light, and it only uses a single 123 sized lithium battery!  The Surefire with LED head produces 80 Lumens (and uses two 123 batteries) and I thought that was bright enough!

How bright is 180 Lumens?  Remember those AA MagLights we all had at one point or another (or still have)?  That light produces 15.2 average Lumens and a run time of 5.5 hours on alkaline batteries.  A three D cell MagLight model produces on average 76.8 Lumens with a run time of about 9 hours.

Something to note about the above comparison is that the MagLights are using incandescent light bulbs (filament inside of a vacuum).  Most “modern” flashlights are now using LED bulbs that produce an incredible amount of light given their size and power input.  I upgraded the Surefire to an LED head to get the 80 Lumens of output (it produced 65 with its incandescent bulb from the factory)

Size Comparison (AA & 123 batteries)

LED bulbs also generate a lot of heat to prolonged use can cause the light to get a little warm (hot in the case of the Surefire 6Z)  LED bulbs are not easily replaceable in the field either.  The good thing is they last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs.

To activate the Quark MiNi 123, tighten the bezel clockwise. The light will turn on when the bezel is fully tightened, and turn off when the bezel is loosened.  Turning the light on/off quickly will activate the 3 output settings (Low/Med/High).  Cycle through the output settings twice (within about 5 seconds) and you will activate the “special” settings (Strobe, SOS, High/Low Beacon).

I can’t say enough about this little light.  It’s about the size of an average thumb and easily fits in any pocket.  The included lanyard is a good way to keep track of the light because it’s easily misplaced.

I still keep my Surefire in my EDC bag but the Quark Mini 123 is my preferred light just about every time.

4Sevens Q Mini X 123 Specifications (from the 4Sevens.com site):

  •     LED: CREE XP-G R5
  •     Max Output: 180 Out-the-front (OTF) lumens
  •     Material: Type-III Hard-anodized Aircraft-grade Aluminum
  •     Lens: Optical-grade glass lens with anti-reflective coating on both sides
  •     Reflector: Light orange-peel textured
  •     Water resistance: IPX-8
  •     Battery: One lithium CR123A (3V) – do not use rechargeable RCR123As

  Seven Output Modes:

  •         Low: 3 OTF lumens, 150 hours
  •         Medium: 40 OTF lumens, 8 hours
  •         High: 180 OTF lumens, 1.2 hours
  •         Special (hidden) modes:
  •         Strobe 2.4 hours
  •         SOS 7.2 hours
  •         Beacon (Hi) 12 hours
  •         Beacon (Lo) 60 hours

Dimensions:

  •         Length: 2.3 inches
  •         Diameter: 0.80 inches
  •         Weight: 0.62 ounces (w/o battery)

Included accessories: Lanyard, split ring for keychain attachment, spare o-ring.