Sunday, March 1, 2015

VIZIO S2121W


A Sound Stand That Passes The Bar.

© 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


The day of the bulky CRT television receiver or monitor has long passed. If you don’t have projection TV, most of us don’t, then you probably have some form of a flat screen. They come on all sizes and shapes that can easily be hung on the wall or tabletop mounted. The problem is sound quality and sound dispersion.

There are several ways to improve a flat screen’s sound quality with a sound bar being the most popular, but perhaps not the most practical. Sound bars are long and can be heavy making them more difficult to place or wall mount. Some come with wireless subwoofers that enhance the bass, but take up even more space. So, is there an alternative?

The Vizio S2121w-DO is a 2.1 Sound Stand with a built-in subwoofer. It’s a tabletop unit that is designed to accommodate flat screens up to 55” and sixty pounds. This makes it possible to place the flat screen on top of the Sound Stand thus minimizing space requirements. 



If you have a wall mounted flat screen the Sound Stand still works well since it takes up so little space and still offers great sound.

(TIP: Always place the base of the flat screen in the center of the Sound Stand. This is where the interior supports are positioned and will prevent possible damage to the Sound Stand and the set itself.)

The Sound Stand offers an analog input with RCA jacks and an analog input with a 3.5mm jack. A digital optical input and a digital coaxial input are also provided for connection to your flat screen. In addition it does accept Bluetooth connectivity making it possible to listen to smartphones, tablets or MAC/PCs as well. Since it does have analog inputs you can easily add a satellite radio receiver, CD player or Internet radio to the mix. This makes for a nice home theater system in places like the bedroom, den or screen room. The specs are quite impressive too, and include Dolby Digital, dts TruSound, dts Studio Surround and dts TruVolume and a sound pressure level of 101db with a frequency response of 55Hz – 19Khz. Led indicators on the front panel show sound level and input selection. The power requirement varies from 100-240vac, 50/60Hz, making it a true worldwide product. Power can be set to shut off automatically after five minutes of silence.

(TIP: TruVolume automatically regulates sound levels such as blaring commercials; TruSurround HD make the sound more realistic; dts Studio Surround is a simulated surround sound effect; Dolby Digital is a surround effect to enhance cinema sound.)

However, don’t expect true surround sound that can only be attained with a five (5:1) or seven (7.1) speaker array.

(TIP: You can improve on a surround sound effect by keeping the sound level of the flat screen “on”, but at a much lower level than the Sound Stand. Since most flat screens tend to disperse sound from the sides or rear, the sound will bounce off the wall and somewhat create a wrap around effect.)

The 14 controls are self-explanatory and are activated by the supplied remote.  Four basic controls are duplicated and accessible on the side panel of the unit. The response time to a newly selected input is somewhat slow. This is typical of many digital devices and can’t be avoided in the Sound Stand.

In general, the Vizio Sound Stand is a nice practical solution to improving sound quality in small areas. Since it has speakers on three sides and a subwoofer on the bottom it can reproduce a powerful clean sound for such a small box and it comes with all the cables. What I wish they had included, however, are selections for recreating the sound effect of various venues such as theater, arena, concert hall and clubs, but then again this is something that is also lacking with most sound bars.

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

MSRP: $249.95

For more information go to: http://bit.ly/1ydrX9C

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, or endorse any of the products he reviews and his opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings.

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Sunday, February 1, 2015

CES ~ 2015





© 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


This year’s 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, CES, wrapped up as the largest show in its history. It started in 1967 as a spinoff of the Chicago Music Show was moved to New York City and had an attendance of 17,500 with over 100 exhibitors. Thru the years it’s had many venues with Las Vegas finally becoming its annual home. Attendance this year topped 170,000 industry professionals. CES featured 3600 exhibitors and occupied 2.2 million square feet of exhibition space. While the show consists of electronic products currently or soon to be available, it has also become the stage for gauging the viability of possible new gadgets and other varied diverse items unrelated to its original intent. 2015 was certainly no exception. Admittance is restricted and not open to the public.

Perhaps one of the most interesting gadgets announced was Intel’s Compute Stick that plugs into the HDMI port of your HD TV.


The stick instantly turns your TV into a system running Windows 8.1. It consists of a quad-core Atom Intel CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of memory at a cost of $149 and is due out in March. The device supports wi-fi and Bluetooth thus making it possible to connect a keyboard and mouse. Options allow for up to 128GB of extra storage. A scaled down Linux version at $89 will also be introduced. Could an Apple OS be far off?

The BEAM, by suitable Technologies, is a $16,000 roving robot with a large screen that allows people in remote locations to interact with each other. 



You simply tap into the BEAM remotely and drive it around the office allowing you to be a part of what’s going on. The person’s face is shown on a large screen at eye level making its interaction more natural.

In recent years the automobile industry has used CES to test the interest in possible technologies that might become a part of the cars of tomorrow. This year was no exception with the showing of Mercedes F 014, autonomous driving vehicle, a car that provides a full visual entertainment system since the driver’s attention can be diverted to more interesting activities. 



It’s powered by electrical power generated by its twin fuel cells that convert hydrogen into electricity and water. GM, VW, Ford and others had a presence too. Apple’s CARPLAY was visible in several of the automobiles exhibited. It includes a voice command system along with other features like call alerts, messages and music.

LifeProof fre is a four-proof case for iPhone 6 designed to protect against water to 6.6 feet for one-hour. Since it’s totally enclosed it is protected from dirt and snow and meets military specs (810G-516.6) for shock and impact protection. It also doubles the iPhone battery life with its 2600mAh built-in battery. It’s available now at $79 with lots of optional accessories available too.

Some other products worthy of mention include: VSN MOBIL offering a 360° camera with no frame stitching or breaks at $399. NIXIE, a wearable wrist camera that easily adapts to becoming your personal drone. Looks like GOPRO now has some competition. Belty, is a self-adjusting smart belt that makes losing weight a snap since it automatically adjusts to the slightest change in your girth. Available later this year; EDYN, a garden monitoring tool that monitors the soil temperature and the soil’s fertility ambient temperature, humidity and light. Data is then uploaded to the Edyn app for the user; iGrow from Apira Science, a device that the company claims is the first FDA cleared wearable device for hair growth. It uses light at the right frequency, wavelength and power to stimulate hair growth; Mybiody Balance, developed by BBRC Aminogram, a French company, is a wearable wellness body measurement device. It attaches to your ankle and then sends vital statistics including body mass to your mobile device or laptop; Sony reintroduced the Walkman. It reproduces higher quality recordings, 60 hours of MP3 playback or 33 hours of hi res playback from a single charge. Available in Spring.

TVs have always been a highlight at the show. However, the emphasis appears now to be shifting by the manufacturers. They plan to boost the range of colors their sets can display. The consensus of opinion is that the amount of colors current televisions display is too limited and doesn’t fully achieve what viewers are seeing on film in the movie theater and in real life. We can expect improvements in this area as well as more 4K and 8K models coming to market. For the uninitiated, 4K, four times the detail, and 8K, 8 times the detail, are much higher definition sets, but are limited by programming being available in these formats. Yes, some programming does exist, but the cost by producers for upgrading production equipment to these standards becomes a catch 22. Amazon and Netflix do offer some 4K streaming. Samsung says that by 2017 every TV it sells will be Internet compliant and the term SMART TV will disappear. Other new features include Firefox OS voice-controlled TVs.

With 3600 exhibits it’s difficult to talk about them all. I’ve tried to pick some that are my top picks and hope you found them interesting as well.

Graphic credits: Mercedes Benz – Intel – CES

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, make any legality of use claims, or endorse any of the products he reviews. His opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings. Some information for this article may be gathered from various news sources available to the author.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

VOIP



Alternative….

© 2015 BOB SKIDMORE ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

BOB SKIDMORE

CORRESPONDENT


Voice over Internet Protocol, or more commonly, VOIP, is a communications method of using the Internet to make and receive phone calls in much the same manner as traditional landlines offer. The difference is that you are using your Internet connection as your telephone connection to one of many providers of VOIP while using and not eliminating the phones already in your home. While VOIP is quite often used in business applications, this article will be concentrating more on residential use.

First you must decide what your needs are. Do you primarily make domestic calls or do you have family and friends in foreign countries? Perhaps you’ve rarely called outside the USA because of the cost factor, but would if affordable or even free? There are many providers of the VOIP service, but they’re not all the same when it comes to reliability, connection quality, cost, customer service, and optional convenience extras. They will all provide a special modem, but ask if it’s included or if you must purchase and/or fulfill a contract to be not charged for it.

(TIP: The speed of your Internet service plays a role in how many VOIP phone lines, not phones, you can have. This is why a business needs to evaluate if they should switch all lines to VOIP or perhaps limit themselves to one or two lines for long distance calls.)

There are two service providers that I highly recommend. The first is your local cable company. They probably already provide your Internet so the addition of VOIP can become part of a bundle offering at a minimal additional cost. They also offer in-house installation and 24/7 technical support. The down side could be limitations to “domestic calling only” without adding additional costs. Extended service areas are usually sold as an upsell and in blocks of minutes. Additional feature offerings vary and may be subject to additional charges too if they are even available.

(TIP: Some fax machines, especially older ones, may not work well with VOIP. Check with the manufacturer of the fax machine about compatibility. These days more people are using EFax thus making this a non-issue.)

(TIP: To maintain service when power outages occur it’s wise to add a small, inexpensive battery backup, UPS. Connecting your VOIP modem, Internet modem and router will keep you up and running during most power outages. Naturally, you should also connect the base stationmaster of your cordless phone system so they are operational too.)

(TIP: Connection to your prewired home phone system is simple. There normally is a master jack where your in-house phone system connects to the traditional landline provider. Disconnecting this and then connecting the VOIP modem activates all your home’s phones. Connections are all made with a common cable featuring RJ-11 plugs.)

(TIP: 911 calls may not register your location at the 911 call center.)

The second provider I recommend is Vonage. They provide the modem at no cost if you maintain the service with them. While they do not offer in-home technical service, they do offer 24/7 live technical support via phone, live chat or email with the installation being simple and quick. Since most technical issues are with your Internet service provider, problems with Vonage are minimal or non-existent. The communications quality and reliability is outstanding and what other providers consider optional cost extras Vonage includes. As new features become available they usually include them at no additional cost. One of the outstanding features is “Extensions”. Extensions is an App that works with most smartphones and allows you to make worldwide calls, save your domestic plan minutes and receive calls. Plus it includes caller ID while using your Vonage account. It puts your home phone on your smartphone worldwide at no additional cost. It also gives you the ability to accept calls from your home phone or to see who just called you there. Since you smartphone works on either a cell data plan or wi-fi, the possibilities are endless. Vonage allows two smartphones to use this app at no additional cost.

(TIP: When traveling out of the country you should avoid using the data side of your smartphone, as costs can be very high. Instead, hotspots, available in most cities and airports, work well at little or no cost. Also, the Vonage modem can be taken with you when you’re traveling providing phone service wherever you may be and with all the features.  It’s great for vacation homes too! You can setup a Vonage account in other countries too.)

(TIP: Should you experience no apparent connection when using the Extension feature for outgoing calls on your smartphone, try airplane mode and turn on wi-fi. If that still does not work reverse these steps. Some wi-fi hotspots filter calling apps from working.)

VOIP is the way telecommunications is going. The day of the traditional phone company is quickly disappearing. Many have already abandoned such service in place of a mobile phone. However, there are many advantages of maintaining non-cell service as well and VOIP is a great cost saving choice.

More information is available at: http://bit.ly/14FYSrU

GADGETEER’s RATING: ★★★★★

Graphic credit: Picgif

Bob Skidmore is a freelance writer, who may be contacted at bob.thegadgeteer.skidmore@gmail.com, or followed at twitter.com/bskidmore for the latest gadget industry news. He does not represent, make any legality of use claims, or endorse any of the products he reviews. His opinions are solely his points of view and not those of the manufacturer. The manufacturer generally supplies products at no cost for the articles and no other compensation is received. THE GADGETEER is highly selective as to products he feels worthy of review so as not to waste the reader’s time, thus the reason for many superior ratings. Some information for this article may be gathered from various news sources available to the author.