Thursday, September 11, 2014

Rapid Review vol. 5

After a very long downtime, I'm back with a few new toys to review.

I've gotten into beta testing recently and this Arcadia wall charger was offered to my to try out. First off, dual USB chargers are nothing special to honest. They are a dime a dozen, so anyone of them that can make me take interest is a good thing. The first thing I noticed about this charger was the compact form factor and labeling.

With a sleek, 2-inch cube design and flip down plug, the Arcadia NT90C charger is compact and goes just about anywhere. The labeling of which runs as 2.4 and 1 Amp is excellent and something I rarely see on other dual chargers with variable power. The 1 Amp side is par for the course, but the 2.4 Amp side is excellent for tablets and smartphones alike. I was able to charge my Nexus 5 from 20% to almost 80% in around thirty minutes. The only drawback I've noticed is its cost is a little greater than competing models.

The Good: Excellent form factor, fold down plug, clearly labeled set-up for each USB outlet.

The Bad: A little bit more expensive than some competitors.

Final Grade: A

Portable storage is always a plus in any instance. It had been a long time since I bought a hard drive of any type. I had a few Best Buy reward zone certificates and decided to pick this little guy up. 

My first impression upon opening the package was how solidly this thing was constructed. Most portable hard drives, whether they be USB or AC powered, are made of plastic, but this little guy was entirely encased in metal. It's smaller than my old WD Passport at almost exactly the same thickness as my Nexus 5 (0.35 in vs 0.34 in). This is compared to my older hard drive of a half inch or more thickness.

Plugging in the SS USB 3.0 cable instantly installs the drivers for Windows and works within a couple seconds on Chrome OS. You get your usual onboard backup programs and locking password system. The hard drive only runs at 5400 rpm, but it was very quick and responsive on just about any test I could throw at it. My regular laptop is limited to USB 2.0, so unless I do a large file transfer from my Chromebook, transfer speeds remain limited for me. 

Still, the hard drive is whisper quiet and the brushed aluminum is quite beautiful. The hard drive works with both stand microUSB cords and the SS USB that comes with the hard drive. It also has a three years warranty, far more than I would expect. One thing I would have liked to have seen, not just with this hard drive, but in general for portable hard drives, is a case included. Unless you need gobs of space, this hard drive will suit most average consumers quite well. However, for about $20 more than the standard price you can get a 1 TB version that's a little thicker.

The Good: Solidly built, fast, affordable, works with both regular and SS USB cords, very small and slim.

The Bad: Nothing outside of wanting a case included.

Final Grade: A+

Sol Republic Tracks HD V10 - $77 ($37 - my cost)

Sol Republic is one of those companies I'd been curious to check out for a while now. I had the opportunity recently with these headphones that were dramatically marked down in price. Sol Republic, for those that don't know, was co-founded by Kevin Lee who had a hand in the creation of Beats.

Thankfully, these headphones sound nothing like the bass-heavy Beats. Instead, they very balanced with a bit more towards the mids. Still, both bass and high response is very good. I found the presentation very nice with the packaging. Once I opened the box, I found the headphones are actually the earpieces with an interchangeable vinyl band. Vinyl being the same material in my Philips O'Neill headphones make the band virtually unbreakable. The wires individually hooked up to the earpieces and are designed to break away rather than damage the surprisingly tough cord.

The headphones themselves are actually quite beautiful with metal casing for the earpieces. It also has a three button remote built-in to the cord, but sadly only the Pause/Play button worked for my Android devices. Also, since the earpieces are on-ear rather than around ear, they get uncomfortable after a while and adjusting the band to a comfortable setting takes some work. I found the carrying case cheap, being comprised of loose neoprene. A few issues aside, they are a good set of headphones worth purchasing.

The Good: Very good sound, interchangeable and indestructible headband, breakaway cord, three button remote on cord, beautiful appearance.

The Bad: Somewhat uncomfortable, flimsy carrying case, limited remote use for Android.

Final Grade: A-

Motorola Buds - $70 ($46 - my cost)

Bluetooth headphones should be a true wireless solution to music listening. However, this does not seem to be the case with the ones I have encountered. The Motorola Buds have a unique design of highly adjustable earbuds with cords that travel down to a U-shaped area where the battery resides. Motorola claims 10 hour battery life with these and I'll take their word for it. 

The Buds have very clear quality for Bluetooth headphones which others tend to sound fuzzy in my opinion. The issue I had was the volume never got loud enough, even at max. Earbuds are generally inferior to your average pair of on-ear or over-the-ear headphones, but these lack in volume even to my Logitech earbuds. 

Outside of that, I had no problems pairing them up to any devices I own. The magnets at the end of the U base hold the earbuds, which is a nice touch to prevent tangling, but a carrying case would have been better. 

The Good: Good battery life, clear sound, magnetic bits to hold the headphones.

The Bad: Very weak volume, no carrying case.

Final Grade: C-

That's it for now. I've got reviews for the Pressy and Martian Notifier in the near future. Till next time...


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