Monday, January 6, 2014

Rapid Review vol. 2

I'm taking a break from a little fiction writing to do a rapid review. Sometimes new isn't always better. A lot of times a newer product comes out and changes way too much about what you love about a product line. Sometimes a newer product does like Apple and doesn't introduce enough new features to be worth your time. A lot of what I buy are the last generation products going on clearance or at extremely cheap prices. Sometimes I buy things brand new if they're really worth it, but most of the time I'm either too poor or too pragmatic to bother with new products. Here's a few things I've picked up recently (and not so recently):

UE Mobile Boombox - Cost $50

Ultimate Ears is a subsidiary of Logitech, after they were purchased by the company in 2008. The successor to the Logitech Mini Boombox, UE Mobile Boombox is a upgrade in several different areas. Compared to the Mini Boombox, it's a little bigger in pretty much all dimensions, but that's owing to a different design. 

The design of the Mobile Boombox has been simplified with a rugged rubber exterior and simple three button system, which is just volume controls and a Bluetooth button for pairing. Gone are the touch sensitive controls on the top that were prone to scratching. However, in the process because of this, you'll no longer be able to control the tracks from the speaker itself. Such is the sacrifice of a modern design.

Still, the unit does sound pretty decent. Because of the larger body design, sound is not as treble heavy as before. Things are a little more balanced with the mids being more pronounced. Bass is about the same as before, which is to say, not much. Even though it lacks bass, the unit is so portable and cheap you can hardly fault it for not being on par with a Bose unit or other competitor.

A couple of other features worth mentioning are a change from NiMH to Lithium-Ion battery. This will make standby times and off times much longer. Lithium battery have much better drain times when turned off than NiMH as I have pointed out before. As before, speaker phone capability is still here. Also, a change from mini-USB to micro-USB will help charging as any standard charger for Android or Windows Phone will do. (The unit does come with its own charger and cord.) Overall, worth purchasing, but pay no more than I did at $50 as the Bluetooth speaker market is saturated.

Pros: Durable redesign, micro-USB charging, change to Lithium Ion battery, sound remains decent.

Cons: Loss of track control on top of unit.

Final Grade: A

Philips O'Neill The Stretch headphones - Cost $30-$70

My favorite headphones are a pair of these. The O'Neill brand of Philips are a high end style of headphones that don't get nearly enough praise. Finding them in stores these days is pretty much near impossible with the likes of Monster, Bose, Beats, and every other brand you see nowadays, but you can still find them on eBay for a pretty low price.

First off, these are some of the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn. I can wear these things for hours with no discomfort whatsoever. I'm a fan of over-the-ear headphones for their noise cancelling properties and these do the job admirably. They have no dedicated noise cancellation, but close off your ears enough to do a more than satisfactory job.

Sound quality for the unit is impressive. We're not talking super high end and audiophiles may not take away the best experience, but the average user is going to find them great. Most of the sound is balanced, but bass will appear weak without some equalizer settings on your system of choice. In fact, one could say the sound is too balanced. You'll need to work with your equalizer settings depending on what type of music you listen to so you can find optimal quality. However, once you find the best balance for your personal taste, they sound excellent.

Finally, build quality is phenomenal. The main piece connecting the headphones is made out of vinyl instead of plastic or metal so it's virtually indestructible. Seriously, I've tried twisting it into tons of shapes and nothing breaks it. You also have a woven cloth-like cord with a break point near the headphones so accidents don't tear the electrical wiring, but just detach instead. These are an excellent buy that I thoroughly recommend for those wanting a higher end pair of headphones without the higher end cost. Only drawback is they are somewhat large and don't fold so they're best suited to home use, plus they lack a mic so you're using these only for listening.

Pros: Extremely comfortable, indestructible build quality, balanced sound.

Cons: Don't fold up so best suited for home use, no optional mic.

Final Grade: A-

Thermos Element 5 Hydration Bottle - Cost $20 - $40

A non-electronic review? Sure. I'm a on the go kinda guy and I like to carry some iced tea along with me. I spent a great deal of time pouring through various bottles going hit and miss. I landed on one bottle made by Thermos that was nice, but a design flaw had it leaking every time I took a drink. 

Now there are a ton of thermos type bottles out there, but many have sipping tops meant for coffee. Since I'm not a hot beverage kinda guy, it took me a lot of time to find this bottle. After browsing through eBay and the web, I came across this guy.

First off, there is absolutely no leakage at period. The design of this is very rugged. From its stainless steel construction with hard plastic on bottom and top, it's about as durable as you can make it. A nice feature of the bottle is a loop with a carabineer so you can attach it to a backpack or even your belt loop if you want. 

In terms of insulation, I can say with certainty it holds up to its claim of 24 hours for cold liquid. It's rated for 6 hours of hot liquid, but as I haven't drank anything out it, I'll just assume its probably right. The opening for liquid is more meant for cold liquids anyway. The only thing I wished was the bottle held a little more liquid. At 22 ounces it's on the larger side, but I've had ones that were 24 ounces or more so it would be nice, but for the money you can't buy a better thermos built for life's travels.

Pros: Durable, no leakage, carabineer for hooking to other items, cold insulation lasts as advertised.

Cons: Could be a little larger, opening for drinking is better suited for cold liquid.

Final Grade: A

That's it for this post. I'll be back sometime soon with more.