Review of WaterField’s External Keyboard Slip Case

Logitech makes an amazingly good external keyboard, the K811, which I reviewed here. At the time I noted:

It would be nice if the keyboard came with a carrying case or simple sleeve, though–you’ll have to figure that one out on your own.

And, boy, did I figure it out! Turns out a San Francisco manufacturer named WaterField makes just such a product: the Keyboard Slip Case. Here’s their description:

Thin is in. The Keyboard Slip Case offers gentle protection in a slim ballistic nylon case with a lightly padded liner. A piping trimmed edge lets you choose to add a splash of bold color, or to stay under the radar with subdued tones. Pack it up and off you go.

I can at last not worry about whether my keyboard keys will pop off inside my messenger bag, and my neighbors and friends can now avoid the unseemly sight of my walking around with an external keyboard in my hand. (I mean, not literally just walking around with it. But going from point A to point B.)

The dimensions are 12″ x 6″ and 3 ounces, perfect for the Apple wireless keyboard and my Logitech model.

To remind you, here’s what the K811 looks like:

 

Image via Logitech
Image via Logitech

 

And now, in its case:

 

Keyboard in Sleeve

 

Pretty awesome, yeah? I know–I’m too excited about a piece of gear, but I use my K811 a lot, and am glad to protect it well.

The inside is protective yet soft:

 

Soft Inside

 

It’s made in San Francisco, so you’re buying a made-in-the-U.S.A. product with WaterField.

There’s even a nice little piece of trim that gives it a slight pop:

 

Trim

 

Here it is next to an iPad:

 

With iPad Air 2

 

The slip case is well constructed, and looks like it perfectly blends being lightweight with protecting your keyboard.

The keyboard fits snugly, so the lack of a closure is no loss. I’d initially wondered about this, but it’s not a problem. And it’s still easy to slide the keyboard in and out. (But if you’re worried, you can get this model.)

My only critique is that the nylon exterior is a little slippery. When carrying around an iPad and notebook and keyboard-in-its-case today, I felt the iPad slip against the keyboard case. So be aware of that so you don’t drop something!

Otherwise, the K811 has found its perfect match. Or as I put it in a six-word review on WaterField’s site:

Just what my external keyboard needed.

WaterField makes a lot of other really cool-looking gear, which you can learn more about here. Find the Keyboard Slip Case here.

 


 

Thanks to WaterField for the product review sample, given to me for purposes of review, but with no expectations or influence on the review’s content.

Review of SHARKK® 15W Bluetooth Wireless Speaker

 

I’ve been jamming to some sweet tunes with SHARKK’s 15W Bluetooh Wireless Speaker recently. I’ve used it around the house for some organizing projects, as well as took it on a trip with me.

Here are the full specs from SHARKK:

◦ Rock the House with this Powerful 15 Watt Bluetooth Speaker with 2200Ah Lithium Battery which supports up to 10 consecutive hours of playing time.

◦ Subwoofer + high-performance amplifier combine for incredible volume and high quality sound.

◦ Can also be used to charge your phone or other rechargeable USB devices with its built in Power Bank.

◦ Supports AUX, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC with Siri/S Voice Functionality. Make and receive phone calls with the built-in Mic.

◦ Includes Charger, Carrying Pouch, and a 3.5mm audio cable.

Here is what it looks like out of the box (images via SHARKK):

 

 

Sharkk Speaker: What’s Awesome

Battery percentage indicator

 

You can see the battery level right next to the phone battery percentage—it’s always visible from the device from which you are streaming music. There’s no real battery life indicator on the speaker itself, so being able to see it from your device is neat.

 

Sound decent for cost

 

The sound is good for the cost. Not stellar, but solid. The bass is noticeable, if not wholly sufficient, and the highs and the mids come out, though perhaps not as crisply as one might want for a speaker at $80. Still, the sound is decent.

 

It remembers your device

 

Once you connect a device to the speaker via Bluetooth, the SHARKK speaker remembers it, so you don’t have to keep setting it up each time. I really appreciated this.

 

Totally portable

 

The speaker fits on a towel rack in the shower room. It’s easy to hold in one hand and move around the house to follow you from room to room. Highly portable and light enough to carry around, if you want.

 

What’s Not Awesome

The speaker died one night

 

One night, for no reason that I can discern, the speaker died. I charged it overnight. It still didn’t work. I charged it a second night. Still nothing. Then on the third day (I don’t mean this to be a religious parallel), it sprang back to life and has been working fine since.

Support was responsive throughout the issue, but I never could figure out why the speaker stopped responding like that.

 

No remote control

 

Lacking is a remote way to control the speaker. You cannot do it via remote control or from your phone. I know it’s not a huge deal to get out of your chair to turn it on or off, but a speaker in this price range should support remote control.

 

Play/pause button flashes

 

The play/pause button flashes blue when the speaker is on. I noticed this one night in the middle of the night from across the room, when I had forgotten to turn the speaker off. A minor nuisance, and certainly not a deal-breaker. But an auto-off feature would be nice.

 

Cloth carrying case

 

The speaker comes with a cloth carrying case, which is handy, but doesn’t do much to protect the speaker. On a recent trip where I wanted to take the speaker (it is very portable), I just packed the speaker up in its original box, which was a much better solution.

 

+ and – buttons

 

It’s awesome that you can play and pause your iTunes or even Spotify app from the speaker itself. One tricky thing, though, is that the “+” button fast forwards the track. Only holding the button turns the volume up (the expected result from a button like that). So, too, with the “-” button. It turns the volume down, but only if you hold it. Otherwise it rewinds the track. I found this less than intuitive, and still think it’s an odd design decision, but I got used to it over time (mostly). It is nice to be able to change tracks from the speaker itself.

 

Concluding Evaluation

I can recommend the speaker, but only with the reservations above. I’m not sure it would be my first choice for a sub-$100 speaker, but it does have some nice features that make it an attractive option worth considering.

Find the speaker here (SHARKK) or here (Amazon).

 

Thanks to SHARKK for the review sample, given to me for purposes of review but with no expectation as to the content of this post.

Review of Belkin’s MIXIT↑™ Metallic AUX Cable

Belkin cable

It was probably about my fourth time unsuccessfully digging through the same bag of old cables before I got in touch with Belkin for the one I really needed: an auxiliary 3.5 mm cable to plug my phone into the back of some speakers.

The look of the cable is unremarkable, but the only person I’ve ever met who cared about aesthetics in cables this small was the guy at Radio Shack who tried to convince my old college roommate and me that we were idiots for buying a pink aux cable when we could spend a dollar more for a black one. (We rocked the pink.)

I’ve been making good use of this Belkin AUX cable, especially while in the kitchen. It’s durable and does exactly what it should.

Here are the summary features, from Belkin:

  • Auxiliary cable connects any two devices with 3.5mm port
  • Sleek cable with metallic finish
  • Available in five colors to match your device
  • Designed to withstand heavy use
  • 4-foot length ideal for use everywhere

It works at home, it works in the car, and it coils up nicely for transport. I’ve never had the audio cut out or give feedback while listening via the cable.

At four feet long, it’s all the length you need–not too much, not too little.

Given its durability, the $20 asking price is fair, though some buyers may want to seek out more budget-conscious options–even if they are pink.

But I expect to make use of this (stylish gold) cable for many more hours of audio.

Find it here (Belkin) or here (Amazon).

 


 

Thanks to Belkin for the review sample, so I could write this review. Receiving the cable for review purposes did not influence the content or nature of this write-up.

Review of Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K811

Images in this post via Logitech
Image via Logitech

 

There is a proliferation of external keyboards for iPads and iPhones. Logitech’s Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K811 is by far the best.

Here is a short video of the keyboard in action:

 

 

This is no foldable, plastic, tag-along keyboard. It looks and feels like something native to an aluminum-body Mac Laptop.

This is what’s great about the keyboard:

  • It’s backlit. You can use it in the dark and make out all of the keys easily.
  • It’s got three keyboard shortcuts for toggling between three Apple devices at a time. So once you’ve paired it with, say, a computer, an iPhone, and an iPad, you can switch between any device the keyboard is paired with… with just one press of a button. You don’t have to pair, un-pair, re-pair, etc.

 

Logitech K810 Image 2

 

  • That backlit keyboard? It’s smart. The keyboard has sensors that allow it to adjust the illumination level based on the light in the room. Amazing. (You can also manually adjust the keyboard brightness via its F5 and F6 keys.)
  • The battery life is long. It’s rechargeable via an (included) USB cable. And there’s an on/off switch, of course, so you don’t drain the battery between uses.
  • There’s no lag. The Bluetooth connection is fast, so there’s really no lag between the time you type and see a character on the screen, regardless of the device you’re using.
  • It is a full keyboard. Nothing is missing–the command key, volume up/down keys, the escape key… all here.
  • It’s got “hand proximity detection.” From the product page: “A motion sensor detects your hands as they approach the keyboard and turns the backlight on/off to help you save power when you are not typing.” From what I can tell, this feature also helps to preserve and prolong the battery life.
  • Setup couldn’t have been any simpler. I probably could have figured it out without the manual, but the manual succinctly and clearly explained how to pair with devices.
  • Having easy access to up/down and left-right arrow keys for iPad and iPhone is really cool.

And here is what I really like about the keyboard:

  • If feels better than any other keyboard (portable or otherwise) I’ve typed on. Very smooth, and just the right amount of resistance on the keys.
  • You can use keyboard shortcuts with iPad as easily as you would on a desktop computer. The app Drafts and this Logitech keyboard make for a great combo. I started this blog post in Drafts, for example, and then with a single key stroke had sent the draft to Evernote for backup and future work across devices.
  • This is a little thing, but there is a keyboard key (on the actual keyboard) that lets you toggle your iPad on-screen keyboard on and off. Unlike other external keyboards, you can even have your native iPad on-screen keyboard up at the same time as using this physical one.

As for drawbacks? Nothing significant, that’s for sure. It’s not foldable, so of course it’s less portable than other external keyboards, but that is the (small) price one pays for its durability and full-size feel. I don’t mind that it can’t be folded up. It would be nice if the keyboard came with a carrying case or simple sleeve, though–you’ll have to figure that one out on your own.

The keyboard isn’t inexpensive, but it’s the best external keyboard on the market, easily. Find out more at the product page here, or via Amazon here.

 


 

Thanks to Logitech for the product review sample, given to me for purposes of review, but with no expectations or influence on the review’s content.

Apple Music Launches Today

Apple Music
Image via MacRumors/Apple

 

Apple Music launches today, and you can jump right in with a free, three-month trial. Individual user subscriptions will be $9.99/month thereafter.

The big question will be: How does it compare to similar subscription-based, streaming services like Spotify? MacRumors has a nice round-up of some early reviews here. From that article:

Everyone will be able to test out Apple Music for themselves soon enough, with the official launch of the updated music app in just a few hours at 9 AM Pacific. Those interested should remember to first download the new iOS 8.4 update an hour before in preparation for the streaming music service’s debut.

Get all the details at Apple’s page here.

Review of Anker PowerDrive 2 Lite 12W 2-Port Car Charger

Impossibly Cute (and a Good Charger)
Impossibly Cute (and a Good Charger)

Yeah, I know: it’s weird to refer to a phone charger as “impossibly cute,” but this little guy (pictured at left) from Anker looks great. More important, it charges a device (or two at once) just as fast as your typical wall charger.

It’s the Anker PowerDrive 2 Lite 12W 2-Port Car Charger.

You can connect any USB cable to it, allowing you to charge your iPhone (of any generation), iPad, or other device. The best thing about it is that you can charge two devices at once–so you and your friend don’t have to fight over whose turn it is to charge a phone on a long road trip.

Here are a few things I like about the charger (with no counterbalancing complaints so far to lodge):

  • As with another Anker charger I tested, the PowerDrive 2 Lite charges a device quickly. I have an Apple wall charger that gets warm when plugged in, but this one maintains a normal temperature.
  • It’s small. You can easily fit it in your pocket, or stash it in even the smallest compartment of your car. Anker lists its weight as 0.7 ounces. (!)
  • The design isn’t fancy, but it looks great. The red and black color combo gives it an attractive look.
  • It pops in and out of the cigarette lighter (what else do you call that port in your car?) really easily. It’s nice and secure when plugged in.

Despite its size and being 12W as opposed to a 24W model Anker makes, this model gets the charging job done just fine. At the time of writing, the 12W model appears out of stock on Amazon, but the (comparable) 24W model is here. (UPDATE: Here‘s the in-stock link to the model I’m reviewing here.)

And you can check out the 12W PowerDrive 2 Lite at Anker’s page here, with all the specs.

 


 

Thanks to Anker for the review sample, offered for my honest impressions.

A Review of the Dell Venue 8 Pro Tablet

 

Image via Dell
Image via Dell

 

I’ve been impressed by the Dell Venue 8 Pro in my use of it these past few months. I recorded my initial impressions here.

This post completes my two-part review of the device by way of a three-question Q and A session. (Leading up to this review I’ve benefited from conversations with R. Mansfield, who knows the Dell Venue 8 Pro–hereafter, DV8P–well.)

 

How Does the Dell Venue 8 Pro Compare to an iPad?

 

See… I knew you were going to ask that question! Here are five points of comparison.

First, the iPad still does not allow the user to view and use more than one app on the screen at a time. Why this continues to be the case is unclear to me, but the DV8P lets you have two apps open at once. So you can read an article from your Facebook feed without leaving Facebook. Or you can go to a Web link that pops up in a Kindle book you’re reading, while not having to leave and then navigate back to the Kindle app. Advantage: DV8P.

Second, the DV8P is more compact than a full-sized iPad, but close in dimensions to the iPad Mini. The DV8P is longer and skinnier, by a little bit. Its 8-inch screen size (measured diagonally) just edges out the iPad Mini’s 7.9 inches. To hold it feels about the same as the iPad Mini, though. Advantage: Both.

Third, the Dell Venue Pro is both tablet and personal computer. You can use it as both. You can run full-on Windows programs from the Desktop side, which Apple’s iOS on iPad does not permit.

I love being able to access full-bodied programs on this little tablet. Much as I appreciate Accordance’s iOS mobile app, for example, being able to use the full desktop version–but not having to be at a desktop or laptop–is awesome. Advantage: DV8P.

Fourth, the gesture-based interface of the iPad gives the user more options. Or is more intuitive. Or something. I know “intuitive” is a fuzzy word in software and hardware reviews. Of course, I’m way more used to an iPad than the Dell Venue Pro, but the former is easier to just pick up and tap and swipe your way around. Advantage: iPad Mini.

Finally, battery life on the 8 Pro leaves something to be desired, especially in comparison with the iPad Mini. Battery life when the device is in use is fine, but it does not hold charge very well when it idles/sleeps. If I put the tablet to sleep with full battery life, don’t use it at all for a couple days, then come back to it, it’s completely out of charge. I’ve never had this issue with the iPad mini. (And I’m not the only DV8P user to notice this, either.) Advantage: iPad Mini.

 

Does it Replace a Computer?

 

Because you have the computing capabilities of a desktop computer in your hands, one could think about the Dell Venue 8 Pro as a possible replacement for a computer.

With the loaner review unit Dell sent me, they also included a stylus (with a responsive point) and a keyboard. Each of these are essential companions when using Windows and navigating full-bodied programs like Word or Accordance or whatever else. (Not the least reason for which is that the touch points on Windows apps are too small for even tiny fingers.)

 

Accordance
Accordance on the DV8P (click or open in new tab/window to enlarge)

 

Being able to use–on a portable tablet–programs/apps that you could until now have to get to a desktop or laptop to use… is really sweet. If you don’t want to be limited by Android’s environment or iOS apps, the tablet-as-computer could make sense.

However, a limitation is in the memory size. The Dell Venue 8 Pro comes in 32GB or 64GB models, but even the latter is too small to make this your one-and-only computer (think: lots of images and movies stored). The Dell Venue 11 Pro model, however, has a hard drive up to 256 GB, which is definitely workable for making the DVP your only computing device.

Speaking of, here are the specs of the machine (compared to the 11) from Dell:

 

Screen Shot 2015-04-28 at 9.47.25 PM

 

Does Abram K-J of Words on the Word
Recommend this Device?

 

I would be too tied to the Apple app ecosystem to be able to move all my work over to the DV8Pro, much as I like the device. I’d have no way to run OmniFocus, for example. Or Nisus Writer Pro. I could easily still access Evernote, and other such apps.

But if you’re already rocking in the Windows free world, with no Mac or iOS-only apps to consider, this small but powerful device is worth looking into. (I can’t say from experience how it compares to the Microsoft Surface.) It’s reasonably priced, too. And while I experienced more learning curve with the Dell Venue 8 Pro than I did when I first picked up an iPad, after a while it becomes intuitive, and convenient to have more computing power than one would expect in a tablet.

 


 

Thanks to the fine folks at Dell for loaning me a Venue 8 Pro 5000 Series Tablet to test for the review. Check out the Dell tablet page here.