I can’t believe that it has been almost two years since I moved away from my Apple AirPort Extreme WiFi routers. You can see my original Linksys Velop review from May 2018 here. I grew my original three node Tri-band Linksys Velop network to five nodes that year and it worked pretty well for me. However, I’m a speed freak. I want the fastest possible network speeds that I can get and I zero tolerance for dead spots. I have a fairly large network with anywhere from 110 to 130 devices connected at any given time. I also have a smart home and stable fast WiFi is a must for a smart home to function successfully. This need for speed lead me to look at the NEW Linksys Velop WiFi 6 Mesh Router.
The Linksys Velop WiFi 6 Mesh Router is a BEAST!
It’s not only significantly larger in size, but it also improves upon the Velop Tri-band Mesh Router in every way. The specs are mouth-watering.
It was just one month ago that I wrote a review of SimpliSafe. While I do still stand by that review and everything I said, I have actually switched to Ring Alarm! It’s rare that after I do my research and make a tech decision that I end up switching to something else so soon after, but this is one of those cases.
I’ve had several Wacom tablets over the years. I use them almost exclusively when I retouch photos and if I ever dabble in creating art. I love my 27″ Cintiq QHD display tablet. However, when I need to take a tablet with me on the go I’ve always preferred carrying a Wacom Intuos Pro Small. With that said, I stopped carrying my previous version. While it was “small” it was still bulky enough to take up more space and weight in my bag than I wanted. My backpack is always heavy. I decided to remove some things to lighten the load. Every ounce matters. I figured I could just use my iPad Pro and Apple Pencil as a tablet if I really needed to. While this solution did work, it just wasn’t the same as a Wacom graphics tablet. Wacom has been refining their pen/tablet technology for years! The newer tablets have a pen that offers 8,192 levels of pressure. This level of precision is amazing. The pen also has configurable buttons on the side and the top can be used as an eraser. Apple Pencil is great, but it just can’t do as many things as you can with a Wacom pen.
The NEW Wacom Intuos Pro Small makes its way back into my life and my backpack!
Apple’s AirPower was supposed to be the only wireless charger you would need. One charging mat that lets you charge an iPhone (or Android), Apple Watch and AirPods. Apple decided to cancel the AirPower before it ever shipped. They sited quality/technical difficulties. I can only imagine that this was because you would have been able to put your phone, watch or AirPods anywhere on the mat. Since the Apple Watch doesn’t use a standard Qi charger I’m sure it was hard to make it work when placed anywhere on the mat.
There are lots of Qi wireless chargers on the market. Some are designed just to charge a phone while other bigger mats are designed to charge two to three devices. I originally went with the Nomad Wireless Charger as it was one of the first to have an integrated Apple Watch charger. The Nomad solution works fine, but what I didn’t like about it was that it was one configuration. You lay your phone on it either vertically or horizontally and you put your watch on the dedicated spot. If you want to charge a third device then you put the phone vertically in the middle. What I don’t like about this is that you have to put the phone on it just right (not to far forward and not too far towards the front) or it won’t be on one of the three charging coils and therefore it won’t charge. I have woke up on occasion only to realize that my phone didn’t charge because it wasn’t sitting on it just right.
SliceCharge Pro offers six high speed charging coils instead of three or four
There are several security web cameras and video doorbells on the market right now. Each as you would expect has its advantages and disadvantages over the other one. While there are several viable options out there, today I’m going to focus on three that I use regularly. All of these webcams connect to your home/office network via Wi-Fi. By no means should you walk away thinking that these are the only three options. However, these are the three that I’ve had the most direct experience with.
Why use more than one brand?
You can absolutely get good cameras from any of the three vendors I’m reviewing today and use that brand exclusively. However, sticking with a single brand may mean that you’re missing out on other features and uses that you may be interested in. For example, I like my Ring cameras because Ring offers solar powered options that don’t require a power outlet outside the house or having to constantly take them down and charge their internal batteries. Ring also works with Amazon Echo (Alexa) smart speakers with displays so that you can view them in any room without having to fire up the app on your phone.
Nest offers both indoor and outdoor cameras that work just as good as the ones from the other two vendors, but I really like that they offer of all things a native Apple TV app so that I can view my cameras on the big screen.
Logitech offers cameras that cost less and have the big advantage of having native HomeKit support. Having HomeKit support means that the cameras can be integrated into HomeKit Automations. For example, if someone walks within range of a camera at night it can trigger lights inside and/or outside the home to come on automatically. Logitech also lets you do more without having to pay for a monthly subscription to store the videos in the cloud. Because Nest cameras are powered via AC they are always recording/streaming whether there is activity or not. This way you can look at any timeframe to see what happened even if there wasn’t a specific event trigger.
I love all of these features and use them daily, but don’t worry, I’ll tell you by the end of this post which camera I’d go with if I could only pick one.
In case you missed it, Apple has officially announced the end of life of AirPort Base Stations. They will continue to sell existing stock, but the product will not get any new features and Apple will no longer develop this product line. What does that mean for existing users? If you have an existing AirPort WiFi network and it’s up and running with no issues, you’re probably fine for a while. I have three of the latest AirPort Extreme Base Stations and haven’t had any issues. They just work! However, I just replaced them. Why? Although I wasn’t having ANY issues with my existing WiFi network, I’m asked for recommendations all the time. I don’t like to recommend products that I haven’t actually used. Also I looked at this time as a opportunity to try something new. Apple AirPort Base Stations haven’t had any real new features in years. Now that they’ll no longer be selling them (once stock clears), I wondered what Apple would be recommending to customers? One of the systems they sell in the Apple Stores and online is the Linksys Velop system.
Linksys Velop has over 4,100 reviews on Amazon.com and has a 4.5 star rating
Any product that has that many reviews on Amazon and manages to still have a 4.5 star rating means that people must really like it. I got mine setup and I could easily give it a 4+ star rating, but it’s not perfect…
This is a follow up to my post back June 17th, 2016. Back then I had just moved to my new home and back then the only wired option for broadband internet was AT&T U-verse. Sadly the maximum speed was only 18Mbps down and a paltry 1.8Mbps up. Although Comcast’s Xfinity was available in my subdivision, they hadn’t run lines yet to the newly developed area.
6 months later I have Xfinity high speed internet again
I’ve reviewed portable speakers here before. I usually find one that I like. It sounds pretty good. It travels well and I use it until something better comes along. However, this time I don’t really need a new travel speaker as much as I just want a portable speaker that I can use at home in my office, move around from room to room, use out on the patio and yes even travel with it if needed. I have been a fan of Bose products for a long long time. I have been eyeing the Bose Soundlink Mini II as the “I’m going to get that speaker one day”, next on my buy list. However, at the $199 asking price, I just never got around to buying it. My buddy Jason Levine has one and swears by it. Jason is a musician and an audiophile, so I would definitely believe in his recommendations on speakers and audio gear. I’m not an audiophile and I just want something that sounds really good. At $199 though, something always comes up that I’d rather have when I’m ready to buy.
Many of you know that I’m also a big fan of Anker products and while I have been paying attention mostly to their portable backup batteries and USB chargers, one day I noticed that they also sold something called the “Anker Premium Stereo Bluetooth Speaker.” I noticed that this speaker bears a striking resemblance to the Bose speaker (many do). The one thing that was definitely different was the asking price! It’s only $59.99 (here)! At $60 bucks it was definitely worth a shot. I got one, and was immediately impressed by the build quality and packaging. It didn’t feel cheap. It felt every bit as good as a more expensive speaker, but the big question was “how does it sound?” I paired it with my iPhone 6s Plus and went to my iTunes app. I fell back in my chair when I heard the music and my first response was WHOA! I can feel the bass! Most portable speakers (especially in this price range) don’t have a lot of bass response and while I’m not an audiophile it sounds every bit as good as the Bose speaker. Even if you’re an audiophile and you tell me “Terry, the Bose speaker does sound better.” My response would be, “Does it sound $140 better?” It doesn’t.
It has everything I was looking for. It’s a little bigger than my Jambox and works over Bluetooth, but still has an AUX in port to connect other sources. It comes with a USB cable for charging and even an audio cable to use with the AUX in port. The only thing that it doesn’t come with that I wish it did was a carrying case or pouch to put it in for travel. The speaker charges via USB and is rated to give you 8 hours of music playback on a single charge. You can also just leave it plugged in if you’re going to be in one spot near a USB charger (not included). It also doesn’t come with a remote control, but these are omissions that I don’t mind at this price. It comes in black or white and you can order one here. You have to hear it to believe it at that price.
The single biggest frustration in my recent move is that my only available internet provider at the moment is AT&T Uverse. It was either go with AT&T or no internet (satellite internet is even worse) or have no home internet at all. Having had cable internet since 1999 I was spoiled by the relatively fast speeds I was getting. My last place had Comcast Xfinity internet and I was getting 120 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up. Since I work from home, having faster internet is a must. While I did move to a more rural area, Comcast IS in the neighborhood. As a matter of fact if I look out my back window I can literally see a house that has Xfinity:
The joys of new construction – AT&T Uverse was smart enough run their lines early
My new house was built on a new street. Since the street is new, it doesn’t yet show up in many business service databases. In order to get service to a new address, Comcast sends out a person to do a survey. If this person feels that you can get service without a lot of effort, they add your new address to their system and then you can place an order and get services installed. However, if the person doing the survey feels that there would need to be “construction” done to run the lines to your street, then it has to be financially approved and scheduled before you can get service.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member then you were probably given the chance to order an Amazon Echo early and for the introductory price of $99. I took them up on their offer and ordered the Amazon Echo a few months back. I wasn’t really sure what it would do for me or if it would be worth it. I received my unit and went through the setup process using the iPhone app. It was pretty easy to setup, connect it to my WiFi network and configure it with my Pandora Radio and iHeart Radio accounts. From that point on I could just say “Alexa” and ask it pretty much anything that I wanted to know. Rather than write about it I decided to give you a video demonstration:
I gotta say that I’m pretty impressed with it and especially the accuracy of the voice recognition. I use it for music the most. It’s cool being able to say play songs by _______ or have it play any of my Pandora Radio stations. I don’t have a daily commute, but if I did it would be great to say “what’s the traffic look like?” and have it give me current traffic conditions from my home to my work place. To answer the question, YES the Amazon Echo was absolutely worth the $99 special price. Now the question is is it worth the current price of $179.99? I would say mostly yes for the music aspect of it and the home automation potential. It’s also cool that new capabilities are being added to it on a regular basis. It works as advertised. One way to justify it is to keep in mind that there are bluetooth speakers out there that cost just as much and do a whole lot less. The sound coming from Amazon Echo is as good if not better than most other “dumb” speakers out there today.