3 New Additions to My Smart Home

I recently added three new items to my smart home. The first one is one I’ve been waiting for the longest. When my home was built in 2016 I went with a Ring Pro doorbell. It was a good choice at the time and has worked well for me. However, my smart home platform of choice is Apple’s HomeKit and Ring is not native to HomeKit. While I was able to integrate it through unofficial HomeBridge support, HomeBridge doesn’t give it all the available features of HomeKit and now HomeKit Secure Video. While there have been a couple of entries into the HomeKit video doorbell market, one is extremely expensive and the other one doesn’t yet support HomeKit Secure Video. That all changed last week with the introduction of Logitech’s Circle View Wired Doorbell.

Logitech Circle View Wired Doorbell

Logitech is no stranger to HomeKit. Their Logitech Circle cameras are in use and loved by many, but this is their first entry into the video doorbell market. Sometimes it’s better not to be first. By taking their time they got many things right out of the gate that others still struggle with. First and foremost this doorbell not only supports HomeKit but also supports HomeKit Secure Video which is Apple’s locally encrypted video stored in iCloud. Most others promise this feature in an upcoming software update or not at all. Logitech built it in from the start. They also did a great job including everything you would need including a choice of mounting brackets.

Here’s my video review:

Continue reading “3 New Additions to My Smart Home”

The Best Keyboard for iPad Pro

Logitech Create Keyboard for iPad Pro

For whatever reason Apple didn’t have the Apple branded iPad Pro accessories widely available on day one. Although you could walk into an Apple Store and pick up the iPad Pro of your choice you had to wait for Apple Pencil and the Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro. Although I had preordered all 3 items together, the iPad Pro arrived two days later, but the Apple Pencil and Apple Smart Keyboard for iPad Pro didn’t arrive till several days later. I had already sourced another Apple Pencil from the Apple Store in Michigan (thanks Linda) and I gave up waiting for the Apple Smart Keyboard to arrive. Instead I drove to my local Best Buy and picked up the Logitech Create Keyboard for iPad Pro. I’m so glad I went this route instead. Had the Apple keyboard arrived on time I may have never looked at the Logitech Create. I would have been missing out!

Here’s why the Logitech Create Keyboard for iPad Pro is sooooo much better…

Continue reading “The Best Keyboard for iPad Pro”

The Logitech Type+ for iPad Air 2 is Just Right

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This is probably my third or forth Logitech keyboard for iPad and this one by far is the closest one to being perfect. The Logitech Type+ is a both a bluetooth keyboard and protective case. What makes this one better than the previous models is that Logitech made it even thinner so that it doesn’t add much bulk to your nice new iPad Air 2.

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The keyboard layout is also better. With the previous mode I was constantly hitting the  the home key (returning to the home screen) when trying to type a 1. They moved the home button up to the row at the top on this layout (thank you!). Lastly I love the way that they integrated the ability to lay the iPad flat over the keyboard when you just want to use the iPad without using the keyboard without having to remove it from the case.

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Actually the keyboard is activated when you put the iPad in the “stand” position where it magnetically held in place right above the keyboard. The only thing keeping this case from being “perfect” is that you cant’ use it if you want to stand your iPad up in the vertical position. Sure you can hold it vertically, but you wont be able to stand it that way.

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If you have an iPad Air 2 this is the best keyboard case I’ve seen. You can get it here.

If you have the original iPad Air, then I’d recommend this one.



Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air Review

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Having been a fan of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Covers for my previous generations iPads, I was more than just a little interested in their new additions. I didn’t even know that this new had come out until my buddy Jason Levine got one for his new iPad Air. I spent a few minutes with his and I could easily see how much of an improvement it was over the older design. While the older designed magnetically attached to your iPad, it really offered no protection to the back whatsoever. This new “folio design offers scratch protection to all sides of your iPad Air (or iPad mini) and gives you a nice Ultrathin Keyboard to boot. The reason I went with the Ultrathin Keyboards from the beginning is because I felt all other keyboard cases were just too bulky and unattractive. The Ultrathin Keyboard Folio feels nice in my hands and is not too thick.

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How does it work?

You simply snap your iPad into the Keyboard Folio and turn it on. Mine showed up immediately in the iPad’s bluetooth settings and connected. That’s it. When you stand the iPad up it magnetically snaps to the keyboard and can begin typing. The keyboard keys are layed out about as comfortably as I would expect and gives me the all important Shift key on both sides that many iPad keyboard lack. The number keys also serve dual duty with the Fn button allowing you to do things like change the iPad volume and fast forward or rewind movies. You can even use the Command key as you would on a Mac for things like Command-C to copy or Command-V to paste.

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I love the fact that you can lay it down on top of the keyboard for those times when you want to play a game or draw on the iPad and you don’t need a keyboard. With the old Ultrathin cover there was no way to do this other than disconnecting the keyboard and laying it aside. There’s even a holder for a stylus built right in. The battery life is rated at 3 MONTHS per charge! That’s with an average of 2 hours per day of use.

Good, but you can’t have everything

One thing I do miss with the older model is the ability to stand the iPad up on the keyboard in portrait/tall orientation. There’s no way to do that with this folio model.

Did Logitech address a potential design flaw?

If you go to Amazon and read the reviews you’ll find several that complain about the the upper left support cracking after a short amount of time. I noticed that on some the upper left support is “cut out” revealing the iPad power button (see the very first picture in this post). I’m guessing this is the “newer” model because it’s the one that Logitech features/pictures on their site.

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The older perhaps flawed model has a complete cover over the iPad power button. This is the one I have, so I’ll be monitoring it closely. Clearly there are two versions of this model and I’m guessing the one with the cutout (picture’d below from the Logitech site and at the very top of this post on a friend’s cover) is the newer one that solves the problem. There doesn’t appear to be a problem with the version for the iPad mini.

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Note the stylus holder on the right in the image below.

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They are available in multiple colors.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air here.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad mini here.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air Review

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Hands down the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover has been my choice for iPad keyboards. I had one on my 3rd generation iPad and even one on my iPad mini. When the iPad Air came out I decided it was time to upgrade and of course replace the iPad 3rd generation. The one piece I had already begun to miss was my keyboard. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad’s onscreen keyboard is fine for typing quick, short things. However, I often use my iPad during travel and in flight instead of my MacBook Pro. This usually means I’m responding to email and writing. For these longer sessions, I’m spoiled by a physical keyboard. Logitech wasted no time in getting out the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air. Just like the previous models it connects wirelessly via bluetooth, but it’s also a smart cover that magnetically attaches to the iPad itself. Once you disconnect the iPad from the keyboard you can stand the iPad Air up in the keyboard in either horizontal or vertical orientation.

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Logitech made some refinements from the original model that I had. The first one is that they got rid of the shinny plastic on top. It now has a more matte feel/look to it that will definitely not be as much of a fingerprint magnet. On the bottom they’ve attached very small rubber feet that should help prevent the back from getting scratched up so easily. Unfortunately the cover isn’t any thinner. This means that it will add some thickness to your nice thin iPad Air. It pretty much doubles the thickness when attached and closed.

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Overall I’m quite happy with this new version and glad to have a physical keyboard again. I did read some of the other reviews out there that complained about things like the magnet not being strong enough and I’ve no issues so far. As a matter of fact the magnet seems stronger than the previous model I had. My 3rd generation iPad would easily slide apart from the keyboard in my bag, but this one seems to stay in place. The battery life of the keyboard is insane. You can easily go weeks if not months between charges. It’s the best keyboard for iPad period.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover in Black/White for iPad Air Here.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover in Black/White for iPad 2, 3 and 4 Here.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover in Black/White for iPad mini Here.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini Review

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If I think about my favorite iPad accessories, there’s no question that the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is my favorite. The iPad is great and the on screen keyboard is fine for typing short messages or replies. However, when it comes to heavy text input or writing blog posts like this one, nothing beats a physical keyboard. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is the best one on market IMHO. It attaches magnetically and works just like an Apple Smart Cover. Read my original review here.

 

A physical keyboard for the iPad mini?

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When I saw that Logitech introduced an Ultrathin Keyboard mini for the iPad mini, the first thing I thought was “no way! It’s going to be too small.” The thing I like best about the original Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for the full size iPads is that it doesn’t feel cramped. It feels like a full-sized keyboard. I figured that the iPad mini was just too small and that if someone made a keyboard, it probably wouldn’t be a good experience. Nevertheless I was tempted and had to try the new Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini. The first thing I did when I took it out of the box was put my fingers on the home row.

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I was amazed! It felt fine. Sure it was a little smaller, but not bad at all. I was also pleasantly surprised to see Shift keys on both sides. Other keyboards I’ve tried for the 10″ iPads sometimes remove one of the Shift keys to make the layout fit better. I NEED BOTH SHIFT KEYS! However, Logitech did make a couple of compromises. The Caps Lock key shares the same key as the “A” key and you use the Function key to activate it. The Tab key also shares the same key as the letter “Q”. These were much smarter compromises than eliminating a Shift Key.

 

Great smart cover like design

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Like the regular Ultrathin Keyboard Cover, the Ultrathin Keyboard mini works as a smart cover and a stand for your iPad mini. As you can see in the photo, it shows off finger prints quite well too. It also has a “home” key that works like the home button on your iPad. Not to mention other iPad specific keys like volume controls, find, slideshow and text selection buttons. The Ultrathin Keyboard mini connects via Bluetooth and has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts about 3 months between charges assuming you’d use it 2 hours per day!

 

The Bottom Line

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Many will jump to tell me that “If you use an iPad there is no need for a physical keyboard or a stylus” and to those people I would say that you’re right. “Need” is a strong word, but I would also say that while the iPad and iPad mini work perfectly with your fingers, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times where a physical keyboard wouldn’t make things easier. Not to mention that only the Sith deal in absolutes 😉 The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard mini and Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover are great for those that want to travel with just an iPad/iPad mini and still get a lot of work done.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin mini for iPad mini here in black or directly from Logitech in black or white.

You can get the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad 2 and higher here in black or white

iCarbons Protects My Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad

Hands down, my favorite iPad Keyboard/Smart Cover is the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. However, the one problem with it is the back (the surface that will be on the table/desk) is susceptible to scratches and the front really shows off fingerprints.

iCarbons.com answered my call and designed skins to cover both the front and back of the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover. You have a choice of colors and even a couple of simulated wood tones. I went with the dark wood and it works great. These skins are not permanent and can easily be taken off or repositioned as needed.

They also make skins for the iPad itself. Thanks iCarbons for answering my needs here and being the 1st to market with a cover for my favorite iPad accessory.

Logitech Listened! C920 Webcam Has a Tripod Mount

In October 2011 I posted a rant asking Logitech to add a tripod mount to their webcams. While readers did point out that the C615 does in fact have one, my webcam of choice was the C910, which did not have one. “Hey Terry! Why do you even need a webcam since your MacBook Pro has an HD FaceTime camera built-in?” The FaceTime HD camera that is built-in to my MacBook Pro is fine for video chat, Skype, FaceTime, etc. however, for my video recording/podcasting needs I want to be able to mount the camera higher than the top of my laptop. Logitech seemed to be stuck on this being the only option for the majority of their cameras. I did ultimately get a C615 and I use it on the road because it’s so small. I usually mount it to a Gorillapod and life is good. However, when I’m in studio or at home I prefer the higher quality of the C…… oh wait, they have a new one….

The Logitech C920 is What I Asked For!

Hands down the NEW Logitech C920 has to be the best if not one of the best webcams for the money. The video quality is crystal clear and smooth. Also at long last it has a standard tripod mount in the base! Woohoo!

You can immediately see the advantage of being able to mount the camera where you want in the sample above. I’m sitting at my desk and the FaceTime HD camera is tilted up so that I can see my screen. However, the Logitech C920 is mounted on a tripod right in front of my desk and is aimed straight on. This way I can put the camera where ever I want. You can even see the difference in lighting/quality in these unretouched/unadjusted screen grabs.

I record my video tutorials/demos using Screenflow. Screenflow recognized the new camera right away with no need to install any drivers or other software.

“Terry, can’t you use your Nikon D7000 or D4 for even better quality?” Sure and I have used my DSLRs for better quality than these sub $100 webcams. The problem though is that it adds to the post production process since the video would then have to sync’d and edited in afterwards vs recording directly into Screenflow. Also DSLR video is harder to focus when you’re working alone 🙂

They did more than just add a tripod mount

This camera got some beefier specs too! Adding onboard compression (reduces CPU usage of your computer) and H.264 as well.

The Bottom Line

This is my new favorite webcam for screen casting and recording my Creative Suite Video Podcast. You can get the Logitech C920 here for about $80. (List price $99.99)

Octava 3 Port HD Switch to the Rescue

When I named my top favorite gadgets of 2011, I also declared my Sony Google TV as the most disappointing gadget that I bought in 2011. One of the things that annoys me the most when I'm just watching TV on it is the overly complicated Input Selection implementation. Instead of simply pressing a input button and cycling through the available inputs, you get a menu on screen and then you have to cycle to the one you want and worse press the Select button to make your choice. While this isn't the end of the world using the supplied remote, it becomes a pain in the butt when trying to train universal remotes like my Harmony One or Harmony Link. The benefit of Harmony remotes is that you can press one button for the "Activity" you want and the remote will turn on/off all the appropriate gear and switch inputs. I was actually considering getting rid of this TV and replacing it with one that has regular Input selections. That's when I remembered my Octava HDMI 4×1 with Toslink switch that I use in my home theater. I wondered if Octava had an HDMI switch that would solve my problem in the room with the Sony Google TV and they did! It's their 3 Port HD Switch. Like all of their HDMI switches, it supports the latest HDMI standards, CDP, 1080p resolution and high speed for things like 3D TVs and Blu-ray players. It also come with an IR remote.

It works perfectly

I ordered the 3 Port HD Switch and got it with a Free HDMI cable. I set it up so that the output goes to the HDMI 1 port on the TV. I connected my TiVo Premiere XL to HDMI IN 1, Apple TV 2 to HDMI IN 2 and Sony Blu-ray player to HDMI IN 3. I had to reconfigure my Harmony One and Hamony Link to know about the Octava Switch. Now I can press one button to switch Activities and the Octava Switch switches to the right source as it should!

Normally I would only use the Octava HDMI switches when I have a shortage of HDMI ports, but this time it solved another problem.

You can learn about the Octava HDMI Switches here.

Hey Logitech! Can I get a tripod mount?

I'm really impressed by the video quality of Logitech's 1080p HD Web Cams. As a matter of fact I've started using them for my Adobe Creative Suite Podcast when I'm recording an episode in studio. The only problem that I have with them is that Logitech (along with all the other webcam makers) seem to think that the only place anyone would ever want to mount a webcam is on top of their monitors. The reality is I already have an HD webcam on my MacBook's. It's called an FaceTime HD Camera. If I'm doing a video chat it's great having it built-in. However, If I want the camera further back to capture more of the set that's when an external video camera works best. 

 

Drill a hole

There is no physical reason why the Logitech HD C910 pictured above couldn't have a standard tripod mount built-in. As you can see the mount is just dead weight with no electronics in it. There's even room for a standard mount without changing the design. I've even seen some do-it-your-selfers out there posting all the steps necessary to do it yourself. While I know it wouldn't take much for me to do it, there's not reason for Logitech not to build it in.

 

My Solution

Instead of drilling a hole. I just went with something I already had in studio. A Justin Clamp mounted on a light stand. These are great for mounting speed lights and holding reflectors on standard light stands. They also work great for holding the Logitech Web Cams. The only problem is that they cost almost as much as the webcams themselves. If you're buying one for just the purpose of holding a webcam or reflector, then there is a much lower cost alternative. The Manfrotto Spring Clamp is less than half the cost of the standard Manfrotto Spring Clamp with Flash Shoe and it gets the job done just as good. You can get one here for about $17 or less.

 

Logitech Could Even Take It Up A Notch Further

Besides adding a tripod mount hole they could really kick things up by adding or selling a separate stand to allow the camera to be pointed down at say, oh I don't know,  a mobile device such as a tablet or smartphone. More and more presenters are having to present from their mobile devices and the current solutions are expensive and bulky or low quality video. I love having video out on my iPad 2, but the problem with that is that people can't really see the gestures that you're doing. They just see things happing on the screen.  If a Logitech HD webcam could be mounted on a lightweight stand that's easy to travel with (See my Point 2 View review), then it would make them even more attractive.

 

What say you Logitech?

You build great webcams. Please look outside the box and look at more uses than just sitting it on top of a monitor!

 

UPDATE: Twitter follower @EricKintz alerted me to this Logitech Model (C615), which does in fact have a tripod mount on it. Woot!