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BeoPlay H8 - Gray Hazel
BeoPlay H8 - Gray Hazel
Price: $499.00
4 used & new from $424.15

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very solid high-quality comfortable headphones with noise-cancellation that works well, March 8, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Rating 5/5

First impressions

* The packaging is elegant, as you’d expect and demand for an expensive pair of headphones.

* The headphones look and feel very solid. They are perceptibly heavier than most other on-ear headphones - if you lift the headphones up slightly so that the headband is no longer touching your head, they’ll slip back down under their own weight. Also, if you turn your head quickly, the weight of the headphones is noticeable. However, this doesn’t affect comfort.

* The noise cancellation is immediately noticeable. I haven’t used noise-cancelling headphones before so I’m not sure what the state-of-the-art capabilities are. These headphones are great at eliminating background hum, but they don’t cancel voices well. With noise cancellation on and no music playing, you couldn’t call these headphones silent. There’s a perceptible low-level hiss, similar to that you hear from most audio equipment when there’s no input connected. The hiss may be there too with noise-cancellation off, just drowned out by the background noise.

Usage notes

* These are on-ear not over-the-ear headphones, but they are comfortable to use, and pretty good at blocking out background noise even with noise-cancellation off.

* My ears do feel a little warm having worn them for some time, but this doesn’t get worse with extended use. I’ve never felt the need to take them off because my ears felt too warm.

* The headphones use capacitive touch controls to adjust the volume, play/pause, etc. These are fairly intuitive, although it takes a little getting used to as you can’t see what you’re doing. There’s no tactile feedback as you’d get with physical buttons, but I haven’t had any problems after I got used to it. The on/off/bluetooth switch is a physical switch. Touch controls need power to operate, so the on/off switch can’t be touch controlled.

* The touch controls don’t work when bluetooth is disabled or the headphones are used in wired mode. Noise-cancellation is always on in these situations. You can’t turn it off.

Undocumented features

* The headphones have a built-in microphone and work as a bluetooth headset (but not a wired one when using the cable connection), which is an unadvertised feature. Perhaps this is because, due to a limitation of the Bluetooth protocol, audio output is limited to 8 kHz mono in headset mode. This is roughly the audio quality you’ll get over a standard landline or cellphone call, but significantly worse than the higher quality audio available with Skype and Google Hangouts, so these services will not sound as good as they would with a wired or RF headset. The Play H8 will automatically switch between headphone (high quality stereo, playback only) and headset (8 kHz mono, mic and playback) modes. I tested this on Windows 8 and found that when watching video in headphone mode, if a Hangouts or Skype call comes in, the sound from the video cuts out and the call audio takes over. When you finish the call, sound from the video resumes after a second or two.

Nice touches

* The battery can be easily replaced, unlike most wireless headphones. Rechargeable batteries don’t last forever - definitely less than a good pair of headphones - so this is a great feature.
* “R”/”L” is printed in large font inside each ear cup. There’s no searching for small text to tell which ear is which!

Overall

* Very solid high-quality headphones that come in elegant packaging. The difference is clear compared to lower-priced units. They are comfortable to use, even for extended periods, and the active noise-cancellation works well. I would definitely recommend these headphones if you can afford them!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 23, 2015 7:05 AM PDT


Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 3000
Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 3000
Price: $13.49
71 used & new from $11.75

2.0 out of 5 stars The Windows Vista of Microsoft keyboards, December 12, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
In a way, the Microsoft Comfort Curve Keyboard 3000 is like Windows Vista: change a good product into something weird and clumsy to use, advertise it as a new and improved update when in fact it's not that similar to the old one, and stop making the older and better version.

The only advantage this has over the Comfort Curve 2000 is that it doesn't take up as much space on your desk because it doesn't have the top bunch of silver buttons that I never used. Also, it's an inexpensive keyboard, so at least you're not losing much money.

But in making it smaller, Microsoft also made it less convenient to type on:
--The keys are smaller and closer together. The Esc and Fn keys in particular are tiny.

--There is no space between the main keyboard and the arrow keys. There is likewise no space between the number pad and the arrow keys.

--The keys don't have the "crisp" feel of the Comfort Curve 2000. I feel my hands flexing more. This may be a personal preference.

--There are five rubber pieces on the bottom of the keyboard, one in each corner and one under the space bar. The ones in the corners are about 2 inches wide. All five pieces must lie on the same plane in order for it not to jump and bounce. That means that if all five pieces are not lying on a perfectly flat and level surface, then the keyboard will bounce. I have an L-shaped desk that comes in three parts, and I have my keyboard at the junction of those three parts. It's easy for one of the rubber pieces to lay over one of the "seams". When it does, it's no longer flat, and the keyboard jumps around. This wasn't a problem with the Comfort Curve 2000 because it had little feet rather than two-inch rubber pads.

--There are no feet underneath to adjust the height.

By the way, as with the Comfort Curve 2000, the cord is too short if your computer sits on the floor.


Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 with Built-In Multi-Touch Touchpad, Black
Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 with Built-In Multi-Touch Touchpad, Black
Price: $24.99
102 used & new from $20.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Best of its kind by far, November 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
My husband has a computer that displays using a projector on the wall. He's had other keyboards with built-in mouse, and I found them totally unusable. This is, without a doubt, the very best. The touchpad is responsive and easy to control, the keys are easy to type on, and the keyboard is lightweight yet sturdy.

There is also a mouse click button in the top right that I use quite often, as it can be awkward to click the buttons below the touchpad.

One possible concern is for left-handed people, as there doesn't seem to be a version with the touchpad on the left.

I would also have liked to see a number pad, but I understand that design considerations may have made that unfeasible.


Xpad (Non-slip Laptop Cooler and Heatshield)
Xpad (Non-slip Laptop Cooler and Heatshield)
Offered by EDOVA Innovations LLC
Price: $24.95
3 used & new from $17.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprised, November 14, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I have struggled with heating problems with my laptop. For those who are unaware, heating problems not only can damage the internal parts, but they also reduce battery capacity over the long term. With the trend toward non-replaceable batteries, keeping your laptop cool is now more important than ever.

I've tried several coolers that plug in via USB and blow out air. Logically, it makes sense that those coolers would work. But surprisingly, this low-tech pad works better than the others, I suspect because it allows the heat to escape rather than getting neutralized. As another plus, it doesn't require any battery charge because it doesn't plug into the USB port.

The cooler isn't cheap. I do think it's probably overpriced for the material and production costs. But it works better than any other cooler I've tried, so that makes it worth the cost for me.


SanDisk Ultra II 240GB SATA III 2.5-Inch 7mm Height Solid State Drive (SSD) With Read Up To 550MB/s- SDSSDHII-240G-G25
SanDisk Ultra II 240GB SATA III 2.5-Inch 7mm Height Solid State Drive (SSD) With Read Up To 550MB/s- SDSSDHII-240G-G25
Price: $93.99
56 used & new from $81.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best value for money SSD there is right now, November 7, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is the second SanDisk SSD I have reviewed (I did the Extreme SSD 120 GB in Oct 2012 - it's still going strong by the way) and the advances since then are remarkable. The price per gigabyte has dropped from $1.40 to $0.43 (thats a 69% drop!) and while the sequential read performance hasn't changed much, the sequential write speed has more than tripled!

As I've said in the past, there's not much point in me doing detailed measurements of the drive performance, since the major review sites have already done these several times over, better than I could (e.g. http://www.anandtech.com/show/8520/sandisk-ultra-ii-240gb-ssd-review
http://www.tweaktown.com/reviews/6672/sandisk-ultra-ii-240gb-ssd-review-sandisk-tlc-nand-flash-takes-shape/index.html). However, what I will say is that I'm very pleased with this drive and would wholeheartedly recommend it. It's the best value for money you can get in an SSD at this time and the performance is very solid. If you're still rocking a regular hard drive, there's never been a better time to go SSD. This will give you the biggest performance bump of any upgrade you can do for your PC.

Finally, in case you're not sure of the difference between SSDs and hard drives, here's an explanation from my previous SanDisk SSD review

"The main difference between a solid-state drive (SSD) and a regular hard drive is how it stores data. In a regular hard drive, the data is stored in trillions of tiny spots on the surface of a spinning circular disk.
These spots are arranged in circular tracks, and there is a reading and writing "head" attached to an arm that can move in and out over the disk, to access every track. Each spot can be in a magnetized or unmagnetized state, which the head reads and writes to store binary 0's and 1's. An SSD is different. It stores data as electric charge in "NAND flash" computer chips. Imagine a balloon that you can charge up by rubbing it on your hair and then it sticks to the wall. The balloon can be either charged or uncharged, corresponding to 1 or 0. Each NAND flash chip contains billions of transistors, and the inputs of these transistors can be compared to tiny tiny balloons that you can charge up or discharge to store data.

The advantage of regular hard drives is they are cheaper to make than SSDs. Although the price of SSDs is dropping fast, you can still get a hard drive with about twelve times the capacity for the same price. SSDs win out in almost all other cases. In a regular hard disk, to read data you have to move the read/write head to the track the data is on, then wait for the disk to spin around until the data you want rotates under the head. Both of these steps take longer than it does to actually read the data. Then, if you want to read another file on a different part of the disk, you have to do this all over again. This is why hard drives are a lot slower reading many small files (e.g. when a computer is booting up) compared to reading one large file with the same overall size. With an SSD there is no read/write head to move, or spinning disk.
It takes the same time to read two files stored one after the other as it does for two files spaced far apart. While SSDs are also just inherently faster reading and writing each bit of data, it is this lack of delay between reading files on different parts of the disk that makes such a noticeable difference in performance. Booting up and starting applications are two situations that involve reading many small files, and thus benefit significantly from an SSD. SSDs have no moving parts, so there is nothing that will mechanically break down, and they are less sensitive to mechanical shock. It also means they are silent. SSDs also require a little less power, giving you a small increase in battery life. One caution is that SSDs are still relatively new compared to regular hard drives. Hard drives have been around so long that practically all the bugs have been ironed out, but there have been some issues with SSDs. These are typically bugs in the firmware code that controls how the drive operates. However, these bugs have been relative rare, and are getting rarer as the technology matures."


Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home 13.0, English
Dragon NaturallySpeaking Home 13.0, English
Price: $58.47
41 used & new from $44.39

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to like it but found it frustrating and annoying, October 19, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am writing this review using the Dragon NaturallySpeaking 13 Home Edition software and Microsoft Word 2010. I really wanted to like this software, but unfortunately I can’t recommend the Home Edition because it has too many limitations in terms of what programs it can work with and some other annoyances. My experience with the software did pique my interest with the premium and professional editions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking. (I would still need to check whether some of the problems I encountered with the Home Edition apply to the premium and professional editions as well.)

There are a few important things to know before you buy this product.

1) Be prepared to spend time learning to use the software. While the tutorial that you get when you first install the software is helpful in getting started, there are so many commands that you really *need* to learn before you can use it effectively. I highly recommend the book Dragon NaturallySpeaking for Dummies by Stephanie Diamond. You can’t just read the book once and put it away. You have to really keep the book by your side and refer to it as you use the software.

2) Do not have any expectation that you will be able to stop using your hands and mouse. While the software is designed and advertised as a replacement for your hands, make no mistake: you will still need to use your hands. If you are particularly eloquent and careful, you probably won’t have to rely on your hands as much as if you are not particularly eloquent and careful. But even if you are in the former category, you will still need to use your hands.

3) You won’t necessarily save time by using the software. While Dragon is obviously less physically demanding, I have found that it probably takes more time to use Dragon than to type, and it is certainly more mentally taxing. I could almost certainly have typed this review more quickly than I have dictated it with Dragon. But then again, I’m a very fast typer.

4) This is a resource hog. I run a high-powered computer, and even when there is just one or two other applications open in addition to the application that I’m using Dragon for, I still experience problems with hangups and occasionally with freezes. One time it froze the entire computer so that I couldn't simply end the process using the task manager. Sometimes, when you say a command, the small command box that shows what command you just said stays on the screen even when the rest of the program seems to have moved on.

Unlike some of the reviewers, I didn’t have any problems with installing or setting up the software. But after a Windows update, Dragon no longer worked correctly. I had to uninstall it completely and reinstall it. The box doesn’t say how many computers you can install this on, so that something you should check into.

There are several missing features that I hope Nuance incorporates into future versions of the software because their absence is really annoying.

1) Right now you can’t format the text, e.g., underline or italicize or bold the text, beforehand. You have to do it retroactively. Right now you have to speak the words and then say “underline that” after you have spoken the words. As you can imagine, the software might not underline exactly the parts you want underlined. I would love to see the ability to do the equivalent of pressing Ctrl+U before the words you want underlined, say the words, and then press Ctrl+U again to resume normally.

2) It would be great if you could change or insert a single word within a phrase or sentence. Right now you have three options. You can have Dragon “correct” the word. The problem is, each of these corrections is and interpreted by Dragon as an error on their end, so it gets incorporated into the “learning” that Dragon does for each user. When it was a mistake on your end and not Dragon's end, you don’t want that happening because it could affect your future use of the software. The second option is to say “undo that” or “scratch that” to have Dragon delete last phrase that you said. Depending on your pauses, that could have been a pretty long phrase, so you would need to say it all again. A somewhat related but better option is to say “resume with [word before your mistake]” which essentially deletes everything you have said since that mistake.

It would be so much better if you could tell it to replace a certain word, or perhaps highlight that word, so you can dictate the new word. Or to insert something after word that you said in the phrase that you just dictated. This would be particularly useful for punctuation. Because you have to tell Dragon all the punctuation marks, it’s easy to read text and forget to insert those commands while you are reading it. If you notice that you forgot a punctuation mark, you either have to use the spoken commands to delete everything you said after the point that the punctuation mark should have been, or you have to use your mouse and keyboard to insert the punctuation mark.

3) Dragon has something called the dictation box that you use whenever you want to insert text into programs that aren’t supported by the version of Dragon you have. I’ve encountered problems and annoyances with the dictation box. You can't click outside the dictation box while you are dictating text into it. That means that you can’t look at a page on the internet or in another document that would help you complete the dictation. The bigger problem that I encountered with the dictation box, and the reason that I will probably not use Dragon for any of the programs that are not supported, is that sometimes when I say “click transfer” it doesn’t transfer, and all the text is lost from the dictation box. This happened a few times when I was typing notes into PowerPoint and also when I was using specialized software to create multiple choice questions. I had dictated some pretty lengthy text into the dictation box and then transferred it, but it didn’t transfer. It took a while for me to re-dictate all of it. While this is more likely to happen if you dictate a large amount of text at once, I also had it happen when I dictated just one sentence. Then again, it often didn't happen when I dictated large amounts. But if you want to make sure that you will not have to say the text over again, you need to copy the text in the dictation box before you transfer it.

I understand that Dragon cannot work with every program, and that may be more a limitation with the other programs rather than a limitation with Dragon. But a simple feature such as having the contents of the dictation box copied to a clipboard/history within the program would alleviate the problem.

When you are using a program that Dragon supports, such as Microsoft Word 2010 or 2013, then you don’t have to deal with the dictation box. The more advanced editions support programs like Excel and PowerPoint, but the Home Edition does not. Since I do a lot of work on PowerPoint, Dragon is pretty much useless for it. I don’t know if the more advanced editions have some of the other problems that I mentioned. If they do not, then I would be interested in trying those out.

I really wanted to like this program and gave it a fair chance despite the frustrations such as having to completely uninstall and reinstall it after a Windows update. I also got the book to learn to use the features of the software.

I appreciate the idea behind the program and also appreciate Nuance's commitment to developing and improving the program because the technology has a lot of potential to help those who are impaired physically. I just really wish that my experience with the program was better.


PEET Dryer M14 03 Odor Eliminator
PEET Dryer M14 03 Odor Eliminator
Price: $50.45
8 used & new from $49.99

1.0 out of 5 stars Useless, October 12, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
To test this product, I walked a day in a pair of old shoes using socks that had already been worn the day before. After I took them off, I felt and smelled them to make sure they were about the same. Then I put the PEET Odor Eliminator in the right shoe only and turned it on.

I let it go through the 6 hour cycle, at which point it automatically stops. I then felt and smelled the shoes, expecting the right one (the one with the odor eliminator) to be dryer and less smelly than the left one. Nope.

The next day I repeated the experiment with another pair of shoes, putting the odor eliminator in one of the shoes but not the other. I didn't tell my husband which shoe had the odor eliminator in it, and I had him feel and smell the shoes. He said the one WITHOUT the product in it was a tiny bit less smelly!


NOCO XGrid XGB6 22Wh Rugged USB Battery Pack
NOCO XGrid XGB6 22Wh Rugged USB Battery Pack
Price: $44.33
17 used & new from $44.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Chunky but valuable if paired with solar panels, September 30, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First off, be careful when you take it out of the shipping box. The sleeve on the outside of the box fits very loosely and is slippery, and the inner box holding the battery dropped as soon as I picked it up, and it dropped again the second time I picked it up.

I have to chuckle at the "ultra portable and lightweight" description. This thing is chunky! Definitely not something you could slip into your purse and carry with you. And considering the size of other external batteries that have as much or more capacity, I have a feeling it's chunkier than it needs to be. The product isn't meant to be used as an external battery to be carried in your purse, however. Rather, it's designed to be rugged and withstand harsher conditions. Although I haven't done torture tests on it, it does seem quite sturdy.

The real value of this battery pack comes when it's paired with the solar panels, which are sold separately. They cost quite a bit, but they add a lot of value to the battery pack. You're least likely to have access to an outlet when you're doing something outdoors. Since you may have others with you, and those people are looking to recharge as well, you could find that a battery pack is insufficient for that many people. Instead of bringing multiple battery packs, you can pair it up with the solar panels and recharge the battery pack. This pack is absolutely perfect for a day at the beach as long as you're really careful about not getting sand in it. Or a long picnic. Or a multi-day camping trip. There are many possibilities.

Not to mention, you'll be acting in an environmentally responsible manner.


Crucial MX100 256GB SATA 2.5-Inch Internal Solid State Drive (CT256MX100SSD1)
Crucial MX100 256GB SATA 2.5-Inch Internal Solid State Drive (CT256MX100SSD1)
Price: $112.00
67 used & new from $94.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Provides adapter to convert from traditional hard drives in laptops, July 27, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Besides being competitively priced for a solid state drive of this capacity, the Crucial MX100 has a distinct advantage over other solid state drives. Traditional laptop hard drives are 9.5mm thick, while solid state drives are 7mm thick. The Crucial MX100 has an adapter that allows you to put this in a laptop that used to have a traditonal hard drive. Without this adapter, the drive would not have fit into my laptop because my laptop's hard drive is not screwed in.

Note: The adapter is only for laptops. If you want to install this in a desktop, you need to buy a bracket. Also, if your laptop has a hard drive held in with screws (mine didn't), you don't need the adapter.


Belkin QODE Universal Portable Keyboard for 7-Inch and 8-Inch Tablets (Compatible with iPad mini and Galaxy Tab 4)(F5L154ttBLK)
Belkin QODE Universal Portable Keyboard for 7-Inch and 8-Inch Tablets (Compatible with iPad mini and Galaxy Tab 4)(F5L154ttBLK)
Price: $61.99
21 used & new from $17.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars May not fit your tablet well, mute key doesn't work, July 12, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was excited to be offered a Nexus 7 compatible keyboard case to review. Unfortunately, although the case fits and the keyboard works, it's a sub par experience.

The one size fits all (7-8 inch tablets) approach taken by Belkin with this case results in far too many compromises. Since it has to fit an 8-inch tablet, a 7-inch tab like my Nexus 7 (2012) is swimming in this case. It's extremely thick too...more than double the thickness of my keyboard-less case, and also noticeably thicker than the other keyboard case I've tried (Logitech Fabric Skin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air).

Another compromise is that to accommodate different sized tablets, the case uses plastic cups anchored with elastic straps to hold the corners of the tablet. This means the tablet isn't locked tightly in position. There's a some play for it to stretch up, down, left and right, and towards you, perhaps a quarter of an inch.

As I said, functionally, the keyboard works fine, apart, strangely, from the mute key. Play, pause, volume up and down all work properly, but not mute! I typed this review on it. It took some getting used to the small size, but it was still far more efficient than the onscreen keyboard. I haven't had a chance to personally test the battery life yet, but the specifications quote 155 hours active battery life. As long as this isn't a gross overestimate, you'll hardly ever need to charge it.

Perhaps the biggest failing on Belkin's part is the poor documentation. If you like a puzzle challenge, then this may be the case for you! The instructions for setting up the bluetooth connection with your tablet consist only of two vague pictographs.

I can see Belkin's reasoning with this product. It's cheaper to make a case that can fit multiple different tablets, and it allows them to offer a keyboard case for tablets which don't have enough market share to make a dedicated case economically feasible. But, the compromises required to do this are severe. If you have a tablet for which there is a dedicated keyboard case available, you're much better off getting that. However, if you don't own one of the most popular tablets, this may be your only choice.

Full disclosure: I received a free test version of this keyboard to review but was not compensated otherwise.


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