Reviews

Nov 13 2017

Review - GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4 Z-Wave PLUS Garage Door Controller

The first time I went crazy with Z-Wave at my house, I had to build my own garage door controller. It was not hard, involving a Z-Wave switch, some components from Radio Shack and a door sensor – all tied together with a couple scenes. As I am sure you all know, time has been very kind to the home automation (HA) enthusiast. So this go around it was possible to buy an off-the-shelf controller that includes everything I needed in a convenient package. There are even a few different options, although most seem to be rebrands of the $83 ($90 SRP) Z-Wave PLUS GoControl/Linear GD00Z-4 I selected.

Nov 05 2017

Review - Insteon Home Solutions

I have an older home. One thing about older houses is pull chain lights, many, many pull chains. Anyone who has walked around a basement in the dark or near dark fishing for a light pull chain can attest that it is a massive pain. After one stubbed toe too many, I turned to home automation as a lower cost solution versus rewiring. With so many options to choose from, ranging from protocol+controller level solutions like Insteon, Z-Wave and Zigbee, to device specific options like Hue, Cree, LIFX, etc., I ended up with Insteon because it provides a richer ecosystem with opportunities to control more than just lightbulbs. Insteon has a range of light management options, RF and hardwire, depending on your needs and automation requirements. Aside from lighting Insteon can automate and monitor appliances and integrates with compatible home automation products including Amazon Echo and Nest Thermostats, providing opportunities to grow the system as my requirements change. Adopting Insteon products does not require using their Home Automation Controller (HAC), the Insteon Hub. When I started automating my home’s lighting in 2013 Insteon’s Hub reviews were spotty at best. I chose to skip it at first, not as many features for my configuration but their wall switches, keypads, RF lights and RF wall keypads were fit for the purpose at hand.

Oct 11 2017

Review - Neato Robotics Botvac D80 Robot Vacuum

Neato Robotics Botvac D80 Robot Vacuum

I've been debating about whether I wanted to put the time into doing a proper review of our Neato Robotics Botvac D80 Robot Vacuum. Afterall, it kind of is a smart home device, and it's really nice to not have to vacuum the house during the week... But on the other hand, it's a vacuum cleaner.

Oct 04 2017

Review - Wisdom of the Crowd

Wisdom of the Crowd Banner


When I finished watching Person of Interest, I was on the prowl for a replacement. Lo’ and behold, someone mentioned that a new show might be able to fill that void called Wisdom of the Crowd. Skeptically optimistic, I scheduled and watched the premier this past Sunday and was simultaneously intrigued and let down with the results. Wisdom of the Crowd could turn into a popular show for CBS, but it could also fall flat on its face as just another Law & Order/perp of the week indulgence, lacking any actual substance for viewers to stick around. Truth be told, I had similar concerns about Person of Interest after the first few episodes. Without major spoilers, let’s dive into what Wisdom of the Crowd has to offer us each week, shall we?

Oct 03 2017

Review - Ring Video Doorbell Pro

Ring offers a variety of different doorbell cameras, with options available for those without a doorbell ($200), power-over-Ethernet (PoE) ($500, I imagine for new builds or challenging wireless environments), and the Ring Pro for those with an existing low-voltage setup. The $250 (can be found for $190 occasionally) Ring Pro, is not quite in impulse buy territory. But, if it works well, it would be a cheap way to add interactive video recording at the main entry point(s) to your home.

Sep 26 2017

Review - The Good Doctor

The Good Doctor TV Banner

The trailer I watched for ABC’s new show The Good Doctor was pitiful, leading me to have little faith it would become part of my weekly lineup. Had I not been on the hunt for shows to review, I likely never would have watched the first episode. The trailer felt uninspired and shallow; just one more example of how Hollywood has lost the ability to innovate. Lest we forget, this is the same network which brought us the abysmal Dr. Ken, which somehow managed not only to avoid cancellation after the first episode, but also get two full seasons. Another House or, perhaps, a reboot of Doogie Howser, M.D. is the easy analogy to make for The Good Doctor. In reality, that would be doing a great disservice to the potential the show has. Similar to most of my TV show reviews, there will be minimal spoilers, but, in this particular instance, I will absolutely spoil part of the first big scene. You have been warned.

Nov 17 2016

Review - D-Link DIR-885L/R AC3150 Ultra Wi-Fi Router

 

I like the recent trend to make higher-end Wi-Fi routers look interesting. Stepping away from the old-school canister or plain shell with antenna is especially pleasing. No one has embraced this more fully than D-Link, with the DIR-855L/R being one of the latest crop of performance routers. Sporting a dual-core 1.4GHz Broadcom BCM4709C0 SoC, this 4x4 stream AC3150 (1000Mbps 2.4GHz + 2167Mbps 5GHz) class Wave2 802.11AC with MU-MIMO should provide excellent performance for most homes and users, and at $280 SRP ($200 street), it won’t break the bank either.

Sep 06 2016

Review - Olloclip Active Lens iPhone 6 / 6s & 6 / 6s plus

I typically rely on my manual 35mm SLR to take higher quality pictures. I have in the past only used my camera phone for casual picture taking. I recently switched to an Apple iPhone 6s plus and acquired an Olloclip Active lens at the same time to see if I could get photos with the two that would replace my SLR in most situations. The Olloclip Active lens is 99.99. It is more expensive than the Olloclip 4-in-1 lens but should allow iPhone photography to capture wider scenes, more detail from close up objects and focus on further objects than without it.

Aug 30 2016

Review - NVIDIA SHIELD Android TV

Let me start by saying, I am not much of a gamer. So while the NVIDIA Shield Android TV box has been out for a while, offering 4K UHD support for native playback and over-the-top (OTT) services like Netflix, the value proposition really did not speak to me given its $200/£150 (16GB) $300/£220 (500GB “PRO”) price tag. The landscape for the device changed recently with major feature additions in the form of Plex media server and SiliconDust HDHR DVR recording engine support; turning this gaming-streamer into a legitimate home theater PC (HTPC) alternative.

Jul 31 2016

Review - dbrand OnePlus 3 back wrap

Mobile cases are a strange thing. Yeah, it’s clear that they provide a valuable service by protecting your device should it meet the ground in an unscheduled way, but they’re ugly. Or at least, if not ugly, they obfuscate the industrial design of the device making your thin, metallic device into a clunky plastic one.

Jul 30 2016

Review - Amazon Fire TV Stick

This is going to be a very short review. Don't buy the Amazon Fire TV Stick, at any price, period.

Jun 08 2016

Review - Intel NUC6i5SYK Skylake SFF HTPC kit

Intel just about perfected the small form factor (SFF) home theater PC (HTPC) over the last few iterations of NUC systems, so it is great to see that the Skylake based Intel NUC6i5SYK kit has stayed with this winning formula. Updated with an Intel Core i5-6260U with Intel Iris Graphics 540, support for NVMe SSD, and DDR4, the system has the opportunity to fix the shortcomings in the previous generation (cough, CSH). The sleek looks and features will not be as much of a bargain as the plug-in-and-go Intel Pentium based NUC5PGYH. Intel is asking $380/£335 for the barebones kit,  but with quite a bit more performance, better networking, and features on tap, it could well be worth the extra dosh.

May 27 2016

Review - NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 - AC5300 Tri-Band Quad-Stream Wi-Fi Router (R8500)

NETGEAR Nighthawk X8 - AC5300 Tri-Band Quad-Stream Wi-Fi Router (R8500)

 

NETGEAR touts the Nighthawk X8 AC5300 (R8500) Smart Wi-Fi router as “the next wave in Wi-Fi”. Generally, I am inclined to dismiss this sort of hyperbole, but the $350/£350 802.11AC includes features that are a reasonable step up from other models including: quad-streams, two 802.11AC radios, Wave 2 enhancements , and six Gigabit Ethernet ports, with two 802.3ad (link aggregation) enabled. Alongside this, it also includes a feature that should have a tangible benefit for all clients – active antennas. By moving the amplifiers from the mainboard to the tops of the antennas, there should be a clear benefit in signal strength and clarity. I am not sure that is enough to count as a “next wave”, but it has got me very interested in testing out the R8500.

Apr 28 2016

Review - Intel NUC Kit NUC5PGYH Braswell Mini PC

 

Like the rest of Intel Atom systems, home theater PCs (HTPC) based on the CPU have come a long way over the last few years. The Intel NUC5PGYH offers hardware accelerated video decoding up to 4K (HDMI 1.4b output) via the quad-core Intel Braswell Pentium N3700. Now add in 7.1 multi-channel audio support, Windows 10 preinstalled, RC6 CIR (consumer infrared), 2GB DDR3L RAM, 32GB eMMC, and support for 2.5” storage expansion. This particular low power system has the makings of a serious media consumption device. And when considering that you can bring one home for $250/£220 ($280 SRP), even the price sounds too good to be true.

Mar 18 2016

Review - NETGEAR Nighthawk X4S R7800 AC2600 Wireless Router

The quad stream NETGEAR AC2600 Nighthawk X4S R7800 802.11AC wireless router is the successor to last year’s AC2350 Nighthawk X4 R7500 (and R7500v2). Besides a bump in “S”, for Smart, the Nighthawk X4S also jumps to the dual-core 1.7GHz Qualcomm IPQ8065, adds 200MHz of theoretical bandwidth to the 2.4GHz radio (800Mbps + 1733Mbps = AC2600) by increasing to 4x4 in both bands, and enables 160MHz channel width for 5GHz. Priced at $270/£230 SRP ($260/£213 street) the Nighthawk X4S R7800 looks to be a solid contender for the mid-range performance 802.11AC router market, and with Wave 2 features like MU-MIMO enabled out-of-the-box (OOTB) a fair degree of future proofing.

Feb 25 2016

Review - First Look axiim Q Wireless Home Theater System

First Look axiim Q Wireless Home Theater System

Not everyone will agree, but I think there is a compelling argument to be made that audio is the most important aspect of creating an immersive home theater experience. Yes, video matters, a lot, but what really draws you into the experience? Better contrast, or when you can hear the shell casings hit the ground behind you to the right? Which raises the obvious question around why more households opt to have a large HDTV and a soundbar than a real muti-speaker audio system? There probably are many reasons, but if I had to speculate [lack of] installation convenience for a wired system would be pretty near the top. Getting a traditional wired audio video receiver (AVR) up-and-running with five speakers and a subwoofer can be very complicated; after all, if you do not already have wires in the wall that will need to get sorted, which can be costly, time consuming, and certainly involves a lot more planning than slapping a “good enough” soundbar under the TV. Wireless audio provides another approach to getting around the installation complexity problem, but until recently wireless audio was either proprietary, substandard, or both. Which is exactly why we have been covering WiSA over the past few years as it evolved from ether to product. The axiim Q Wireless Home Theater System is the first holistic example of an AVR + 5.1 (or 7.1) speaker setup using the 5GHz wireless audio technology available for purchase. It is still in BETA however, with an introductory price of $1,500 for the 5.1 ($3,143 post BETA), and $2,000 for the 7.1 ($3,741 post BETA) systems, placing it currently on the higher end of the home theater in a box (HTIB) pricing scale. But, if it can deliver the same result as a wired system, without the hassle of wires then that is certainly worth a “convenience fee”, and with the Q’s streamlined user experience, including HDMI CEC, it could end up a bargain compared to a standard HTIB. Because it is an unfinished product, this should not be viewed as a comprehensive review; that will come later. Instead, let’s have a first look at the system.

Feb 22 2016

Review - SVS Prime Tower Surround Package

SVS Prime Tower Surround Package

SVS is best known for subwoofers that provide outstanding value for money, but today we are going to look at, er… listen to their $1550/£1300 Prime Tower Surround home theater speaker package. Two Prime Towers ($1000/£819), two Prime Satellites ($270/£219), and one Prime Center ($350/£289) are included in the kit. This shaves around $120/£27 off the à la carte price. A few steps closer to a bargain and puts it off to a good start. But, none of that will matter if the kit does not sound and look, the way a mid-range speaker kit should. Let’s dig in.

Feb 17 2016

Review - ASUS Chromebit CS10 ChromeOS HDMI Dongle

 

The ASUS Chromebit CS10 is unique from other devices based on Google’s ChromeOS because unlike these Chrombooks (aka laptops) it does it from a HDMI dongle. Besides the flexibility to BYOD[isplay], the form factor’s inherent price advantage ($85/£90) also makes it a relatively cheap way to  play with ChromeOS, and test its unique approach to delivering a secure, low maintenance platform. I must admit that the browser-only apps available means that it is unlikely to replace any PCs in my stable, but as a very portable web browsing and media player it could be the perfect casual consumption device, or with its support for Google Play, Netflix, YouTube, and DIY streaming apps potentially earn a place in the travel bag.

Feb 09 2016

Review - ASUSTOR AS5002T 2-Bay Intel Bay Trail Network Attached Storage (NAS)

ASUSTOR AS5002T two-bay Intel Bay Trail NAS

The ASUSTOR AS5002T is the first Intel based network attached storage (NAS) device tested at Missing Remote. So, I was very curious to see how its dual-core 2.4GHz Celeron J1800 would stack up against the strong showing we’ve seen from ARM Cortex-A15 based systems recently. With two Gigabit network interface cards (NIC), two bays, 1GB RAM, and USB 3.0/eSATA support, on the surface the $315/£185 AS5002T aligns nicely into the same category. But, it also offers a few features that are not found on similarly priced ARM devices: most notably, virtualization, hardware assisted transcoding, and Kodi integration. Offering the potential for this SOHO NAS to also be a well featured home theater PC (HTPC).

Jan 15 2016

Review - Arq Cloud Backup for Mac and PC

Between us, I have been procrastinating. Unwilling to take the final step towards a truly comprehensive data protection plan. The first two stages (multiple copies, multiple formats) have been in place for years. Leveraging RAID1 (redundancy), multiple hard disk drives (backup), and DVD archival (format shift) but taking my important data off premises has been a sticking point because of trust, and simplicity. Frankly, I just do not have enough faith in any cloud storage provider’s security. They are all big juicy targets and the risk of a breach just seems more likely (cough, iCloud) than the type of event that would wipe away all of my home storage. Fortunately though, I recently found a solution that I am comfortable with – something that protects the data itself, and significantly reduces the risk of data leakage if there is a breach. Thank you Arq.

Dec 24 2015

Review - Tenorshare Any Data Recovery Pro

We have all done it – hitting delete with too much confidence, or forgetting to pull a file off disk before formatting. Thankfully, because of how files are stored on disk, it takes a bit to actually, truly, really delete a file, and that is where software solutions like Tenorshare Any Data Recovery Pro come in. Promising to roll back the clock and recover from these kinds of mistakes, it could provide just the thing, to ah… hypothetically, bring back a folder of mobile friendly encodes of your children’s favorite movies. 

Dec 15 2015

Review - Diamond Multimedia STREAM2TV WPCTV3000 Miracast, iPlay, & DLNA Endpoint

With the explosion in the use mobile devices for storing and playing content it is important to pick the right technology to push your media to the big screen when sharing the experience with multiple people. Whether it is photos, family videos, or Netflix choosing an endpoint which meets all your needs is essential. It is not hard to find a single device that handles Miracast or iPlay, but finding one that has both, plus DLNA, and can do digital and analog output is quite a bit more difficult. Diamond’s $90/£110 WPCTV3000 includes each of those features on its spec sheet; let’s see if it can deliver.

Dec 09 2015

Review - D-Link 802.11AC AC750 Travel Router and Charger (DIR-510L)

There are a lot of reasons to include a travel router in your kit bag when heading out for an extended excursion. The most obvious, is providing a single interface to captive Wi-Fi portals used in hotels, resorts and many cafés. This can save you some money if a per-device access charge is levied, but even when that is not the case you save setup time connecting the devices (i.e. configuring once to the router’s AP), and makes it possible to use streamers like Roku or Chromecast which do not play nice with captive portals – enabling BYOC[ontent] when on the road. With several options now available in this space, the D-Link DIR-510L stands out for two reasons: its 4000mAh battery, and 802.11AC (AC750) support. At $120/£100 SRP ($83/£72 retail) this travel router is at the higher end of the spectrum, let’s see if the feature set can justify the price tag.

Dec 03 2015

Review - NETGEAR ReadyNAS 212 Quad-core 2-bay Network Attached Storage (NAS)

NETGEAR recently introduced the ReadyNAS 2xx family of network attached storage (NAS) devices running 1.4GHz Cortex ARM A-15 SoC. Having just reviewed the ReadyNAS 202, the introduction of the 212 (and 214) bumping the spec from two to four cores, but not the price – still $330 (diskless), came as a surprise. With all of the great features of the ReadyOS 6 (rev’d to 6.4) and twice as much horsepower on tap, we should see a decent improvement in throughput, alongside NETGEAR’s hallmark add: real time 1080p->480p transcoding via Plex for mobile devices.

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