Wyze Cam Pan V3 Review

Our look at some of the new Wyze cams continues with a full review of their Wyze Cam Pan V3. This latest iteration of their pan and tilt camera is nicely improved over prior models but it loses a lot of the free functionality those had. See my full review here.

The biggest changes here have to do with its industrial design. The camera now has a wider range of motion (a full 180 degrees vertically) along with an improved image sensor that has great infrared night vision along with a low light color mode.

The camera’s motor, while still audible on recorded clips, is much quieter than before. It also has a neat privacy mode where the camera shuts down and also points itself at the base for added privacy.

Missing though are a lot of the free out of the box features of the prior versions. This model does not support RTSP nor will you get any cloud video storage without having to pay an additional fee. And it’s not compatible with their “name your price” subscription plan called Cam Plus Lite. We detailed most of these changes in my video from last week.

I also got in the new Wyze Cam OG and OG Telephoto. I unboxed both on the Extra’s channel the other day and provided a quick look at their image quality (spoiler, it’s not good). Both of those cameras have the same restrictions for non-subscribers so unfortunately a lot of the value proposition Wyze delivered with their new cameras is not going to continue.

Synology DS723+ Review

Synology released a couple of new NAS devices that we saw at CES 2023. They sent along their two drive unit called the 723+ for me to review. You can see the video here!

Synology addressed some of the feature requests users had for a smaller more affordable plus series device, but not everyone will be happy in the implementation of them. First they added 10 gigabit ethernet support but you’ll need to purchase an additional $150 Synology manufactured adapter for that.

This drive also includes dual NVME SSD slots on the at the bottom for caching or using as a separate volume. Volume use, however, requires the use of official Synology branded NVME drives that cost a lot more vs. non-Synology ones. I tried using a WD branded drive and was presented with this message:

The new 723+ NAS includes 2 GB of RAM which is expandable to a whopping 32GB. However Synology only recommends using their branded ECC memory and will not support configurations using off-brand RAM.

Performance-wise this is a big step up over previous models using the NVME storage and 10 gig network adapter. In my testing we were seeing transfer speeds easily 7-8x what a typical 1` gigabit NAS can achieve off of the NVME volume. We saw slightly faster speeds when we configured the NVME as a striped RAID 0, with read speeds topping 1 gigabyte per second. From a practical standpoint I was able to edit a 4k Final Cut Pro project completely over the network.

The biggest problem here is the processor Synology chose for the 723+. After years of exclusively using Intel processors they switched to an AMD Ryzen R1600. While the processor is adequate enough for the types of small and medium sized business users might need, it lacks the built in video encoder found on an Intel processor. The result is that this will not work well as a Plex server because it’s not able to do any hardware transcoding of video. It’ll be fine for in-home streaming but any out of the home streaming requiring a transcode will grind its processor to a halt.

That issue aside the 723+ delivers an endless number of features. This class of Synology NAS gets you access to a bulk of their enterprise apps including advanced backup solutions we looked at in a recent tutorial series. It also has a nice docker client, virtual machine manager for booting up other OS’s and even an office suite that replicates many of the features of Google Workspace. You can see more about all of the features here.

In summation this is a solidly performing unit but long-time customers will be disappointed with the processor choice and limitation of having to use only Synology branded RAM and NVME storage. I hope Synology will re-think their decision to limit RAM and NVME choices as these restrictions can very easily be lifted in a software update.

Unihertz Atom XL Review – a Phone with a Built-in Two Way Radio

I don’t think you’ll find a more creative smartphone maker than Unihertz. They make a lot of different phones and no two are alike. Some cater to Blackberry fans with physical keyboards and others cater to those who want something really tiny. All of the phones they make are super rugged and built like tanks. You can see my full playlist here.

This latest phone in their lineup does something I’ve never seen a smartphone do by adding a full function two-way walkie talkie radio to the mix. This is not some app that works over Wi-Fi but rather an actual radio transmitter that will interoperate with other radios on the same frequency. It even works with the digital DMR standard. See my full review here!

As a phone it seems to perform well – good battery life, adequate enough performance (but definitely on the low end) and compatibility with T-mobile and Verizon here in the United States. It has 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage with the option to also add an SD card to the mix. Without the SD card installed it’ll support two nano sim cards.

The phone is waterproof and super rugged with a nice compact 4″ display. It’s small but not tiny and I think would work well for those looking for a supplementary phone while traveling. It’s not all that expensive either at around $340 unlocked.

The two-way radio feature delivered far more features than I expected but users need to be mindful of what frequencies you’re operating on to avoid being fined by the FCC!

The radio is tunable from 400-480mhz – a huge swath of the “70 centimeter” band. Only a sliver of this band is accessible to unlicensed consumers in the FRS frequencies. Licensed amateur radio operators can use it between 420 and 450 mhz in the United States but should follow the ARRL’s band plan for proper operation.

But if you’re not licensed you need to spend some time programming the two way radio function properly. Unihertz provided no documentation or warnings in the box nor was my phone programmed with FRS frequencies out of the box. In fact it was operating on channels the US government uses for satellite communications and work its way into amateur frequencies that are not authorized for non-licensed use.

Although the phone is not type rated for the unlicensed FRS frequencies those are the ones that you should operate on being mindful of not using the phone’s two watt transmission power on channels 8-14.

The phone offers some additional features for amateur operators including support for repeaters with differing input and output frequencies, CTCSS tones, etc. I was surprised that its support for the DMR digital standard is extensive and worked with my local DMR repeater along with my Anytone handheld DMR radio. I was also able to send DMR text messages.

Overall this is another fun and quirky phone from Unihertz that delivers a lot for a low price. But users need to be very careful to program its two-way radio feature to avoid being fined by the FCC.

Lenovo Slim 7i Carbon Review

I love thin and light laptops! This has been a great year for this product category because there are so many good ones to choose from. This latest one from Lenovo, the Slim 7i Carbon, is another worthy of consideration. You can watch my video review here.

It comes it at just over 2 pounds (969 grams), has great performance from its i7-1260p processor, and even manages to pack in a 2560×1600 (2.5k) 16:10 display running at 90hz and 400 nits of brightness.

Like any thin and light laptop there are a few compromises. Downsides on this one are its 720p webcam and some performance throttling under heavy load (typical for laptops of this size). You’ll hear the fan kicking on quite often on this one to keep the processor temperature in check.

Battery life isn’t bad for an Intel based machine, expect about 9-10 hours of usage with display brightness down and sticking to basic tasks.

This form factor would be a great candidate for a more efficient ARM based processor. I expect in the very near future we’ll see more options in this form factor which should improve its battery life significantly.

For Windows fans looking for something ultra portable without many compromises this is definitely one to consider.

Gamevice Flex Review for Android and iPhone

The Gamevice Flex controller for Android and iPhone (compensated affiliate links) is the subject of my latest video review. If this looks like the Razer Kishi that I reviewed a year or two ago it’s because Gamevice manufactured that device for Razer. Razer went in a different direction for their version 2 controller.

The biggest challenge any of these slide-in controllers have is finding a way to make things fit properly given how every phone is a different size. Phone cases complicate this problem further. Gamevice attempts to solve this problem by including dozens of slide in adapters to ensure a snug fit. They also have a compatibility guide on their website to provide further peace of mind.

I tried a couple of phones, some with cases, some without. I was able to get all of them to fit snugly, unlike the Kishi that always felt a little loose. It’s not all that difficult to slide out the spacers and put new ones in. But you’ll definitely want to hang onto the original packaging so you don’t lose them. Gamevice says they can fit up to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra but it’s not big enough to accomodate larger devices like tablets. So the iPad Mini is a no-go here.

Gamevice accounts for nearly every variation in phone size

On the Android side you’ll need a phone that has a USB-C port that supports OTG data devices (most meet that requirement these days). The iPhone version uses a lightning connector and it will fit everything from a small iPhone 6s all the way up to the iPhone 14 Pro Max. Both versions offer a passthrough charging port, with the Android version supporting USB-C and the the iPhone version using a lighting connector. You’ll also get an actual 3.5mm headphone jack on the left-hand side of the controller!

The controller interfaces with its USB or lightning connector to the phone, meaning it’s not using bluetooth. It therefore doesn’t need to be charged and it shouldn’t draw all that much power from the host device. This will reduce input lag a bit but the performance will vary based on the phone and the USB controller in use. I have found even some of the best phones are not great when it comes to input latency, however.

From a gameplay perspective the Flex solves a lot of the problems I had with the Kishi. Gone are the analog deadzones and oversized thumbsticks. Controls are very sensitive and begin responding with just a slight movement on the stick. The d-pad is better too but still not perfect. I found that it would sometimes register errant diagonals when playing 8-bit NES games.

All in I found the Flex to be very competitive with my favorite mobile controller, the Backbone One for iPhone. The d-pad is better on the Backbone but the Backbone won’t work with phones in a case. The Flex appears to be a nice improvement over the original Razer Kishi design.

Anker Powerhouse 90 / 100 Review

My latest video is a review of the Anker Powerhouse 90 – this is a portable powerbank that has an AC outlet! You can see my full review here.

If you’re shopping for one of these you’re going to find another one called the “Powerhouse 100.” I think the “90” is the new version of this product with a slightly smaller battery. This may have been required so it can be under the minimum for airline carry-ons, or they were looking so shave some cost. The difference between the two is about 10 watt hours.

The Powerhouse 90 advertises about 87 watt hours – meaning if you had a 1 watt draw it could run (theoretically) for 87 hours. The real-world longevity you’ll get out of the battery will vary but I think if you had a full load of 87 watts through the AC outlet you’ll likely see far less than an hour due to overhead of the inverter, etc.

The powerbank can deliver a maximum of about 160 watts simultaneously budgeted as follows: 12 watts for the USB-A ports, 45 watts for the USB-C port, and 100 watts for the AC outlet. In the video we plugged in a large studio LED light that draws 36 watts via the AC outlet, had a Steam Deck drawing about 33 watts out of the USB-C, and plugged in two smart phones to the USB-A ports. It was able to provide consistent power to each device.

The power bank charges via the USB-C port at a rate of 45 watts. A full charge from empty will take about 3 hours via a 45 watt USB-C power adapter.

So what’s the use case here? For me it’s about charging the devices I have in my production bag that can’t charge over USB. For example my Canon and Sony camcorders I use for remote productions need to be charged using their AC adapters. This pack will allow me to keep things topped off (or even fully powered) as we walk from one location to another when shooting a dispatch video.

All About Mastodon

My latest video is an overview of what I’ve experienced so far on the Mastodon social media “federation.” I say “federation” and not “network” here because Mastodon is designed to work in a decentralized manner that no one directly controls. You can find me on Mastodon at @lonseidman@indieweb.social.

Mastodon’s federation consists of a growing number of servers located throughout the world that host users and their content. Servers share that content with each other, allowing a user on one server to follow content created by a user on another.

The result is an experience that feels similar to Twitter but does not have a single decision maker or management team moderating content. Each Mastodon server is run by volunteers or a single owner, and those server administrators have total control over who does what on their servers. In other words you could get kicked off a server on a whim, or your server owner could decide to shut everything down one day when they’re sick of paying for it.

Another issue involves the federated network itself. If a group of server owners decides they don’t like the content coming out of a particular instance on the federated network they can choose not to carry content from that server. So while you can still have a presence, the reach of that presence could be significantly restricted. This is something Anil Dash discovered on the instance he chose to plant his flag on :

So choosing the right server to start on is an important decision point. While it’s possible to export your content to another one it’s definitely a pain point for the fledgling network.

I decided to start on indieweb.social which is managed by some followers of the Indie Web movement. I picked this server because I’m passionate about independently produced and hosted content and this community is all about that. So on my server I can converse with people I may not know but share my passion for independent content while also having a broader experience with the rest of the “fediverse.” You can see how that works in the video.

Some users are opting to choose to run their own servers, but the cost is certainly much higher (and more complex) than running a simple WordPress instance. And of course this is a heck of a lot more complicated than signing up for a Twitter account.

I see a lot of potential with Mastodon especially as it seems to be attracting many new users lately. I think they’ve added more in the last couple of months than they added in the last several years. Can it scale to the size of a Twitter or Facebook? That remains to be seen – especially given the burden of cost that will be put on the server operators to support the users and content.

Over time we may also see multiple federations that are completely walled off from each other for various reasons. Mastodon’s code is open source so there’s nothing preventing this from happening.

Mastodon’s decentralization is a fascinating approach to social media and it’ll be interesting to see how this federation of independent servers operates and scales. I expect a lot of bumps in the road ahead and it’s questionable if the non-techie public will adopt a platform that is more complex than a centrally controlled corporate platform.

Amazon Kindle Scribe Review – Large Format Kindle with a Pen

Amazon added a pen to their popular Kindle reader with the new Kindle Scribe (compensated affiliate link). It is a great note taker but there’s definitely some room for improvement on the software side. See my full review here.

The pen works really nicely on this device. The screen is not too slippery and feels very close to a pen on paper. The Kindle’s e-ink display adds some additional realism to the note taking experience. It of course also functions like the other Kindle e-readers and its large 10.2″ screen that works much better for large text vs. the smaller Kindles.

There are two pen choices available. For my review I went with the version with the “Premium Pen” that has an eraser on the back and a button on the side that can switch to a different virtual pen type when its pressed in. The standard pen lacks those features. Both pens do not require batteries or charging and will magnetically attach to the side of the Scribe.

My big issue with the Scribe is all on the software side. If you’re reading a book you can only place handwritten notes in a small box that embeds in a highlight on the page. The handwritten notes do not sync back to other devices but typed out notes do.

If you have a PDF that you brought over via the “send to Kindle” mechanism, you can write directly on the page. Like the books the handwritten annotations will not sync back to your Kindle library but you can click the share button and email the PDF back to yourself with notes embedded.

The Scribe also has a notebook/sketchbook feature. This has a number of templates that include lined paper, graphic paper, etc. In this mode the notes sync in their entirety back to your Kindle account and you can view those notes on any platform. But you can only edit them on the Scribe.

This definitely feels like a first generation product. But its limitations feel mostly software-based as opposed to the hardware.

August Wi-Fi Smart Lock Review

August has put together a nice “bolt on” smart lock for existing deadbolts locks. Through their app you can create revokable virtual keys for guests, house cleaners, etc that can allow access on a certain schedule. You can see my full review here and find one here at the best price (affiliate link). These go on sale from time to time and I’ve seen it sold as low as $179.

I reviewed the prior model in this product line and this new one definitely feels more refined. It’s more compact, has better battery longevity, and integrates Wi-Fi in addition to Bluetooth for connectivity. It supports the “big three” (Apple Homekit, Google Home and Amazon Alexa) but the Wi-Fi connectivity doesn’t work with Apple Homekit. So you’ll need an Apple device like an Apple TV or an old iPad within Bluetooth range to access the lock remotely.

What I like the most about the August products are the virtual keys you can assign to users. These keys are revokable, meaning you can delete them without having to call a locksmith, and you can set them to be valid only during certain days or times of the week. Guests accessing the home will need a smartphone (iPhone or Android) running the August app, however.

The lock also comes with a sensor that will detect when your door is ajar or open.

While most of the door locks I’ve reviewed run on AA batteries this one runs with an odd size – it requires two CR123 lithium batteries. Battery life will depend on whether or not you’re using the Wi-Fi and how often the lock is triggered to open and close.

It runs on CR123 lithium batteries

I did have to use the included trim piece (the black circle you can see behind the silver lock) because the lock was so small that it didn’t fully cover the hole cut for my deadbolt lock.

If you’re looking to make an existing dumb deadbolt smart this is a good solution. You can keep your physical keys for yourself and share virtual keys for those you want to grant access to your home.

Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming Chromebook Review

We don’t often associate Chromebooks with gaming but Lenovo thinks there’s some opportunity with the rise of game streaming services to bring a gaming focused Chromebook to market with their new Gaming Chromebook (affiliate link). You can see my full review here.

What makes this Chromebook better for game streaming? Its display. It has a nice 16″ display running at 2560 x 1600 (a 16:10 aspect ratio) that runs at 120hz. Right now only one streaming service supports that frame rate (GeForce Now), but the faster refresh rate does provide a zippier overall experience even when not playing games.

And of course no gaming laptop would be complete without a RGB backlit keyboard. This might be the first Chromebook with one although the controls are limited to a few colors and there doesn’t seem to be a way to customize colors to a specific range of keys.

What struck me in reviewing this device is that it’s probably one of the better Chromebooks on the market overall even for non-gaming. Beyond the nice display it has a great 1080p webcam, a number pad for spreadsheet power users, and great performance in both Chromebook functions including running Android and Linux apps.

One shortfall though is that its Intel processor will have some compatibility issues with popular Android games like Genshin Impact and Call of Duty Mobile. Both of these popular games crash constantly on the device similar to how they perform on other Intel based Chromebooks.

It’s pretty reasonably priced at $599 for the i5 version. A lower cost i3 version was loaned to the channel for review although it does not appear to be available at the time of publication.

The Atari 50th Anniversary Celebration is a Fun, but Incomplete, Exhibit of Video Game History

I picked up the Atari 50th Celebration collection (affiliate link) the other day and found it to be a wonderful tribute to Atari’s contributions to video game history. It has a mixture of emulated games along with documentary material presented in an easy to follow timeline.

You can see it in action in this livestream I did on Amazon. The gameplay starts around the 13 minute mark. I am playing the Switch version but it’s also available for just about every current gaming platform.

The games and documentary materials are organized into eras that take the user step-by-step through the development of Atari’s arcade games, home consoles and computers. It keeps track of progress as the user works through what feels like a museum exhibit. They produced some videos specific for this release along with additional archival footage and documents from Atari’s archives.

The game emulation feels pretty solid. Digital Eclipse, the developers of the collection, added some really solid filters to the emulation that come very close to capturing the look and feel of CRTs of the era on a modern television.

I was especially impressed with how they depicted the arcade version of Breakout. The original game used a black and white CRT but had a colored overlay placed over the picture tube to add color. Digital Eclipse’s depiction of it looks pretty spot on – note how the blue band runs through the borders of the play area on the bottom:

Unfortunately some of the games that were designed around specific control surfaces (steering wheels, spinners, etc) don’t translate very well to modern game controllers. Analog sticks work well with games that originally used joysticks but Breakout is pretty hard to control without the precision of a spinner or paddle controller.

But to add some additional value Digital Eclipse and Atari did produce six modern interpretations of 80’s era games, including Breakout. They’re all a lot of fun and capture the feel of vintage games while being much more friendly towards modern controllers. I especially liked VCTR-SCTR which is a modern homage to the vector games of the early 80’s that plays like a medley of Asteroids, Lunar Lander and more. These definitely add some value lost by control issues on some of the vintage titles.

A bigger shortfall is that the history feels incomplete without Activision games like Pitfall, the 2600 ports of Pacman & Space Invaders, and of course the infamous ET game that some credit with causing the 1983 video game crash. While most of these important milestones get mentioned in the timeline, the games are missing due to licensing issues.

Atari is a shell of the company that dominated the video game market in the 80’s so they probably couldn’t come up with the budget to license the Atari ports of other popular games.

Activision gets a mention in the collection, but no games can be played due to licensing issues.

But the collection does manage to deliver a nice sampling of popular games across every console Atari released including the 2600, 5200, 7800, the 800 home computer, the Lynx handheld and the Jaguar. All in there are 103 games in the collection with five 2600 games that are unlocked by achieving certain milestones in the other games. There’s a full list and unlocking instructions over at IGN.

There’s definitely something for everyone but I would have liked to have even more games included even if they didn’t make it to the historical timeline. For example my Dad and I used to play Atari bowling quite a bit when I was 3 or 4 years old and it would have been great to have that included here even if it wasn’t historically significant.

The bottom line? The Atari 50th Celebration is a lovingly curated exhibit of video game history that ends up a feeling incomplete. The six new games included do make up for that a bit but it’s a shame that the full Atari story can’t be told due to licensing restrictions. Hopefully I’ll live long enough for all of this stuff to find its way into the public domain so we can get a full collection for the 100th celebration!

Epson ET-2400 Low Cost EcoTank Printer Review

My latest video is a review of the Epson Ecotank ET-2400 all-in-one printer/scanner/copier. You can find it here at Best Buy on sale right now for only $179 (affiliate link).

Tank printers are often best for people who do a high volume of color printing and want to reduce their cost-per-page versus traditional cartridges. Epson says this printer can deliver 4,500 black and white pages on a single bottle of ink, or 7,500 color pages. The full set of bottles cost around $60 to replace and the printer has a set of windows in the front to indicate how much ink is left in tank.

In the past a tank printer like this would usually cost a lot more – generally in the hundreds of dollars. The reason is that Epson had to build profit into the price of the unit vs. subsidizing the entry cost in anticipation of ink cartridge purchases over the lifespan of the product.

But like other tank printers I’ve looked at in the past you don’t get much for features here. It can’t do automatic duplexing, it has minimal paper capacity (only 100 sheets), it lacks an auto document feeder, and the print engine is pretty bare bones and loud. It prints about 10 pagers per minute in standard quality but only does 5-7 per minute or so in the higher quality mode.

It’s not marketed as a photo printer but it can print photos with an acceptable level of quality. It will do 4×6 borderless prints but nothing larger than that.

All in at its current price point I think it’s a good deal especially as the cost per print is very low. But if you print at a low volume I think a laser printer is still the best option.

One thing I need to look into after hearing from viewers is the waste ink sponge consumable on the printer that apparently cannot be replaced by the user. Epson has a support page about this issue and it seems as though the user has to send the entire printer in for this service which to me looks a bit like overkill.

Xbox Series S Unboxing and Media Player Review

I got a great deal on an Xbox Series S the other day at Target. They were selling them for $249 and the deal came with a $50 gift card! When I picked it up at the store the gift card didn’t process for some reason they took $50 off the purchase price. So I ended up at $200+ tax.

Check here to see if the deal is still on (affiliate link). It does look like they have plenty of stock. I’m also experimenting with a new affiliate platform that dynamically looks for the best in stock price which you can follow at this link.

I made two videos with my shiny new Series S. The first on my Extra’s channel is an unboxing and comparison vs. the much more powerful Series X. The TLDR is that beyond the added horsepower the Series X has an optical drive which is lacking on the Series S. So those who have a large library of older disc based Xbox games will not get much use out of the S as it can’t currently access the discs!

The second video looks at the Xbox as a streaming media device. As we have previously noted the Xbox does do a pretty decent job with Plex so I was curious how it fared with streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, etc.

Unfortunately it falls short in a key area – none of the apps I tested successfully switched the television into 24p mode. Who’s fault is that? Likely the app makers as we know the Xbox is capable of doing this and even has a setting to enable 24p switching!

The Apple TV still reigns supreme when it comes to 24p playback but it’s not so great at Plex. Unfortunately we don’t have a box out on the market at the moment that does everything right !

Apple TV 4k 3rd Generation Review (2022)

Enthusiast issues aside, the Apple TV remains one of the top streaming video players on the market. It’s the only TV box that bests the Nvidia Shield TV in performance, has a clean interface devoid of advertising, and integrates tightly with other Apple products and services like Airpods and iCloud Photo libraries. You can see my review of the 3rd generation unit here.

This new edition nudges the platform forward, featuring a more powerful (yet underutilized) A15 processor. While you’ll find a game or two on the platform like Oceanhorn 2 that can show off the prowess of the device, the game library is nowhere near as deep as a Nintendo Switch, Xbox or Playstation.

The new Apple TV is priced competitively vs. other streamers on the market, although Apple pulled the ethernet port out of the lower cost 64GB unit. You’ll need to go up to the 128GB model to get the port which is something I recommend for 4k streaming. The 64GB model also does not have support for the open Matter smarthome standard but the 128GB does.

It handles all of the streaming services I tried well although there does not appear to be any perceptible performance difference vs. the last two generations of the device. The Apple TV is one of the few boxes that can match content properly coming from most popular services, meaning it can switch your television’s display mode to match what the content requires. HDR, Dolby Vision and ATMOS are supported through most streaming apps (with the exception of lossless ATMOS as noted here). This new version also supports the emerging HDR10+ standard which was not available on the prior models.

Should you upgrade from a prior edition? I don’t think there’s enough here to warrant that. I am using the first generation Apple TV 4k now for most of my streaming from subscription services. I like its integration with my Airpods and photo library along with its proper content matching features. The 3rd generation box doesn’t feel much different even though it has a more powerful processor.

But if I were looking for a new box I’d definitely recommend picking up this 2022 version.

Whoosh 2.0 Screen Cleaner Review

For some reason my computer screens get FILTHY.. This is likely because I often do a lot of work in my kitchen in the morning and evenings.

Over the years I’ve tried a bunch of different cleaning solutions, including some I made myself and others I’ve purchased. They usually work with a little elbow grease but I found most take awhile to get the screens to the point where they look clean without streaks. And with fancier coated screens you need to be careful about the kinds of chemicals you apply for homebrew concoctions.

The other night after getting frustrated with my current solution I went browsing on Amazon and stumbled across “Whoosh 2.0.” They claim their solution is used at Apple stores to keep displays clean so I figured I’d buy a bottle and see if it lives up to the marketing.

As you’ll see in my review the stuff really does the job. Not only did it get my screens clean it did so without too much effort or reapplication. My worst screen took only two applications to get it back to “almost new” condition. It also did a good job getting some caked on dirt off the aluminum on my Macbook.

It only takes two or three pumps of the bottle to clean most laptop screens so I anticipate the bottle lasting awhile. They sell refill kits that mix with distilled water to reduce waste.

New Video : WD Game Drive P40 SSD Review

WD has a new USB-C external SSD called the P40 SSD which is the subject of my latest review. What distinguishes this one from the P50 we reviewed a few months ago is that this one is a little smaller and has RGB lighting.

I found the drive performs quite well for its stated use case: gaming. The random read/write tests on the Crystal DiskMark test suite were excellent. But I did notice that it was not able to sustain its write speeds over longer periods of time, perhaps making this a little less ideal for professional video capture applications that need 800 megabytes+ per second. I did edit a 4k video on it and found it to be very responsive with no lags or slowdowns.

WD continues to build drives that support the USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 (aka Superspeed 20gbps). This is different than the USB 4 20 gigabit standard that uses Thunderbolt technology. Most computers don’t support 2×2 technology (I have yet to get one in for review that does) so in most cases you’ll only get about half the state maximum of the marketed claims even when connected to a Thunderbolt port. In my testing we were able to sustain about 940 megabytes per second in reads and writes. Yes, USB continues to be a total mess for consumers.

The RGB lighting is not necessary but does differentiate the drive a bit from its competitors. The colors can be configured with a software control panel on Windows which will also allow connections to Razer Chroma, Asus Aura, Gigabyte RGB Fusion and MSI Mystic for color coordination with other RGB hardware.

The drive will work on Xbox Series S & X along with the PS5. But games designed for these next gen systems can only be archived – not played – off the P40. My advice would be to install the prior gen games on the SSD and play the new ones off the console’s internal drive.

All in this is a good choice for gamers but also for booting operating systems, virtual machines, video editing, etc. thanks to its super fast random read and write speeds.

New Video : Lenovo Slim 7 Pro X Review

Every once and awhile Lenovo puts together the perfect “all rounder” laptop that offers a great mix of price, performance and utility. The Slim 7 Pro X is that machine for 2022.

It incorporates a Ryzen 6900HS processor (the first time machine I’ve reviewed with one) along with an Nvidia RTX 3050 GPU running at 55 watts. It’s just a little over 3 pounds, well built and has a nice 14″ 120hz display. It’s great for gaming, light VR, video editing, and other types of basic work.

I ran a few gaming tests with the GPU disabled to see how the Ryzen graphics worked on their own. Red Dead Redemption 2 ran much better on this vs. prior Ryzen generations which was also confirmed in our 3Dmark benchmark tests.

You can see more in the full review up on my YouTube channel.

New Video: Unihertz Tick Tock Phone

Unihertz’s “Tick Tock” phone has nothing to do with the social media network – its name refers to the round watch-like second display it has on the back. It is the subject of my latest video review. See it on Amazon and YouTube.

This very solid and rugged phone has a Mediatek Dimensity 700 processor, 8 GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and support for SD cards for additional storage. I was pleased with the performance of the phone for its reasonable price point and I think it’ll do well in industrial and commercial applications. It’s pretty good for games too.

Like other Unihertz phones the build quality is spectacular. It weighs almost 11 ounces and feels like a brick. The phone is IP68 rated for dust and water resistance, has a screen protector preinstalled, and has a case along with an extra screen protector in the box. There’s no need to purchase any additional accessories.

Battery life is exceptional – the large case allows for a large battery that will last quite a long time. It also supports up to 30 watts of fast charging over USB-C although it does not have wireless charging capabilities.

The rear display doesn’t have much utility for me. It’s cool but it feels like Unihertz was trying to come up with something to make this rather standard Android phone feel a little more unique.

The default clock it displays looks great and there are other watch faces that can be used instead of the default. In addition to watch faces the display can display notifications, has a compass app, and allows the rear camera to be used as selfie camera as you can see the preview image in the round display. This is not an Android Wear watch, however, it’s proprietary to Unihertz and they plan on adding additional features to it over time.

The cameras are terrible, however. Although the rear camera shoots at 48 megapixels the image quality is very bland. And with all of that resolution the max it can shoot video at is 1080p @ 30 frames per second. Although it looks like there are two cameras on the back the right hand side camera is just a place holder and doesn’t seem to do anything. It’s not selectable in the camera app. I suppose the camera system is fine for commercial work but it’s not competitive with other phones from better resourced competitors.

Unihertz is known for their niche phones like the super tiny Jelly 2 and their other Android phones with Blackberry style keyboards. This is their first attempt at a more mainstream phone. It’s certainly much better than the many generic phones we see at this price point but it’s not quite up to the level a slightly more expensive Google Pixel 6a would deliver – unless a rugged design is what you’re looking for.

ioSafe 220+ Review

The last two weeks on the channel could best be described as the “not for everyone” series. The ioSafe 220+ is another product not for most people but those who need one will appreciate that it exists. You can see my review here.

The ioSafe 220+ has all the guts of an Intel powered Synology 220+ NAS device inside of a fireproof and waterproof casing. It’s designed to survive being in a 1550 degree fahrenheit fire for 30 minutes and the subsequent water dousing it’ll take to put the fire out. The electronics won’t survive but the drives inside of the fireproof enclosure should.

It works thanks to an endothermic material that is built into the casing. Water molecules are trapped inside of the material and will turn into steam when placed in a high temperature environment. That steam draws heat away from the center portion where the drives are stored. The drive enclosure is hermetically sealed to prevent water intrusion. You can hear more about how it works in this interview I did with the founder of the company back in 2015.

One of the improvements in this version is a much quieter fan. Previous versions had super loud fans that made it difficult to locate the device in an office environment. This one is about as a quiet as a regular Synology NAS.

Performance otherwise is on-part with a regular Synology NAS.

Why is this not for everyone? Price. A regular diskless Synology 220+ NAS sells for $300. This one starts at $940. But there are often corporate and government requirements for data storage that call for flood and fire protection for mission critical data.

Google Pixel 6a Review

Google’s Pixel 6a phone is a value packed device for folks looking for some flagship features without paying a flagship price. I think most consumers will find this to have everything they’d want in a phone: a nice display, great camera, and excellent performance on par with their flagship phones. You can watch my full review here.

The Pixel 6 series phones are the first to use Google’s new Tensor processor which is tuned for some of the AI work and computational photography that Google integrates into their products. The new 6a also has a Tensor and it performs identically to the flagship 6 and 6 Pro phones.

Tensor doesn’t best its Android or Apple flagship rivals on performance benchmarks tests but what’s notable here is that there isn’t a performance penalty for choosing the lower end phone. Apple’s iPhone SE by comparison is powered by the same A15 chip as the iPhone 13 Pro but Apple throttles the SE’s performance to keep it from besting their top of the line product. That’s not the case here with the 6a.

The camera system is excellent here thanks to Google’s advancements in computational photography. The phone has two cameras on the back – one ultrawide lens with a 114 degree field of view and a wide angle camera. Photos look great in most light and the portrait mode gets better and better every year. The phone will also shoot clean and optically stabilized video at up to 4k at 60 frames per second. You can see some examples of photos and videos in the video.

So what’s missing from this phone vs. the 6 and 6 Pro? A few things. The 6a does not have wireless charging, the 6a’s back is made out of plastic vs. glass, it has a lower resolution wide angle camera (12 vs. 50 megapixels), its display is running at a 60hz refresh rate vs the 90 & 120 hz refresh rates on the 6 and 6 Pro, and it lacks the telephoto lens found on the 6 pro. Despite all that it doesn’t feel cheap nor does it feel lacking in any way.

I have long been a fan of the “a” series Google phones and this one is a nice upgrade over prior models. If you’re still running with the 3a this one will be a huge upgrade.

DISCLOSURE: Google sent me the Pixel 6a free of charge but this is not a sponsored review. Google did not have any input into the review nor did they review or approve it before it was uploaded.