HP’s Enormous E45c G5 DQHD Monitor: A Dual Display in One

In my latest review I explored the HP E45c G5 DQHD (affiliate link), a super-wide monitor that could practically double as an aircraft carrier !

This dual Quad HD curved monitor essentially combines two 24-inch Quad HD displays into one, resulting in a massive 32:9 aspect ratio. This monitor is particularly useful for those who need a lot of information in front of them at once or are currently in a two-display situation.

Priced at around $1,100, this monitor is marketed more towards business and commercial use. It runs at a 5120 by 1440 resolution, 400 nits of brightness, covers 99% of sRGB and has a maximum 165 hertz refresh rate when a single device is connected. In its virtual display modes the max refresh rate is 60 Hertz for each half of the display.

The back houses two USB Type-C inputs, a DisplayPort, and an HDMI, allowing four different devices to be attached. The USB Type-C port can power a laptop while also providing display output and connects the monitor’s four USB ports and a gigabit Ethernet port.

The monitor comes with a stand that provides some degree of movement, allowing you to adjust the display to your preferred angle. However, due to the VA panel, the viewing angles are a bit more narrow so be sure to position yourself in the center “sweet spot” for the most consistent quality edge-to-edge.

The E45c G5 DQHD offers several interesting features. One of these is the Device Bridge, a seamless integration feature that allows two computers to share the display with a single keyboard and mouse. It automatically shifts control over whenever the mouse pointer from one computer is moved to the other. You can also transfer files back and forth between the two devices with a simple drag and drop. This feature currently only works on Windows and Mac and requires software to run in the background on each machine.

Picture on Picture mode is a good alternative to the Device Bridge mode as it works with any computer but lacks the seamless transition from one to the other. This mode has a built-in KVM function, allowing you to switch control between the two devices by hitting the control key twice on the keyboard.

There is also Virtual Display mode, which allows the display to appear as two distinct 1440p displays to the computer it’s plugged into. This feature only works on PCs that have support for DisplayPort MST. Macs do not support this, but if your Mac supports dual displays, you can use a DisplayPort or HDMI cable in addition to the USB-C to drive both halves. I demo that feature in this YouTube short.

The monitor has built-in stereo speakers that provide decent audio quality. However, there is no audio output jack, so if you want to connect speakers, you’ll have to connect them to the computer directly or use a USB audio interface.

While not designed specifically for gaming, the E45c G5 DQHD can provide a fun gaming experience with its wide aspect ratio if your game supports it. The response rate on the display is three milliseconds, which means you may see some motion blur. It does support AMD Freesync for compatible GPUs.

Overall, the HP E45c G5 DQHD is a feature packed super-wide for business users who need a wide aspect ratio or want to work with two displays simultaneously without a bezel in between. It offers a lot of utility and flexibility, making it a solid choice for those who need a lot of screen real estate.

The 8bitdo Ultimate C is a Great Budget Game Controller

When I was a kid first party game controllers were pricey so many of us had third party “little brother” controllers that were cheap in price and quality. This of course was the controller a younger sibling would often get stuck with.

These days things are looking a lot better for younger siblings thanks to controllers like the 8bitdo Ultimate C which is the subject of my latest video.

This controller, while lacking some of the more advanced features of its pricier counterparts, offers a lot of value for gamers on a budget. It’s well-constructed, compatible with Windows PCs and most other devices that support X-input and direct input. Unlike the other 8bitdo controllers it does not work with the Nintendo Switch or with iPads and iPhones.

The Ultimate C comes in two versions: a wired version at $20 and a wireless version that costs $10 more. The wired version, which comes in a pastel purple or green, has a built-in cable that provides about six feet of length. The wireless version has a proprietary 2.4 gigahertz dongle and doesn’t support Bluetooth.

Despite being a budget controller, the Ultimate C doesn’t compromise on build quality. It has a solid feel, with high-quality plastic and a nice texture on the back for a good grip. The analog sticks and buttons are responsive, and the controller features an excellent Nintendo style D-pad modeled after some of the retro controllers that 8BitDo also manufactures.

One drawback I noticed was the dead zones on the sticks, which require a bit of movement to work through. A button combination that disables the deadzone doesn’t seem to make much of a difference either. The controller also lacks customization software, but it does offer a turbo feature that can be enabled on each of the buttons.

In terms of input lag, the Ultimate C performed on par with a wired Xbox controller when tested on the same PC.

Overall, this controller is a great value for casual gamers or as a secondary controller. It works well with a variety of devices, including Raspberry Pis, MiSTer FPGA kits, PCs, and even Macs running games or emulators.

You can see more 8bitdo reviews here on my YouTube channel.

Lenovo Flex 3i Chromebook 12.2 Review

My latest review takes a look at the new Lenovo Flex 3i Chromebook. You can see it here. It offers a 2-in-1 design so it can work as both a laptop and a tablet – but there is no pen support available.

The Flex 3i Chromebook is competitively priced, starting at around $349 at Best Buy (compensated affilate link), making it a good option for those in the tablet market. The model I reviewed was the entry-level version, equipped with an Intel N100 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of eMMC storage.

One of the standout features of this Chromebook is its 12.2-inch 1920×1200 IPS display. With a brightness level of about 300 nits, the touchscreen display is great for the price point. The device is lightweight, weighing in at 2.76 pounds, and although it’s made of plastic, it has a solid feel and nice texture.

The Flex 3i Chromebook comes with a 720p webcam, a good keyboard and a very responsive trackpad. It has stereo speakers and a good selection of ports, including two USB-A ports, a full service USB-C port, a headphone/microphone jack, a Micro SD card slot, and an HDMI port. It’s possible to drive two independent 4k 60hz displays using the HDMI port and the USB-C port.

In terms of performance, the Flex 3i Chromebook is impressive. Web browsing is snappy, and it handles Android apps well. It can even support game streaming and run many casual Android games smoothly.

Battery life is decent, with the device lasting between 8 to 10 hours in my testing. Another advantage is that it’s completely silent and fanless, thanks to its power-efficient Intel chip.

The Flex 3i Chromebook also supports Linux applications, allowing you to run command line software and GUI applications like LibreOffice. However, the device’s limited storage and 4GB of RAM might be a constraint for some users.

All Chromebooks come with a fixed expiration date for updates and for this model it’s June of 2031. That date applies irrespective of when the Chromebook was purchased.

All in the Lenovo Flex 3i Chromebook is a great device that offers quite a bit for its price point.

Tailscale is the Easiest Way to Implement a Personal VPN

My latest video takes a look at Tailscale – a personal and enterprise VPN solution that is the easiest solution I’ve come across in quite some time. You’ll see me set it up and demonstrate a few real-world examples of it in use.

I made this video in the hopes that it will get more casual users to lock down their home network security. There are far too many exploits in the wild now that look for devices like Network Attached Storage devices that are exposed to the public Internet. Locking those devices behind a router or firewall keeps them safely hidden and solutions like Tailscale help with accessing them from the outside securely.

Tailscale is based on the open source WireGuard VPN protocol to establish encrypted connections, but it completely eliminates the friction involved with setting up such a secure connection.

It utilizes a mesh networking approach, where devices authenticate with a central server and then establish direct encrypted connections with each other. This allows devices within the mesh network to communicate securely, even across different networks or firewalls.

One of the key advantages of Tailscale is its ease of use. It provides a user-friendly interface and supports a variety of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android and even NAS devices like Synology and QNAP. It integrates with existing identity providers, such as Google, Microsoft or Apple for authentication, making it convenient for organizations to manage access to their networks. Tailscale’s free tier was recently expanded to allow up to 100 devices per account.

It allows users to access resources as if they were on the same local network, even if they are physically located elsewhere. This can be useful for accessing files, services, or applications that are typically restricted to specific networks.

Each device gets its own Tailscale IP address that will only be accessible to other computers in your Tailscale network. It’s also super easy to share devices outside your personal network with others which I demo in the video.

Certainly for those technically inclined running your own VPN server is the ideal solution. But for many a turn-key solution is what’s needed and that’s what I like about Tailscale’s solution.

Lenovo Legion Y32p-30 4k 31.5″ Gaming Monitor Review

Price at only $749, The Lenovo Legion Y32p-30 is a gaming monitor that packs quite a punch for its price point. You can see it in action in my latest review.

The Y32p-30 is a 31.5″ IPS display with 4K resolution, a refresh rate of up to 144 Hertz, and support for variable refresh rates with compatibility for Nvidia G-Sync and AMD Freesync. To maximize these features, particularly the 144 Hertz refresh rate, it’s crucial to have an HDMI 2.1 cable for HDMI devices like game consoles.

The monitor is well-equipped in terms of connectivity, boasting four video inputs: two HDMI ports, a DisplayPort, and a USB Type-C port. Notably, the USB Type-C port can deliver video to the display and power a laptop simultaneously, providing up to 75 watts of power over the USB Type-C connection. While this is not enough power for gaming laptop it is sufficient for most ultrabook style laptops.

There are two USB-A ports on the side of the display for connecting peripherals along with a headphone/microphone jack. Notably the monitor has a built in KVM function that allows for the active USB connection to be mapped to the display input. So it’s possible for one PC to be connected through the USB-C port and another connected through the monitor’s USB-B port.

The Y-32P30 offers impressive display quality with a 1000:1 contrast ratio. However, its brightness level peaks at 400 nits, which may not be sufficient for HDR content production or consumption. The color coverage is 99% of sRGB and 90% of DCI-P3, which may not meet the needs of professionals requiring highly accurate color representation.

But the Legion Y-32P30 is designed as a gaming monitor. It has a super-fast response rate of 0.5 milliseconds, and the motion blur is practically nonexistent, even during fast-paced gaming. The input lag on the display is the best I’ve ever tested, providing an optimal gaming experience.

The monitor comes with a sturdy base, providing stability and a good range of motion for height and angle adjustments. While it has built-in stereo speakers, they leave a bit to be desired in terms of sound quality.

In conclusion, the Lenovo Legion Y32p-30 may not be the best choice for creatives requiring top-tier color accuracy and brightness levels. However, for gamers, it offers exceptional value, combining a large display, high refresh rate, low input lag, and an array of convenient features that enhance the gaming experience.

Switchbot Hub 2 Review

In my latest video, I explored various smart home products from Switchbot, a company that has been filling gaps left by other manufacturers in the market especially when it comes to automating light switches and curtain rods.

They recently introduced a new Hub device called the Hub 2, which interfaces their smart home products with the internet and popular home platforms like Google and Amazon. In the video I demo it working with their “bot” that can turn any rocker or button switch into a smart one.

The Hub 2 also controls air conditioners or split systems over infrared, has built-in humidity and temperature sensors, and can control TVs or other devices that use infrared remote controls.

One area that could use improvement is the Matter support on the Hub 2. While it supports this new open source standard I could not get it to connect with my Homekit environment as advertised.

Even if I could get it working, Matter support is limited to just their curtain motors at the moment. I found the open source Homebridge application to be a better solution for bridging Homekit connections as it works with all Switchbot and IR devices through the Hub 2.

Matter issues aside the Switchbot Hub 2 offers a wide range of features and is a great way to connect their innovative smarthome products with automation platforms and the Internet.

HP Dragonfly Pro Review

The new HP Dragonfly Pro is the subject of my latest laptop review.

The Dragonfly Pro is a Windows-based laptop aimed at meeting the needs of freelancers and independent contractors. With a starting price of $1,399, the device is powered by AMD’s Ryzen 7 7736U processor and has a power system designed jointly with AMD to boost the system’s responsiveness while preserving battery life.

The base model comes with 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, with options for a 32GB RAM and 1TB storage configuration. The system is not upgradeable as all components are soldered on the mainboard.

The Dragonfly Pro features a 14-inch touchscreen display with a resolution of 1920×1200 and a 16:10 aspect ratio, suitable for document editing tasks. Weighing in at hefty 3.53 pounds (1.6 kilograms), the laptop’s recycled aluminum construction provides durability.

The backlit keyboard on the Dragonfly Pro has well-spaced keys and adequate key travel, contributing to a comfortable typing experience. The haptic trackpad is responsive and can be adjusted according to user preference. For video conferencing, the laptop comes with a 1440p webcam.

The sound quality on the Dragonfly Pro is clear, but it lacks a headphone jack and card reader. The laptop offers two USB 4 ports providing compatibility with external GPUs and Thunderbolt 3 devices. Those two ports are on the left side of the unit and a single (slower) USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port is on the righthand side.

Battery life is decent for a Windows laptop and thanks to the hardware based power management system does not require a settings change to maximize longevity. The system is tuned to deliver performance when necessary and dial it back when not needed. It’ll easily get through a workday provided the user sticks to the basics.

In terms of performance, the Dragonfly Pro is capable of handling web browsing, media consumption, and basic office tasks easily delivering some of the snappiness promised in the marketing. It can also manage video editing and casual gaming, delivering average frame rates on popular titles such as Red Dead Redemption 2 and Fortnite.

Ubuntu 23.04 booted on the laptop but unfortunately audio was not detected properly.

Overall, the HP Dragonfly Pro offers a range of features and performance at a competitive price point, making it a potential option for freelancers and independent professionals in the market for a new work laptop.

Testing WD’s 22TB My Book External Hard Drive

I recently had the chance to take a look at a massive 22 terabyte WD My Book external hard drive. You can watch my full video review here.

This particular model is priced at just under $600, making it a bit less cost-effective on a per terabyte basis vs. smaller capacity versions. But if you need this much capacity in a single drive you’ll find it here.

The My Book series comes with a three-year warranty, a license for Acronis backup software, and encryption features. You’ll also find the same capacity and guts in their more affordable Elements line that has a shorter two year warranty and lacks the encryption and backup software.

The MyBook uses an aging USB 3 Gen 1 interface and comes with a USB-A cable. It’s compatible with USB-C but you’ll need to purchase a separate adapter or cable to interface the drive.

It’s equipped with a SATA 600, 7200 RPM drive inside, and during testing, it achieved around 220 MB/s for both reading and writing large blocks of data, making it suited for backups and archiving. Its random reads and writes were a big sluggish making this not ideal for gaming or booting operating systems.

While it’ll work with game consoles most will not be able to make use of its full capacity so a smaller drive would be a better choice.

If you plan on using this for storing your priceless data, make sure you have a solid backup plan in place as mechanical drives with this much storage density are susceptible to damage from bumps and drops.

Overall if you needed a lot of capacity in a relatively portable package this will certainly get the job done. Just make sure you have a good backup strategy as you’ll be putting a lot of eggs in one basket here.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 5 Review

In my latest video, I take a look at the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 5, a premium laptop that delivers close to gaming laptop performance in a business oriented ThinkPad.

As we approach the time of the year when prices tend to drop on these, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to take this high end model out for a spin.

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 5 starts at around $1,800, and the model I reviewed was configured at about $2,600.

My review loaner features an Intel i7 12700H processor, an Nvidia RTX 3060 GPU with 6GB of video RAM, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Both the RAM and storage are upgradeable. It has a 16-inch 4K IPS display with a 3840 x 2400 resolution, which is Adobe certified and X-Rite calibrated. This laptop is also HDR 10 and Dolby Vision compatible, making it useful for creative work and media consumption. The display is nice and bright with a decent contrast ratio for a non-OLED.

Weighing just over 4 pounds (1.88 kilograms), the laptop is made out of carbon fiber and magnesium. It has a solid, well-balanced design and a backlit keyboard with a 1.5mm key travel. It comes with a variety of ports, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, HDMI output, two USB-A ports, a full-size SD card reader, and a headphone/microphone jack. The laptop also has a 1080p webcam with a physical shutter and decent speakers.

The battery life on this high-performance machine isn’t exceptional, with around six hours on minimal use. As expected, the laptop performs well for basic tasks like web browsing and video playback.

It does well at higher end tasks too like photo and video editing thanks to its CPU and GPU. But it may experience performance degradation under heavy sustained load as its cooling system is not as robust as what might be found in a gaming laptop. “Bursty” tasks like video editing should do fine but work that hits the CPU & GPU over longer periods of time will see a performance drop after a few minutes at full load.

Despite this, I was pleased with the overall performance, look, and feel of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 5, especially for those who appreciate the traditional ThinkPad design. For many the cooling issues will not have much of an impact but for those needing something for more long duration work a gaming laptop is the better choice.

Lenovo Chromebook 3 11″ Review – Currently on Liquidation !

It’s amazing how much laptop you can get for very little money these days – especially when that laptop is being sold at a liquidated price like the Lenovo Chromebook 3 11 that is the subject of my latest review.

This is a low-cost option that offers a functional secondary computer for basic tasks. With an AMD A6-9220C dual-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, and 32 GB of eMMC storage, the IdeaPad Chromebook 3 has an 11.6-inch TN display with a maximum brightness of 250 nits. While the display is not touch-enabled and the colors are muted, the build quality is solid, with a weight of 2.46 pounds and an estimated 10-hour battery life. The keyboard is not backlit but offers a comfortable typing experience and the trackpad performs well.

The Chromebook has two full service USB Type-C ports (although only one display can be output at a time) along with a pair of USB 3 ports, an SD card reader, and a microphone/headphone jack.

But the device’s performance is sluggish, especially when compared to similar Chromebooks with Intel processors. But for basic tasks it’s fine and the battery life is pretty good for that type of work.

The speakers provide better sound quality than expected, and the device is compatible with Android apps and Linux. The end of support date for this Chromebook is June 2027, but it may be possible to extend its lifespan using Chrome OS Flex. Overall, the IdeaPad Chromebook 3 is a good value for those who manage their expectations and require a basic, functional laptop.

As value packed as this machine is there is a better option out there – if you can find it. The Acer Chromebook 311 I reviewed a few months back had a similar price but came with a higher quality display, faster performance, and the ability to output dual displays. Crazy!

Boosteroid is a Competitive Game Streaming Contender with Room for Improvement

Game streaming has been growing increasingly competitive, with numerous platforms vying for the attention of gamers. We’ve looked at a number of different offerings that you can find in this playlist. My latest video looks at Boosteroid, a startup based out of Ukraine with servers located throughout the USA and Europe.

Boosteroid (affiliate link) allows users to stream some, but not all, of the games they purchased on Steam, Epic and a growing list of other platforms at 1080p at 60 frames per second.

Boosteroid is subject to the same developer licensing restrictions as other cloud services. So like GeForce Now not every game you paid for will be available to stream but it looks like some developers unwilling to allow their games to be streamed GeForce Now do allow Boosteroid to do it. On the flip side I found a few games on GeForce Now that are not available on Boosteroid!

I found Boosteroid’s performance to be as advertised, with low latency and responsive controls. However, there is still some work to be done on the interface front.

After selecting a Steam game from the Boosteroid interface, the user is dropped off on a cloud computer running a Steam client where they have to then run the game from. Quitting a game doesn’t end the session but returns the user back to the Steam client. I found Epic games will load directly but quitting a game does drop the user back off to the Epic Store interface.

Despite this shortcoming, Boosteroid’s price point is quite competitive, even beating out Nvidia’s GeForce Now base tier if users opt for an annual subscription.

But buyer beware: Boosteroid does not currently offer a free trial or refunds, so it’s essential for potential subscribers to sign up for a free account and search the games database to ensure their library is compatible with the service. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to match a user’s owned games with the Boosteroid compatibility list at the moment.

Boosteroid (affiliate link) is a promising game streaming service with a competitive price point and solid performance. Although it still has some kinks to work out in terms of interface and compatibility matching, it’s a viable alternative to more established platforms.

Unboxing Some Cheap Gadgets from TEMU.com

As a tech enthusiast always on the hunt for cheap and useful stuff, I couldn’t resist diving into the world of TEMU.com (affiliate link), an online schlock house that offers a variety of inexpensive gadgets and other cheap stuff in just about every product category imaginable.

In my latest YouTube video, I shared my unboxing experience, revealing a mix of surprisingly useful items along with some of the crap I expected.

First the good stuff:

I got a $20 face tracking smartphone camera mount that performed surprisingly well. The best part was that all of its face tracking was done on the hardware itself and did not require an app. Another win was a relatively low cost wireless lavalier microphone kit. While it was not as good as my expensive Sennheiser gear it was pretty good for a couple of bucks. And the super cheap knock-off Apple pencil was recognized as an Apple Pencil by my iPad at 10% of the price. The only feature it was missing was pressure detection.

There were of course a few letdowns in the mix. The tiny action camera I received didn’t work, the $12 “smartwatch” had non-existent health sensors that delivered false results and the $10 1080p webcam delivered a washed out image with a microphone that sounded like I was underwater.

Without a proper customer review system it’s hard to know what you’re getting from TEMU. Many products pop up and disappear when stock runs out only to be replaced by the same item with a different brand name. In short you get what you pay for at TEMU so be prepared for disappointment. But you may encounter some delight when a cheap gadget turns out not to be a piece of junk.

Caveat emptor!

8bitDo Controllers Now Officially Apple Compatible

8BitDo controllers are now officially supported by Apple devices, including iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV. I tested them on all three platforms in my latest video.

This compatibility eliminates the need for complicated workarounds to pair these controllers with iOS devices. Compatible controllers include the SN30 Pro, SN30 Pro Plus, Pro 2, the 8BitDo Ultimate Controller, and Light SE. 8bitdo has a compatibility page here for more information. Users may need to update their controller’s firmware first – even if they just purchased it recently.

The controllers can be connected via USB-C on iPads with a USB-C port, but iPhones or iPads with a Lightning connector must use Bluetooth connections. I found that they work just like Xbox and Playstation controllers once connected.

The 8-Bitdo controllers can be used with various games, including those on Apple Arcade, as well as game streaming services like Xbox Cloud Gaming. Users can remap controls and set up different profiles for their controllers using iOS settings or the 8-Bitdo Ultimate app, which allows for further customization on their more premium controllers like the Ultimate and Pro 2 controllers.

This new feature closes a big compatibility gap these controllers had since the beginning. Now if only we can get them working with Xbox and PS4/5 Consoles next!

HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook Review

My latest review looks at the HP Dragonfly Pro Chromebook.

The Dragonfly Pro Chromebook strikes me as a spiritual successor to Google’s Pixelbook – a flagship-style device that offers features not typically found on lower cost ChromeOS devices.

The device has a 14-inch touch-enabled LCD display with a 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2560×1600. The display is incredibly bright, reaching up to 1200 nits, making it suitable for outdoor use.

The device is powered by an Intel i5 1235U processor, 16GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. It also supports the Wifi 6E standard. Unfortunately there are no user-upgradable parts, so users will have to make do with the included storage. It also features four Thunderbolt ports, which are compatible with USB Type-C and regular USB devices using a dongle. However, there is no headphone jack or card reader.

In terms of performance, the Dragonfly Pro performs well for everyday tasks such as web browsing, email, and video playback. The Dragon Fly Pro Chromebook achieves a score of 271 on the browserbench.org Speedometer benchmark test, which is in line with other devices in the same price range.

Battery life on the Dragonfly Pro lasts around eight to ten hours, depending on usage and screen brightness. It features upward-firing speakers, providing impressive sound quality with plenty of bass and volume. The included webcam is capable of 1080p video, making it suitable for video conferencing and online meetings.

Like other Chromebooks it’ll run Linux and Android apps. The Android experience is a little easier here thanks to the touch screen. Additionally this is one of the Chromebooks that is compatible with the Steam on ChromeOS beta so it’s possible to play some of your PC games on it too.

It does feel a bit on the heavy side weighing in at 3.33 pounds or around 1.5 kg. The build quality is exceptional with a mixture of magnesium and aluminum making up its casing.

HP offers a 24/7 support line specifically for the Dragonfly Pro, as well as an extended warranty program similar to AppleCare. For $11 per month, users receive coverage for accidental damage, with one incident per year, for up to 36 months.

All in the Dragonfly Pro Chromebook is an excellent high-end laptop for those who need more power and features from their ChromeOS device.

But the lack of expandable storage may be a concern for some, especially as Chrome OS continues to evolve and support more applications. The $999 price point may be steep, but for those in need of a powerful Chromebook, the Dragonfly Pro could be the right choice.

A Review of Verizon’s 5G Home Internet Service

In my latest video I explored the performance of the Verizon Wireless 5G home internet service at a friend’s house here in Connecticut. See the full review here!

Verizon’s home Internet service is an affordable option for existing Verizon Wireless customers, with plans starting at $25/month. While the service provides fast download and upload speeds in ideal locations, it may not be great for everyone depending on location and use case.

My review found that the service works well for casual activities such as video streaming, web browsing, and email. But I found ping rates to be all over the place which is a problem for gamers who need low and consistent ping rates.

Verizon is not imposing data caps on these plans at least for the time being. From their FAQ it does not appear as though they are even throttling every users although I do get the sense that they are prioritizing mobile users over their home customers based on the ping rates I’m seeing.

Ultimately the performance of the service will vary greatly based on location. My friend lives right next to a Verizon 5G tower so this is likely the best case scenario for the service. I am only a mile or so away as the crow flies and I’m only seeing 20 megabits downstream and an abysmal 1.5 megabits up!

I recommend testing the service with a 5G Verizon phone in or around your home before signing up. If you’re in a good location relative to a tower, Verizon’s 5G home internet service is a viable alternative for casual users. But it may not meet the needs of streamers or gamers.

See more of my ISP reviews here!

The TV Antenna is On the Roof! 62 Free Channels!

The topic of cord cutting / cord shaving has been a big part of my success here on YouTube. But up until now I’ve mostly been a cord shaver as I couldn’t receive all of my broadcast channels here at my house. But that changed this past week as I finally got an antenna installed at the house! See the results in my latest video.

There are two game changing components that made this possible. The first is that NextGenTV / ATSC 3.0 rolled out for me here in Connecticut. That put all of my local broadcasters on the same transmission feed allowing me to get all five off the same tower and frequency. You can see more about that in my prior video in this series.

What’s amazing is that these signals are coming in at half the bit rate they did on the ATSC 1.0 standard with far better image quality.

The second game changer was finding the right antenna that can pick up these distant signals in a reliable way. That came thanks to the “Televes DATBOSS LR Mix” antenna. It’s enormous but it’s what I need based on my location to pull in these channels reliably.

I reviewed the Televes Antenna in a few months ago and found its size along with its included amplifier dramatically improved my reception vs. the antenna I used in the first video. A big shoutout to the Antenna Man who recommended this one for my location.

So now that I found the antenna I had to find a way to get it on the roof. As good as I am with technology I am not qualified when it comes to climbing up ladders and drilling holes into my house. I had a really hard time finding a professional antenna installer around here – in fact posts to my local Facebook and Nextdoor groups only had those looking for similar services responding.

The only option in my area was Dish Network’s antenna service that was reasonably priced but they only supported one antenna for the task. When they came out a few years ago their antenna didn’t pick up much of anything around here.

I reached out to a high school buddy who’s a talented local home improvement contractor who got the job done. The only hiccup we encountered was that the aluminum pole we were originally going to use wasn’t rigid enough to support the enormous antenna in the wind.

We found a more rigid (albeit shorter) pole that gets the antenna just high enough to clear the roofline. I had him point it in the direction of the ATSC 3.0 signals were located thanks to the information I found on Antennaweb.org.

Once we had it all locked down I connected the antenna to my HDHomerun Flex 4k box that SiliconDust sent me to review a few months ago when I started this project. In full disclosure they are an occasional sponsor here on the channel.

Sure enough when we booted everything up the HDhomerun was able to find a whopping 62 channels. Most of them of course are side channels but I am now able to get all of my local broadcasters for free in crystal clear HEVC video.

The signal strength is about 7-10% less than what we had in my initial testing on my tripod where I could position the antenna in between some trees. Right now everything is stable with no stutters or other issues but I am going to see how things look in a few weeks when the foliage returns to the area. I have many high trees surrounding my property which might cause some trouble. I’ll keep you posted!

All in it’s great to have an option now to re-think how I pay for television. I’m going to see how things look after the leaves come back and will possibly ditch my cable television subscription if everything remains stable here.

Stay tuned!

Epomaker RT100 Keyboard Review

Epomaker sent me this funky mechanical keyboard the other day and it’s the subject of my latest review.

When I was younger a mentor once guided me to never oversell once a customer is on board. And that’s my impression of this keyboard – they throw everything but the kitchen sink at users from a feature standpoint but it really excels at just being a keyboard.

The keys on this one use Epomaker’s Sea Salt Silent switches (say that three times fast) – they have a great mechanical feel with a deep 4mm of travel yet remain as silent as a membrane keyboard. They had me right there. But as any good overselling salesman says “wait, there’s more!”

The keyboard can operate wired or wirelessly supporting not only its own USB 2.4ghz dongle but also bluetooth. It’s also possible to use the keyboard with two devices by having one wired via USB and the other on a wireless connection. The keyboard has a 5000 mAh battery which should last quite awhile between charges.

And of course they have to throw in the RGB backlighting. Unfortunately the keycaps are opaque so the backlight doesn’t help identify any of the keys in a dark room. So you’ll just see the silhouette of your keys offset against the color of your choice. The keyboard will operate with one of a multitude of special effects or remain at a static color. It’s not possible to set individual colors per key.

But we’re not done yet!

The keyboard also comes with a tiny OLED display that can bolt onto the left hand side of the keyboard. It can display a static image of your choosing or animations that you can draw yourself with the included software or upload from an animated GIF file. It will also indicate the keyboard’s battery status along with CPU utilization and temperature. I found this to be as useless as the lighting system but it is a neat gimmick I haven’t seen on a keyboard before.

The driver software is a bit unintuitive especially for creating advanced macros. But it does offer similar functionality to other higher end keyboards. But on Windows the driver software needs administrative access to provide the system information to the display in the background. On the Mac it wants the ability to record the screen in order to match its backlighting to the image on screen for one of its special effects. No thanks.

So in summation they had me at the keys. The rest of the stuff just isn’t necessary. I wonder what it would have cost without all the added bells and whistles?

The Home Internet Market Gets Competitive in Connecticut

What a difference three years make. Back in 2020 I was continually frustrated over the quality of my Internet service from Comcast which was my only choice of Internet provider.

Fast forward to 2023 and my region now has no less than six options for broadband with competition lowering costs, removing data caps and focusing on customer service. That is the topic of my latest video.

Frontier Communications recently wired up the area with their new XGS-PON based fiber optic network. The formerly bankrupted phone company managed to refinance their debt and pull themselves out of bankruptcy. They are now very aggressively rolling fiber out throughout the state offering up to 5 gigabit symmetrical connections. My Dad got their 500 megabit service installed at his house back in August. Check out my review of it here.

Frontier has some headwinds though. Although they are out of bankruptcy they have acquired new debt to fund the fiber optic rollout. Bond rating agencies are not all that bullish on the company’s prospects with Fitch downgrading their outlook on Frontier to “Negative.” Frontier also has a huge backlog of dilapidated utility poles in Connecticut that are in need of repair. Their lack of a sufficient local workforce and crumbling infrastructure makes me weary of their ability to recover quickly from a major storm.

Another fiber optic provider, GoNetSpeed, is also making its way into the area. GoNetSpeed is a scrappy small ISP that starts in a handful of neighborhoods and slowly expands their service offering based on consumer demand. They offer up to 1 gigabit symmetrical connections over a GPON residential fiber backbone. I interviewed an executive from the company a few years ago who was very open about their market strategy.

GoNetSpeed prefers to run fiber on poles vs. underground so neighborhoods with a lot of underground utilities will likely get passed by. But I do have a few friends with GoNetSpeed service in the West Hartford, Connecticut region who have been very happy with the service offering.

And then of course we have Starlink service which is available now throughout most of the United States and other parts of the world. It’s expensive but it works. In my testing here in Connecticut I was seeing download speeds between 200-300 megabits per second and uploads around 20. You can see my Connecticut impressions of Starlink here.

My brother lives in a very rural area of northern Vermont with awful DSL service. Starlink was a huge game changer for him and his business. You can see his experience with Starlink in my Starlink Playlist here.

Closer to planet Earth there’s additional wireless options from Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile. As their 5G networks roll out they have added capacity to deliver home Internet service and many in my region are finding it to be a good alternative. A friend of mine locally just switched from Comcast to Verizon and is very happy with the service so far.

Neither company is offering any speed guarantees primarily because performance is variable based on the home’s proximity to a cell phone tower. The best way to figure out what your experience will be like is to take out your smartphone and run a speed test near a window.

As you can see my performance here isn’t great so Verizon’s Home Internet is not an option for me. But other parts of town are seeing gigabit downstream speeds and 100-200 megabits upstream making Verizon’s 5G service a viable competitor to Comcast’s service offering.

And speaking of Comcast they’re still in the marketplace and now finding themselves on defense. As the Northeast has become more competitive they dropped plans to introduce data caps like they have in other parts of the country. They’re planning to rollout support for Docsis 4.0 technology that will provide for a fiber equivalent symmetrical connection of up to 4 gigabits per second over Comcast’s existing copper network.

Comcast also has a “secret menu item” called Gigabit Pro X6 that can deliver a “metro ethernet” fiber optic connection from a home directly into the nearest Comcast head-end facility. This service began as a 2 gigabit symmetrical connection but is now running at a crazy 6 gigabits as local markets became more competitive. At $320 a month it’s not cheap but it’s the highest quality and fastest residential connection on the market. This is the service I currently use and I’m very happy with it.

Gigabit Pro availability is based largely on how far you are from the nearest fiber splice point or node. If it’s close enough there’s a good chance they can get you connected.

It took a little persistence and self-education about fiber networks to get connected. Comcast originally said I was miles from nearest connection point but as it turned out there was a splice point at the end of my street they were able to wire me into. Check out my full playlist on the service here and see what it took to get the connection operating here at the house.

I’ll be sticking with Gigabit Pro for the foreseeable future. Since it was installed in October of 2020 I’ve had less than an hour of total downtime with more bandwidth than I could ever use. But it’s great to see so many choices for consumers after a decade without any.

Framework Chromebook Review

Framework is known for their fully modular laptop designs, differentiating themselves as the makers of user repairable and upgradeable computers. We looked at their Windows laptop last year and this week we took their Chromebook out for a spin.

The guts of this are functionally identical to the version that runs Windows and Linux. But like other Chromebooks Framework has locked this one down from running other operating systems in order to earn the Chromebook badge.

Framework does say their Chromebook is compatible with the open source Coreboot firmware but they don’t directly support it. So for those who want to choose their operating system the regular Framework laptop is the better choice. Those looking for ChromeOS on the other Framework can run ChromeOS Flex.

But as Chromebooks go the Framework is by far the most upgradeable and repairable by the user. Loosening a few screws on the bottom of the case is all that’s needed to pop the hood and get inside. Every part is labeled with a barcode that will drop users off at the Framework Marketplace where they can purchase replacements and upgrades.

In my review I was able to bring its base 8GB of RAM up to a whopping 64 GB – the most memory I’ve ever experienced in a Chromebook. Framework’s Chromebook is also one of the handful of machines that works with the natively installed Steam client that’s currently in beta.

Thanks to its i5-1240P processor we were able to download and run the Windows PC versions of Red Dead Redemption 2 and No Man’s Sky at playable frame rates. Steam on ChromeOS uses the same Proton compatibility layer the Steam Deck uses for running Windows games on Linux. It’s a great containerized experience that keeps all of the gaming completely isolated from other parts of the system.

At $1,000 this is a pricey Chromebook. But that said there’s a growing market for higher end Chromebooks and people are buying them. I suspect the experiment here is for Framework to see if this is something they can get in the door of institutions largely running ChromeOS (like schools).

Many educators I know scavenge parts from dead Chromebooks to repair damaged ones. I suspect there would be a lot of interest in a lower priced Chromebook with modular components that could keep fleets intact. In the meantime I can see this Chromebook being issued to teachers and administrators in place of pricier Macs and Windows PCs.

Lenovo Z16 Gen 1 Review

Lenovo’s 16″ Z16 laptop is the subject of my latest review. Although the Gen 2 edition was just announced (with availability later this year) this one is available at a lower price. Find the latest deals here (compensated affiliate link).

The Z16 is a larger version of the Z13 we looked at a few months ago. In many ways I consider both of these laptops as Lenovo’s attempt to figure out how much change ThinkPad fans are willing to let happen to the platform.

This unit has a more consumer-focused design with polished curved aluminum edges, shallower key travel and a haptic track pad without any physical buttons for for the trackpoint.

So while this ThinkPad will take some getting used to, the performance is impressive thanks to its 6000 series Ryzen processor. The Ryzen delivers exceptional performance even for graphically intensive tasks along with good battery life for a large laptop like this.

Its USB-C ports run with 40 gigabit USB4 allowing for many Thunderbolt devices to work with it like external GPUs.

All in it’s a solid performer and worth considering for those wanting a larger screen with good performance.