Interview with the Antenna Man!

Whenever I cover anything cord cutting involving over the air antennas viewers tell me I have to talk to the Antenna Man. And in my latest video I do!

The 45 minute interview covers a wide range of topics including how the Antenna Man got his start as a subject-matter expert, the big changes ATSC 3.0 will bring, what types of antennas people should look for, and a whole lot more.

Be sure to check out the Antenna Man’s website where you can get an inexpensive consultation for what might work best in your location, and his YouTube channel where he looks at all things related to receiving free over the air broadcasts.

Check out some of my other interviews here! This will also be up on my Podcast channel a little later this week in audio form.

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.

New Video: HP Tablet 11 Review

This new 11″ Windows tablet from HP is a bit costly when factoring in all of its accessories but it does have one creature comfort that most tablets don’t : the ability to use its keyboard in portrait or landscape mode. You can see my review here.

It also has a single camera that can rotate from the rear of the device to the front as needed with a button push. Its angle can also be further adjusted via its software interface or manually.

Beyond that it’s a run-of-the-mill Windows tablet running with a lower end Intel N6000 processor. This is a “Jasper Lake” chip which is Intel’s family of low end processors that typically appear on devices like this along with Mini PCs and NAS devices.

For the sorts of things that most consumers use a tablet for the performance is adequate. The bonus here is that it is running Windows 11 so most Windows apps can be installed provided you take the machine out of Windows “S” mode.

At its current sale price of $399 (affiliate link) a fully decked out tablet with keyboard and pen will run about $587. This is competitive against a 9th generation iPad with a keyboard cover and Apple pencil. But the iPad will get better battery life, better performance for comparable apps, and has a much better camera system.

The optional keyboard attachment worked nicely. The trackpad is accurate and not too springy and the keys, while small, are well spaced with nice travel.

Pen support is here too but I found the pen to have more latency than I would like and the screen is a bit slippery when writing. The Apple pencil on the iPad is a much better experience.

But for those looking for a Windows device in tablet form this is one worth checking out. See my other tablet reviews here.

New Video: The $99 Acer Chromebook 311 – CB311-9H-C1JW

We may be in a period of crazy inflation but we’re starting to see some tech gear that was in demand at the height of the pandemic now getting liquidated as demand tapers off.

Like the Lenovo ChromeOS tablet I reviewed back in January, Acer is unloading their 11 inch Chromebook 311 laptop at a super low price of $99 at Target stores in the USA (affiliate link). It normally sells for around $200.

This Chromebook 311 has an Intel N4000 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 32GB EMMC for storage. It has a decent enough IPS display running at 1366×768 (essentially 720p) and seems to perform at the upper end of the performance curve vs. its competitors.

The best part of this machine is that it has two full service USB-C ports. It can drive two 4k displays independently at 60hz along with the internal display! Not bad for $100.

In the video we booted up System7.app – a super cool web based emulator of a 68k classic Macintosh running System 7.5. This is the same OS my $1700 Powerbook ran in 1993. It’s crazy to think that adjusting for inflation this significantly more powerful computer would have cost $50 in ’93 – about the price of a Sega Genesis game!

Check out my full review of the laptop here.

New Video : DJI Mic Review

DJI is known for their great drones and camera systems but they are venturing into a new area of content creation: audio. This very simple new wireless microphone system has two transmitters with built in mics. It instantly provides dual or single channel audio for interviews to smartphones, cameras, and PCs. Just make sure you don’t lose all of the little parts it comes with.

The system works similar to a pair of Airpods in that the included case also charges the components. The system can operate for about 5 hours on a charge. Unfortunately the batteries are built-in and not swappable or replaceable but USB-C ports on the receiver and transmitters allow for external power or batteries.

The receiver connects to cameras with a 3.5mm line out and to smartphones with included USB-C and lightning adapters. Those are the tiny pieces you don’t want to lose.

The transmitters each have internal storage that can hold about 15 hours of audio. This is a good safety net should something go wrong in the field so you can fix audio issues in post production. There’s also an option to record a -6db safety track to prevent clipping for your louder guests. The units connect to a PC via their USB-C ports and the storage will pop up like a USB thumb drive. But it stores the audio in 30 minute increments. The recordings are seamless but a two hour production will result in four 30 minute files that you’ll have to stitch together.

Audio quality is decent out of the built in Mics but they are omnidirectional and as such will pick up a lot of ambient noise. They also sounded bassier and a little muffled as compared to my more expensive Sennheiser lavalier mics. The DJI microphones will not work well in noisy environments like busy streets, convention floors, etc. The transmitters work over the very busy 2.4ghz radio spectrum and will be prone to interference in busier environments like urban offices, etc.

Each transmitter has a 3.5mm audio input for attaching an external microphone. I was able to get my Sennheiser lavalier to connect through the DJI system without issues.

For a first generation product this feels incredible polished. So much so that I am going to hang onto these for when I need something simple for a field production involving my smartphones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsshF6UevU8

New Video: Hoverbar Duo Review

I’m always looking for helpful ways to mount my iPad and other tablet devices in a variety of situations. The HoverBar Duo (affiliate link) appealed to me because it offered the flexibility of a desk stand along with a clamp-on configuration for mounting it on desks, shelves, etc.

But I found the product falls short. It requires tools even for basic adjustments. And most of it has to be disassembled and reassembled each time it’s moved from stand mode to clamp mode. And be sure you don’t lose all the parts when switching it back and forth.

Watch my full review to see where it falls short.

New Video: Unihertz Titan Slim Smartphone

Unihertz is a budget smartphone maker that focuses on two niches: Tiny rugged phones and phones with blackberry style keyboards. Both product families are full featured Android phones. You can see all of my prior Unihertz reviews here.

Their latest phone, now available on Kickstarter for pre-order, is a new keyboard phone that has a more traditional smartphone shape called the Titan Slim. You can watch my full review here.

Their prior keyboard devices had square screens that often had compatibility issues with apps that expected a more square display. This one addresses that problem with a 720p rectangular display. It’s not perfect and runs with budget specs but it may be exactly what fans of physical keyboard phones have been looking for.

I’ve always ben surprised by how well Unihertz phone reviews perform on the channel vs. other budget smartphones. While their appeal has a narrow audience it’s a large enough market to build a successful company focused on specific form factors other manufacturers abandoned.

The Sensibo Air Makes Dumb AC’s Smart

I got in the Sensibo Air (compensated affiliate link) a little while back for review free of charge from the company and finally got around to setting it up. This will integrate most dumb AC units or ductless split systems into your home automation system. It supports the trifecta: Amazon Alex, Google Home, and Apple Homekit. Check out my full review on Amazon.

I tested it with my LG split system that I use for heat and AC down in the basement studio. I haven’t touched my LG’s remote since. It’s super simple to set up – in my case I just needed to point my LG remote at it and hit the power button. After that I had full control from my phone.

They have a lower cost version called the “Sensibo Sky” (affiliate link) that has many of the same features. The Air adds homekit compatibility, a faster processor (presumably for future feature releases), person sensing when paired with one of their room sensors, and it can be placed flat on a table. The Sky needs to be vertically mounted.

Both Sensibos have a built in thermometer and humidity sensor that can be used like a thermostat. It can turn your AC on and off based on temperature, humidity or a combination of the two.

It’s a little expensive for what amounts to be an IR blaster but its simplicity of operation will have you very quickly configuring your AC to consume a lot less power. I’m quite pleased with this one. Just be sure to check their compatibility page to ensure it’ll work with your unit.

New Video: Taking Back Ownership of my Content

Taking back and decentralizing my content is the subject of this week’s Weekly Wrapup video – this is number 400 in the series! The piece is largely about this blog and my plans for it. 

One of the founding fathers of blogging, Dave Winer, said:

Twitter grew out of the blogging world and the people of blogs and the norms of blogging moved here. That’s why Twitter is what it is. 

To a large degree a lot of people who used to blog a lot (myself included) found Twitter to be much more convenient with far greater reach. The reason is that it centralized the conversation and provided a feed with zero friction. Click the follow button and you were done. 

But what happened is that we turned over our content to the Twitter corporation. They made lots of money off that content and returned very little money to creators. And apparently it’s valued at $44 billion.

Given these developments I decided I needed a home base for written content that I owned and controlled. Hence this blog. And now everything that I post elsewhere will originate here! 

WordPress really impresses me. I used it extensively on a media startup I was working on about a decade ago and was very pleased with how many improvements they’ve made. You can pay them to host it or download the open source version and host it yourself. The cool thing is that WordPress federates content across all WordPress sites no matter where they are hosted and aggregates it into a mobile app feed that also has a useful content discovery engine. 

Its use of RSS allows that federation to go beyond WordPress’ platform. I’m using it to put together my morning and weekly email newsletters and sending them out with an excellent (and super inexpensive) email blasting tool called Sendy (affiliate ink). 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TUxbSECUu0Y

New Video: Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser 4k Review

Buy one on Amazon: (compensated affiliate link) – Anker’s new Cosmos Laser projectors look great but are very pricey. There is, however, a narrow use case that this projector will work well for which is why I bought it.

I ended up getting a great deal on it. I preordered the 1080p version on their Kickstarter page a few months ago following its announcement at CES. When it showed up about two weeks ago they accidentally sent me the 4k version! Whoops!

Why I bought it: I always find myself in need of a projector for presentations & video playback for some of the things I volunteer with locally. I’m also the guy people call when they need a projector for whatever it is they are doing.

I have been using an old Acer that runs with a halogen lamp. It’s as bright as this laser projector but it runs at a low resolution and its halogen lamp is probably not long for this world.

So for my purposes this is an excellent replacement. It works great in a fully lit room, has an awesome set of speakers, and is relatively portable and easy to set up. The Android TV experience is the best I’ve seen on a projector to date. It better be for its price!

See the review here and find all of my projector reviews here.

New Video: Unboxing and First Impressions of the Nebula Cosmos Laser Projector

I preordered the Anker Nebula Cosmos Laser Projector when they rolled it out on Kickstarter. I ordered the less expensive 1080p version but it looks like they mistakenly sent me the 4k version! Here’s a link to the video.

My current projector that I use for presentations is almost 11 years old and was only 720p so I wanted something with comparable brightness that offered higher resolutions.

I am putting together a full review but in the meantime you can watch an unboxing and first impressions on the Extra’s channel. The visual quality is remarkable but it’s very pricey.

New Video: Review of the Airthings Wave Plus Radon Detector

See the review here. 

Buy one on Amazon (compensated affiliate link) – Radon is a dangerous radioactive gas that is the second leading source of lung cancer in the United States. The Airthings Wave Plus can detect Radon levels in a home over long periods of time and measures other air quality metrics.

What was interesting when we did the livestream unboxing the other day was how many people were not aware of the dangers of radon gas in their home. I had to put in a mitigation system when I bought my home to bring the numbers down.

See more smart home videos – http://lon.tv/iot

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_DLmB4FxWxM