08/09/2020

Sweden does the London sound

Urbanista is a Swedish audio company making a range of wired and wireless headphones, earphones and Bluetooth speakers. They are named after cities (though only one for Stockholm in Sweden itself the Stockholm Plus true wireless fruity clone).



The in-ear unit reviewed is the Urbanista London, more like the fruity Pros, they have silicon tips and fit into the ear canal with short stubs that hang diagonally down and forward. The model reviewed is black (midnight), though it's available in pink (rose gold), blue (dark sapphire) and white (pearl). There's a definite hint of the brand being "fashionista" and targeting a millennial market.


There's 2 tips on the earphones and another 3 different sizes in the box.

The case supports wireless charging (Qi compatible) and USB-C (cable supplied).


The LEDs indicate the charge level when on a charging mat or plugged in.


Opening the case and the LEDs will light showing the amount of charge (a full charge will allow 25 hours of play, but the earphones only actually play 5 hours at a time, so they'll need to be placed back into the case and allowed to charge again if the batteries run out, which isn't instantaneous).

The earphones are held in magnetically which places the stems against the charging points.


There's also a button at the front of the case, between the stems which needs to be held down to put the system into Bluetooth pairing mode. Once paired opening the case and putting the earphones in your ear should just work. Long pressing the button will reset the case/earphones and loose their pairings. The earphones are Bluetooth 5, so battery life with a compatible phone should be maximised.


The earphones themselves are touch sensitive with the sensitive part under the logo and also detect when they are in the ear.


Using the smallest silicon tips, the earphones remained in the ear while moving around and were pretty comfortable. They are IPX4 water resistant so can be used in say a gym environment or playing sports, though sweat is likely to reduce the grip of the silicon and they could slip out. It's a shame Urbanista don't supply memory foam tips which when squeezed then securely fit to any shaped ear canal.

Pairing really is simple, just push the button in the case and Urbanista London will appear as a connectable device and just click on it and they are paired. Then put the earphones in your ears and sound will be heard.

There is a quirk, if the earphones are removed from the case prior to pairing and then the paring button pressed, the earphones will appear as two independent Bluetooth devices and each can be connected to individually, but not together. If that happens just forget them, and start the pairing again. Bluetooth audio codecs supported are HSP, HFP, A2DP, AVRCP. The quoted frequency response is 20Hz to 20KHz but that's pretty unrealistic as Bluetooth compresses things a lot.

Everything is controlled by tapping the logo on the earbuds (both left and right earbuds are used). A sturdy tap is required and it needs to be on the logo area and not on the side.

There are six microphones, which are used for noise cancellation and picking up speech for calls.

To play tap the left earbud twice, tapping twice again will pause.

Volume Up, tap right once.

Volume Down, tap left once.

Answer call, touch left or right twice.

End call, touch left or right twice.

Reject call, touch and hold left or right.

Siri, touch right twice.

Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) ON/OFF, touch and hold right for 2 seconds.

Ambient Voice Mode (AVM) ON/OFF, touch and hold left for 2 seconds.

Turning ANC on, turns the volume up and it does block outside noise or speech. It's not perfect but does work, the music is definitely fuller and when off, hi hat drums sounded very fizzy (or is that hissy?). There are other earphones which have better noice cancellation, but they tend to be a lot more expensive.

Turning AWM on makes (banging) music sound washed out, even just listening to a vocal podcast seemed toned down.

When moving away from the Bluetooth source (computer or phone), the audio works, until it doesn't and then starts cutting out randomly.

These probably aren't the earphones for the discerning audiophiles (or just audio snobs), but they look nice and audio quality is pretty decent for the price and with ANC on playing music is a pretty nice experience with warm tones. Also wearing for extended periods is very comfortable.

Definitely worth a look and though not quite as refined in things like ANC, they make a good (much cheaper) alternative to the fruity Pros.

They are available directly from Urbanista or from Amazon for £129.00

02/09/2020

It's the case that will stand by you



The Clckr Stand and Grip Apple iPhone case does exactly what is says on the box. There's a plastic piece divided into 3 parts that folds smoothly into the back of the case so it fits comfortably into a pocket etc. There's also a version for the Samsung S20+.

It comes in a cardboard case, with the front piece that flips open giving access to the plastic part, so the sliding action can be tried while the case seal remains unbroken.


The case is black plastic and Clckr say it will withstand a 2m drop.



Sliding the plastic back, then makes it protrude and it can be used as a grip (slide your hand into it).


If the plastic is then pushed down (it should hold, but it doesn't always and easily pops out - though the weight of the phone will hold it in position when placed on a surface).


It's reasonably stable in this position


It's meant to be able to be used on the side too (i.e. landscape), but without the pressure of the phone holding the top part of the plastic in the folded position, it kept popping out abd thus the phone kept falling on to its back.

The design isn't perfect, but in the vertical position works fine and allows easy handsfree viewing of videos or listening music. It would work well with an Bluetooth keyboard so you not touching the phone which can be a bit unstable.

It's available for £34.99 direct from Clckr's site in Carbon Fibre Black and Blue, Perforated Black, Clear black and Blue and Saffiano Black and Blue and fits all models of iPhone 11.




11/08/2020

Imou Ranger IQ

Imou is a Chinese company, though not that easy to find on their English site (the actual company is Hangzhou Huacheng Network Technology Co.,Ltd), though the Store site refers to Primetech Ltd who are based in Rickmansworth just north of London.

The Ranger IQ is a golf ball type camera (about 8cm across) with a black base and black surround. The camera can swivel almost 360 (actually 355) degrees around and is can tilt 0-90 degrees the camera has a reasonable wide angle lens.

Setup is done using the Imou Life app (available on both iOS and Android). The camera uses a USB power supply (both cable and PSU supplied) and supports both wired Ethernet (100Mb/s) and WiFi (b/g/n so 2.4GHz) and comes with a mounting plate, screws and nicely a template allowing accurate placement for drilling holes.

The camera supports up to HD (1920x1080 at 25/30 fps) using H.264 and H.265 video compression and 16x digital zoom. There's also a microphone and speaker and a microSD card slot (supporting up to 256GB cards).

Opening the app presents a login/sign-up screen (and asks the normal security pop ups for notifications, using location and camera later). Sign-up with an email/password and it will send a verification code to the email (with a 15 minute validly). Once verified the main screens presented and it will be mainly empty. Click the + at the top right corner to add a device, then the camera will be used and scan the QR code on the camera.



It can be a bit fiddly to connect, but the password is on the sticker (which isn't obvious).



Once the device is added then it can be configured to send notifications when it detects someone (and follow them), when a noise happens over a certain threshold. Once triggered a short clip will be sent to the phone and a notification appear. If triggered the Ranger IQ can also be set to sound a siren or prerecorded announcement and the user can talk through the app. Setting triggering to humans is very accurate and in that mode pets will be ignored.


The app supports geofencing so it will automatically 'disarm' when in the defined zone so it doesn't trigger when, you get home. It's also important to set the sensitivity of the motion detection as if too sensitive it seems to trigger for events that don't seem to be there. It also has the ability to ignore a region in the camera's view so if there's a clock or something that move, it won't trigger. There's also a privacy mode whereby a plastic guard covers the camera so that it really cant see anything.



The above is monitoring a garden and has been used to monitor various wildlife that appear during the day and at night.


The camera has a night mode and it does work, though in complete darkness it might not pick a face.


There is an issue that when in privacy mode (i.e. the camera blocked that it can "fall off" the network and won't automatically reconnect.



Videos can be stored locally to the memory card and to Imou's cloud storage service (a monthly fee of £1.69, £2.49 and £5.99 for 3, 7 and 30 days respectively). Though having your video stored on Chinese servers may not be optimal.


It's available for £69.99 (reduced from £89.99 from the Imou Store


If purchasing via Amazon, the code BBVF9RUT (at checkout) should give 30% off.

04/08/2020

Youpin (Xiaomi) Duka 40m LS-P Digital Laser rangefinder

This is a little unit that seems solidly constructed with an aluminium case measuring 86 x 22 x 11 mm. It comes with an attachable lanyard (quite fiddly to get through the hole) and it charges via miniUSB. It only weights 28g.

It has a backlit LCD and two buttons. The button (on the same side as the LCD) starts the laser and the side button changes modes. Unfortunately it's quite complicated to work out the modes as the instruction manual is in Chinese. Units can be set to metres, inches or feet.

The stated maximum distance is 40m and though not fully tested, if it's dark and you can see the dot, it does measure long distances, it can measure continuously as it moves around. It also measures: - 

  • Area
  • Volume
  • Front and Back reference
  • Pythagorean
  • Max and Min
  • One button angles


Though some are relatively easy to work out how to use, without an English manual some of the modes won't make much sense.

The sensitivity does seem to be quite good and it's possible to see the red dot in quite bright outside conditions, though in order to measure the distance of something small, it's likely to be very difficult just in trying to keep the beam steady enough to keep it on the target area. The measurements are accurate to about 2mm.

The main button on the side of the LCD.

Long press turns the ranger on or off.

A 3s press should reset the measuring mode.

A short press will start the measuring mode and another short press will store it (each time).

A 1.5 second press and it will start continuously measuring (the display will show the maximum and minimum measurements).

Clicking the side button will put the device into area measurement (a trapezoid will show on screen), then clicking the top button will measure one side and a second press the 2nd side and an area displayed.

The side button pressed again will put the system into volume mode (a cube is shown on the display) and then the top button pressed for the three measurements.

A third press on the side button will put the unit in Pythagorean mode - a triangle will show (a squared + b squared equals c squared) and pressing to top button will measure a and then b.

A fourth press and a double Pythagorean mode showing a two triangles. Then top button will be a, b and e (the edge and vertices of the triangle and the base c will be calculated).

A 5th press and it's subtracted Pythagorean as above, but c is the base length between the last edge (e) and middle length (b).

The 6th press should put the system in angle mode, so press top button and you measure the base of the triangle, then another press and it will measure the height and calculate the hypotenuse.

There is also a settings mode.

It costs around $16 from your Chinese eCommerce site.

20/07/2020

Xiaomi (Yuwell) Pulse Oxymeter

This was listed as Xiaomi, but is made by Yuwell model YX303. It's a standalone unit powered by 2 AAA batteries and sized 58 x 32 x 34 mm.

The unit is hinged so you place you finger in between the two halves and then turn the unit on. The colour OLED will turn on and the screen will show a waveform and your pulse rate and blood oxygen level (pO2). It takes a few seconds to get a reading.


Quick pressing the button again will rotate the display 90 degrees, then again another 90 (so 180), again 270 and again back to the start.

If the finger is removed, the unit will indicate "sensor off" and turn itself off.


As a Xiaomi product it's at the upper end of the price range and there are other cheaper units out there. It's available on import for around £20 (not available through the UK site).

16/06/2020

Maybe Xiaomi wine bottle opener

It's hard to tell whether it's Xiaomi or not (it's sold as, but there's no branding on the opener itself).

The unit is a cylinder about 6 inches long and just wider than the neck of a bottle. It has a rocker switch on the top and 4 white LEDs to indicate charge and is clear at the bottom, so you can see the cork etc. It has rechargeable batteries and is charged with via microUSB.

It's very simple to use, please the bottom of the cylinder over the top of the wine bottle, press the bottom end of the rocker switch (make sure to hold the wine bottle too) and the screw will move down, enter the cork and then pull the cork out of the bottle. The transparent area will illuminate blue while the cork is being removed and turn red when complete. It may be necessary to slightly wiggle the unit for the cork to completely come out the bottle.

The unit should come with a foil cutter, but this one didn't have one included.

Once removed, just press the top of the switch and the cork will be ejected.

That's it. Very simple.

Why? you may ask. If anyone has arthritis or other ailment that doesn't allow them to use a normal corkscrew, this is the product for them.

It can be found on your Chinese site as the Original Xiaomi Mijia Huohou Automatic Red Wine Bottle Opener Electric Corkscrew Foil Cutter Cork Out Tool 6S and costs about £20. Definitely worthwhile if someone likes wine, but cant open a bottle.

08/06/2020

Xiaomi Portable Air Quality sensor

The portable air quality sensor definitely isn't available from the UK Mi store, but importable.

The unit measures about 6 x 9 x 2 cm and is a plain white case with an OLED display that shows the battery charge and the PM2.5 value. It's small enough to fit in a jean's or jacket pocket.

The sensor is branded SmartMi.

There's a button on the front that turns the unit on or off and a micro-USB socket for charging and that's it. Short pressing the button while the display is on will cycle between brightness settings (low, medium, high).

While it was sensible to do so, using it on the tube (is that ever sensible?) produced interesting results, especially on the Northern Line where PM2.5 levels could reach over 160ppm (not safe) in the deeper stations. The display will show a bar that's green, orange or red depending on the PM2.5 level 0-75, 76-150 and 150+ respectively.

Internally there's fan and a laser reflection/scatter system that measures the particulates.

Available through your Chinese import site for about £20.