• Reviews and Hands-on

    by Published on 02-06-2014 03:16 PM
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    I donít know about you but when it comes to monthly bills, the cost of heating and cooling my house is one of the highest. You can cut your phone service, cut your cable, but for most people, you canít eliminate your electrical or heating.

    There are a few things you can do to reduce your costs. You can make your house more efficient by changing all your windows and doors, add more insulation, buy a more efficient HVAC/AC, install solar panels but the cheapest and easiest way to reduce your heating and cooling costs is to to install a programmable thermostat.

    The idea is that your heating and cooling needs arenít as great at night and during the day when everyone is at work. Instead of running the AC when no one is at home you tell the programmable thermostat to ease off.

    Thatís the idea anyways but the thing is, cheap programmable thermostats are a pain to program. To save money, they have tiny screens and a minimal number of buttons. Fancier models have larger screens and more buttons but you still need to go up to your thermostat and program it. If Iím lying in bed and want it to be warmer, itís a pain to have to walk over to my thermostat, set it and then go back to bed.

    Hereís where the Honeywell RTH9580WF comes in. The 9580 can connect to your WiFi network so that you can control it using your computerís browser or via an app on your iOS or Android phone. It also has a relatively large colour display. The large colour display makes programming it very easy and letís face it, the big screen looks awesome. Also, since the 9580 is connected to the internet, it knows what time it is and will automatically adjust for daylight savings.
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    by Published on 02-05-2014 05:36 PM
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    I went for a short day trip to the US the other day. Since I wasnít staying long I decided to bring along a Roam Mobility SIM. Hereís what happened.

    In the past when I travelled to the US, I usually brought along a T-Mobile prepaid SIM Card. Once, I was in New York and had some T-Mobile SIM cards shipped to the hotel I was going to stay at ahead of my arrival. When I arrived at the hotel I checked in, grabbed my SIM cards and then had to spend time activating them. Service was $3 a day and for that you got unlimited talk and text within the US and 200MB of HSPA data (if you go over 200MB you get EDGE speeds which is for most intents and purposes useless).
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    by Published on 02-03-2014 11:43 AM
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    Donít you just hate it when you have 10 phones or tablets and you have to figure out how to charge them all at once? And donít you just hate it when each of those devices is able to charge at 2 amps or higher? Okay, chances are, thatís never happened to you but in case you anticipate a windfall of devices, you might want to plan ahead and get Belkinís B2E026 10 port USB charger.

    Seriously though, something like this isnít for everyone. Still, off the top of my head I could see how some businesses or educational institutions might have a use for this. Maybe thereís a classroom with 10 or more tablets. Or maybe youíre a business that runs software on tablets. I guess some people might think of getting one if you have a lot of guests over frequently.

    Anyways, my guess is that if youíre thinking of buying one youíre probably going to be installing it in a custom enclosure. ...
    by Published on 01-29-2014 05:28 PM
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    If you ask any iPhone user what they hate most about their iPhone chances are theyíll mention the battery life. I donít know about you but itís a miracle if my iPhone is able to make it till the end of the day.

    Anyways, the problem with the iPhone is that its battery is almost half the size of some of itís Android competitors. While itís true the iPhoneís screen is only about 33% smaller Iím able to easily make it through the day when I use a LG G2 or Sony Xperia Z1.

    Hereís where Belkinís Grip Power Battery case (say that fast 3 times) comes in. Itís a case with a built-in 2000mAh battery to augment the iPhone 5sí 1540mAh. This should more than double the 5sí battery life and indeed, my seat of the pants feeling is that this is the case. When Iím using the Belkin case itís virtually impossible to run the 5s down in one day. In fact, many users should have no problem getting 2 days of usage.
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    by Published on 01-23-2014 10:57 AM
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    Remember those cheap inductive chargers I got from Amazon? Well, I got my refund ó and then promptly spent it on this...

    LuguLake ó I'm guessing that the company gets their name from an actual lake in China ó may not have the brand recognition of Logitech or other big accessory makers, but in my searches on Amazon for a Qi charger this particular item kept popping up.

    There's really nothing else like it on the market. ...
    by Published on 01-15-2014 09:38 AM
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    I'd like to thanks TELUS for providing Howardforums.com the review unit of the Samsung Galaxy Gear first and foremost, so thank you TELUS.

    When the Samsung Galaxy Gear was announced I had the same reaction as i'm sure many of you did. "What, why, what's the point?" Once those thoughts settled and I had moved past them I started thinking if I had one, how would I use it? Would I take advantage of all its features and would it really impact my daily life enough to warrant its pretty steep entry price?

    I asked Howard if he had one that I could review because that's always easier then spending my $ on something I may just not like and low and behold, here we are!

    First things first, let's get this out of the way.
    Do you wear a watch currently?
    Yes? Carry on then.
    No? Nothing for you to see here, move along.

    Why do I say this so abruptly?
    Quite honestly, if you don't wear a watch now and you're interested in a smart watch the Galaxy Gear may not be for you. Firstly, there's the well known "issue" of it working with Samsung only hardware so all you HTC / Nexus / Blackberry / Nokia and all need not apply. Secondly, this isn't a small watch. I have fairly large wrists and I found even for me it was a big large. However, style is personal and some love huge watches. 50mm watch sizing shows there's a market for that. Now don't get me wrong, the Gear is not a 50mm watch, but for me it wore like one. Big, brass, bold and it got attention.

    So with all that out of the way let's get this party started.
    For this review I had the Gear paired with my Note 3 for those interested.
    ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 04:27 PM
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    The WeMo Motion from Belkin is available separately for $59.99 or part as a combo pack with the WeMo power switch which I reviewed a while back for $79.99.

    The Motion consists of the motion sensor and the power brick which are permanently connected via a 6ft long power cable.

    Officially, it has a range of 10ft but I observed that itís actually closer to 13ft.

    The idea is that you put the sensor in one spot while the switch goes elsewhere.



    You set up rules to tell your other WeMo switches to turn on (or off) when the Motion senses movement. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 04:25 PM
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    WeMo Switch and Insight I reviewed the Switch recently. While I liked them, it took me a while to find a use for them. When it comes to things I want to turn off remotely, the first thing that comes to mind are lights and I just donít have a lot of lights which plug into the wall. Aside from the lights in my garage and on my nightstand, everything else is in my ceilings and controlled with light switches. Luckily, the Belkin WeMo lineup also includes a light switch.

    The WeMo Light Switch looks just like a standard decora light switch but itís actually connected to the internet and can be controlled using your iOS or Android device just like the rest of WeMoís lineup. ...
    by Published on 01-13-2014 03:49 PM
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    Folks,

    I just had the opportunity to try the Nokia Lumia 625 on TELUS during the holidays. It is a mid-range smartphone running on Microsoft Windows Phone 8.



    Design and Specifications

    Front and center is the Gorilla Glass 2 wrapped, 4.7Ē, 800x480 IPS LCD display. As far as quality goes, viewing angles and readability under bright light conditions are just average. Colours are little washed out and there is some colour shift. The 800x480 resolution sounds a bit low for a large 4.7Ē display. Indeed, while it is not the sharpest display available on the market it is not as bad as you would think.

    At 133.25 x 72.25 x 9.15mm and weighing 159g, its size is similar to many other smartphones. While I liked its minimalistic, clean slate design, I had some problems with its ergonomics. I found it hard to hold without accidentally triggering the soft keys and hard buttons. Hopefully, a case can fix some of these problems. ...
    by Published on 01-09-2014 08:55 AM
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    I'm still very much a fan of inductive charging, and only want you to learn from my own mistake.

    My official wireless Nexus charger from Google's Play Store works great; it's charging my Nexus 5 as I write this, in fact. I'm such a fan of the technology that decided to get two additional chargers ó one for my girlfriend's Nexus 4 and another for my Nexus 7 tablet ó and instead of paying the big bucks for something from a reputable manufacturer I chose to go slumming on Amazon instead.

    Bad idea.

    ...
    by Published on 12-18-2013 01:53 PM
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    The WeMo Motion from Belkin is available separately for $59.99 or part as a combo pack with the WeMo power switch which I reviewed a while back for $79.99.

    The Motion consists of the motion sensor and the power brick which are permanently connected via a 6ft long power cable.

    Officially, it has a range of 10ft but I observed that itís actually closer to 13ft.

    The idea is that you put the sensor in one spot while the switch goes elsewhere. ...
    by Published on 12-17-2013 08:40 AM
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    Last Saturday I had to do the unthinkable ó join the mad throngs of holiday shoppers in downtown Toronto. On that particular afternoon it just so happened that (1) there was a snowstorm, and (2) half of the downtown subway line was shut down.

    As I waited for a connection at St. George Station I suddenly remembered that there was free WiFi there. I immediately whipped out my phone, connected, and performed the mandatory speed test:



    Not bad.

    Some friends who are regular commuters have complained to me about how much of a pain it is to connect, but it seemed to me that the entire process took less than sixty seconds. When I again found myself at St. George Station last night, I decided to document the procedure.

    ...
    by Published on 12-15-2013 03:24 PM
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    The Huawei Ascend Y300 is a super-low-end phone that is presently sold in Canada by Bell Mobility as an entry-level prepaid phone. They usually sell it for $100 outright, but at the time of this writing (leading up to Christmas no doubt) you can buy one for just $80. It might even be possible to get it even cheaper elsewhere.

    So what does $80 buy you? And how does it stand up to the Motorola Moto G, which sells for around $180 (on sale for $150 from Koodo at the time of this writing)? Letís find outÖ
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    by Published on 12-14-2013 03:26 PM
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    The G2 is the newest high-end offering from LG. It is essentially the sister phone of the Google Nexus 5, and as such quite a few of my observations on the G2 match the Nexus 5. Except for one glaring flaw in the phone I tested, I found the G2 to a worthy contender in the crown for best high-end smartphone.

    I will primarily compare the G2 to my Galaxy 4 as it is available for side-by-side testing, but if applicable I will compare the G2 to the Nexus 5, going on what I wrote in the review, and what I remember from my testing.
    ...
    by Published on 12-13-2013 02:08 PM
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    The Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini has been around for approximately a year, but it was only released in Canada on October 4th of 2013. It sells for around $250 off-contract, and it therefore competes with the newly-minted Motorola Moto G, which has set a new standard for what to expect in a low-end phone.

    The newest version of the firmware for this device does bring to bare a number of features that were originally released on the Galaxy S4, and so when it comes to software features, the phone is no slouch. Its technical underpinnings however are nothing like the S4 however.
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    by Published on 12-09-2013 08:51 PM
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    The Moto G is new phone from Google-owned Motorola aimed at the budget shopper. It easily blows away every other low-price smartphone on the market and could single-handedly bring a lot more Android buyers who simply couldnít justify the price of anything else.

    The Moto G isn't a high-end smartphone, nor does it even try to compete with the likes of the Galaxy S4, the HTC One, the LG G2, or the Nexus 5. It doesn't have the specs to do that. However, what it does have is excellent build quality and one of the lowest upfront prices of any smartphone on the market, mated to hardware that is way above what one might expect for the price. It feels like a premium high-end phone from 2 years ago.

    So how inexpensive are we talking? Well $180 regularly, but on sale at the time of this writing for just $150 on Koodo. Big deal youíre thinking, I can buy a high-end phone for that kind of money. However, weíre talking about OFF-CONTRACT here, the PURCHASE-OUTRIGHT price. You can buy the Moto G for this insanely low amount without signing a contract, or opening a ďtabĒ, or without even signing up for service at all if donít want to. If you loose one, this is all it will cost you to replace it.

    As far as which phone I compare the Moto G to in this review, that will have to be my Galaxy S4, simply because itís my day-to-day phone and the one I have available for comparison. Before you call me out for being unfair, note that I donít generally include much in my reviews about features and add-ons, I concentrate on the core functionality. While the Moto G isn't the greatest at any one thing, youíll see that when it comes to core competency, the Moto G doesn't need to make any apologies.
    ...
    by Published on 12-09-2013 09:07 AM
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    This past weekend I did something I've not done since the late 1900s: strap on a watch. Not just any wristwatch, mind you, but a smartwatch ó Samsung's Galaxy Gear, to be exact... paired with a Galaxy Note 3.

    Back in 1999 I got my first PCS phone from clearNET, and the network-adjusted time on that "digital" phone made wearing a watch redundant ó at least for me. I have at least one friend who has carried on wearing wristwatches to this very day; for me, the convenience of glancing at my wrist is made moot by the phone I usually have in my other hand.

    So maybe I'm not the best person to be reviewing this early iteration of a nascent product category. But hey, if the Gear can win me over then it's gotta be good, right?

    ...
    by Published on 11-29-2013 03:14 PM
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    While a new LG G2 would be nice, not everyone wants or has the means to sign a contract on an expensive plan. They also donít want to spend $700 on a new phone. So what can you get if youíre on a prepaid budget?

    Now, since most fancy phones are available on prepaid, Iím putting a $200 limit on the cost of the phone. $200 is still a sizable chunk of change but to be honest, if I set it lower there just arenít enough phones that I would recommend. Letís check out the contenders. ...
    by Published on 11-28-2013 08:37 AM
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    I have a confession, I have a cheap side. Iíll carry a bunch of fancy phones in my pocket but will balk at spending $30 on a fancy phone case. So it should be no surprise that I regularly check out the phone accessory section at dollar stores.

    Specifically, Dollarama, a Canadian chain of Ďdollar storesí. Like most, Dollarama sells a lot of merchandise that actually costs more than a buck - most of their phone accessories cost $1.50, 2, 3, etc.

    If youíve ever been to one, youíll know some of the stuff there is of dubious quality. So I decided to pick up a couple of items to see if theyíre any good.

    Now phone accessories at Dollarama seem to fall into 2 categories, their own private label stuff under the ĎTech 1í brand and clear out merchandise theyíve picked up from elsewhere. I tried to focus on the Tech 1 stuff since those items are more likely to be stocked at all Dollaramas. That said, I noticed that whatís in stock varies greatly between different locations. For example, I bought the the lightning cables a couple of months ago but havenít seen them in stock anywhere since. The multi-layer case is another hard-to-find item.

    Unfortunately, most of the accessories at Dollarama are for iDevices. The rest are generic accessories. They donít even sell stuff for Samsungís Galaxy line of devices. ...
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