Jul 28

Creative Sound Blaster Roar ★★★★☆

Creative Sound Blaster Roar: Portable NFC Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with aptX/AAC. 5 Drivers, Built-in Subwoofer

ROAR/TERA BASS

Creative Sound Blaster Roar is full of functionality. I don’t think I own another Bluetooth speaker that can do more than this one can, but it’s not just a gimmicky speaker. The sound lives up to Creative Labs expectations. Tera Bass throws in bass where I never knew it existed. Roar boosts music over the chatter of a crowd and fills the room. I love Roar. Music bounces off the walls. Fullness without hurt-my-ears loud. How’d they do that? It’s a feast for my ears and they leave satisfied.

CHARGING

An AC adapter is provided, but the Sound Blaster Roar can also be charged via micro USB cable.

WIRELESS

I think my phone might be finicky, but this is one of the few devices where NFC actually works on my HTC One. Connection is so quick and easy, and I don’t even have to worry about reconnection. It reconnects automatically. Of course, there is an option to use Bluetooth pairing, if you don’t have NFC.

Bluetooth range is excellent, comparable to my best Bluetooth devices. I can go two rooms away and still have a great connection.

AS A POWER BANK

Yes, I can use this speaker to charge my devices. It’s far too big to regularly use as a power bank. I’m not going to be carrying it around with me. Instead, I use it when I want to charge my phone while playing music. It fully charged my phone and still had power left for music.

MICRO SD CARD

I don’t need a smartphone to use this speaker. I can use a micro SD card instead.

With the card, I can record music that’s playing on the speaker, or I can turn the mic on and record myself speaking. Loop playback or shuffle the music are both options.

SLEEP FUNCTION

This function is only available if we use the micro SD card. We have a choice of 15 or 30 minutes and the music slowly fades out so we are not jolted out of sleep by the sudden quietness.

RECORD

To record, we need to insert a micro SD card. Record with either the microphone on or off, and play the result right back without needing to insert the card into the PC.

ALARM

The alarm sounds more like a fire truck saying “get out of my way,” rather than a panic alarm screaming “save me!”

This isn’t an alarm clock. It’s just an alarm that sounds when we press a button. I’m not sure when I’d ever need it.

PHONE CALLS

Phone calls come through loud and clearly. There is a minor echo on the caller’s end. My daughter thought it was louder than I did when we tested the speaker. We were able to hold a conversation without too much difficulty, though.

DRAWBACKS

The drawbacks have mainly to do with the controls. Only power, volume, NFC and telephone are available on top of the speaker. Everything else is on the back. If I want to boost the bass, I need to turn it around. If I need to advance the music, I need to turn it around. If I want to press the play button, I need to turn it around. If I want to reach the bass button, I need to turn it around.

Another problem is some functions are not intuitive. For instance, sleep mode requires we first set the speaker to loop the music and then press and hold the record play button until it beeps once (15 minutes) or twice (30 minutes). It also requires the use of a micro SD card. No card, no sleep.

And who knew that pressing the alarm button when the alarm switch is off will trigger the bass function? Alarm = bass?

OVERALL IMPRESSION

This is a hefty speaker about the size of a fat book that speaks to quality. Functionality is incomparable, sound does not disappoint; but controls are a little inconvenient and not entirely intuitive.

This product was provided for review by Creative Labs.

Jul 28

Creative Sound Blaster Roar Carry-bag ★★★☆☆

Creative Sound Blaster Roar Carry-bag

Creative Sound Blaster Roar Carry-bag fits the Sound Blaster Roar like a glove. It comes with a shoulder strap. The mesh material lets the music play through. I don’t have to remove it to enjoy my music. There’s a pocket on the side allowing me to carry my phone and speaker together. All the ports are exposed to allow easy access for charging, micro SD card, auxiliary cable.

There’s only one problem: someone forgot to cut out holes for the controls. Sure, I could press the power button through the mesh. I just have to do it blindly, and the switches are tricky. If I don’t have everything memorized (there are quite a number of switches and buttons), I have to take the speaker out of the bag to see what I’m doing.

Perhaps cutting out enough mesh to expose all the control buttons would weaken the bag? At the very least, allow the volume, phone, and power buttons. I would even sacrifice port access for that, since being in the bag means it’s on-the-go.

Though it can function as intended (play music while carried in the bag), the function is limited by the design. It can be better.

This product was provided for review by Creative Labs.

Jul 28

Prolix HTC One M8 Heavy Duty Protective Cover Case ★★★☆☆

Prolix HTC One M8 Heavy Duty Protective Cover Case with Kickstand for HTC One (M8) / The All New HTC One (2014) (Black/Orange)

I am impressed by the rugged nature of the Prolix HTC One M8 Case. Lots of protection for my HTC One, and a screen protector to boot. I did not use the screen protector, as I already have a tempered glass one I like, but it’s included if you need it.

The case is easy to grip, it’s visible enough to pick out from a distance, and a stand is built right in to the back. Yes, the stand works, but only in landscape position. It feels a little on the cheap plastic side, like it might break off if I’m not careful. That hasn’t proven true yet. It’s still there, and I still use it.

The ports are easy to reach. I can charge my phone without removing it from the case. The power button is recessed so that reaching it takes more finagling, and the volume buttons are covered, push-through style. Pushing through takes effort. I often use the volume button to snap the photos, but I can’t do that with this case. I have to push so hard that the phone shakes and the photos are blurry. Adjusting volume takes effort.

Fix the button issues and this could be a four or five star phone.

This product was provided for review by Prolix.

Jul 28

Ziploc Slider Storage Bags ★★★★☆

Ziploc Slider Storage Bags Quart

Ever have a zippered plastic bag accidentally spill because you thought the bag was zipped up? With Ziploc Slider Storage Bags, that’s less likely to happen. One slide, and the bag is sealed.

This incarnation of Ziploc is special for its flat bottom design. The bag stays upright when filled with snacks. That proved useful when I brought a bag of cereal with me to the bowling alley. I could just set it on the counter and munch away.

I tested the seal by filling a bag with water and setting it on the counter. The seal leaked. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to pass. I’ve always had problems with Ziploc bags and liquids. I use them only for dry foods, or mildly wet foods for this reason.

The write-on area works with both ballpoint pens and markers. I tried both and ink took to it like it knows where to go. Very easy to read, no smudging.

This product was provided for review by the Amazon Vine program.

Jul 28

Simbans (TM) S74P 7 Inch Dual Core Tablet PC ★★★☆☆

Simbans (TM) S74P 7 Inch Dual Core Tablet PC – Dual Camera [NEW MODEL June 2014] – PINK

I have always had wonderful experiences with Simbans tablets. It’s a brand I can trust. Every tablet has been better than the last, which is why I’m a little disappointed with the Simbans (TM) S74P.

From the beginning, the Simbans S74P has suffered from little glitches. It shut down before the battery was fully drained. When I got it back up, my email profile was erased and I had to set it up again. Sometimes, the apps would close down or not work. Once, it wouldn’t turn on until I stuck a pin in the reset button, although that did not erase my settings (whew!). To be sure, it is a usable tablet, but the annoyances are there.

WIRELESS

Wi-Fi reception is weak, about half the signal strength I get with other devices. It has no Bluetooth capabilities.

INTERNET

Loading pages is slow, but I am able to stream YouTube videos I have uploaded to my channel.

CAMERA

There are front and rear cameras. They work fine, but the quality is better in my previous Simbans tablet.

STORAGE

A TF slot is included, but I was afraid of losing my card in it (I’ve done that before). I put my card in as far as I could without feeling a spring, so I took it out. I flipped it over and felt a spring, but it did not trigger anything. I decided not to test this feature.

CHARGING

Unlike other tablets, this tablet uses a proprietary charger. Do not make the mistake of charging with a micro USB cable. You will find that your tablet will not charge. This is a huge inconvenience for me, not only because I am afraid of losing the charger, but because I have to carry an extra charger around with me.

BATTERY LIFE

I initially thought it was poor, because it drained from fully charged to 23% from morning to evening while doing nothing more than sleeping. I’ve used it since and it seems to hold a decent charge so that I can read and surf without recharging more than once or twice a day.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

This is a usable tablet, but I much prefer the Simbans S73P. That one did not present me with any glitches whatsoever.

This product was provided for review by Simbans Electronics.

Jul 28

Pro Balance® 14-Day Vacation Feeding Blocks for Fish ★★★★★

Pro Balance® 14-Day Vacation Feeding Blocks for Fish, 2-pack

After 14 days, my goldfish are alive! My two large goldfish (about 5 inches nose to tail) live in a 10 gallon tank with a waterfall filter. We went on a two week trip and I was worried about how they would eat. I’m glad I found these Pro Balance® 14-Day Vacation Feeding Blocks. When I got home, the blocks were gone, but the water was clear and the fish were healthy. It worked exactly as promised.

Jul 28

Trevor Romain: Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain ★★★★★

This review was originally posted February 5, 2009.

Trevor Romain: Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain

by Trevor Romaine

Trevor Romain: Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain is a well made video for kids of all ages. Even younger children will have no trouble comprehending the concepts it tries to teach. My children are 4 and 7 and they had no trouble fully understanding it. The video held their interest and helped open up a dialogue regarding bullying.

The video explains the tactics that bullies use to intimidate their victims. The main character demonstrates what children often do when bullied, some common misconceptions and what tactics are most successful.

I found the video to be very informative, even for myself, and would recommend it to all parents of young children.

Jul 28

The Naughty Nork ★★☆☆☆

This review was originally posted February 6, 2009.

The Naughty Nork (Moongobble and Me)

by Bruce Coville

The Naughty Nork is about a little boy who goes on a quest to break a curse to turn his monster friend Oggledy Nork (Naughty Nork) back into a human.

Amazon lists the book for 9 to 12 year olds. That may be the reading level of the books. My son is 7 years old and reads at about the third grade level. He’d be able to read this book; but I read the first chapter to him because I wanted to read it as well. After the first chapter, he decided he did not want to continue. My 4 year old was not interested at all.

The pages are beautifully bordered, the pencil illustrations are nicely done. Visually, it is an attractive book and those little elements add to the setting and aid the reader in fully immersing into the story.

I found the silly nonsensical words detracted from the story. Made up names and places are best done so the reader doesn’t notice they’re made up. One reviewer mentioned Dr. Seuss, which was an excellent example. Harry Potter is another example. In those worlds, the new words are easily associated with their meanings despite the fact that they are made up. In this book, the words popped out at me in every sentence, and it was hard not to focus just on those words. This would actually have been a better book without the use of silly, made up words.

The writing style was easy to read and flowed well but I think the storyline needed help and some things were a little choppy and didn’t make sense.

For instance, the little boy tries to convince his parents to let him keep the Naughty Nork at home for the night and they don’t because his mom is pregnant and Dad didn’t want to upset her. That was the end of the first chapter. It was a big ending. The boy was in shock over the news. I expected the next chapter to be about the surprise big news.

The next thing you know, he’s on his quest. News about the becoming a big brother was completely forgotten from the next turn of the page. Why did he need permission for Naughty Nork to stay at home in the first place when they could have just gone straight on their mission? Maybe so the reader could find out the mom was pregnant and the boy could go on his quest and grow up and then learn he doesn’t have to worry because the baby is just one more person to love. Exactly how his quest taught him that, I’m still unclear. He didn’t give it a moment’s thought in the entire adventure until his mom felt the need to reassure him.

There are many other things that made me do a double take. I think I’m missing something, but when I re-read it, I find out it’s just not there.

This book was provided for review by the Amazon Vine program.

Jul 25

Backseat Organizer ★★★★☆

Backseat Organizer

This backseat organizer works best in cars without pockets in the seatback in front of them. It’s great at organizing smaller items, but it doesn’t hold larger items that would otherwise fit in the car’s seat pocket. My son says it gets in the way as it creates less room for his legs when sagging back towards him. For young children in car seats, this probably won’t be an issue. Their legs are not long enough to hang over the seat.

We’ve mostly used this for water bottles, sunscreen, and paperback books. We’ve traveled with it up and down the state. It’s nice, made well enough, but not nearly as handy as I’d have liked. 3½ stars.

This product was provided for review by Freddie and Sebbie.

Jul 25

Liquid Chalk Ink Markers ★★★★☆

Liquid Chalk Ink Markers – 6mm Chisel Tip, Fluorescent Rainbow Colors – for Non-Porous Surfaces – Water Based & Easily Erasable

My daughter and I had a great time using these Liquid Chalk Ink Markers to decorate our car’s rear window in preparation for the San Diego Comic Con. In contrast to regular dry erase markers (yes, I tried them for comparison), these are bold and bright and visible. They are best for single line drawings or words. Filled areas look fine at a distance, but we do see the stroke lines clearly up close.

Washing off is super quick and easy. I had written some words on the car a week earlier that came right off with the squirt of a hose as I gave my car a bath.

It takes a bit of pumping to get the markers started. After they’ve sat around for more than a few days, it take some pumping to get them restarted. Once the tips are wet, we’re good to go for the entire session. The pumping takes a few minutes of time, probably the biggest drawback.

This product was provided for review by Chalk This Way.