Before I got into Android, I wasn’t an overly tech-centric person. I had a few gaming consoles back in the day for playing GTA and other various titles, but to my point, I’ve never had a water-cooled PC called “n00b st0mp3r” or even a real smartphone until 2009. This can all be attributed, at least from what I can tell, to where and how I was raised as a child. I’m originally from a county in Northern California where trends can take years to reach, but given the internet age we currently live in, it’s getting much better there and more connected to the outside world.
Anyway, fast forward to 2017 and I’m on the front lines of innovation *laugh*, hanging out at CES, discussing industry buzzwords like IoT and getting to play with all of the latest and greatest toys available on the market. Needless to say, I’m now more attune to what’s taking place in the tech space and I very much enjoy the connectedness of it all.
So, now that I’m all in love with technology and have implemented much of it into my life, I wanted to share my favorite pieces of tech I currently use and maybe inspire you to do the same in the comments below. Not all of it is related to Android, but just tech in general.
Here we go.
Propel’s Star Wars Battle Drone
While we have yet to implement aerial drone footage in our video reviews (don’t think it’ll ever happen), I still enjoy playing with drones during my personal time. Recently launched are the Star Wars Battle Drones from Propel, right up my alley as a Star Wars nerd. While these drones are designed to essentially battle each other with built-in lasers (laser tag style), I enjoy flying mine around solo.
According to the tech specs, these drones can reach up to 35MPH, but I haven’t gotten quite comfortable enough to bump the controls up to Mode 3. It would also be helpful if we caught a bit of decent drone-flying weather up in Portland, so I may be waiting until summer time to really let her loose in the field.
If you go onto YouTube and check out other peoples’ flights, you will see that the entire unboxing and setting up experience is a blast. Everything, including your flights, are paired with Star Wars music and voices, perfect for fans who suffer from severe nostalgia. Even the process of putting batteries into the controller is met with voice guidance from a Rebel Commander.
Below is what you experience when first opening the box. If you happen to be into Star Wars and into drones, this purchase is a no-brainer. Only downside is that it’ll cost you $199 for one, and technically, they’re much more fun when you have two (laser tag multiplayer battles). That experience starts at $400, making it not the cheapest drone you can find. However, buyers do have their choice between a 74-Z Speeder, T-65 X-Wing, and TIE Advanced X1.
May the Force be with you.
Propel Link ($199)
Aukey Dash Cam
I have been thinking about installing a dash cam in my car for quite some time, and what really inspired me to do so are all of the videos on YouTube of people capturing amazing incidents on camera. In reality, I don’t think anyone really needs a dash cam until something actually happens to you or in front of you, so I see it as more of a “better safe than sorry” type of investment. To put that into perspective, what I’m saying is, 99% of the footage you capture will probably be quite dull, but then there’s that 1% that will kick ass or come in handy if an accident is involved.
Speaking purely about the Aukey Dash Cam, which Aukey provided for me to check out, it does its job and it does it quite well. It can record in up to 1080p with a 170° FOV (field of view), and its storage capacity it based solely on the size of microSD card you supply. Should you want a ton of footage, you can throw a 128GB card in the slot. If you don’t think you do that much driving, a 32GB should suit you just fine. For me, I use a 32GB and can get plenty of footage. When I have a clip I want to share, I simply stick the SD card into my phone and can either upload to Google Drive or YouTube directly. It’s a pretty straightforward experience.
The Dash Cam is also capable of recording your vehicle’s interior audio, but I did notice the mic is somewhat weak. At least for me, my car doesn’t provide the best insulation from road noise, so that’s also part of the problem.
Below is a bit of not-so-interesting test footage I’ve taken of both day and night driving, some with audio enabled and some without. I suppose it’s a good thing it’s uneventful, but you never know when having a dash cam might come in handy. If you have also been looking to get a dash cam, the Aukey product is on sale through Amazon, priced at $70 down from $90.
Amazon Link ($70)
Google Home and Amazon Echo
I get asked quite a bit by family and friends if they should choose the Google Home or Amazon Echo. Honestly, I enjoy them both, and the only reason I stick with Google Home is because of my subscription and music library being synced with Play Music. If that wasn’t the case, maybe I’d rock an Echo. Point being, you can’t go wrong with either of them, and both will only get better as time goes on.
While I will be the first to admit that I probably don’t use the Google Home to its full potential, I will say, having such a fancy music speaker slash kitchen timer is quite nice. When fully hands-on in the kitchen, it’s good not having to lift a finger when in need of setting a timer for when that apple pie needs to be removed from the oven.
There’s another part of me that also enjoys the look on a guest’s face when they hear a woman’s voice coming from an unoccupied part of the house. “What the [email protected]#%,” is usually their reaction and then I have to explain what Google Home is. By the time I’m done explaining everything it can do, they usually seem likely to buy one for their own home. I love that feeling.
Anyone reading this probably knows about Google Home, so I won’t dive too deep into the experience (we also have a complete review of the thing), but if you have been on the fence about either a Home or Echo, just go for it. They’re a blast.
I have had Google WiFi hooked up for nearly a month now, and seriously, it’s fantastic. I’m new to this whole mesh network thing, but so far, it’s been great. While I have been noticing much improved connection and speeds where I have placed the access points, it’s the smaller things I have enjoyed immensely.
In the past, whenever guests would come over, I’d typically have to provide them with my main WiFi password. This would then allow them access to cast their crappy music or YouTube videos to my media system. I’m sorry, but your taste in music sucks and I’m so burned out on James Corden and Carpool Karaoke. Needless to say, with Google WiFi and the super easy process of setting up a Guest network with its own name and password, they can get their Instagram and Snapchat on, while still not being able to access my treasured network of goodies.
On top of that, the idea that I can see each and every device that is drawing data on the network, complete with names and which point they are connected to, makes network management seem so painless. It’s as if the standard modem and router option seem archaic in comparison. I know the IT guys will start a war down in the comments about mesh networks vs. conventional routers, but you know what, I enjoy controlling everything from an app on my phone and everything just working. It makes life much less stressful, and honestly, I haven’t experienced a single hiccup during my time with Google WiFi.
While the initial investment of $299 for a 3-pack might seem pricey, I think it’s worth the plunge if mesh has been calling your name.
ecobee3 Smart Thermostat
I used to think that smart thermostats were a dumb idea. What, people are too damn lazy to change the dial themselves? However, now that I have been living with one, the ecobee3 to be exact, I take it all back. Me likey the smart thermostats.
Essentially, while one can change the dial up on their smartphone or tablet, there are other advantages to installing one. For me, I enjoy having a forecast and weather information available right from where I set my heat and cooling, allowing me to know just what to expect when setting my temperatures. On top of that, back to the ease of use concept, whenever I head upstairs for bed time and realize I forgot to turn off the heat, I can do so just from my phone. No more dragging my lazy bones downstairs and manually setting it.
With ecobee3 (the standard version, not the Lite), users also get a separate room sensor. That additional room sensor is nice if you live in a house with multiple floors, allowing the thermostat to get a better understanding of how to heat the home. For example, is the downstairs staying cool while the upstairs is getting too hot? These are things that the thermostat should know in order to adjust itself to find the perfect balance between all of the floors.
I hear a lot of the same positive feedback from owners of the Nest (Kellen uses a Nest in his home), and really, I don’t think you can go wrong with either. I originally purchased a Nest to install, but due to a wiring issue I really didn’t want to deal with, I went with the ecobee3. There was a bit of wiring I had to get through, but it’s not hard at all. I can also vouch for ecobee’s customer service, which was top notch when I was knee deep in the installation process.
Amazon Link ($248)
There you have it, a short, yet detailed list for a few of my current favorite tech things. Have your own favorite tech toys you want to share with me? I’m always interested in trying new things, so share them below!