Archive for May 29, 2020

Review: Ever Widening Circles

Posted in Products with tags on May 29, 2020 by itnerd

Right now we live in a world of bad news regardless whether we’ve talking about the pandemic, or we are talking about the economy, or politics. And the news that we see reflects that. It’s downright depressing at times.

So what if I said that you could download an app that would serve up more positive news to you. There’s a new mobile app called Ever Widening Circles which is available via the Apple Store or Google Play that allows you to take a few moments from your day to experience the lighter and more uplifting side of the 24/7 always-on news cycle. I took a few minutes to download the app onto my iPhone and spent a lot of time going through it. Here’s my observations on this app:

The front page of the app shows the latest articles that are on offer. I like the fact that it gives you an estimation of how long it will take to read.

The articles themselves are very rich when it comes to media. It’s not just text, there are Instagram and YouTube links as well. This makes each article a very engaging experience.

There are a rather large number of categories available. I noted that they had TED Talks, Life Hacks, Science and Technology. Whatever you are interested in, it’s likely here.

What’s interesting is that there is a core team behind all the articles that work to put all of this together. That means that the stories that you get are curated and that you won’t see anywhere else. They promise no agenda: no politics or commercial biases. And from what I can tell, there isn’t any of that. Sources are cited as well which I appreciate. And to top it off, there’s a pretty clear privacy policy that doesn’t ring any alarm bells for me.

The app is free to download. But there are two subscription plans:

  • A $0.99 monthly subscription plan with the first month free.
  • A $9.99 yearly subscription plan with the first month free.

If you want to brighten up your day and take your mind off the news that can drag you down, Ever Widening Circles is a good way to do it. And it is worth your time to download it and have a look.

Review: Taotronics SoundLiberty 79 Smart AI TWS Headphones

Posted in Products with tags on May 29, 2020 by itnerd

True wireless headphones, meaning a pair of Bluetooth headphones that are not connected by a wire are officially a thing as the millennials would say. Apple has dominated this category, but players like Sony, Sennheiser, and others have joined the party. But I tripped over a serious contender from a brand that you may not have heard of. That brand is Taotronics and the true wireless headphones in question are the SoundLiberty 79 Smart AI TWS Headphones:

Here’s what comes in the box:

Starting from the top left are the headphones themselves along with their charging case. Then on the right is a very short USB-A to USB-C cable, and below them are a package with extra wing tips and ear tips.

Here’s a closer look at one of the headphones. You can see the copper charing pins as well as the wing tips and the ear tips. I should note that the ear tips which are purple are not the ones that come with these headphones. More on that later.

The front of the headphone looks sleek and low key. The silver tip is the only thing on it that could be considered to be “bling”. In other words, they won’t attract attention while you are wearing them. The outside of the headphone support tapping to control your music and allow you to answer calls. More on that in a bit.

The headphones charge by USB-C and for those who want wireless charging, it doesn’t support that. The headphones will last 8 hours on a single charge and another 22 hours in the charging case. That’s a total of 30 hours. During my testing, I couldn’t get the headphones to run out of juice during a day of Zoom calls or listening to music.

There are four buttons on the front of the case. When you plug it in, it will display 1 to 4 lights to indicate the level of charge. And when it’s not plugged in and the headphones are inside of the case, you’ll get the lights that you see above which indicates that it’s charging both headphones. The case is small and easy to pocket.

Pairing them was easy via Bluetooth 5.0. Open the case, and wait for it to pop up in your Bluetooth menu. Done.

So how well do these headphones work? Here’s my observations:

  • I used them for several hours on Zoom calls. The default ear tips which were the medium ones worked fine and were comfortable to wear for the four or so hours that I was doing Zoom calls as I felt no discomfort whatsoever. The sound quality that I heard was absolutely crystal clear. And people on the calls had no problem hearing me. You will not have any complaints here. After that I checked the battery status. I started out this day with three dots on the case which indicated that I had about a 75% charge. By the end of day I had two dots on the case which indicated about a 50% charge. I will note that I put the headphones in the case to recharge between calls.
  • I did a test call with my wife and she said that I sounded crystal clear. She sounded crystal clear as well. You will not have any complaints here either. In both cases, you can thank built in noise cancelling which makes your voice sound better.
  • These headphones seal off outside noise effectively. Which is great for calls and music But I should note that there’s no transparency mode to let outside noise in.
  • I listened to music using one of the audio torture test playlists that I use for testing the audio systems in cars. The audio profile is designed to produce a very neutral audio profile. By that I mean that it will not produce a lot of bass or treble artificially. That’s what I tend to prefer when I listen to music. The stereo separation was excellent and there was a lot of detail to the music. You will not have any complaints on this front.
  • The headphones are IPX7 water resistant which means it can survive immersion for 30 minutes to a depth of 1 meter. That means I had to test it during a workout. So I took it on a workout on my bike indoors on the Zwift platform. While these headphones are comfortable, they will not stay in your ears once you get sweaty. That’s a bit unfortunate. But it does highlight the one weakness with these headphones which are the ear tips. They are comfortable, but also thin enough that they tear easily if you are not careful while removing them so that you can change them to a different size. This is why I used the purple ones that you saw in the pictures above that I had lying around as they were more robust while producing no difference in the sound quality.
  • The headphones support a variety of tapping commands to do everything from controlling your music to summoning the voice assistant of your choice. But the area that you need to hit to do any sort of tapping is small enough that I found it easy to miss. In the end I gave up and used my Apple Watch to control the music and answer phone calls. I suspect that this might be a your mileage may vary thing.

The bottom line is that I was impressed with the Taotronics SoundLiberty 79 Smart AI TWS Headphones. The sound quality is great, they are comfortable to wear, and your voice will be crystal clear. Though they are not perfect as the ear tips are not that robust and the surface to tap out any commands is hit and miss. But given that they go for $59.99 USD, this is a great value. And I would say that you should consider taking a trip to Amazon to grab a pair.