October 2019 - Gadget Guy MN
Close

Archive for month: October, 2019

by

Wyze Cam v2: A wireless smart home camera

Wyze Cam

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

#####

I was first introduced to Wyze Cam in January 2018 and I bought one right away. It was billed as a wireless smart home camera and you couldn’t beat the price … it was $26 at Amazon! I tried out that first one and was incredibly disappointed. It kept dropping my wireless network and didn’t seem to have any smarts to it. I returned it.

Nine months later I was out with a fellow techie and we were discussing our latest gadgets. He brought up the Wyze Cam v2. He couldn’t say enough positive things about it. He made sure to point out that it was the second version that he had. I ordered one the same day and it was the same price, so not a major purchase. [Note: You can buy it directly from the manufacturer for only $20 plus shipping!]

The new Wyze Cam v2 was great. There were no problems connecting to my wireless network and the software was much smarter than the previous version, detecting movement on the screen and drawing a green box around the motion that it recognized using new AI.

Like the original version, the v2 is a small cube that looks like a robotic eye. It records in full HD at 15fps (frames per second) as opposed to 10fps on the original. It has two-way audio so you can talk and listen live. It also has night vision for picking out images and motion in the dark.

According to the website, a feature I was not familiar with is “Smart Sound Recognition: Wyze Cam recognizes the unique sounds of smoke alarms and CO monitors and alerts you to these specific emergencies.” That is a nice safety feature to have.

The cam includes free 14-day rolling cloud storage where events are automatically saved in the cloud for you. It also uses end-to-end encryption so your privacy is safe. Additionally, you can pop in a microSD card (not included, but very affordable) and you can continuously record locally; when it gets full, it just overwrites the card. You can record in HD or SD if you want to save space on your card. You can even set a time frame and intervals to easily create a time lapse that can be recorded to the microSD card.

There is a magnetic base and it includes adhesive tape and a metal bracket for mounting, so you have quite a few options there. It is meant for indoor use only.

The Wyze Cam only uses the 2.4GHz frequency from wireless routers, so no getting it on your 5GHz band.

It does not have a battery, so must be plugged into a power source. It comes with a 6 foot power cable, but can be extended to 11 feet with the mounting kit (sold separately at Wyze for $3).

Wyze has it’s own proprietary app that is available for Android and Apple/iOS. The app is pretty straightforward. You can see your cameras live or go back to a point in time. It can notify you whenever there is movement and you can watch those notifications instantly. You can even record or take photos directly from the live stream

Wyze Cam v2 even works with Alexa and the Google Assistant (if you have a compatible screen) so you can pull up your camera on a larger screen to view it. I generally just use the app.

All in all, I think this is a great security tool, especially for the price. If you have been debating buying a wireless security camera, then this is the one for you.

______________________________________________________________________________

Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found at gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

home technology help
by

Samsung Galaxy S10+: A quality new smartphone

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

#####

My friends at Verizon sent me over a new smartphone to check out: the just released Samsung Galaxy S10+. I have always been a fan of Samsung and this phone is a good one. The Samsung flagship phone comes in two sizes, the smaller S10 and the larger S10+. I had the S10+ to play with.

Additionally, the phone comes in an S10e (even smaller) model which is less expensive and does not have all of the bells and whistles of its big sisters, plus there is an unreleased S10 5G that will be capable of using 5G service when it is available. I will not be comparing the S10e or the S10 5G as I do not have them on hand to write about.

The S10+ has a 6.4” Quad HD+ Dynamic AMOLED Infinity Display which wraps around the sides of the phone with curved edges. The S10 has only a 6.1-inch display but with the same features. The phone is wrapped in Gorilla Glass with Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and Gorilla Glass 5 on the rear, except on the S10+ there is also an option for a ceramic back; I had the all-glass model for testing.

The Galaxy S10+ has an ultrasonic fingerprint reader that is under the glass at the bottom of the front screen. I have heard nothing but good things about it, but in my experience it was not a good way to unlock the phone as it rarely read my fingerprints properly. Instead, I liked using the facial recognition to unlock, which worked quite quickly.

The phone does not have a notch at the top for cameras and sensors, which have become popular in the last year or so. Instead it has what is being referred to as a hole punch on the top right corner of the screen, but the wallpaper creates an illusion by filling that area with a dark color and you don’t even notice the hole punch area. The hole punch on the S10 is simply a round circle, but on the S10+ it is elongated in order to fit in the 8MP Depth Camera only available on Galaxy S10+.

The S10+ still has a headphone jack. This is starting to become uncommon, especially on phones with USB-C charging like this one. It appears that Samsung is not giving up on wired headphones.

On top of the USB-C charging, the device has wireless charging as well. Additionally, a new feature that it has allows it to charge other Samsung devices too, like the Samsung watch and earbuds, on the back of the phone as though it were a powermat.

This phone runs the Android mobile operating system and, as is common, the manufacturer adds their own flavor to this OS. For the most part it is a very clean design, but Samsung adds a lot of their own software that I don’t end up using like their email app, calendar app and web browser. I like using the Google variants and they work quite nicely on the S10+.

Samsung’s digital assistant Bixby is built into the phone, but I still find myself preferring Google’s assistant. The dedicated hardware button can be remapped to open up other programs if you find you don’t need Bixby to be that accessible.

For price, the S10 comes in at $899, while it is $100 more for the starting version of the S10+ at $999. These are not cheap phones, but that should be expected as they are flagship phones for Samsung.

To buy or not to buy … if you like Samsung’s phones, the S10+ is the way to go as it is one of the best Android phones currently available.

____________________________________________________________________________

Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through www.gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

home technology help
by

Google Home Hub: A smart speaker with a screen

Google Home Hub

This post was originally published in the Southwest Journal, a Southwest Minneapolis community newspaper.

#####

The Google Home Hub is a smart speaker with a screen. It looks like a small tablet with a thick base (where the speaker is). I had the opportunity to try one out from my friends over at Verizon. It is a great controller for your smart home just like the other Google devices: Google Home, Google Home Mini and Google Home Max; you would probably even compare it to Amazon’s Echo Show which is the Amazon Echo with a screen.

The device itself has a 7” touchscreen display with a light sensor and far-field microphones to pick up your voice from across the room. As I mentioned, the base is a full range speaker. It does not have a camera, so video calling can only go one way, but that also feels less obtrusive and Google was definitely looking out for our privacy on this one. On the back of the device is the power cable (it must be plugged in), volume buttons, and a mute control for the mic…for when you want privacy from your digital smart speaker.

The hub can do all of the normal digital assistant tasks like play music, track your shopping lists, share your calendar, do timers and alarms, etc.

Compared to my Google Home Mini, I like that there is a screen which visually shows information on the questions I ask such as the weather forecast or my calendar for the day; the hub still speaks a response, but also displays results on the screen for anything that you ask.

I chose to set it up in the kitchen as I generally like to use timers and it was recommended to use for cooking where you can see cooking examples from sources like YouTube. What I found I did not do was use it to control smart home features like lights and such as it was not in a central location for me to do so.

The coolest feature for me was that it operates as a digital picture frame when not in use and pulls in my photos from Google Photos. The light sensor gauges light and adjusts the brightness on the screen. I found that pictures looked fantastic with rich colors and great contrast.

The Home Hub also allows you to play YouTube TV, if you subscribe to the streaming service, and that makes it into a little TV you can watch on. I found it fun to put the news on in the kitchen while I was cooking, but with the screen at only 7 inches, I couldn’t see myself going out of my way to watch on the small screen.

With its Home View feature, you can see all of the devices that are connected to the hub in your smart home. This makes it easy to turn devices on and off both via voice and touch on the screen. However, as I mentioned for me, the voice control is in the wrong place and would need to be more central in my home.

At the current sale price of $129 (normally $149), the Google Home Hub is a fun device, but not a device I feel that I need to run out and buy. If I didn’t already have others hubs, I would definitely consider it in order to control all of the various smart devices in my home.

____________________________________________________________________________

Paul Burnstein is a Tech Handyman. As the founder of Gadget Guy MN, Paul helps personal and business clients optimize their use of technology. He can be found through www.gadgetguymn.com or via email at paul@gadgetguymn.com.

home technology help