Gadget Review: DarbeeVision DVP5000S HDMI Video Processor

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DarbeeVision DVP-5000S provides depth and clarity to your home theater’s video or images.

Pros: 
Easy to setup
Straightforward use
Small, sleek device
Adds depth to video content
Enhances 3D & 1080HD content
Plays well with nearly all input devices

Cons:
May cause audio syncing issues depending on your setup
High cost for accessory
Limited to no effect on SD or 4k content

4 out of five stars – Despite strong skepticism, the DVP-5000S performs as advertised to add depth to your home theater’s picture.  While noticeable by some, others did not notice the rich yet subtle difference.  Home theater geeks will love the upgrade while many may question this as a frivolous accessory.

MSRP $249.00 – Available for $179 during special getgeeked promotion – For more information on the DVP-5000S, please visit Darbee’s site.

The DarbeeVision DVP-5000S HDMI Video Processor with Darbee Visual Presence Technology (quite the mouthful, right?) is placed between your video source (gaming console, cable, blu-ray player, etc.) and TV to enhance your video experience. At roughly the same size as your favorite candy bar, the DVP will not take up much space in your home theater and with a sleek design, might actually be in the forefront.

Setup is measured in seconds, not hours as the DVP needs to be plugged into the wall then in between your video source and TV. The DVP’s remote is simple but enough to navigate the device.  However, with no buttons on the DVP itself, you will be out of luck if you lose the remote.  Your settings may vary but 55% seems to be the DVP’s sweet spot for 1080p HD content.  The color contrast isn’t changed but there is a difference with the depth of the content.  The closest comparison I can think of: Driving a high-end sports car is nice but driving that same car with no traffic is better.  That’s the DVP effect.

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It is possible to purchase an off-the-shelf DVD player with Darbee tech built into it and the added cost is around $100.  The DVP is a great value if you have multiple devices you’d like to enhance.

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During testing, I placed the DVP in between several combinations of products including a 4k Sharp TV and LG plasma TV with a blu-ray player, Playstation 4, DirecTV and 4k player and soundbar.  The ease of setup meant switching the testing products was as simple as unplugging and switching HDMI cables.

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This device was given to me by getgeeked Media on behalf of Darbee for my review. All content and opinions are my own without any influence by Darbee or getgeeked. Please contact me with any questions you may have about this device.

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Gadget Review: Samsung Gear 360 camera

The Samsung Gear 360 is a 360 degree camera to create photos and videos that take in the entire scene.  Usually the cameraman controls the view but with the Samsung Gear 360, the audience controls the perspective.

Pros:
Small yet powerful
Simple to use
Clean app makes it easy to edit and share content
Expandable memory
Standard tripod thread for 3rd party accessories

Cons:
Not pocket friendly – try walking around with a baseball in your pants
Mostly limited to Samsung product ecosphere
Two hour battery life
Need to adjust to shooting EVERYTHING in sight
Cuts recordings into smaller clips

4.5 out of five stars – The Gear 360 shoots near 4k quality, 360 degree videos for sharing the entire scene with your friends. Easy to use right out of the box and simplicity is the genius when using this camera.  Content stitching is done through the 360 app right on a compatible Samsung smartphone or through the PC software. It’s fun to view and share 360 degree content.

Price & U.S. release date: TBA – Visit Samsung Gear 360 for more information

Previous post focused on Gear 360 Unboxing

Samsung has made a push into the virtual reality segment with their top tier smartphones being VR-ready and the Gear VR headset for consuming content.  The third component of their VR trinity is the Gear 360 camera which is currently unavailable in the United States but hit the South Korean market at the end of April 2016 for 399,000 won or about $340US. Samsung has yet to announce U.S. pricing or release date.

With two 180 degree lenses, you will be able to capture the entire scene.  However, if there is a dramatic difference in lighting on each side (sun/shady, spotlight, etc.), you will clearly see it in the video.  Also, since there are only two cameras instead of the six in the Omni or eight in the OZO, there is a greater chance for a rigid stitch which again, would be noticeable.  Finally, objects closer to the Gear 360 but to the side along the vertical equator will be dramatically clipped.  With those limitations in mind, you will make the best content in larger open spaces such as the beach or a park where light is equal and the focus of your content is at least five feet away from the device.

When you are ready to shoot video, you press the button located on top of the camera.  There is a two second delay before recording which lets you move your fingers out of the way.  The same two second delay is also included when shooting 360 photos.  It is practical, otherwise you would have 360 degree photos with your fingers covering half of the environment.

Stitching is done through the app on a Samsung smartphone and does a decent job without user input.  You may edit your photos and videos within the app and sharing to Facebook or YouTube is as simple as hitting the “Share” button as you would with any Android device.  The computing and upload time is roughly twice the length of the video – a ten minute 360 degree video can be on YouTube in about 20 minutes or so.  Not bad when you consider the software does all of the heavy lifting.  Files are limited to about eight and a half minutes each but you can shoot as long as your battery and memory card can go.  For example, I shot 20 minutes of video but the camera held two 8.5 minute clips and the rest on a three minute segment.  So to share the entire video, I would have to put all three together.  This is common with the GoPro cameras too but their threshold is a lot higher.

Yes, there are more powerful and higher resolution 360 degree cameras in the marketplace such as the GoPro Omni or the Nokia OZO but many people do not want to spend thousands of dollars on a new technology nor do they have the computing prowess to stitch together the videos from multiple sources (Six GoPros in the case of the Omni). The straightforward comparison would be DSLRs to the less robust point and shoot cameras.  There are more bells and whistles with the pricier devices but the average consumer may be happy with a simpler camera.  The Omni and OZO would be in the DSLR range while the Samsung Gear 360 is more in line with a point and shoot camera.

Questions? Please feel free to reach out to me on Twitter.

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Gadget Unboxing: Samsung Gear 360 camera

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It is here! (Size comparison)

Today I received the Samsung Gear 360, the new 360 degree camera.  Before sharing thoughts about using this device, I wanted to share some unboxing photos.  If you have any questions about this device, please let me know.wp-1462220740157.jpgwp-1462220747348.jpg

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Back of package

The package claims “High resolution with F2.0” so I’m curious to see how this does with low-light or fast action situations, especially the contrast between video and photo quality.

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Top of camera

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Access battery, memory card, charging slot

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Accessories included in package

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Simple but smart travel pouch

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Battery and USB cable

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Gear 360 with its mini-tripod companion

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Gear 360 off its tripod

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Standard tripod threading on bottom of camera

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Fixing College Football’s Postseason

 

The college football bowl system is broken.

 

Some will say things are great due to tradition.  If tradition is so cherished, how can you explain the constant conference jumping by teams or the broadcast of games during the week? There could be over saturation in the bowl system when you are struggling to find eligible six win teams to place in these games (Three 5-7 teams played in bowls this year.  They all won their games but that doesn’t justify rewarding their mediocre seasons.).  Also, the evaluation of teams is off kilter.  A team high in the preseason rankings, a judgement based on potential, conjecture and limited past results, has a distinct advantage over a similar team facing a similar schedule but ranked significantly lower in the polls.  Also, two teams with similar schedules at identical 10-1 records are judged differently because one team’s loss was in September while the other team unfortunately lost late in the season.  Finally, teams main resume evaluation is based on strength of schedule but if the large schools don’t want to play schools outside of the “Power Five”, they don’t have to do so. Yet fans accept this significantly flawed thinking without batting an eye.

My suggestion is a radical overhaul that will add value to the postseason product presented by the NCAA, teams and broadcast partners while emphasizing results on the field instead of ambiguity and debate due to backroom decision makers. (There will still be room for debate in the playoff selection but that will only fuel the interest and media coverage.)

No conferences

This one will take a second to sink in but with teams jumping conferences for money grabs, how beholden are we to traditional conference ties? Currently, there are 120 FBS football teams. That is a nice number to work with for scheduling purposes.  Teams will be split into 15 8-team groups.  Play the other seven teams, win your group and you are automatically in the playoff. Groups can be sorted any way you’d like but here are three of the easiest ways:

  • Ranking: Teams are ranked 1-120 on a rolling 3-year basis. Each group will contain one team from ranking 1-15, one from 16-30, etc. This will be the perfect balance of top performers with bottom feeders.
  • Geography: Similar to the origin of conferences, teams are grouped together with teams from within their region.  This would limit travel costs and ensure solid ticket sales performance for each game.
  • Random: Any 8 of the 120 teams can be placed together.  This would create match ups that would otherwise never be seen. Just like the World Cup, some groups may be drastically more difficult than others with one so challenging, it would be referred to as the “Group of Death”.

The annual selection show could be aired in February, traditionally a slow month for sports, and would be “must watch” television programming.  The NFL schedule release show draws decent viewer numbers and 14 of the 16 opponents for those teams are known years in advance.  Do you think fans of Michigan, Alabama or Stanford would tune in to the college football pool selection show? ABSOLUTELY! They would hang on each dramatic moment as they wait for their school’s ping pong ball to appear out of the hopper and learn of their team’s upcoming season.

Don’t worry, I’ve thought about rivalry games. Each school will play a ten game season: 7 group games and 3 open games. This ensures rivalries such as Michigan-Ohio State and Alabama-Auburn will continue.  You can still have your Kickoff Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington with high profile teams to begin the season and end the year with the amazing Army-Navy game.  I’m sure some teams will claim they have more than three rivals but if you have that many, how special can those games really be?

Playoffs

24 teams will make the college football playoffs.  Qualification will be through two ways:

  • Win your group and you are in. Pretty simple and straightforward. (15 teams)
  • At-Large – I promised you’d still have your chance to debate and complain about the validity of some teams making it into the playoff while others are left out.  These teams can be decided by a committee similar to the NCAA college basketball tournament or maybe a weighted fan vote.  The at-large process also gives value to the three open games played by teams.  (9 teams)

The top eight teams will receive a bye (more debate included) while the other 16 teams will face each other in the first round. The winners of these games will move on to face the 8 bye teams and a typical knockout bracket will occur until a winner is decided.  Want to appease the current bowl hosts? Hold these playoff games at the neutral sites of the current bowl games.

Some may say that this sounds like too many games for “student-athletes” but a playoff team competing in the first round and making it to the national championship game would play 15 games or the same as this year’s Clemson squad.

Currently, there are over 40 bowl games. 40 BOWL GAMES!! Outside of the national semifinal games, there are three types of people who watch bowl games: alumni of participating schools, gamblers, people who left their TV on in the background.  So instead of 40 games where most carry little value, financially or competitively, I’m suggesting 23 games that would matter.  Matter to sponsors, matter to the media, matter to schools and, most importantly, matter to the fans.

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Gadget Review: foobot – Air Quality Tracker

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The foobot is a smart home device that detects indoor air pollution.

Pros:
Futuristic yet simple look
VERY easy to setup in minutes
Accurate measurements
Beautiful app with easy to understand charts
Lots of data

Cons:
Price
Limited actionable advice

4.5 out of five stars – foobot is a fantastic gadget that blends into the background of your daily life while tracking the quality of air in your home. If you live in an area with poor air quality, have health conditions that rely on clean air or are fascinated with data about your home, the foobot is a must own device.  The price is an obstacle but if you need this device, it provides great value with its data and warnings.

$199.00 – Visit foobot at SproutUp for more information and to purchase

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The good side

 

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The dangerous side

Today’s tech gadgets include features such as virtual reality, 4k video quality or interactions that bend the mind and world around us.  Other products create excitement with amazing YouTube action videos, buzzwords and super marketing campaigns.  This is not one of those products.  If tech gadgets were football players, the foobot would be an offensive lineman: dependable, solid, often unseen and under appreciated but always having your safety and protection in mind.

Remember the slogan of the old Ronco Rotisserie infomercials – “Set it and forget it”? That could easily apply to the foobot.  About halfway through my trial period, a SproutUp rep asked me how life with the foobot was going and honestly, I forgot it was in the house.

Setup took two minutes as once you download the app, it walks you through account setup and connecting to your wireless internet.  A nice feature is you can change the LED intensity, ranging from dim to super bright.  If in a bedroom, it shines brighter than a night light and almost the illumination of a desk lamp.  Luckily, you can set a timer on when you want the lights to be on or off during the day.  You can even name your foobot – I went with the playful “Sassybot”.

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Cooking leads to particulates in the air…

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The foobot app displays temperature, humidity, Carbon dioxide, particulate matter, volatile compounds and the Global Pollution Index, which is a general snapshot of your air’s overall quality.  If you aren’t inclined to constantly monitor your air data, the foobot glows two bright colors: blue for when everything is good and orange when there may be an issue. Not only will the device glow when air quality has decreased, it can also send a notification to your phone so you can respond appropriately.

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Notifications to keep you updated

Like most smart home devices, the brilliance is in the app and the foobot is no exception.  The app is clean with easy to read and understandable charts for each of the measured data points.  You are able to review your statistics down to the minute or in week long segments.  After cooking some sizzling and smokey meals, I found it interesting to see how quickly the air would fill with particulates and how long it took for the room to clear, even after the smells and smoke dissipated. Despite the claims of “Actionable advice”, the only advice the app gives you is to open a window when you pollute the air from cooking.

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Uh oh, something is in the air…

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Since I live in a suburb outside of Washington, D.C., I tend to have relatively clean air most days. If you live in a polluted area where air quality varies day-to-day or you have breathing issues such as asthma where this information could be of significance, the foobot could fit nicely into your life.

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Slightly fatter and taller than a can of soda

This device was lent to me by SproutUp on behalf of foobot for my review. All content and opinions are my own without any influence by foobot or SproutUp. Please contact me with any questions you may have about this device or the SproutUp program.

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Yep, sassy and effective

 

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Gadget Review: Hello Sense – Sleep Tracker

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The Sense by Hello tracks your sleep and monitors the environment of your bedroom to help you achieve a more restful slumber.

Pros:
Good looking device
Easy to set up
Fair price point
Intuitive app with lots pertinent data
Great customer service

Cons:
Inconsistent measurements
Inconsistent connection to WiFi
Simplicity of product makes it difficult to troubleshoot
Inconsistent

2 out of five stars – Sense is a sharp looking product (The baseball sized Sense on your nightstand and the postage stamp sized Pill which attaches to your pillow) with an amazing app but inconsistent sleep tracking and  wifi connection keep this from being a must buy item.

$129.00 – Visit Sense at SproutUp for more information and to purchase

You can pair multiple Pills to one Sense...varying colors correspond to each Pill.

You can pair multiple Pills to one Sense…varying colors correspond to each Pill.

We spend almost a third of our lives sleeping yet spend so little time or thought about how to get the most effective rest each night. The Sense hopes to change that concept…

Simplicity is the goal with this device. The Sense by Hello looks like the Beijing National Stadium, the “Bird’s Nest” from the 2008 Summer Olympics. Its modern design would be a welcomed artistic addition to any nightstand, no matter your style. No touchscreen, no buttons…instead the main interactions are by tapping the Sense or through the app on your phone.   The soft glow of the varied colored lights not only enhance the mood of the room but their main function is to give you the status of the Sense.  Almost the opposite of logic, no light means it is working while a pulsating purple or red light means the device needs your attention.  Get used to that pulsating purple light, though, as the Sense needs more of your attention than a clingy ex.  While set-up takes mere moments as you pair your phone with the Sense, the Sense with your wireless and the Pill with your Sense, there is no constant connection between these four points.  This would be satisfactory if you were able to pull data only when needed but without a constant connection, your sleep data gets lost and not even an incomplete portrait of rest can be compiled.

Get used to seeing this screen.

Get used to seeing this screen.

Or this one...

Or this one…

Or this one...

Or this one…

The Sense not only tracks your sleep but it also measures the environment in your bedroom to help you set the perfect atmosphere for rest. Temperature, Humidity, Noise & Light are not only measured but the app gives you advice on the right comfort zones for these measurements and tips on how to reach them.

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Humidity can affect your sleep.

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Beautiful app layout shows all data in a snapshot

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Ssshhh

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It was great to see this information and know what I could change in the room to make it more sleep friendly. This alone could be worth the price of admission.  Unfortunately, the main measurement, quality of sleep, is the least reliable of the bunch.

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For the most part, I have a regular sleep schedule. I’m in bed around midnight, just after the late shows’ monologues and asleep shortly thereafter.  I am usually up and starting my day between 7 and 8 in the morning.  The accuracy of the sleep tracking of the Sense was all over the place.  Some evenings it said I went to bed at 8p while others it said I went to bed at 330am. Also, it said I woke up at 5am or 6am.  These were not at all close to the truth.  Despite being a very sound sleeper, I do understand that the notes that state I moved around during my sleep may be attributed to my puppy who sleeps in the bed with me and tends to reposition herself during the night. Also, some of the data states that I went to bed, fell asleep then turned out the lights an hour or two later… all two hours before I actually entered the bedroom and went to sleep.  The middle set of data during the night seems to accurately track my data but the overall set of data skews the accuracy of any sleep report. A sleep score is given for each night which is a nice way to compare sleep quality over multiple evenings but varied levels of accuracy make this comparison irrelevant.

Despite the “inconvenience” of having to press a button to activate the sleep tracking mode, I would recommend a Fitbit or Microsoft Band which tracks your sleep with decent accuracy AND tracks your fitness levels during the day.  The one trick pony Sense can’t keep up with these products.

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This device was lent to me by SproutUp on behalf of Hello for my review.  All content and opinions are my own without any influence by Hello or SproutUp. Please contact me with any questions you may have about this device or the SproutUp program.

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Gadget Review: Revolights Skyline – Bicycle Lighting System

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The Revolights look like dots when standing still but create a light arc when moving…

The Skyline by Revolights is a bicycle lighting system that provides 360 degree visibility of your bike as you ride with a headlight and rear tail light that sync to your speed to create glowing arcs.

Pros:
Very easy to install, takes a bit to make sure the units line up properly
Bright lights to increase visibility of your bike while you ride
Great battery life – around 4 hours
Easy to charge batteries – uses micro USB chargers
Looks cool
Drastically improves safety – should be mandatory for all evening rides

Cons:
No indicator to notify of battery levels
Cost (Cyclists tend to be frugal folks)
Revolights headlight is bright but I’d recommend a brighter, focused headlight

5 out of five stars – Revolights Skyline is the premiere bike accessory in regards to safety…Easy installation, durable, stylish, fun to use…If you commute on your bicycle after dark or share the road with cars, you can’t take another ride without this product

$199.00 – Revolights.com for additional information and to purchase (also sold as individual front or rear units)
Installation takes about 20 minutes – all parts and required tools are included

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Simple efficient packaging

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Straightforward and easy to understand instructions

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All tools and parts are included

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Side view of bike – photo just after sunset

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Rear view of bike with regular headlight on

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View from on the bike with headlight on

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Battery fits between spokes

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Rear taillight

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Headlight

This device was lent to me by SproutUp on behalf of Revolights for my review. All content and opinions are my own without any influence by Revolights or SproutUp.  Please contact me with any questions you may have about this device. 

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