Monday, March 23, 2015

My Favorite New Tech Gadgets from CES

Apple Watch, Apple Watch, Apple Watch. Everyone's talking about the Apple Watch. And I'm just tuning out. While I love tech gadgets, I just can't get excited about this large watch that allows you to use your iPhone without having to reach into your pocket. There are just too many things that it doesn't do; not to mention that it will be one more way that users are never able to unplug from the tether of their technology. I'm a fan of tech with a purpose. If it doesn't improve my life, make it easier or quicker to do tasks, and make me more productive I'm not interested.

It's been a little more than two months since the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and I've had a chance to test out several impressive and useful tech gadgets. CES is the world's biggest tech show and that means there's a lot of technology innovation throughout the convention halls. There's also tons of duplication and many things that look cool, but really have no usefulness. Here's a rundown of a few of my favorite tech gadgets I picked up at CES along with links on how to obtain one for yourself:

SWIFTPOINT GTTM MOUSE - Swiftpoint, a New Zealand company that distributes this impressive ultra-portable wireless ergonomic mouse from Georgia, won innovation awards at CES for both the computer accessories and computer peripherals categories -- and deservedly so. After using this mouse for a couple months, I can see why they won these awards and why everyone at CES was talking about this little mouse that makes using a laptop on an airplane so hassle-free. Swiftpoint boasts that this is the world’s first mouse with truly natural touch gestures. Some might not like it for everyday use because of its size, but I've been enjoying it on a daily basis. The mouse combines natural touch gestures with the precision and convenience of a traditional mouse. It uses a full range of touch gestures with a natural finger and wrist action for swiping, flicking, zooming (think of holding a pen to multitask). There really isn't a more comfortable mouse on the market. It's multiple times more costly than other wireless mouse options, but it's worth it.

$139 at

SLINGBOX M1 - This is one of those devices (like GPS) that I can't figure out how I lived without. I love having a DVR cable box (I detest the interface), but my DVR does me no good when I'm at the gym working out. With the Slingbox M1 hooked up to my cable box, I can use the SlingPlayer app to watch my cable channels live or my DVR recordings anywhere. It's actually easier for me to control my TV on my mobile devices than using my cable TV converter's native GUI (graphic user interface). The quality is great ( high definition video up to 1080p) so long as it's a strong Internet connection. The app (iOS or Android) costs $20 and there are no monthly fees. SlingPlayer even works overseas so you'll never miss your favorite shows and can watch your cable TV's On Demand offerings from anywhere. You can also schedule DVR recordings from away from home and cast your SlingPlayer using Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Fire TV and Roku.

$149.99 at

Slingbox M1

SELFIE STICK PRO - Walking around CES there are a lot of opportunities for selfies. Whether its a run-in with a celebrity or a desire to take a selfie with the inventor of a new tech gadget in front of his product. I've tried a few different selfie sticks and this is clearly the best, especially considering the low price. This has Bluetooth built right into the handle of the selfie stick so there's no remote. It has a rechargeable battery that's built in and comes with a USB charging wire (almost all cellphone chargers will fit also). What else makes the Selfie Stick stand out from the rest is that it allows for 360 degree panoramic capability, allowing for full aspect crowd videos. The entire stick weighs less than 5 ounces and a nice carrying pouch is available for an extra $5.

$25 at

SelfieStick at CES 2015

FITBIT SURGE and FITBIT CHARGE HR - I spent some time last year testing out the Fitbit Charge and I found it lacking one major feature: the ability to display my heart rate. Another complaint about the Fitbit Charge was its inaccuracy when it comes to steps taken or calories burned. Well, Fitbit improved on this device in both the new Fitbit Surge and the Fitbit Charge HR which were rolled out right after CES this year. If you're looking for a good fitness super watch, either the Charge HR or the Surge will do the job. The Charge HR has everything its predecessor had, but includes continuous 24/7 heart rate display on the wrist, which provides a more accurate calorie burn calculation, day long insights into overall heart health including resting heart rate and heart rate trends. The battery life is up to five days for the Charge HR and 7 days for the Surge (less when GPS is being used). Both models offer sleep tracking and automatic wireless syncing. For an extra $100 for the Surge you're adding 8-sensor technology that combines all-day fitness tracking with GPS, heart rate monitoring and smartwatch functionality. All three models have Caller ID, but the Surge adds text notifications, music control and GPS tracking, which displays pace, distance, elevation, split times, route history and workout summaries for smarter training. No fitness tracking watch is perfect yet, but Fitbit wins for improving on its existing attempts.

Charge HR: $149.95; Surge $249.95 at

Fitbit Surge

GARMIN VIVOACTIVE - Garmin's ultimate activity tracker compares well to the Fitbit Surge. This is definitely the right fitness tracker for the total athlete. It has a built-in sports apps, including biking, swimming and golf, to track progress even when you're away from your phone. A simple swipe of the screen gives options for GPS-assisted running, golfing and cycling apps plus swimming and activity tracking. The workout stats are easy to navigate with a high-resolution color touchscreen that displays quite well in direct sunlight. Unlike other fitness wearables, the Garmin VivoActive learns your activity level and assigns a personalized daily goal. It offers the standard counters for steps, calories and distance, but also monitors sleep and pairs with a heart rate monitor for fitness activities. The battery should last for 3 weeks unless you're using the GPS feature, in which case plan for about 10 hours before having to charge it up. The watch is water-resistant, has music controls and a handy "find my phone" feature. To compare your fitness progress with other Garmin users, you can go to Garmin Connect, a free online fitness community, where you can earn virtual badges and view your progress that was uploaded through the mobile app.

$249.99 at

Garmin VivoActive Smart Watch Fitness Tracker

ACCOUSTICSHEEP'S RUNPHONES WIRELESS - These Bluetooth wireless headphones buried inside a comfy headband definitely became one of my favorite and most often used item from CES. The ultra-slim wireless headphones sit perfectly inside a sport-style headband (95% polyester and 5% spandex) making running outdoors in the cold a treat. The headphones are secure, have ultra-low power safe RF emissions and you can say goodbye to your uncomfortable ear buds. The battery is a rechargeable lithium ion with 8-12 hours of play and the headband itself is machine washable. Without obstruction you can stream music up to 30 feet away. They come in several sizes and multiple colors (I prefer the simple black).

$99.95 at

RunPhones Wireless Bluetooth Headphones from AcousticSheep

XY FINDIT BLUETOOTH KEY CHAIN -I had been searching for just such a gadget for years. This small beacon attaches to a key chain to help you locate it using a Bluetooth pairing. After attaching the XY FindIt beacon to whatever you're afraid of misplacing (keys, a dog, a child, a pair of gloves, etc.) you download the free XY Findit app (for iOS or Android) and begin to receive notifications on your smartphone or tablet when the item paired to the beacon tag is too far away. Using GPS you'll receive a precise location with a map. A built-in beeper makes the beacon ring so you can find your items faster. The app even has a location history so if you do misplace an item, you can track where and when you had it last. While I only tested the XY FindIt with my car's key FOB, I think this inexpensive device has useful application for everything from attaching to a child in a large amusement park to sewing inside that winter hat that keeps getting lost. The beacon tags come in a variety of colors and are sold individually as well as in 3-pack, 6-pack and 10-pack groups.

1 beacon is $24.95 at (the app is free)

XY Findit Bluetooth Beacon Tags

UE MEGABOOM PORTABLE SPEAKER - If you're looking for the best, most affordable portable wireless speaker with booming sound to put on your deck or backyard patio this Spring and Summer, this is it. This speaker from Ultimate Ears (UE) boasts dual passive radiators, performance drivers and advanced digital signal processing. It truly drives loud, rich, clear and balanced sound that's perfect for both indoor and outdoor parties. This Bluetooth speaker is overkill for your kid's summer camp cabin, but ideal to sit outside by the pool and let your guests connect their own devices to it and run their playlists. UE MegaBoom is a cylindrical shape, which makes this heavy gadget easy to carry around. It's received rave reviews from the likes of Mashable and the Verge. Make no mistake, this speaker's sound cannot be compared to the smaller, less powerful (and less costly) Bluetooth speakers. UE MegaBoom comes in four colors and there's a compatible mobile app available for both iOS and Android. The guests at your parties this Summer will thank you.

$299 at

UE Megaboom Bluetooth Speaker

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