Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX is a worthy competitor to Apple’s iPad mini for those who enjoy a mid-sized tablet for reading, listening to music and watching videos.
Starting at $229 for a 16GB Wi-Fi only device, the HDX is priced over a hundred dollars less than the newly-announced iPad mini with Retina display. The screen resolution is crystal clear and super bright. The 7-inch tablet is running on a 2.2GHz Snapdragon quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM making it one of the fastest Android tablets on the market.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, this is the tablet for you. It’s so easy to shop online and download and watch your movies. The X-Ray for Movies and TV feature makes you wonder how you lived without a second screen this long.
What sets this tablet apart for me is the new Mayday feature Amazon has pioneered. I didn’t find the device very complicating to figure out, but in the event you do, or the person you’ve sent it to as a gift does, you can get live, free 24/7 tech support. Yes, a live person – called an Amazon Tech Advisor – pops up on the screen in a video chat to help you. That person can make changes to your device (with your permission) circle something on your screen or point you to where you need to go. No worries about combing your hair and putting on lipstick for tech support, it’s a one-way video chat so you can see them but they can’t see you.
Parents will also appreciate the My FreeTime management tool built in for setting limits on what kids can and can’t do on the tablet. You can also set time limits for each child so they know when it’s time to put down the game and go do homework.
We already told you about the new Dropcam Pro, but I’m including it in my Top Tech picks for the month because I’m really impressed with the update. Live viewing, email alerts, a wider field of vision and the improved ability to view a scene at night make this a comprehensive Wi-Fi security camera.
I know a few people who use a Dropcam to monitor locations while they’re not there. I don’t mean a baby’s room – this is probably not my top pick for a baby monitor – but as a security camera, the Dropcam is top notch. One friend uses it to monitor her country house when it’s empty, another person I know monitors what’s going in the office and who keeps forgetting to close that darn closet door.
The new Activity Recognition feature lets you label a particular activity in your shot and get notified when that activity happens. For instance, you can ask it to tell you every time someone comes in or out of your front door, or if you have it set up to monitor outdoors, it can tell you when there’s movement.
The sharper video image and the ability to zoom in on something and enhance it really takes this to the next level. We’re looking forward to seeing what else Dropcam has in store for us.
I’ll admit, sometimes I just plain forget to throw my iPhone Lightning charger into my bag and then spend the day asking random people if I can borrow their charger. Worse yet, I have one but it’s a USB and I don’t have my laptop with me. The innovative Prong PocketPlug iPhone case solves this problem by hiding a plug in your case. When you need to charge up, you extend the prongs and find an open wall outlet.
True, you can get a case like Mophie or MyCharge that will recharge your phone from the power stored in the case but those add more bulk and weight to your slim, sleek iPhone. This case is much thinner and the prongs fold flat so they’re not cumbersome at all.
I thought it would be awkward to pull the prongs out, but all I had to do was gently lift one side, and the other side popped up to join it. No wires, no cables, no battery meter needed. I do wish it was open on the bottom of the case so I could charge my phone directly without having to take the case off but they do include a cable and micro USB slot on the case if you want to charge that way.
Parrot Flower Power
We know, November is not exactly the time to think about flowers, at least not here in the northeast. But Parrot’s Flower Power sensor will help get your green thumb in working order for next gardening season. It’s a wireless plant sensor that tells you, via Bluetooth LE, how your plants are doing.
Take your basic indoor plant, maybe a spider or fern. Instead of seeing the leaves turn brown and curl up at the edges due to lack of water, put the Flower Power into the soil and leave it there for a few days. The sensor will monitor the soil, letting you know if the plant is getting enough sun, enough fertilizer, water, etc.
It stores the info in the device and when you and your iPhone or iPad walk within Bluetooth range, it will transmit the data to your app. Then you can tend to your plants with a new authority and be green-thumb ready for outdoor gardening season.
This isn’t the first device to measure your soil; the Easy Bloom Plant Sensor came out a few years ago. Back then (ages in tech years) you had to take the device out of the soil and insert it into your computer’s USB port to transmit the data. Yes, it was kinda messy.
We‘re fairly certain Bluetooth and an app makes this much easier than mowing the lawn.
GoPro Hero 3+
Small, mobile, mountable video cameras have become a thing. I know this because my nephew, before leaving for a trip to Africa, was determined to get a GoPro to take with him to record every bit of his awesome vacation. He, like thousands of others, has discovered the joy of hands-free recording of his amazing adventures from a first person point of view, and then instantly sharing those experiences online. In fact, Go Pro says there are an average of three GoPro-tagged videos uploaded to YouTube every minute.
The new Hero 3+ cameras have faster Wi-Fi which means you can control them remotely using an app on your smartphone or tablet. Your hands are free to do this because your camera can attach to a helmet, a bike mount, a chest vest or just about anywhere you’d like.
The GoPro Hero 3+ Silver edition ($299) records video up to 1080p and shoots 10MP photos at up to 10 frames per second. It’s smaller and lighter than its predecessor and boasts 30% longer battery life
The Hero 3+ Black edition ($399) shoots up to 4K video and takes 12 MP photos. That’s good because at least now we’ll have something to watch on those 4K TV’s coming out this year.