Kiwi Design Google Home Mini G2 Wall Mount Review: Solving Problems That Aren’t There

Kiwi Design

Miniature smart speaker designs like the Google Home Mini and the Amazon Echo Dot are so small and handy that they beg to be placed in convenient places. And what’s more convenient than sticking them right next to the outlet that they’re plugged into?

That’s the idea behind the Kiwi Design G2 Wall Mount for the Google Home Mini. It’s not the only Home Mini mount that’s designed to attach directly to an electrical outlet, and unfortunately, it’s not the best, either. In trying to give a rigid wall mount extra flexibility, Kiwi removed some of its utility, making it harder to work in the limited space of a wall plug.

It’s a real shame, because in terms of aesthetics and materials this base is a winner. It’s also very reasonably priced at just twelve bucks. But the simple fact is, there are better options available if you want a semi-permanent wall mounted home for your Home Mini.

Keep It Simple (Or Don’t)

The Kiwi G2 consists of two pieces made almost entirely of silicone: a mount and coil that nestles the Home Mini’s standard plug, and a tray for the Home Mini unit itself.

The G2 wall mount consists of two pieces: a wrap for the plug and a tray for the Home Mini.
The G2 wall mount consists of two pieces: a wrap for the plug and a tray for the Home Mini. Michael Crider

The plug piece unwraps to allow you to coil the long excess of charger cord around it, then folds down to hide it. On the top of the plug piece and the bottom of the tray piece, there are strong magnets to keep the two together.

The plug piece includes a coil for the excess cord, with a silicone cover that folds down over it.
The plug piece includes a coil for the excess cord, with a silicone cover that folds down over it. Michael Crider

Assembly is fairly straightforward. Thread the cable through a hole in the mount, then let the plug nestle into its designated spot. Unfold the mount, wrap the cable up, thread a bit through the second hole, then fold it down again. Put the Home Mini in its tray, stick it to the plug, then plug the cable into the Home Mini and the charger into the wall. Stick the tray to the mount and you’re good to go.

RELATED: Kiwi Design Battery Base: A Cheap, Easy Way to Make Your Google Home Mini Mobile

Why multiple pieces, when other designs use a single piece of plastic to accomplish the same thing? Why indeed. The point seems to be that with an easily-detachable tray, you can move the Home Mini around your house at your leisure. Perhaps the point is to allow you to slip the Home Mini into Kiwi’s own battery base. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense: the battery base is designed to be used more or less continuously, and it can’t be stuck to the charger base. You’ll need to remove the Home Mini from the mount tray if you want to use the battery with its flush cup.

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Kiwi Design Battery Base: A Cheap, Easy Way to Make Your Google Home Mini Mobile

Kiwi Design's battery base makes the Home Mini work without a wall outlet.
Kiwi Design

Google’s diminutive Home Mini is a great starting point for a smarthome setup, and a cheap way to expand Google’s Assistant to every room. But the gadget has one flaw: it’s tethered to a wall outlet.

Kiwi Design fixes that flaw with the Google Home Mini Battery Base. It’s far from the only add-on battery for smarthome speakers, but at just $30 it’s one of the least expensive around, and it’s offered in three colors to match Google’s own hardware.

Add the base to your Home Mini and you’ve got a smart speaker and home assistant that can roam anywhere you have adequate Wi-Fi coverage—whether that’s out to the poolside or just into a room you don’t normally have a Mini parked.

Make It Mobile

The battery simply plugs into the Home Mini, which then sits in the silicone cup.
The battery simply plugs into the Home Mini, which then sits in the silicone cup. Michael Crider

The gadget is a simple one: basically, it’s just a portable battery pack with a silicone wrapper around it for snugly holding the Home Mini, and a little MicroUSB cable carefully set inside to provide the Home Mini electrical power. A second MicroUSB female port can take power from the Home Mini’s default charger, and a good thing too, since there’s no charger in the box. A manual power button, a set of four LED lights, and an easy grab strap round out the hardware.

The battery base's color is matched to the Home Mini. It also comes in black and salmon.
The battery base’s color is matched to the Home Mini. It also comes in black and salmon. Michael Crider

Installing the base couldn’t be easier. Just plug the cable into the rear of the Home Mini, then slide it down into the silicone cup. The sides grip onto the Home Mini just above the fabric of the speaker grille, making the combined unit look like a softer, chunkier version of Google’s own design. Even the four LED battery lights match up with the lights on top of the speaker.

No Strings on Me

The battery pack gives the Home Mini about a day’s worth of cord-free use, with a couple of hours of music playback thrown in. Naturally, your battery life will vary based on how much you use it, but I can’t imagine it lasting for less than 12 hours of basic music playback or voice commands.

Four LEDs on the battery's front match the Home Mini's indicator lights.
Four LEDs on the battery’s front match the Home Mini’s indicator lights. Michael Crider

It’s an excellent addition, and being able to move the battery around your home will make you wonder why Google didn’t include a battery in the original design. Moving the Home Mini around for guests, or moving from the bedroom to the kitchen without having to re-connect to another device, is super handy.

A Couple of Downsides

The only bummer is that you have to manually turn on the battery. It doesn’t turn itself on when you remove the USB charging cable, like an uninterruptible power supply. That would have been an extremely welcome addition to the design since, as it is, you need to remember to hit the power button or wait about thirty seconds for the Home Mini to turn on and reconnect to Wi-Fi.

The battery base has to be turned on with the power button before it's unplugged.
The battery base has to be turned on with the power button before it’s unplugged. Michael Crider

I should note that, since the Home Mini doesn’t include a Bluetooth connection, you can’t turn it into a more general portable boom box with just a battery. And since the Home Mini’s charger only supplies enough power to keep the speaker on and connected, it recharges the battery base slowly—it’ll take more than 8 hours to get it from empty to full.

A Cheap, Easy Upgrade

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SenseAge Universal Ultra Lite Flat Stand: A Nearly Perfect Tablet Kickstand

The SenseAge stick-on kickstand is exactly the tablet accessory I've been looking for.
The SenseAge stick-on kickstand is exactly the tablet accessory I’ve been looking for. Michael Crider

Kickstands are awesome. This is a universal truth that, despite its undeniable nature, seems to go unacknowledged by the majority of the technology press. I’m going to do my part to alleviate that, with the help of the SenseAge Universal Flat Stand.

To be clear, this isn’t some glitzy new product on the cusp of a press blitz. It isn’t a kickstarted idea banged out in a garage, or even anything particularly notable. It’s just something I saw on Amazon and decided to buy to use my Chromebook tablet more easily with a keyboard. But it seems to be singular: there are a few variations on universal kickstands for phones (see PopSockets and the like), but I’ve never seen a tablet kickstand that so seamlessly integrates into any large format design.

And in a word, it’s great. In two words, the SenseAge design is freakin’ fantastic. It allows me to add a semi-permanent kickstand to any 10-inch or larger tablet, in any case, while adding almost zero bulk or weight to my mobile setup. All this for under twenty bucks? I love it.

Kick It Up

The kickstand folds out and props up even the largest tablets for ideal viewing.
The kickstand folds out and props up even the largest tablets for ideal viewing. Michael Crider

In a purely physical sense, there’s not much to this thing. It’s a few folds of stiff plastic, some 3M glue to stick to the back of your tablet or case, and a couple of magnets to keep the material in place in its folded or unfolded state. That’s it.

If you’re looking for a comparison, the “origami” tablet cases sold for some Asus designs and the pricier Amazon Kindle are similar. Pull the outer fold out, and it locks into place, allowing you to prop up your tablet at a fixed angle in either landscape or portrait mode.

The advantage here is that it’s universal, and can be applied to almost any slate-shaped gadget. It excels for desktop-class tablets running Windows or Chrome, which don’t come with their own Surface-style kickstands or can’t be propped up in lieu of a dedicated keyboard.

When folded down, the kickstand adds almost no bulk. It's easy to slip into my bag.
When folded down, the kickstand adds almost no bulk. It’s easy to slip into my bag. Michael Crider

The simplicity in the design is remarkable. With just three folds this thing can prop up a tablet in two modes, while adding almost no weight and only about an eighth of an inch in thickness. The exterior fold uses a matte plastic finish, while the inside is lined with microfiber, muting the mild “snap” sound of the stand opening or closing. It’s such a simple idea and execution that I’m amazed I haven’t seen anything like it before, and the design appears to be available only from this vendor.

Measure Twice, Stick Once

There isn’t much to complain about with this kickstand thingy. It’s quite versatile: with folded dimensions of 8.5 by 6 inches, it should work on almost any tablet ten inches or larger. The design only allows one fold-out angle—call it two if you’re counting both landscape and portrait mode. Some clever engineer might be able to think of a way to fold something like this into multiple positions, but for a $17 accessory, it’s more than forgivable.

The stand is applied to the tablet with 3M adhesive, and stays closed or open with thing magnets.
The stand is applied to the tablet with 3M adhesive, and stays closed or open with thing magnets. Michael Crider

There is one drawback to the universal, manufacturer-agnostic design of the stick-on kickstand: you’ll want to be fairly careful when you do stick it to your tablet or case. The 3M tape on the back doesn’t leave any noticeable residue, but it does stick very firmly, and if you need to remove it you’ll have to be careful not to bend the plastic as you peel it off.

Care needs to be taken to apply the stand to the best place for standing up larger tablets.
Care needs to be taken to apply the stand to the best place for standing up larger tablets. Michael Crider

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Withings Move Review: a Hybrid Smartwatch That’s Less Than the Sum of Its Parts

Hybrid smartwatches are an appealing segment, combining the health tracking benefits of a standard activity tracker with the unobtrusive, fashionable appearance of a traditional watch. Withings is one of the few participants in the field.

That makes the company’s most budget-friendly model, the Withings Move, all the more disappointing. Its low price point is matched by few features, relying on a connected phone for most of its actual benefit, and the materials and finish of the watch itself aren’t up to the standard set by the Withings Steel and its stablemates.

If you’re in the market for both a very cheap activity tracker and a very cheap watch, you could combine both purchases into the Withings Move. But if the appeal of a hybrid watch is in its resemblance to a fashionable accessory, and the appeal of an activity tracker is in its accuracy and utility, then the Move falls flat on both of those points.

You Get Watch You Pay For

From a functional standpoint, the Move is very similar to the Withings Steel, the original hybrid watch design that the company inherited from its days as a Nokia subsidiary. Like the Steel, the Move tracks steps and sleep with on-board hardware, with its only feedback coming from a sub-dial that shows progress towards your daily step goal. The watch can vibrate, but offers no other interactive functions.

The Coral color option would probably look better on someone less hairy than me.
The Coral color option would probably look better on someone less hairy than me. Michael Crider

Unlike the Nokia/Withings Steel, the Move looks…well, cheap. It uses a plastic case and window, something that would be tacky on even an inexpensive conventional watch. The silicone band is more forgivable, and I appreciate that it can be changed quickly thanks to quick-release pins. But if you want a nice band that’s an extra $20-30, which seems like an odd extravagance on such a cheap device.

The Move's plastic case window is a low point in its budget-friendly design.
The Move’s plastic case window is a low point in its budget-friendly design. Michael Crider

The plastic case would be alright, if Withings had used the savings for a mineral crystal window. Something like tempered Gorilla Glass or synthetic sapphire is too much to hope for on a sub-$100 device, but the plastic window is going to scratch easily and repeatedly, even if you’re not using the Move in frequent high-intensity workouts.

The Move is compatible with standard watch bands, and the included band has quick-release pins.
The Move is compatible with standard watch bands, and the included band has quick-release pins. Michael Crider

That cheapness is presumably a feature and not a bug. At just $70, the Move is indeed one of the cheapest activity trackers around from a reputable supplier, hybrid watch design notwithstanding. It’s a bit more than half the price of the original Steel, for the same features…and in order to move up to something with heart rate tracking, you’d need to shell out $180 for the Steel HR. That’s well beyond impulse buy range for most users.

A Splash of Color

Withings is pushing the customization angle with the Move and its more expensive cousin the Move ECG. It’s being offered with a variety of color combinations for the band, face, and “tracker” hand, with a full web-based color customizer tool being offered sometime later this year.

Withings will offer multiple points of color and pattern customization on the Move...but not yet.
Withings will offer multiple points of color and pattern customization on the Move…but not yet. Withings

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The Best Ways to Organize Cables Under Your Desk

Organizing your desk is a big chore, but these tools can make it easier.
Shutterstock/FotoBob

If you’re anything like us, the cables behind your desk look more like a rat’s nest than anything else. But with a little time and some tools, you can get those cables organized and out of the way.

There are a few different ways to approach this problem: people tend to either lift their surge protector off the floor and hang it underneath the desk, or leave it where it is and put it in a handy box to make it easier to hide and/or clean. We have both options covered, along with some of the other tools you’ll need to get your desk cables organized.

The Best Surge Protector Organizer Box: Quirky Plug Hub ($26)

The Quirky Plug Hub is an elecgant way to store both a power strip and excess cord lengths.
The Quirky Plug Hub is an elegant way to store both a power strip and excess cord lengths. Quirky

Surge protectors and power strips are one of the hardest part of your desk to keep tidy, but this combination tray and able spool will keep everything straight. The Quirky Plug Hub has an advantage over some of the box designs below by keeping the plugs themselves accessible while also coiling excess lengths of multiple power cords.

The open bottom accommodates surge protectors of any length, and three internal spools and matching escapements keep the power cables from getting tangled. The box can stand on the floor or be mounted directly to the underside of the desk.

The Best Oversized Organizer Box: U-Miss Cable Management Boxes ($25)

This low-cost set of organizer boxes can accommodate a variety of power strips.
This low-cost set of organizer boxes can accommodate a variety of power strips. U-Miss

If you need something to handle a large surge protector and don’t need to access it constantly, this matched set should handle your needs. The largest in the three-pack is 16 inches long, which is big enough to handle the largest surge protector around, with cable escapements on either side. The smaller boxes are a bonus.

While it doesn’t have the internal spooling of our top pick, the U-Miss set is enough to handle smaller desks or entertainment centers without more elaborate mounting needs.

The Best Under-Desk Organizer Tray: Stand Up Desk Store Raceway ($49)

This metal tray can handle large surge protectors and huge amounts of cables.
This metal tray can handle large surge protectors and huge amounts of cables. Stand Up Desk Store

Those who want to stick their surge protector and all assorted cables directly underneath their desktop will be best served by this raceway design. It offers over nine inches of vertical space for even the chunkiest of power strips, with either 39 or 41 inches of length.

The metal tray screws into the underside of the desktop and runs along the back, with a long space in the top of the tray for running power and data cables to any point in the desk.

The Best Cable Sleeve: JOTO Cord Management System ($12)

This neoprene cable sleeve tidies up any power or data cable bundle.
This neoprene cable sleeve tidies up any power or data cable bundle. JOTO

Cables tend to tangle between the power strip and your PC, and the surface of your desk. These zip-up sleeves keep everything tight, and they’re easy to apply and remove. The neoprene material (the same stuff in diving suits) is considerably tougher than the cotton or mesh often seen in other sleeves. Standard scissors can cut holes in the sides of the sleeves to allow cables to exit from any point.

Other Cable Organization Tools

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