iClever BTH03 Bluetooth Kids Headphones Review

Buying a pair of headphones can often be a bit of a hit and miss affair. There are so many variables to consider – the sound quality, the comfort of the headphones on your head, and if they are Bluetooth-connected, you also want the connection to be stable. There’s nothing worse than listening to music or a TV show and having the sound cut out every minute or two.

After using a pair of Sennheiser wired headphones for many years, I thought that nothing could tear me away from them. However, after trying iClever’s Bluetooth BTH03 headphones, I may have to change my mind. They may be a small set of headphones at a small price, but they pack a big punch in the sound department.

Not Just For Kids!

I should clear something up before I continue. These headphones are marketed as “kids headphones” but they can easily be used by an adult (provided your head is not totally enormous!). 

The earpads are easily adjustable to fit either a child’s head or an average adult’s head. At 160 grams in weight with a very soft headband, you also won’t even feel they’re on your head to begin with. They are also extremely flexible, as you will see in the video above, so they can be squashed into your kid’s school bag without you having to worry about them being broken.

But if you’re an adult looking for a cheap pair of headphones, you also can’t go wrong with these. Don’t let the marketing to kids throw you off.

The Pros Of The iClever BTH03 Headphones

Let’s just dive right into the important stuff with all that’s good about these headphones.

First, it takes less than two hours to charge these headphones to full capacity (in my tests, I clocked it at around 90 minutes). Then once you have a full charge, the battery lasts for an unbelievable 18-20 hours (again, this was tested where it came out at just over 18 hours, although the company claims 20 is possible – your mileage may vary).

On the side of the headphones is an on/off button which helps to conserve battery strength when you’re not using them. Switch on the headphones, then switch on Bluetooth on your device, whether it be your smartphone, tablet or laptop, and the headphones will automatically pair. 

Next to the on/off switch is the volume control. Start your music, movie, or TV show, and off you go. With a possible 33 foot range between the device and the headphones, you don’t need to have the device perched right beside you. 

If you’re using the headphones on your smartphone, you can also answer, pause and end phone calls. They have a built-in microphone which delivers excellent sound quality.

But How Is the Sound Quality Overall?

Put simply – the stereo sound quality is surprisingly good.

As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. So at only $36 for these headphones, you would be forgiven for thinking that the audio quality would be subpar at best. 

But you would be wrong. The audio quality is actually really good.

Now I am no audiophile or sound engineer. If I was, I would most likely pick up on tiny little audio quirks that would bother me. I’m just your average headphones user like you probably are. And remember the box says “kids headphones” – so your child isn’t likely to complain are they? As long as they can listen to Cookie Monster or Spongebob Squarepants, the sound will be good enough for them.

To my untrained ear, the sound is fabulous.

The Cons Of The iClever BTH03 Headphones

I’m not sure if this is a “con” as such, but if you have paired the headphones with one device, the headphones will not pair simultaneously with a second device. You must unpair with the first device first. Only then will the headphones pair with another device.

Whether this is a limitation with the headphones or with Bluetooth in general, I can’t say. But if you’re using the headphones with various devices, it can get a bit annoying constantly having to click “Forget This Device”, every time you want to use the headphones with another device.

4 out of 5 stars

Buy The Headphones Here.

SP Armor A62 Game Drive Review

In today’s world of massive file sizes, there never seems to be enough hard drive space–especially if you’re a gamer. Just Red Dead Redemption 2 is enough to make a standard PlayStation 4 scream, coming in at just over 100 GB in size. Don’t even get us started on Call of Duty: Warzone and its ludicrous storage requirements.

The problem, of course, is that additional storage is expensive. It can cost upwards of $150 or more for a decent-sized external drive. Even if you find one for a bargain, you need to make sure it has sufficient speeds to boot games directly off an external drive. 

The Silicon Power Armor A26 Game Drive offers a lower-cost external hard drive marketed towards gamers and designed to withstand the abuse of being thrown into a backpack and carried from place to place. The company sent one to us at Online Tech Tips to review..

A No-Nonsense Look and Feel

The Silicon Power Armor A26 Game Drive comes in two colors: blue and black-green. Silicon Power sent over the blue version. The case is rather plain, but the no-frills aesthetic is part of the charm. Weighing in at just over 12 ounces, the drive feels good in the hand. Not too light, not too heavy.

A cable-strap combination runs around the exterior of the drive and makes it easy to store different cables on top of the drive itself. Other than that, the drive itself is rather plain. The textured exterior gives it a tough look, and the drive is said to be shockproof. 

Given that it is a SSD rather than an HDD, it already has some resistance to shock. It also has an IPX4 rating with regard to water resistance; in other words, it will survive splashes of liquids, but not submersion. It might survive being dropped in a puddle, but it’s likely better not to test this claim.

The Silicon Power Game Drive is intended to be carried from place to place. Our testing saw it moved between numerous machines without difficulty. Should something happen to your drive, it comes with a 3-year warranty.

Storage Capacity

There are four versions of the Silicon Power Armor A26 Game Drive. The first is the base level 1TB model that retails at $50. The next is a 2TB model for $65. From there you can choose a 4TB model for $103, or finally a 5TB option for $138. Silicon Power sent the 5TB version for testing.

Once plugged in and formatted, the drive left 4.6TB available for actual usage. Files were moved on and off the drive with no difficulty, although its PassMark score was on the low end of the scale. It received a mediocre result and a rating of only 47% better than competitors.

Real-World Performance

The Silicon Power Game Drive is marketed toward gamers first and foremost. In fact, it’s often pitched as a PS4 drive, although its compatibility list includes Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS4, PC, and Mac. 

When initially connected to a PlayStation 4, the system threw an error that said the drive was not compatible. We tested a separate USB port and received the same result. Even restarting the PlayStation 4 and updating its software (which Silicon Power states must be version 4.5 or higher) had no improvement. 

This is not an isolated problem. A quick scan of the Amazon page for the Game Drive reveals multiple users  encountered the same problem. 

However, after testing the drive on other platforms, one final attempt resulted in the PlayStation 4 recognizing the drive and allowing it to be formatted. After the setup period, the Game Drive worked without issue, although file transfer rates on the PlayStation 4 felt notably slow.

Once games were installed on the Game Drive, we were able to run them directly from the drive to the console itself. 

The Silicon Power Game Drive worked flawlessly on the Xbox One and ran even fast-paced games like Burnout Paradise without stuttering. Even large files transferred quickly. 

The drive had to be reformatted to work with a PC, but after a quick run through the Disk Utility it appeared as an option. We moved several gigabytes of data to the drive before removing it from the PC. The Macbook recognized the drive instantly and allowed for movement of files between the PC and the Macbook.

The drive works well despite its rocky start. For gamers on a budget, it’s a good investment. 

The Silicon Power Armor A26 Game Drive is designed with USB 3.2 in mind, but is backwards compatible with USB 3.1, USB 3.0, and USB 2.0. Of course, you’ll receive the best results using a USB 3.2 port. 

If you’re looking for a way to expand your storage capacity and download more games, this is a decent drive to look into. It has a ton of storage capacity at a relatively low price. Of course, don’t purchase it with the intent of bumping the storage capacity of next-gen consoles: it likely isn’t fast enough for that. 

How to Use GoPro HERO as a Webcam

GoPro’s HERO 8 Black action camera is one of the most refined products the company has ever created. It’s a culmination of lessons learned over many generations of action cameras. 

Now it’s a versatile camera that offers 4K resolution, high frame rates, multiple aspect ratios and features such as direct WiFi streaming. However, GoPro has continued to add new features to the HERO 8, which are also available at launch in its brand new HERO 9 Black camera. 

One very interesting ability these two cameras share is a wired webcam function. That’s right, you can use your high-end action GoPro cameras as a webcam in Windows or macOS! Let’s go over what you need to know.

Why Use a GoPro As a Webcam?

Why not just use a regular webcam? There’s nothing wrong with simply using the webcam built into your laptop or a normal cheap USB webcam. That is, if you’re OK with the quality of their video output. Even high-end laptops only offer 720p webcams with tiny pinhole lenses. Proper 1080p HD USB webcams are also pretty expensive! Given that you can only use them for one purpose.

If you’ve already got a GoPro Hero 8 or newer, then there’s no need to spend more money on a high-quality webcam. You now also have a full HD camera with exceptional video quality. But there are plenty of other reasons why a GoPro makes a good webcam. 

For example, you can make use of the many existing GoPro mounting solutions to position your camera however you wish. You can also use any supported length of USB C cable, allowing for convenient professional setups. 

What You Need to Use a GoPro HERO As a Webcam

It is technically possible to use GoPro cameras older than the HERO 8 as webcams, but only if you’re also willing to purchase several expensive third-party accessories. The HERO 8 and 9 now support the webcam function as a native feature of the camera. In order to make use of it, you’ll need the following:

  • A GoPro Hero 8 or 9 Black
  • The latest firmware installed on the camera
  • A suitable USB C cable for connection to your computer
  • The GoPro webcam utility for your operating system

That’s it! Let’s move on to the technical instructions.

How to Set Up a GoPro HERO As a Webcam in Windows

Before you go any further as a Windows user, you need to know that the GoPro webcam utility for Windows is still beta software. It may not be as stable or compatible as the macOS version yet. Here’s what to do:

  1. First, download the Windows GoPro webcam utility here and install it.
  2. The wizard is straightforward, you shouldn’t have to modify any options, unless you want to.
  3. You’ll need to approve a virtual network adapter installation
  4. Finally, your PC will have to restart to finalize the operation.

After you’re back in WIndows, you’ll see a new webcam icon in the notification tray.

Power on your GoPro and connect it to the computer. The icon should now display a small blue light. That means the camera is connected and working. You can now select it as a webcam option in applications like Skype or Teams.

How to Set Up a GoPro HERO 8 & 9 As a Webcam in macOS

The macOS GoPro webcam utility is already final, stable software. So almost all users should not run into trouble with it. Let’s go through the setup step by step.

  1. First, download the macOS GoPro webcam utility here and install it.
  2. The wizard is straightforward, you shouldn’t have to modify any options, unless you want to.
  3. You’ll need to provide TouchID or your administrator password.
  4. Finally, you’ll have to restart your Mac to finalize the operation.

When you log into macOS again, you should see this GoPro webcam icon in the notification area. This will be the status indicator for the camera’s operation.

All you need to do now is power on your camera, connect it to the computer with a USB C cable and check if a blue indicator light appears on the app icon. If it does, your GoPro is in webcam mode! That light will turn red when you’re streaming or recording. 

Now you should have the GoPro as an external webcam option in applications like Skype or Microsoft Teams!

Important Webcam App Functions

Whether on Windows or macOS, if you right-click on the webcam app icon you can access some important features:

  • “Digital Lens” lets you switch between wide, narrow and linear fields of view.
  • “Show Preview” opens a window to show you what the camera view looks like.
  • Currently only the macOS version seems to allow resolution switching.

That’s about it for the webcam app, which is no more complex than it needs to be at this point.

It’s Not Perfect

While we think this new functionality is brilliant, there are still some things we’d like to see improved and a few bugs to be aware of. 

First of all, despite both the Heros 8 & 9 supporting live streaming, there’s no wireless webcam functionality. We think this would be a killer feature, especially since it would allow the camera to work with its battery door closed. Allowing for underwater or harsh condition filming.

We also were not able to get webcam mode to work without a battery in the GoPro. It’s unclear if this is normal behavior, but it’s best to keep your GoPro battery on-hand rather than be unable to use it as a webcam when you need it.

Sadly, there is also no option for 4K video quality. While the fantastic optics and full 1080p image is still much better than the typical webcam, it seems a shame to not offer the 4K quality these cameras are capable of. We hope GoPro makes higher resolutions possible in the future.

Final Tips For Getting the Most Out of Your GoPro Webcam

Using a GoPro as an external webcam gives you a number of interesting opportunities. We used a USB 2.0 C-to-C cable in our testing and it had no trouble carrying the 1080p image to the computer. USB 2.0 Type-C cables can be up to 4 meters in length. We tested this with a 3 meter USB-C cable from the Oculus Quest and there were no issues.

With such a long cable you can effectively put the camera anywhere. We always recommend the GoPro Jaws flex clamp as the most versatile solution, but you can put your GoPro on a tripod or any other compatible mount. It makes it easy to do physical presentations, training demonstrations and any other type of streaming that requires a wider view, a movable camera, and space.

Take the time to experiment and you’ll find that using your GoPro as a webcam is an amazing alternative to standard USB webcams. Happy streaming!

Is a Smartwatch Worth It?

A smartwatch might seem like a solution in search of a problem, but it’s easy to forget that people had similar attitudes towards iPads, smartphones and just about any new device that quickly becomes indispensable. So is a smartwatch worth it? 

For most of their history the answer has been “no” for most users, but the latest generation of smartwatches have changed that. Let’s explore whether modern smartwatches have done enough to justify their price.

Are Smartwatches Mature Enough?

Early smartwatches were full of compromises. Third-party app support has also been lacklustre, thanks to weak hardware and a small install base. One of the biggest problems was the lack of always-on displays. Older chip design and LCD technology was simply too power hungry for the watch to always show something on-screen. Which made smartwatches pretty bad at being actual watches!

Modern watches from companies like Apple and Samsung have largely solved these issues. New models use OLED technology and can slow down the screen refresh rate to single-digit hertz numbers. So you can both have an always-on watch face and a day or two of battery power. There’s also plenty of support from third-party app developers now. So we have no reservations about smartwatches

As a Health and Medical Device

One of the most compelling reasons a smartwatch is worth it is to help improve and maintain your health. Many smartwatches are marketed as advanced fitness trackers rather than smartwatches. This is probably one of the most important and practical reasons to buy one. Apple and Samsung, arguably the biggest smartwatch makers, have both developed excellent health software to go with their watches.

Smartwatches effectively help combat common modern issues such as being sedentary for too long or not watching what we eat. They offer a convenient and intuitive way to keep track of your food intake and how active you’re being. 

Thanks to better sensors and more intelligent algorithms, smartwatches now have much more accurate estimations of step count and calorie burn. 

There’s even more on the horizon. For example, the Galaxy Active 2 has an ECG (electrocardiogram) sensor built into it. Samsung is simply waiting on regulatory approval to activate it. This function along with smart fall sensors, could actually end up saving the life of frail or chronically ill users. 

It could also serve as an early warning system for irregular heart beats, which can potentially lead to more serious health problems. In short, as of today and certainly in the future, smartwatches are valuable health devices and are worth it from that viewpoint alone.

Checking Messages and Taking Calls Is Much Easier

While it might sound like a minor thing, pulling your phone out of your pocket every time there’s a notification ding can be both tiring and time consuming. Most new smartwatches integrate notifications and messaging apps, syncing them with your phone.

This means you can quickly check incoming messages at the flick of your wrist, and decide whether fishing your phone out is worth the effort. You can also make basic text message replies, or leave voice notes in apps like WhatsApp or EverNote.

We’ve also found that answering calls on the watch itself is often the fastest and most convenient way to do it. Since the watch is always on your wrist, it’s inevitably the easiest place to pick up calls. Plus, as a bonus, you feel like Dick Tracy talking into your wrist!

Most smartwatches are also bluetooth compatible, so they let you take calls using a bluetooth headset.

Controlling Other Devices With a Smartwatch

As smartwatches have matured, it’s become evident that one of the best uses for a device you’re always wearing on your wrist is the remote control of other technology. 

For example, you can download an app that acts as a universal TV remote for smart TVs. If you’re a Spotify subscriber, you can use the smartwatch Spotify application to control a Spotify app on another device. How about using your smartwatch as a remote trigger for your phone camera? These are all possibilities and developers are thinking up more every day.

Using a service such as IFTTT or Zapier, many smartwatch devices can be linked to other services with custom recipes. So you can integrate your smartwatch into your smart home system. For example, if your smart security camera detects movement you can receive a notification on your watch.

Modular Watch Faces Are Genuinely Useful

Most smartwatches have displays that show some sort of virtual watch face. You can usually swap these out for others either made by the 1st-party company or third-party creators.Sometimes you can get them for free and at other times some watch faces will cost a little money.

Being able to change the watch face on your smartwatch is probably one of the most underrated features. It’s not just about looks either, though that’s also a big reason to like them. After all, you can change the look and color of your watch face to match your current outfit or mood!

From a more practical perspective however, switching to different watch faces based on the information you need can be a huge help. 

For example, when flying a drone, a watch face with live weather data such as wind speed is helpful. If you’re running, you might want to see your heart rate front and center.

When travelling, perhaps you want to see certain time zones displayed at the same time. With a smartwatch you can simply use the watchface that has the most useful information for your current needs and change back to something more general for everyday use when you’re done.

Smartwatches are Worth It, But Still Have Problems

While we think smartwatches are now both worth the money and properly useful gadgets, there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Battery life is probably the biggest issue. We’ve used several watches over the years and some with limited features may last up to a week. Top-end models like the Galaxy Active 2 will give you one to two days at most.

There’s also still quite a bit of fragmentation when it comes to smartwatch operating systems. Android Wear, Apple’s watchOS and Samsung Tizen are but three of the biggest names. If there are too many different smartwatch operating systems, it makes it hard for developers to cover them all.

Smartwatches also need to become more independent. At present they are still pretty much a smartphone accessory. Though models that can independently connect to mobile internet do exist. For now, a smartwatch isn’t all that useful once it’s no longer connected to a phone.

However, better hardware in future watches might lead them to a point where they can be a primary smart device for use cases such as navigation.

So, to answer the question of whether a smartwatch is worth it, we can say that they are objectively worth the money given their maturity and functionality. Whether they’re worth it to you will of course depend on if you think those functions are important or useful.

Either way, you don’t have to be worried about early-adopter headaches. These nifty gadgets have moved out of that phase of their development.

What Is Augmented Reality and Could It Replace All Screens?

Screens are all around us. Right now you’re looking at a screen. It could be on a phone, a tablet or a desktop computer. Now, imagine if the digital world of the screen wasn’t just an object in the real world. Instead, digital imagery and data are superimposed and integrated into the space around you. It’s not virtual reality, it’s augmented reality

In this article we’ll explore what augmented reality is and if this technology could replace all forms of screen as we know them today?

What Is Augmented Reality?

The term “augmented reality” means what it says. You’re augmenting the real world around you with some sort of additional information. The heads-up display in a modern car or a jet fighter is a sort of basic augmented reality. You’re looking at the world and information about things such as speed or altitude are projected into your line of sight.

When people use the term “Augmented Reality” these days it usually refers to something more sophisticated. For example, it could be a movie poster that springs to life or a sophisticated simulation that makes it look like fish are swimming around the room, as if the air around you was suddenly replaced with water.

How Does Augmented Reality Work?

Modern augmented reality comes in two flavors: marker-based and markerless. Marker-based augmented reality needs some sort of prepared object in the real world that tells the software where and when to project the virtual imagery.

A marker can be anything, but often it’s a card or a special QR code printed in a magazine. Many older AR games such as the PlayStation 3 game The Eye of Judgement and AR games that shipped with the Nintendo 3DS made use of card markers for their AR mechanics.

These days, thanks to more advanced technology, markers aren’t really needed. Sophisticated machine vision technology can make sense of the world around you. For example, it can recognize flat surfaces such as tables and vertical surfaces like walls. Accurately projecting digital imagery onto them. There are many AR apps that do this quite well.

Augmented reality software does all the math in the background to make the perspective of the images appear correct, solid and grounded in the real world. These days they can even take note of the current lighting in the room and make the projected image blend in with it!

The Extended Reality Spectrum

The technologies that can alter your perception of reality are beginning to multiply. They come in all varieties, which means our language has to adapt to accommodate them. Which is why we have the term “extended” reality. 

Extended reality describes the entire spectrum starting with your normal, natural view of the world and then moving from augmented reality to mixed reality, ending with fully immersive virtual reality. Today, people tend to use augmented- and mixed- reality interchangeably, but mixed-reality usually refers to the more advanced experiences that incorporate the real-world space and objects around you.

Augmented Reality In Real Life

You can try augmented reality right now! If you have an Android or iOS phone you can download a game such as Pokemon Go and see what a digital game character projected into the real world looks like. 

Android uses a technology known as ARCore, while iOS uses ARKit. Both let applications do sophisticated AR tricks using nothing more than the phone’s camera.

If you have a small mountain of cash laying around, you could also try something like the Microsoft HoloLens, which is quite possibly the most advanced augmented reality headset in existence. 

The Future Of Augmented Reality

There are many exciting augmented reality projects in development that might give us some idea of what augmented reality might look like in the future. The biggest change would be moving augmented reality from your phone screen to a display device that you wear on your head.

Head-mounted augmented reality makes the most sense for the technology to flourish. It would be the most natural way to use the technology. Some of the most impressive applications of modern augmented reality use headsets. The problem is that these headsets are large and expensive. You couldn’t wear them all the time.

For augmented reality to truly come into its own, it needs to shrink down at least to a similar size and shape as standard glasses. You probably remember the Google Glass project, which used a tiny projector to display very basic information in your field of view. Future AR needs to be at least that compact, while offering a proper mixed-reality experience.

While no one knows if, how or when this will happen, we can make a few educated guesses. We expect the computer brain of this device to either be powered from the cloud or by a local computer box, such as a smartphone-class device in your pocket.

The display unit itself will probably use very small cameras for environment tracking and direct retinal projection to actually get the images into your eyeballs. Retinal projection technology already exists in various forms, and there are AR prototypes that make use of it.

In the very long term, we might see augmented reality delivered through devices similar to Elon Musk’s Neuralink device, but that’s far into the future. 

Augmented Reality As a Universal Display Device

So, could augmented reality replace every screen you use today? The short answer is yes. In principle it could become the only digital display system you’d need. After all, you’d have the ability to conjure virtual “screens” anywhere you want. Need a massive 100-inch TV? Just have one appear in the desired spot!

In fact, augmented reality technology will probably break down the concept of a screen entirely. Perhaps your actual real-world desktop could also be your computer desktop. Applications can float freely in space around you, in whatever form is most useful. Some people might prefer their alarm app to look like an actual physical alarm sitting on a table. Others might like a time readout to be more abstract and simply appear as digital information floating in their field of vision.

In the long term we could find ourselves living in an “AR world”, where without an AR display things would look pretty strange to us in the here and now. Without AR glasses there would be no billboards, no advertising, no signs, no labels on anything at all! In the same way that everyone is expected to have a smartphone these days, you might need an augmented reality headset to get around the everyday world of the future.

For this to happen however, we need that AR headset to fulfill a lot of different roles. It needs to provide incredibly high-resolution images for a start. It also needs to use an as-yet developed universal wireless display standard. So that any device can interface with it. It has to be small, light and comfortable as well. It has to cater to normal users as well professional ones, though perhaps not in the same model. 

Most importantly, it needs to effectively disappear from your awareness! A tall order, but that would make an augmented reality world possible.