Homebound in the Covid-19 era? Here’s a few devices to improve quality of life

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Let’s begin with wireless ear buds.

I know I’m showing my age, but I never thought the day would come when I’d have ear buds dripping out of my auricles. However, after a month of testing these out, I’m sold on the Liberty 2 Pro True Wireless Earbuds from Anker’s Soundcore series.  


When would these devices come in handy?

If you’re doing a lot of Zoom these days (and who isn’t?) a set of noise cancelling earbuds is obligatory. For one thing, they reduce background noise. In doing so, you are going to make your audience happier by delivering good quality audio. (Nothing is worse than a Zoom session with garbled sound).

Secondly, I find myself speaking on the phone these days to relatives and friends a lot more. Full disclosure, often I’m also multi-tasking. Being able to talk while I’m pulling weeds or picking up around the  house comes in very handy.  While doing these kinds of activities I also might be listening to a podcast or to music.

Bingo. They are really nice to have.

You can spend upwards of $400 on this technology but you can get excellent quality from this model for $150 from Amazon.

There are other reasons to like them.

The ear buds fit into a nifty little cover that can be recharged via USB or wirelessly.

They are comfortable. My ears are hard to fit, and most in-ear buds either feel very uncomfortable right from the start, or start to fall out rather quickly with minimal motion. Not only do they fit great but the kit comes with four different sized silicone ear tips. If you’re doing conference calls, you’ll want ‘em.

The case design is large enough to accommodate bigger, foam ear tips if you choose to swap out the originals. You can either charge the case with a USB cable or wirelessly.

The earphones work solidly, without interruptions with both my Android smartphone and my Windows laptop.

You can spend upwards of $400 on this technology but you can get excellent audio quality from this model for $150 from Amazon. 

Once charged the earphones can work for several hours continuously so you won’t run out of juice in the middle of a call.

To install simply download the Soundcore app on your mobile device. The app provides a “HearID” test that allows you to customize each earbud to your hearing sensitivity.

A less expensive option is the Soundcore Libery Air 2 which also offers good audio suitable for music or voice.

If you don’t want to spend $150, I tested a less expensive model the Soundcore Libery Air 2 which retail for about $100 on Amazon. They have a slightly different design (elongated) but also work well for Zoom duty and music. They are comfortable as well.

Here’s a hint for both models if you have trouble connecting, which sometimes occurs: There’s a tiny reset button on the cases. Press that and wait until you see a red light flashing on the earbuds. That’s the signal that it’s been reset and it should connect with no problem. 

Are you a robovac skeptic? This device will change your mind.

Is it time for a Robot Vacuum Cleaner?

Nesting in the COVID-19 era has, among other things, focuses us on hygiene and the newly released RoboVac G30 Edge from eufy, the newest entry in the “Roomba” style robot vacuum cleaner space, will definitely improve your QOL.

When the Roomba was first were introduced in 2002, it seemed like a gimmick. I was wrong.

They worked in 2002 and the newer models clean better (and are less expensive) now. Chief among these is the G30 Edge which I tested in my Kaimuki home. 

Compared to my Roomba, the G30 was much quieter and slimmer. Whereas most of the robot vacuums randomly ping pong off your walls and furniture, the G30 employs “Smart Dynamic Navigation” to map the room and plot a path through it. Thus, by design, it performs the job of vacuuming more like a person, methodically vacuuming every square inch of the room. (Its wi-fi app will even draw a map of the job). 

Priced at $369 (on Amazon) it is a midrange-priced machine in today’s market. In addition to the “navigation” you’re also getting a vacuum that has three suction modes (standard, turbo and max). Of course, the battery will run down sooner on the higher vacuuming modes, but they really suck up the dirt.

It’s easy to remove the cassette that collects the dust. Note the scratches on the top. The G30 withstood a large object falling on top of it. I can be hard on my appliances but this stood the test.

Set up was easy. After unboxing, attach the side brush and set up the app on your phone or tablet. The wi-fi comes in handy (you can schedule and adjust the suction modes) but I found it easier just to hit the button on the vacuum and let it do its thing. It’s best of course to move chairs, toys, cords, etc. before you let her rip.

The G30 Edge comes with “boundary strips” to keep your robot from disappearing into another room (or in my case) into Palolo Valley.

I summary, I really liked this machine. It’s robust. An accidental drop test proved it. A large ceramic bowl landed with a thump on the G30 with enough velocity to seriously scratch the top plastic cover. It kept right on running without pause.

It sucks dust like a champ but there are limitations. Like any of these machines, it has trouble vacuuming along a wall. (That’s where you come in!)

The boundary strips didn’t always keep the Robovac in the right room, but that’s not a deal killer.

If you have an older Roomba model should you ditch it in favor of a newer machine like the G30?  

Like any technology, the newer machines simply work better.

If you don’t own a Robot vacuum, you won’t regret buying a G30. 

This 60w wonder can speed up your charge rate up to 3x.

You can never re-charge quickly enough. That’s my credo.

Obviously we’re all tethered to mobile devices nowadays and we also seem to have much less patience. So getting your phone charged up rapidly is important to your mental health. 

Anker makes a variety of these fast chargers (as do other manufacturers). I tested a couple of of their models, the 60W Anker iPhone Charger (with two ports) and a compact model, the Nano Power Port III, which has the advantage of being really small. 

The larger model which has two USB C ports, can charge 2 Laptops simultaneously. Both are designed for travel. The 60W unit also comes with interchangeable plugs for use in the US, UK, and Europe, but of course you can use it at home.

Small but mighty, this has 20 w of power and is great for travel to the Mainland or the North Shore.

The smaller, Nano Power Port III is intended for phones and tablets (rather than laptops) and also charges up to three times as fast as a standard charger. Thus if you need a compact, powerful charger to keep in your pocket or bag, this is the ticket. You don’t have to go to Disneyland to take advantage of it. You might even use it on a trip to the North Shore.

Finally, a blue tooth speaker is a necessary addition for this home-bound epoch.

Why’s that?

If you’re like me, listening to podcasts is part of my life and with more time around the house, having a wireless speaker connected to my mobile devices is a no brainer.

The second reason is outdoor entertaining.

No, this isn’t an era of garden parties but (at a safe social distance of course) I’ll have a friend over on the deck discussing politics or other affairs over a glass of wine. In the background I like to stream my favorite jazz station (TSF) out of Paris. 

For these reasons I opted for yet another Anker product, the Soundcore Flare 2 Bluetooth Speaker which retails at $69 on Amazon.

For a pool party or a podcast, this speaker will work great.

It’s received terrific reviews on Amazon and for good reason. The sound (especially for the price) is excellent and more than adequate for a podcast. 

It’s easy to operate (you can control is from the Soundcore App if need be) and uses Type C USB Charging. 

And what if it starts raining? No problem, it’s waterproof, so as to “with stand” pool parties. And yes, folks you can even bring it to beach.

If you don’t need a stereo set up and can use an outdoor speaker, this will be perfect. 

The Flare Speaker in action on my deck, overlooking Waikiki.

But wait there’s more.

It sports visual effects, a rainbow light show that pulses, phases, and shines to the beat of the music.

Do I need the disco effects? Not really, but it’s fun. If a pool party-ready speaker is not necessary, Anker has a variety of other less expensive speakers suitable for podcasts such as the Flare Mini or our Soundcore 2.

Rob Kay, a Honolulu-based writer, is the creator of fijiguide. com. He can be reached at Robertfredkay@gmail.com.





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