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Review: LG Music Flow P5

LG Music Flow P5 speaker on a railing

This portable speaker from LG is small and – thanks to a rubber base – can be perched anywhere.

The world of portable Bluetooth speakers is as saturated as a sponge that’s been sitting in a wet sink.

There are countless models out there from almost any manufacturer that makes any gadget imaginable. Even LG has multiple models within its Music Flow Lineup.

But the P5 is the most different from its other siblings in LG’s own Music Flow model line.

For starters, it’s the smallest. The speaker is about the size of a large mug, or a tallboy beer can (on its side). The P5 weighs 1.3 lbs., so it’s not going to drag down your bag when you carry it around.

My review unit was black with a silver grille. At the centre of the top panel was a round control button for volume as well as play/pause. The bottom was smooth and rubbery – key for keeping this thing on slippery surfaces.

Like most Bluetooth speakers, it’s not difficult to set this thing up and pair it with your device. In fact, I didn’t even read the instructions before I had this bad boy paired with my Android phone.

Speaking of pairing, you can pair two mobile devices with one P5 unit. Useful if you and your roommate/partner/friend can’t decide on which song to play.

You can also apparently get two P5s to create a truly stereo speaker set up with Dual Play. For example, you could have two on either side of a TV, or two on either side of a long bookshelf.

Not that you need more than one, however. This little P5 is plenty powerful.

Out on my patio, this speaker pumped out pretty clear and well-balanced sound for something of its size (and power source). In the laundry room, the sound was more deep and came through even stronger than outside.

From Spotify tracks to my own locally saved MP3s, the clarity impressed.

In terms of battery life, I found that I had just over 12 hours of use from this little guy. Not bad, but not quite the 15 hours of juice LG claims. Perhaps it was because my phone was across the room rather than right beside the speaker.

The LG Music Flow P5 isn’t all that cheap, with Canadian pricing at $149.99. But if you’re looking for small, solid sound with versatility for more than one controller – or more than one speaker – this thing is worth considering.

 

Rating: 4.1/5

Available: Online and in stores.

Toshiba Chromebook or Asus Chromebox – which is better?

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So-called Chromebooks and Chromeboxes are simple, lightweight computers that run Google’s Chrome operating system. In essence, it’s the company’s Chrome web browser, as a whole computer ecosystem.

I’ve had a chance to try out two Chrome-based devices: Toshiba’s Chromebook and the Chromebox from Asus.

The Toshiba laptop costs $349.99 while the barebones Asus goes for about $199,

With both devices, there isn’t a lot of on-board storage space because the idea is that the bulk of your stuff – from music to pictures to documents – is stored in the cloud.

One downside to this is that you’ll need an active Internet connection to access and make changes to these files.

But on the other hand, your stuff is accessible no matter where you go, and its always backed up. (No more nightmares of dead portable hard drives).

With both the Chromebook and Chromebox, boot up is virtually instant, like using a tablet or turning on a light switch. The same goes for putting these devices to sleep.

So, think you’re able to live almost completely in the cloud? In a world where almost everything is done through the Google Chrome web browser (and available Chrome apps?)

Toshiba Chromebook:

The laptop feels like a poor man’s MacBook Air. Painted silver, it’s plasticky and much more inexpensive, because you’re pretty much just getting a keyboard and a screen with a few chips in between.

A 1.4 Ghz Intel Celeron processor powers this guy, coupled with 2GB of DDR RAM and 16 GB of on-board storage in the form of a solid state drive (SSD).

The 13.3-inch LED screen does an average job of displaying content. There’s no blurriness or lack of vibrancy, although it’s not a memorable screen.

But, there is an HDMI port so you can easily plug this into a dedicated monitor or a big-screen TV to watch videos or enjoy more screen real estate.

This Chromebook also has an SD card slot for importing pictures and other types of files. Two USB 3.0 ports provide for more off-board storage.

Generally, the Toshiba was quick and nimble whether you’re watching a TV show or writing emails. Battery life is quite good too – it lasted for almost five days of pre- and post-work surfing.

Asus Chromebox:

About the size of a sandwich or two slices of toast, this device is more of a replacement for your desktop than it is a portable computer. Just like the Toshiba Chromebook, it has only a 1.4 Ghz processor and 2 GB of RAM along with 16 GB of on-board storage.

But it makes up for it with a heaping of plugs to keep you connected: four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, DisplayPort (4K video, anyone?) Ethernet, SD card reader, microphone/headphones, etc.

While the Chromebox doesn’t ship with a screen, keyboard and mouse, the latter two are fairly affordable accessories you can pick up or reuse from a previous computer.

Chromebox_AsusThe enthusiast community is also finding creative ways to use this computer without actually running Google’s operating system, such as with XBMC, for example.

The model I tested initially crashed and would be in a reboot loop when I would log in with my Google account, but worked fine when using a different account. Performing a factory reset eventually solved my problem, which seemed to be a disappointment for a computer system that’s traditionally as easy to set up as it is to lace up Velcro shoes.

Whether you’re considering the Toshiba Chromebook or the Asus Chromebox, both devices offer an affordable way to get online and complete basic tasks for not a whole lot of money. But if you need to run Mac or Windows-specific applications, then skim over these two devices.

Review: Pioneer XW-SMA1

Having a gazillion songs on your phone is great, but it’s not always easy to play your music back on speakers.

Yeah, there’s sound systems with dedicated Apple docks – but that only works if you have an iPhone 4S or older – and all those accessories are outdated with the new interface on the iPhone 5.

And if you don’t have an iPhone, you’re out of luck.

With the new Pioneer XW-SMA1, however, you’re virtually guaranteed a way to get your music to play on this device, either wirelessly or with a traditional wired connection.

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Seatguru is the app for all your flight needs

Seat Guru can help you find the best place to sit on the plane.

If you’re a frequent traveller, you likely have an arsenal of apps to help you navigate foreign cities and decipher unknown lands. But I’ve found one app that takes care of all my air travel needs, really simply.

No stranger to the web world, the Seatguru app does three main things.

Obviously, it lets you find out the best seat on the plane you should sit. Just enter in your flight code and departure day, and the app will bring up the specified plane’s seating plan along with symbols to tell you which are the best – and least desirable seats.

If you’re looking to book a flight, the app’s flight booking component  offers a basic fare finder. It easily sorts flights by price and stops, comparing costs across most major airlines.

Lastly – there’s a feature to tell how early (or usually, late) your flight is.

Granted, other apps have fancier features and more advanced functionality, but they can really bog you down when all you need to know is that your flight is an hour late.

For its simplicity and ease of use, I take flight with Seatguru.

Review: Olympus captures it right with the OM-D

Olympus OM-D reviewCould a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera be considered a serious alternative to full-on DSLRs? It appears Olympus may have done the trick with its new OM-D E-M5.

The camera, which resembles the OM from yesteryear, is hitting stores with an incredibly nostalgic look while packing impressively modern features.

Especially when it’s wearing its silver coating, the E-M5 sports a classic old-school film camera look. But that’s about where most of the comparisons with the camera of yesteryear end.

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