Review: Universal SwingHolder™ Floor Stand (Stand For Stuff)

Sometimes you encounter a product that exactly matches what you expected. This is a good thing. The Universal SwingHolder™ Floor Stand from StandforStuff.com, which I saw at CES 2015, is a product that was described as easy to setup and easy to use. The product allows you to have your tablet or e-reader available at the ready and “floating hands-free” while you are seated somewhere or even while convalescing.

The limited amount of assembling took me about 10 minutes (not including my stopping to take photos). After you complete the assembly process, you can place your tablet near you while you are reading, quickly adjust the height and angle of presentation and read, view, etc. You can gently swing it away to move about.

Unboxing...what's in the box
Unboxing…what’s in the box
Looking at the bottom of the base.
Looking at the bottom of the base.
Routing USB cord into base...
Routing USB cord into base…
Securing the vertical support post.
Securing the vertical support post.
Securing counterweight
Securing counterweight

One assembly tip: Make sure that you feel and hear the “pop” of the counterweight when aligning the hole where you apply the screw that will secure the counterweight to the pole. Otherwise, you will not have an easy time inserting or securing it.

Completed setup of Universal SwingHolder™
Completed setup of Universal SwingHolder™

To place your device in the holder, you begin by depressing a square gray button on the back of the holder. This button is associated with the top arm. Pull up this top arm.

Next, you press the other button, connected to the bottom arm, which you will then pull down. To minimize your chances of dropping your tablet or e-reader, don’t pull much more than to clear the rubberized diagonal corners or fingers that will “grip” your device.

While holding your device within the opposing diagonal corners, align the corners of your tablet or e-reader with these. Finally, squeeze this toward each other to secure your device.

For this in action, view their provided instructional video clip:

The setup was as easy as shown in the videos. For viewing at my favorite reading chair, I could have my iPad Air 2 or my new Samsung Tab 4 Nook at just the perfect angle and height for my viewing or reading pleasure. The base is quite heavy and convincingly stable as I moved the arm about. The counterweight allowed me to confidently angle the displayed device up and down. I could easily angle the device around.

A 3D photo from Phereo.com showing the back view of a device (my Samsung Tab 4 Nook) in place in the stand:

Another 3D photo from Phereo.com showing the Stand in use:

Initially I found the front camera on upper right corner of the Samsung obscured with the default arrangement. When I rotated the holders around to grip the other set of corners and rotated the mounted setup, I didn’t have the holder blocking the camera.

Swivel around to do a selfie with the Samsung Nook
Swivel around to do a selfie with the Samsung Nook

This is a Vimeo video showing me using the Universal SwingHolder:

One application for power-users is keeping an eye on your email or Facebook on your SwingHolder-mounted device near your workstation. Your laptop or desktop screen can be devoted to your applications or major tasks.

As a tripod, the Universal SwingHolder was surprising flexible for angling and positioning my iPad Air 2 for recording video footage of the cats.

For beds of typical height, you can use this unit to hold your device up and beside you while you rest or convalesce. To get it out of the way, you can gracefully push it out of the way.

A provided USB extension cable, which provides one end to connect to your micro-USB, 30-pin or Lightning cable. The other end routes through the posts, through the base and out to connect to your charger block. You can use this setup with a Kensington lock to provide a secured kiosk setup to customers or clients.

Images with additional tablet and e-reader devices:

Looking at a 3D photo of the Stand on a Neo3D0 tablet
Looking at a 3D photo of the Stand on a Neo3D0 tablet
Positioning a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader
Positioning a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader

While the Universal SwingHolder™ Floor Stand is not portable, as in “slip-it-in-your-purse mobile, it is not difficult to move from room-to-room. I have seen photos of its use in kitchens while cooking, which didn’t work in my kitchen because of limited space around our island. However, it has proven itself usable on our patio, while enjoying the evening view of the Las Vegas strip from our Henderson home. While watching light entertainment on TV, the base slides easily under the soft so that it is relatively unobtrusive when in use or when it isn’t. The cats haven’t figured how to tip it over, which is a very good thing.

For $199 (free ground shipping in the U.S.), you get a versatile holder for your one tablet or devices of various sizes. While it is easy to assemble, the base is quite heavy. You may need some assistance if the base is a bit too heavy for you to manipulate or move on your own.

If you will need the use of a stand with an elevated mattress, such as a hospital bed or a home TempurPedic, you might look at the Tall Universal SwingHolder™ Floor Stand instead.

I give the The Universal SwingHolder™ Floor Stand from StandforStuff.com a 10 out of 10. It sets up quickly and easily. Even more importantly, it does what it does reliably and simply. You can use tablets, e-readers and even larger smartphones with it and the gripping fingers provide a stable yet gentle hold.

Preparing review: Universal Swing Holder (Stand For Stuff)

I have the opportunity to review the Universal Swing Holder from Stand For Stuff. The stand caught my eye as a straight-forward way to hold up tablets while at work at a couch. Perhaps it can be used as a free-standing kiosk.

Stand for Stuff, Unopened box
Stand for Stuff, Unopened box
Stand for Stuff, Opened box
Stand for Stuff, Opened box

We’ll document the assembly process (assembly is required) and then the use of the stand.

Steve’s finally ordered iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for Rex

Steve gave it a decent try: got in line before 8 am on Friday, September 19th. He was in the 25th position but the Apple iPhone 6 Plusses were gone by the 6th person.

He braved it later in the morning so I could go with him as I had nominally decided to consider the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 which was released from pre-ordering the day before.

Steve at ATT with demo iPhone 6 Plus
Steve at ATT with demo iPhone 6 Plus

In the interest of curiosity and research, I have opted to go with the also-recently announced Samsung Galaxy Note 4. After considering what made me unhappy with the Sprint-issued Samsung Epic 4G and the context of the limited audience that model served, I am committing the next 18 months of my life back to an Android-based smartphone. I’ll still very much have my iPad so I will still be dependent somewhat on the iOS universe. Besides, with my purchase last year of the Neo3do tablet, I never really left.

SM-N910 Charcoal-Black, Combination Pen
SM-N910 Charcoal-Black, Combination Pen

My phone is projected for an October 17th delivery date. Steve’s iPhone 6 Plus is some time in November…

Review: iCam HD 360 from Amaryllo

Have you ever wanted to know what was going on at home while you were away? Do you want a security device to video record activity in your home? If these are questions you have asked, then maybe the iCam HD 360 is something for you.

 

iCam HD 360 from Amaryllo. Presented at CES 2014.
iCam HD 360 from Amaryllo. Presented at CES 2014.

 

iCam HD 360, after rotating to the left...
iCam HD 360, after rotating to the left…

 

iCam HD 360: the backside with buttons and SD card slot.
iCam HD 360: the backside with buttons and SD card slot.

 

The iCam 360 HD was first seen in the US at CES 2014. This is a product just hitting the market in the US.  The device is made by AMARYLLO, which is based in the Netherlands. There are basically three models of the iCam.  These are the iCam HD, iCam HD 360, and iBabi HD. All of these devices feature 1280 X 720 high definition video recording and a lens with a viewing angle of 100 degrees. Further they all feature night vision to capture video in complete darkness, a passive infrared motion sensor, an audio sensor, support micro SD recording and have a built in microphone. The iBabi HD also has support for Micro SD MP3 support to play music for the baby. Both the iBabi HD and the iCam HD 360 feature pan and tilt capabilities and provide for 360 degree viewing. Thus while they have some slight specification variations depending on your use and desired features, they work in basically the same manner.

 

What You Need

The iCam is a colorful cube shaped device that almost looks as if it were made from putting large LEGO blocks together. It connectivity is through Wi-Fi, so a good home Wi-Fi system is a necessity. Since it operates from a power plug, it needs to be positioned in an area of your home that has access to an electrical outlet either directly or by extension cord. Since the remote viewing is done through making a Skype video call to your iCam, a Skype account is necessary.  Last, video recording is done on a micro SD card and then uploaded to Google Drive you will need both a micro SD card and a Google account.  You get from AMARYLLO 15 GB of free storage on Google Drive.  Before you purchase a micro SD card, check the AMARYLLO website for compatible brands and capacity.

 

Operation

Among the various remote cameras that can operate from an iOS or Android device, the key selling point of the iCam HD 360 was that you could connect to it over Skype and that it uploaded video to Google Drive.  Further by giving simple commands via the Skype message feature, you could tilt and pan the camera.   You type in L for left, R for right, and either a U or D for up and down. These features made it one of the easiest devices on the market to utilize, especially if one already had a Google and Skype account.

The iCam app provides the basic controls.  The controls include recording at either 720 p, 480p, or 360p; voice controls for turning on the microphone, setting the speaker volume, and enabling two-way audio; Miscellaneous the enables you to turn on or off the night vision, set the time zone, turn on or off the motion control and the ability to grant control to other phones; Wi-Fi AP list showing the Wi-Fi system it is connected to; Skype viewer list that enables you to add Skype accounts for individuals that you want to be able to connect to the camera through Skype; and the controls for turning on or off the motion sensor, audio sensor and setting the audio sensitivity and whether to alert you through a snapshot or a text.  Everything about the iCam is simple and straightforward.  This makes it an excellent choice for those that are not that tech savvy beyond the basics.

 

Setting Up

 

iCam HD: Google Play
iCam HD: Google Play

 

iCam HD: Apple Store (iOS)
iCam HD: Apple Store (iOS)

 

Reference to QR code for Android-specific app
Reference to QR code for Android-specific app

 

Initially my experience with the iCam HD 360 was one of frustration.  Despite the very clear and simple instructions for getting the device up and running, I found the process anything but easy.   I just could not get it connected. After spending several hours attempting to set up the iCam I gave up and turned it over to my more tech advanced colleague.  He also spent far more complicated than the easy 1-2-3-step process found in the instructions.  He did get it to work finally.  However, I felt that if I was going to write this review that I needed to be able to set it up myself.  Thus, I wrote to AMARYLLO tech support and got a prompt reply back to do a device reset and use the specific iCam HD 360 app.
 
With that in hand I sat down to see if I could successfully set the iCam up. I followed the procedures to the letter and spent another 2 hours resetting, reinstalling the app, and faithfully going through the SIMPLE set up steps.  My efforts and time were all to no avail. At that point I felt that I would never write this review or if I did was to pan the iCam as one ornery and anything but simple device. However, to be fair I again sent off an email to AMARYLLO tech support.  Within 15 minutes of having detailed my latest trials and travails with the iCam I got a response asking me to send a picture of the QR scan sticker on the bottom of the iCam. Within 15 minutes of that I got back a response telling me that by mistake I had been sent the European version of the iCam HD that has a lion head logo on the QR code. Thus, I needed to install the iCam HD app rather than the iCam HD 360 app.  In addition to the email response a member of their support team also sent a connect request to my Skype account and offered to walk me through the process step by step via Skype.  Any number of companies could well take a lesson from the prompt and personal support given to me by AMARYLLO.
 
With this new information, I downloaded the app onto my smartphone and then reset the iCam and let it go through its startup process. I then followed the simple installation steps that are contained on the app. You enter your Wi-Fi password, take a picture of the QR scan code on the bottom of the camera, enter your Skype account information, hold your smartphone with a picture of a QR code on the screen in front of the iCam, wait until it beeps once and you are connected.  Simple, straightforward and it all took about a total of 4 minutes.  It really was as easy as described on the app and on the website.

 

Video Recording and Alerts

The last feature that I wanted to comment on was the video recording and motion alert snapshots.  Below is an example of a motion alert snapshot.

 

Sample motion alert snapshot from the iCam HD
Sample motion alert snapshot from the iCam HD

 

Motion and audio alert snapshots appear within Skype. Audio detection alerts and motion detection alerts show up as messages in the iCam’s Skype account.  Skype messages also show that the iCam sent a file. Currently the app version of Skype states “This version of Skype doesn’t support that yet.”  However, I can download the snapshot files in the desktop version of Skype.  The one above opened on my desktop within Skype and I then opened it with my preview program. Since the app version of Skype was just updated, I suspect that the transfer and opening of the file will be worked out in the future.
 

Note: there is some loud static at the beginning on this unedited video. Please consider turning down your audio level before playing.

 

The videos are easily accessed from the iCam app on your smartphone.  All you need to do is to click on the Google Drive icon on the opening page of the app.  The videos can also be accessed directly from logging into Google Drive. You get up to 15 GB of free storage on Google Drive. It is amazing the sharpness of the video. Anyone caught on camera in daylight would be very sharply identified with the HD quality of the video.

 

Two-Way Audio

Another feature of the iCam HD 360 is that it has a built in speaker and microphone.  This enables you during a Skype call to listen to what is going on in the room.  It further allows you to speak and be heard through the device.  The audio is not stellar (it sounds like talking on a walkie-talkie) but it is clear enough that one can hear what is being said.  To clearly hear through the device, the sound needs to be fairly close by and loud enough to be picked up.  I enjoy watching the startled look on my cats when I speak to them through the camera.

In Summary

Despite my early frustrations, I have found the iCam HD 360 a very useful tool to monitor the activity of my cats when I am gone from home.  It also gives me a way to monitor the back entry to the house.  When you have the right iCam with the correct app, the set up is truly as easy as 1-2-3.  Beyond the easy setup, setting up the features for the camera and viewing recorded videos is easily done from the app.  Connecting to the iCam through Skype is also seamless and it is easy to give pan and tilt commands.

Support for the iCam is provided on the AMARYLLO website.

Click on the Support tab and it will take you to a series of questions about iCam settings and services.  When you click these general questions it will take you to a page that will have a series of detailed things that you may be asking or wanting to know more about.   Some of these are then linked to YouTube videos that demonstrate and walk you visually through what to do.  If these resources do not suffice, then you can contact their support team by email.  Given my issues, I found that I needed to do this and was tremendous impressed by how quick the team responded and solved my problem.  Most impressive was how one of the team set up a Skype contact and was willing to walk me directly through the setup process while on a real time Skype video call.

 

The iCam HD 360 retails for $199. It comes in three colors, (red, white and blue; all white; or green on the top and bottom with white in the middle).  The iBabi HD that comes in pink and blue also retail for $199.   The iCam HD that lacks the remote pan and tilt control retails for $149 and comes only in white.  All of the models can be purchased directly from AMARYLLO through the store on their website.  B&H Photo Video also can supply the iCam at the stated list prices.  If you do a Google search you may be able to find the device for $20 less.  I would encourage you to carefully note shipping prices as they may make it more expansive than directly buying from the AMARYLLO store.

 

Rating

The iCam HD 360 is a very versatile remote camera that allows you to view its home area from your smartphone or tablet device.  The iCam HD 360 does everything that it is advertised to do and does it simply and well.  I will not let my initial experience downgrade my review as I discovered that their support services and staff were excellent.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up
  • Connectivity through Skype
  • Recordings viewable and saved on Google Drive
  • Quality of picture
  • Tilt and Pan
  • Support Service

Negative:

  • Lack of more neutral or black colors
  • Upgrades to Skype, Google Drive, and or AMARYLLO app

Since the iCam HD 360  needs to get along with Skype and Google Drive, any changes and updates with them will most likely require an update from AMARYLLO.  I suspect this is the case currently in not being able to view the alert snapshots due to the app version of Skype not supporting the file type in the upgraded version of their program.  This is a common problem today in getting everything to play together nicely all the time.  Last, the bright colors that are offered do little to make the camera inconspicuous in a room.  Thus, for a security device it is rather obvious to anyone entering the room.  It would be nice to have it available in black and other neutral colors so as to better blend in with the home décor.

 

Device: 9 out of 10
Support: 10 out of 10

Stephen C. Anderson
Writer/Reviewer

The iCam HD 360 (from Amaryllo) in action from Rex Suba on Vimeo.

Review: The Brydge+: Bluetooth Keyboard and Speaker for iPad 2, 3, 4

It’s surprising to consider that I have had my current iPad for over two years. In that time, I have used it with various Apple, Zagg, Logitech and other wireless/Bluetooth keyboards. Some bare or separate, some as part of a case or cover combination. In the case of the Brydge+, I have encountered a Bluetooth® keyboard that is combined with a Bluetooth® speaker.
 
Certainly different.
 

The Brydge+ keyboard and speaker
The Brydge+ keyboard and speaker

 
The Brydge+ keyboard/speaker combination normally lists for $149.99 but has been on sale recently for $99. There is a “speakerless” version which lists for $139.99 and has been on sale for $89. You get the Brydge+ with speakers unit, a Micro-USB charging cable, shims for the iPad 3/4 and sticker covers for the hinges (useful for those who want the hinges to blend better with black/slate iPads).
 
Brydge+ with included accessories
Brydge+ with included accessories

 
The premise is that, using shims to hold the iPad, you can use the keyboard as a cover for the iPad when transporting. The shims hold the iPad to the hinges, which swivel smoothly into various positions from closed to almost totally flat and open (there seems to be a default open position that which seems to be close to 90 degrees/right angle to the Brydge+, not necessarily a natural stopping point). The manual recommends that you don’t shake or dangle by just holding your iPad, as only friction is what holds the iPad to the Brydge+ unit.
 
In the wild: the Brydge+ at our local Starbucks
In the wild: the Brydge+ at our local Starbucks.

 
Getting the iPad to recognize both the Bluetooth® keyboard and speakers was straight-forward. Reading the instructions is important. After putting the iPad in Bluetooth ®/discover mode, press Ctrl and K to make the keyboard discoverable. You will get a standard pairing code process to complete. Ctrl and B will make the speakers discoverable.
 
The Brydge+ with Speakers, after the iPad has discovered the keyboard as well as the speakers.
The Brydge+ with Speakers, after the iPad has discovered the keyboard as well as the speakers.

 
The Brydge+ with Speakers, what you see when you click the "globe" key, if you have more than one keyboard layout set up for your iPad.
The Brydge+ with Speakers, what you see when you click the “globe” key, if you have more than one keyboard layout set up for your iPad.

 
In the wild: the Brydge+ at my Honda dealership. Waiting for my car to be repaired...
In the wild: the Brydge+ at my Honda dealership. Waiting for my car to be repaired…

 
The anodised aluminum case feels very sturdy. The iPad 3 weighs 1.475 pounds without any other add-ons. With the Brydge+ with Speakers, it comes at a not-so-light 2.65 pounds.
 

 
The unit comes installed with shims for the iPad 2. These are securely attached by a pair of adhesive areas per shim. A warning card as well as the small manual admonished the user to carefully and fully remove the adhesive when switching to the shims provided for the iPad 3/4. I managed to scrape the top of my left index finger trying to rub off the adhesive. The hard aluminum won the battle against my finger. Not a good way to get started.
 
Right side shim for iPad 3
Right side shim for iPad 3

 

I would recommend to Brydge Keyboards that they do not install either set of shims. Augment the provided instructions to explain how to install the shims (a link to a streaming video clip perhaps?). Then you have no adhesive to rub off.
 
As a keyboard, it’s somewhat of a mixed bag. Steve Anderson, one of the key technotraveler.com contributors and our associate, Gary Gates, joined me in testing out the basic touch-typing use.

 

Right side of unit, favoring right top keys
Right side of unit, favoring right top keys

 

The various keys all functioned as depicted. As with many of my Bluetooth®-connected keyboards, there is a slight delay for recognition by the iPad if I hadn’t used for a period of time. The arrangement of the arrow keys and the shrinking of the right shift key to make room for the up arrow provided a challenge for all three of us. Both Gary and Steve found that they were spending a lot of time clicking on backspace to fix text that was altered because the up arrow key was struck instead of the intended shift key. Gary spends a lot of his professional work day typing, so being able to work without looking down at a keyboard just to type an “@“ or a capital “T” because the location of the shift key isn’t assured. The arrangement of the left, down and right key flush across the bottom row surely looks clean. I think that, for touch typists, this overall arrangement will take some getting used to. Having worked with other Bluetooth® keyboards, such as the Q-Madix and the Skech which also had small right-shift keys, this is not great. Otherwise, the keys being distinct does decrease accidental typing on other keys. We think that, while it is not optimal for fast touch typing of narrative, the Brydge+ keyboard is fine for light typing.

 

Left side of unit, favoring left top keys
Left side of unit, favoring left top keys

Right side of unit, favoring right top keys
Right side of unit, favoring right top keys

 
Speakers, shims and top row of keys
Speakers, shims and top row of keys

 
The speaker seems to provide a more robust sound that the iPad built-in speaker, when I am listening to music or streaming movie content. The direction of the speaker more directly aims the sound in my direction when I am using it while typing or while using the iPad as a viewer. To be more specific as to the different in maximum decibel I employed a basic audio meter. To compare the output, I played Adele’s Rolling In The Deep and the Main Titles theme for Star Wars.
 
Audio meter, measuring iPad speaker output
Audio meter, measuring iPad speaker output

 
I started the test with Adele’s tune. The built-in speaker at the bottom back of the iPad produces a maximum audio level that registers as 78.0 dB when I pointed my meter at the speaker from a distance of 10 inches. With the Star Wars theme, the meter registered 76.8 dB.
 
Audio meter, measuring Brydge+ speaker output
Audio meter, measuring Brydge+ speaker output

 
The two tunes were again played, this time with the Brydge+ speakers. The meter was positioned in front of the keyboard, 10 inches from the back of the speakers. Rolling In The Deep produced a 83.3 dB reading while the Star Wars theme had a maximum reading of 78.0 dB. The sound was not tinny at the high end and the aluminum must have helped produce a pleasant base but the difference was not huge. When in a noisy office, though – fan and/or air conditioning contributing significantly to the background – the Brydge+ was able to cut through with enough strength to justify its use.
 
The Brydge+ with Speakers at Blueberry Hill, a favorite Las Vegas breakfast place.
In the wild: the Brydge+ with Speakers at Blueberry Hill, a favorite Las Vegas breakfast place.

 
The score tally started by taking into account the difficulty of switching the shims and the concern about the small right shift key and balancing these factors with the positives. The positives included the secure grip of the correct shims, the clarity of the available documentation, the general typing ease over all and the pleasant, robust sound produced by the integrated speaker.
 
We give the Brydge+ with Speakers, from Brydge Keyboards, an 8 out of 10.