Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Favourite New Toy




This is a post I have been waiting to write for some time, and today is as good a time as any. I feel good finally doing another product review, it has been FAR too long since I did one, and I have gotten new toys in that time, so here comes what will hopefully the first of many reviews in the next little while.
For those of you who are familiar with my previous posts, I love anything that incorporates Bluetooth technology, be it a phone, computer or peripheral device. I own 3 different computers or "smart" devices which have Bluetooth connectivity, and I use Bluetooth technology more than once per day on each of these devices. However, when trying to leave the house to do something that required I not take anything with me, I found I was at a bit of a loss in terms of listening to music.

I have Bluetooth headphones (on-ear), but when I take them off they take up a lot of space, and can't easily just be put away anywhere, which is inconvenient for running errands or places where I don't have a bag or place to put things. Alternately, the first pair of Bluetooth earbuds I bought (which I decided did not even merit a review, more on that later) have a dongle at the end which contains the battery and Bluetooth transmitter. While this does allow for wireless listening, it does not make the experience any less bulky or cumbersome. The whole issue I have with wired headphones and wires in general is that they are prone to tangling, and the more wire you have, the easier it is to tangle.

This leads nicely into my review for today, which is for Plantronics' newest Bluetooth earphone model, the Backbeat Go. These earbuds are as simple as it gets, with all redundancy having been removed. Aside from the actual cord which holds together the earbuds and which carries in-line playback controls, these are essentially as minimal as earphones can get.

Normally, at this time in a product review which starts off saying how simple a concept and design is, this would be the place for a caveat about sound or manufacturing quality, but such a drawback doesn't exist for these earphones. They sound incredible, and are built very solidly, with no visible failure points. Another concern with earphones, especially ones which are not mechanically connected to any device, such as by a 3.5 mm connection, is that they might fall out of your ears and be lost forever. This doesn't seem to be a concern with these headphones, as they also have detachable earloops on the buds which are perfectly designed to be flexible, but rest against the inside of the ear, feeling comfortable, but snug.

The in-line playback controls under the right ear are absolutely perfect for changing tracks and volume, as well as answering calls and activating voice control (another wonderful product, Siri, also becomes much more useful when you don't have to take your phone out of your pocket to pick new music, text, or make calls). I should do a review on Siri soon, though it would be more reflective than a review, as it's been thoroughly reviewed in many other places. Is it against the rules of writing to refer to something in parentheses once you're outside of them? Oh well, creative liberties...

The cord connecting the two earbuds is also quite high quality, far above the plastic you would find in regular earbuds, and it is also thick in one dimension, resembling linguine. This means that the cord can really only bend in one dimension, and as such, there are far fewer tangles in the cord than would be found in normal gauge wire. While on normal headphones implementing this would be far too heavy, in practise on these headphones, with the weight of the wire resting on the back of the neck, there is no pull at all on the ears, and so no increased likelihood of the headphones to fall out.

These earbuds have a battery life of anywhere from 5-8 hours continued use in my experience, and will last with minimal battery loss for several weeks. They charge by micro-USB, which is behind a flap on the right bud, and take about an hour to fully charge.

When these earbuds were first announced several months ago, they were not available in Canada, and having them shipped here was almost prohibitively expensive. Now, however, they are available in Canada for $100 dollars, and if you are on the move a lot and like listening to music, I highly recommend these. If you have ever fumbled with earbuds and a shoulder bag of any kind, these are your sanity's salvation!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Parental Guidance Suggested

I've been preparing a few posts that have been in the works for a while, tending to break away from my typical topics from this forum, instead allowing me to express some thoughts on topics that are a little more serious and reflective. I'd really appreciate any feedback you have on these posts, which I will label with Reflection so that they can be easily grouped together.
I have been doing a lot of thinking in the last few months, as I am transitioning from my teenage years into a university student, and recently into what I'll call a real person. As this transition has happened, I have also moved several times, and with those relocations I have also enjoyed more and more independence.
From when I was born until 18 years old, I lived at home (as is true of most anyone reading this I'm sure). I didn't particularly like this fact, but I understood from a very young age that it was certainly in my best interest to follow the rules and align myself to be able to move out for university. I certainly didn't and don't detest my parents or their home, but I knew that my parents did some things quite differently from the way I would do them, and from the way I think they should be done. To their credit, I did learn a lot from my parents, and I think I was raised very well, their values and morals passing on to me in due course. However, I also found that there were certain things I learned from my parents and then altered to suit my own needs and ideas. I think that this is probably the most important part of growing up, coming to the realization that while parents are a great source of information and advice, their opinions and assistance is greatly biased, and should be taken as suggestion rather than as infallible fact. The idea that our parents are the final word on anything in life is a very antiquated notion.

I don't mean to say that the respect of my parents doesn't mean anything to me, it's actually quite important to me that I have their respect and that they respect me and the decisions that I make. This is most important when my decisions are different than the ones I know my parents would make. If I can explain my reasoning to them, it actually reinforces for me that I have made the right decision, even if it isn't a decision they would make. There are also definitely paths I have taken in life, especially since I moved away from home, that I haven't shared with my parents. It's not that I am keeping anything from them, but there is nothing I would share with my friends that I wouldn't also share with my parents. Some people find this type of openness very odd, but I stand firmly behind the decisions I've made. For me, getting the approval of my parents does not stem from following their expectations to the letter, but from their acceptance of my lifestyle choices regardless of what they would do in the same scenario. I love both of my parents very much, and I know they also love me, even though we are across the country from each other for 95% of the year. If I thought for a second that anything I did repeatedly and intentionally would cause them to disapprove strongly enough that they would love me any less than they do, I would be strongly questioning their roles as mentors and guides (aka as parents). I have complete confidence that my parents would stand by me unquestioningly in anything I choose to undertake, so long as it is not illegal. Moral reprehension is another story which is more of a grey area, as some people have different views on morals, but having different moral standards than your parents is a good thing, and certainly should not be punished or cause for irrevocable disapproval.

Thank you, mom and dad, for showing me right from wrong and teaching me to make my own decisions. I have grown into my own man, and I want nothing more than to make you proud with the way I live my life.