I have a lot of devices with Airplay features, so I am still hoping some of the newer devices get updates, but at this point, I wouldn't buy a device for Airplay features unless the company has already announced that it will get automatically updated for Airplay 2 when it becomes available.
I just wanted to make a "Public Service Announcement" for the Airport Express since I have recommended it, compared it to other similar devices by other companies, and because it is used with Airplay, which I have discussed numerous times.
At this point in time, I would not recommend buying an Airport Express. Apple has already mentioned that they will be bringing out Airplay 2 alongside the HomePod. Airplay 2 will give you the ability to play to multiple devices at the same time from iOS. Apple has announced that the AppleTV 4 will work with Airplay 2, but they have made no such announcement about the Airport Express.
Also, while iOS should still be compatible with older Airplay products, they could discontinue making updates to the Airport Express that could leave your network vulnerable to viruses or hackers. The Airport Express isn't just a music playback device, it can also be used as a wifi base station, which means its could be more vulnerable without updates down the road.
I would love for the Airport Express to get the Airplay 2 update and security updates in the future, I am just concerned about Apple's long term plans for this device with Airplay 2 eventually being available. As a result, I would not recommend buying this device until Apple is more clear about its future, unless you have weighed those pros and cons and decided it was still worth it.
I have a lot of devices with Airplay features, so I am still hoping some of the newer devices get updates, but at this point, I wouldn't buy a device for Airplay features unless the company has already announced that it will get automatically updated for Airplay 2 when it becomes available.
Apple announced that the HomePod will not be available until 2018. This has brought up some comments that I want to respond to, like:
“Apple is selling this as an audiophile product and it can’t compete with amps hooked up to full range floor standing speakers”
Duh! Apple is selling it as having great technology that can get the most out of a speaker that weighs 5.5 pounds. There are rumors that Apple thought about a 3 foot tall device, but obviously they figured out the market is larger for a 6.8 inch tall speaker with a 5.6 inch footprint. I should mention, I have a very tall Sony Bluetooth speaker and because of its size, it limits where I can put it.
“Alexa kills Siri”
I am a fan of Echo products (the Dot was my top pick last year), but Alexa is no better than Siri and in many ways it is worse. Don’t take my word for it, watch this video of a side by side comparison from one of YouTube’s most popular tech reviewers:
In fairness, Amazon has skills that Apple doesn't and won't have. However, the usefulness of those skills will depend on the user. For example, I can control J River Media running on a computer by voice, but it requires a long voice request:
"Alexa, ask House Band to play Blood on the Track by Bob Dylan"
I don't think that this skill will be better than using the HomePod to control Airplay 2 devices.
“It doesn’t work with services like Google Play, Amazon Prime, Spotify, etc.”
This is true, but it is the only "voice assistant" that works with Apple Music (currently that includes 30 million subscribers), Siri, and will have control over AirPlay 2 devices. Also, Google Play Music does not work with the Echo and Amazon Music does not work with Google Home.
Apple could add Spotify, and they may do that down the road, but right now they are using their devices to grow the Apple Music subscriber base. These music services are all very similar, so it makes sense for Apple to use their products as a way to sell the service.
“Casting is better than AirPlay”
Try opening up Apple Music or The Overcast podcast app (two prominent examples) on an iPhone and then try to Cast that audio stream to your Chromecast. Nope, you can’t. Now try to AirPlay it. Works like a charm.
The main shortfall to Casting is that it doesn’t work with every audio app like AirPlay on iOS. Obviously, if you don’t own an iPhone or iPad, AirPlay is less useful, but this is an Apple device that works best if you are in the Apple ecosystem.
Also, the HomePod will get Airplay 2 sending/receiving capabilities which is supposed to give it more features from iOS and more buffering on the network.
“It is overpriced”
The only way we know if it is priced to high is by waiting to see how well it sells. Apple has margins built in and prices can be adjusted if they aren’t selling. Apple typically does enough research that they know what people will pay before bringing a product to market. It is why they have the most profitable tech products in numerous categories.
Now if people are saying it isn’t worth $350 for them to buy it, that is their own issue. There are a lot of products I wouldn’t take for free, but that doesn’t mean they are priced wrong for their market. It just means I have no interest in those products. There are other products, like BMW M3 that I would consider buying if it was priced a lot lower. It doesn’t mean it is overpriced, it just means it costs more than I would be willing to pay.
"Not long if not now that Google and Amazon/Sonos will have this market sewed up."
I doubt it unless one of them adds Airplay 2 voice control features and Apple Music with voice control.
The market for any of these devices is still pretty small. I have three Dots and a Spot preordered (not to mention a newly added Google Home Mini) and I still have an interest in the HomePod for the two features I mentioned above. I have read that Amazon is estimated to have sold around 15 million Echoes. Small potatoes in a world with billions of people, and since many people that have them, may have more than one, the number of homes these are in is probably a fraction compared to the (estimated) number they have sold.
Not to mention homes like mine that will have devices from more than one company. It is like saying that someone has an iPhone 4, so they should have no interest in a Samsung Note 8. The products themselves are so different that having one (even if they are both in the smart phone category) doesn't rule out the future purchase of the other.
Of course, I don't have a crystal ball. However, I wouldn't bet against Apple. Just to put some perspective on their success, let's look at their current products:
The Apple Brand is popular and makes a lot of money. Of course, if analysts are correct, I am doing better in this segment of the market than Amazon who was estimated to have lost $300 million in 2016. How we measure Apple's success compared to companies giving the product away at a loss is a little tricky. It is the old market share versus profitability argument that has been around at least since Apple started selling iPhones. I would be very surprised if Apple didn't have the most profitable smart speaker on the market come the end of 2018. Guess time will tell.
Below is a quote from a similar pointy from a few years ago (I am sure there are more on many of Apple's "late" arriving products):
"While the above is compelling, Apple won’t be bringing its watch to market until early 2015. This gives other smart watchmakers plenty of time to enhance the features set of their own products, especially those powered by Android Wear. Currently, there are around 10 companies with logos displayed on Google’s Android Wear page. Each of them is solely committed to building watches powered by Android Wear.
The initial round of Android Wear-powered smart watches delivers interesting functionality. This includes the ability to talk to your watch and send messages, ask questions and “get stuff done” (Google’s words). With Android Wear developers’ ability to utilize sensors, notifications, voice actions and data transfers, the Apple Watch could be yesterday’s news by the time it hits markets next year."
Looking back now, that point was ridiculous. It is just as ridiculous this time around.
The Wrap Up
Of course, right now, we are discussing a theoretic device. Apple has said the HomePod will not come out until 2018. However, if you have any comments (other than those I have addressed) leave a comment and I will try to respond.
In my Planet Audio CarPlay Review, I mentioned how much of a pain it was to lose SiriusXM. While there are still some shortfalls compared to having Nav built in to the car, the hassle of needing to start SiriusXM directly on the phone is now gone. WoooHoooo!
As in past years (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011), I am putting together a new list of my top tech. The list will contain my favorite things from the last year, even if they were available in prior years. By "tech" I am basically including any new toys, apps, etc... that I find cool and/or useful. The prices I have in the article are the current prices, but I would expect them to fluctuate between now and the end of the year.
My Favorite Tech of the Year
NETGEAR Orbi Whole Home Mesh WiFi System with Tri-band (279.99 for the package I purchased, but there are different options available)- It is kind of strange for me to make a WiFi Router my favorite tech, but I have been on sites where people complain about Airplay drop outs or bad signals on nearly a weekly basis. I have recommended that people update their WiFi routers for years and from my experience, the Orbi system has run like a champ since I upgraded in February (when my Google Router bit the dust). My review is here. In short, the thing I love is its wide range and fast speeds.
Great for the Home Office
Epson ET-3700 ($379) - This is the printer I have needed for my home office for years. It comes with 2 years of ink, so you pay for that up front, but it means you don't have to worry about running out when you need to print something important. I like the fact that it can print on both sides of paper, has easy scanning to pdf, and is compatible with AirPrinting. I have a review here.
Most Underrated Tech
2016, 15 inch MBP with Touch Bar - This was probably the most controversial product that Apple has released in years. I love it, though. I have my initial impressions here. I have installed Windows on the bootcamp partition, so it works for most anything I need to do on a computer. (it should be noted that Apple has updated the MBP this year, so you might be able to find this on their refurb site if you don't need the new Kaby Lake processors.)
Best Desktop Accessory for the MBP
Belkin Thunderbolt 3 Dock ($338) - Definitely not the cheapest accessory available, but it is a one plug solution to turn my portable MBP into a multi-monitor 4k, desktop beast. I have a review here.
Best On the Go #Dongle
ABOX Type-C Hub with 2 USB 3.0 Ports and CF/SD/Micro SD Card Reader ($25) - As I mentioned in my MBP article, I mainly use CF cards, so #dongle life has been real for every laptop I have owned since I picked up a Canon Point and Shoot in 2004. I guess that is why carrying an adapter isn't a big deal for me since I have lived with that issue for over a decade. This dock gives me the ports I usually need most of the time. CF (for my Canon), SD (Canon/Olympus) and USB for plugging in my Dragonfly DAC or my old thumb drives.
BeatsX Wireless In-Ear Headphones ($99) - First, let me say that these are not my best sounding headphones. However, they are easily the most convenient for this iOS/Mac user. I spend a lot of time roaming around the yard with the pups, grilling/smoking on the deck, and cleaning the pool. These just pop in and are connected in seconds. I can hit a button and tell Siri the music I want to hear. I can adjust volume, pause, skip, etc. right from the headphone cable. They isolate most sound so you don't have to turn them up loud to block out external noises. The great part is that I can jump from iPhone to iPad to watch a Youtube video and pairing is quick and easy. They are also easy to pair with my Apple Watch, so I can listen to music without even having my phone available. Sweet! When I bought mine, they had a $30 gift certificate for iTunes/Apple Music, so they were essentially $30 cheaper than I thought. My review is here.
Favorite for the Vehicle
PLANET AUDIO PCP9800 Double Din, Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, MP3/USB (No CD/DVD) AM/FM Receiver, 6.75" Capacitive Touchscreen ($345) - I absolutely love this thing. Having Siri in the car to control Apple Music, pull up a location on the Map, or just being able to access my Podcasts with ease is awesome. I also like the way I was able to add a rearview camera and access it at any time. I have a review here.
Best Gaming PC on a Budget
Dell i5675-A933BLU-PUS Inspiron 5675 AMD Desktop, Ryzen 5 1400 Processor, 8GB, 1TB, AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB GDDR5 Graphics, Recon Blue (~$800) - I have seen this priced as low as $670, so the price can change dramatically. I have also added another 8GB of RAM and will eventually add an SSD. However, I wanted to get into PC gaming again and downloaded Tekken 7 from Steam and it plays without any issues at 1080p. While you can build something with similar specs for about the same money, you don't get Dell to stand behind it. My review is here.
Best PC Accessory for the Couch Potato
Steam Link and Steam Controller (I paid $50 for both directly from Steam, but price varies) - This allows you to run Steam on a computer (like the one above) and plug the Link into a TV on the same network and play your steam games. The Steam controller makes playing games designed for a keyboard and mouse easy from the couch. I have not reviewed this product yet.
Best for the Lazy
iRobot Roomba 652 Robot Vacuum ($269.99) - While the Roomba won't replace a full sized vacuum, for quick jobs this thing is ideal. You hit one button and it sweeps the floor for you. I have dogs, so being able to run this once or twice a week helps keep the floor clean.
Best for Audio
Yamaha WXC-50 (~$350) - This is an amazing little device. It works with Airplay, Bluetooth, DLNA (DSD and High Res files), has an aux input, and works natively with SiriusXM, Pandora, etc. You can use it with powered speakers or send the audio to a headphone amp or a vintage receiver (I use it for both). My review is here.
Best Audio/Video Portable Accessory
Blue Raspberry Premium Mobile USB Microphone for PC, Mac, iPhone and iPad (incl. Lightning cable) - This small portable microphone is ideal for taking on the road or for impromptu videos around the house. I like the old style look, the sound quality, and the fact that they give you cables to make it easy to hook up to a computer or iPhone.
Best For Home Entertainment
TiVo BOLT 500 GB DVR: Digital Video Recorder and Streaming Media Player - 4K UHD Compatible - Works with Digital Cable or HD Antenna (~$180)- I decided to stop paying DirecTV this year. I was mainly keeping it around for NFL Sunday Ticket, but it was consuming half my weekend, so I decided to get rid of it. I was already paying Comcast for cable and it saved me quite a bit of money to switch over and use their cable card with the Tivo. The great thing about this version of Tivo is that it also work with an over the air signal, so if I decide to switch to SlingTV or another online source, I can still record my local channels in HD. This box has Netflix and Youtube built in, but they are a bit slower than my other sources, so I don't use them. My review is here.
Stuff on my Wishlist
Of course, we still have over a month left in December, so there are still a couple things I have on my wishlist that I may have by year end.
Apple Watch LTE - I am still using the Original Apple Watch and love it. This is a much more fully realized version of the watch.
Apple TV 4K - I have a 4K TV , so this is an obvious upgrade.
R2D2 - Just too cool.
I may add a few more products before Christmas, but I am pretty happy with this list. I noticed that a lot of this stuff is higher priced than my usual lists. I may put together an under $100 tech gift list if I have time. However, these were some of my favorites of the year, which was the point of putting together a list.
The Epson ET-3700(~$379) is the printer I have needed for my office for years. Like most people, I have used the standard printers that use the relatively tiny ink cartridges and seem like they need to be replaced every time you need to print an important document.
The Epson Expression ET-3700 EcoTank Wireless All-in-One Supertank Printer with Scanner, Copier, and Ethernet solves that problem. The printer comes with “2 years of ink”, so that "low ink" message from my computer should be behind me for a long, long time. This printer requires you to open up the ink and pour it in the tank, but in my experience, it was easy and not a drop went anywhere but inside the printer. It does take a little longer to get up and running (about 45 minutes or so), but a lot of that time is just waiting for the ink to charge and you can let it go through that process while you do something else.
How's it print?
Once I had everything setup, I set the printer to the quiet setting since I don’t typically print large jobs and I was willing to trade of some speed for less noise. The 2.4 inch LCD screen is easy to read and navigate. It even flips up, so if you have it mounted on a low shelf, like I do, it is still easy to read.
I tested printing several sheets and had no problems. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend this for photographers that print their own photos. This printer has 4 different colors, but printers that have three different colors for black (black, grey, light grey), rather than one, are typically better for photos.
This printer has 150 sheet paper capacity, so you won’t be bothered with having to change out paper as often as many printers, either. It is also relatively fast at printing.
I have the printer connected via Ethernet, so I had no issues getting it added to my network. Once it is setup, you can scan documents and photos to your computer. I tested this feature and it worked great. I also tested printing a photo to it from my iPad and it had no issues. It showed up in "selected printers" right in the Photos app. I also downloaded the Epson iPrint app in case I need to fine tune print options in the future.
The Wrap Up
All in all, this is almost perfect for my home office needs. As I said, I would prefer to have more “colors” than 4, but even though it isn’t ideal for professional photos, it is still a great printer for my home office needs. I mainly just want something that has lots of ink, prints fast, and can be seen by my iOS devices and this printer fits the bill.
The first impression of the Sony GTKXB90 is that this is the largest Bluetooth speaker I have ever seen! The photo above contains a pic of it with your standard Rolling Stone Magazine and a curious mini schnauzer. According to Sony, it weighs 31 pounds and is over 2 feet tall. If you can handle the size, you will be paid back with a fun, very loud Bluetooth speaker that is capable of deeper bass than any portable I have ever heard at this price point (~$349).
This is the ultimate party speaker. It puts on a cool, user adjustable, light show, has DJ effects, plays loud, and puts out a lot of bass. That being said, like every other Bluetooth speaker I have heard, it isn’t an audiophile product. It does have EQ settings you can use to dial in the sound, but it will be difficult to match the sound of a properly setup system with two speakers and a sub. I don’t think audiophiles will be buying this speaker for playing their RCA Living Stereo vinyl, but it still sounds pretty darn good for a portable speaker.
Apps - the good and the bad
The speaker requires a couple apps to get everything setup. The Fiestable app lets you setup DJ features and gives you a lot of control over the light show and the Music Center app lets you group with other Sony speakers, access your phone’s library, access most music apps on the iPhone, adjust the EQ, add Extra Bass, select the input you want to use, turn off the speaker, etc.
I found the apps very useful, but somewhat frustrating to use. While the ability to set the EQ is an absolute necessity to get the sound the way I like, the apps take a long time to locate the speaker even if you simply opened another app and go back to the Music app to adjust volume or another setting. I wish Sony would include a basic remote that could turn it on and off, control volume, cycle through inputs, and maybe turn on and off the lights. As I said, the features contained in both apps is what make this speaker so unique, but I would like a basic remote so I didn’t always have to go back to my iPhone or iPad and wait for the app to connect to the speaker..even when the iPhone has been constantly connected via Bluetooth).
Below are some screen shots from both apps to show you some of the features:
The speaker actually has several useful ports. It has analog in and out, a USB input, and a mic input (with mic control). I have tested the USB with a thumb drive with some mp3 files and it works fine, but I prefer the interface for apps like Apple Music, so I will rarely ever use it for this purpose.
One of my planned ways of using it was for when we are out by the pool. I could use it with an Amazon Echo Dot plugged into the USB for power, while also being plugged into the RCA input for audio. This will allow anyone to tell it what to play or ask it questions. However, when I plugged it into both ports, I ran into a lot of static. Luckily, I had a ground loop isolator that fixed that problem, but I found that I could also avoid the issue by using Bluetooth instead of the analog inputs. Inside the house, I will probably just keep my Dot plugged into the main office system via analog and pair it with the Sony’s Bluetooth to give me a lot more options.
The interesting thing about the Bluetooth feature is that it will stay connected to three devices at a time. It won't play them all simultaneously, but it doesn't have to be manually disconnected before connecting to a second device like other Bluetooth speakers I have used. It has NFC one touch pairing , but unfortunately my iPhone can't take advantage of NFC pairing. The speaker does not utilize Apt-X, but iPhones don't have the feature, either. It does have Sony's LDAC Bluetooth features available.
While I like the handle that is built in that makes it easier to carry, one frustration is the lack of water proofing and the plastic housing that could get scratched up without much effort. It is a portable Bluetooth speaker, but make sure you don’t get caught in the rain!
The speaker also has the ability to be paired with other Sony speakers wirelessly using the party mode. You can also use the analog out to pair with more speakers. The speaker has two 7.09 inch woofers and three 2.36 inch (cone type) tweeters, however only two of the tweeters are active at the same time. If you have the speaker upright, the two tweeters on top play, if you have it on its side, the two in each of the corners play, so you get stereo separation regardless of whether you use it vertically or horizontally. In ECO standby mode, the speaker only use .5 W.
Is it worth it?
So, given the unusual size and weight, is the Sony GBK-XB90 worth having? I think it depends on your needs and whether you can handle carrying around such a bulky speaker. The large size means that it is louder and has better bass than most portable speakers on the market. They claim 16 hours of battery life, but using the lights and listening at max volume could cut it down to 4 hours. I think most people will fall in between 4 and 16 hours and end up with 7 or so hours at normal volumes. That is pretty impressive for a speaker this size that has this much bass.
For me, it is nice to have because of the many different lighting options. When I was a kid, my grandmother liked gadgets (she introduced me to my first video game...Pong!) and she had a speaker in her living room that would put on a light show depending on the music that was playing. I still remember her playing notes on the piano while I was mesmerized by the light show. This speaker takes that experience to a whole new level, so I know if she was still around, she would enjoy the unique features of this speaker as much as I do.
Below is video using some music recorded with my iPhone using a Blue Raspberry microphone for demonstration purposes. I wish I could use music that people are more familiar with, but I have been unable to reach The Rolling Stones to get their approval, so I simply grabbed a few copyright free tracks that show off some basic attributes.
It should be noted that this type of demonstration is limited because it depends on your speakers, the mic I used, etc. However, your speakers and my mic shouldn't put something in that wasn't there, so you can still get a general idea of how these sound if you have decent speakers/headphones on your end.
I haven't posted a Youtube video in a while, but if anyone wants a Youtube video to show off the many illumination and DJ features, let me know and I will try to put a video together.
Well, it is a new iPhone year and typically, I would be updating to a new iPhone. However, this year I decided to sit this one out.
There are really just a few reasons, but I freely admit that it has a lot to do with how much I like the 7 plus. However, here are the top 5 reasons:
1. 1st Gen Unforeseen Issues - This isn't my first rodeo. I have seen Apple come out with new products and many of them have unforeseen flaws (there is already talk of screen burn-in).
2. FaceID - I know I will eventually be forced out of TouchID into FaceID if I continue buying iPhones. I just don't want the inconvenience when my 7 plus still runs great. Eventually, the 7 will feel slow and I will want a new phone, but there is just not enough reason to go to a technology that needs to be stared at and the swiped compared to just touching a button.
3. The Notch - While the point of shrinking bezels is something I completely understand. I also understand why they need the notch for FaceID. However, it makes the screen smaller in landscape mode or it cuts into photos/video in landscape mode. I prefer the constantly larger screen of the 7 Plus.
4. Screen too small - As I said above, I prefer the 16:9 size of my 7 plus versus the 19.5:9 aspect ratio of the X. If you watch a 16:9 video in native format, it becomes a 4.96 inch screen when compared to the 7 Plus 5.5 inch screen. If Apple makes an X Plus next year or 11 Plus (whatever they call it), I will be much more interested, because even with the notch and longer aspect ratio, it should have more active screen space.
5. Price - Given the reservations above, I just don't want to spend the money to get one right now. Also, because of the glass back, Apple Care is almost a necessity, which only adds to the already high price.
I am not saying there aren't some positive attributes, but for me, they aren't enough to get me to trade in the 7 plus this year and pay extra for the X. That being said, I will be much more interested in a plus sized version.
The "Dell i5675-A933BLU-PUS Inspiron 5675 AMD Desktop, Ryzen 5 1400 Processor, 8GB, 1TB, AMD Radeon RX 570 4GB GDDR5 Graphics, Recon Blue" (currently $699) was nicely packaged and came with a USB wired mouse and keyboard. They are nothing special, but they get the job done. Since the computer is being sold for its gaming qualities, having them wired makes sense. I actually like the feel of the keyboard, but people can add their preferred mouse and keyboard later. However, this system has everything to get anyone started.
The case for the computer is all business on top, while adding blue LEDs to horizontal openings on the side. In my opinion it looks great, but it would be nice to be able to change the color of the LEDs. The slits on the side should help with airflow, but there aren’t any filters, so you may want to open it up and clean out the dust more often than you would with a typical desktop. My last Dell desktop had some twist off screws that’s were easy to remove by hand. This desktop requires a screwdriver to open it up. It also has a place you can add a lock, so apparently there is more theft of internal parts going on these days.
I wanted this computer so I could use it to start playing games again. I bought and played Tekken 7 and it looked great when ran at 1920x1080 resolution. I tested it at 3840x2160 and it was a bit choppy. I ran a performance test and the computer was in the 68th percentile, but the test failed a couple times before it ran completely through, so I am not sure if that number is perfectly accurate. The error response during the test said I may have an issue with one of my settings, so I wouldn’t read too much into the tests that would not complete.
That being said, the computer has two main shortfalls which show up in the performance test. The model I have came with only 8GB RAM. There is a free slot, so I plan to add another 8GBs which should boost the performance. The second shortfall is the spinning disc. There is are two free slots on the case for adding SSDs down the road, as well. In other words, there is room in the case to fix both of its main issues with ease.
The case has numerous ports. It has a Universal Audio Jack, Type-C USB 3.1 Gen 1 , USB 3.0 (2), USB 2.0 (2), a Card Reader on front. On back it has PS2 (2), USB 3.0 (4), RJ45 + USB 2.0 (2), Audio Output. I would have liked a Thunderbolt 3 port, but this is a full featured group of ports. This version also came with an HDMI port and three Display Port outputs. For my setup, I am using the HDMI out with a 4K display.
In short, this is a nice setup for the money (it retails for $849.99, but it is $699 when I wrote this). If you add up the retail price for each component, you would have a hard time saving much money and you would lose Dell’s service and warranty. The case makes it easy to update down the road, as well. I plan on adding SSD and more RAM, but they aren’t a necessity if you just want it to play games and browse the web. It is already capable of those type of activities..
I decided to update my Jeep’s head unit with an aftermarket solution. I know of Planet Audio because of their amps, but when I was given the opportunity to try out this product, I decided to jump on the offer. The Jeep 430N with Uconnect was my old head unit and to be honest it had more features. It could play DVDs ( audio only when driving) and had Navigation and SiriusXM built in. Actually, the Planet Audio PCP9800 seems like a step down based solely on those specs.
The difference is that the Planet Audio system has CarPlay built in. This means that I can plug in my iPhone and have several apps from my iPhone show up on the screen and I can use Siri directly on the unit. For my typical needs, this is just a more useful feature that makes it worth leaving some seldom used features behind.
I did not install this myself. I wanted a Brand Motion backup camera put in and I wanted it done by a pro. My 2017 Jeep Unlimited Sahara did have one issue during the install and that was the fact that this unit required the dash to be shaved back a little because this screen was larger (vertically) than the original opening. It should be noted that my installer said that none of the units they sell have this issue (the screen is slightly larger than the stock unit, but it also has a much higher resolution of 800x480 that makes it worth the effort.). I had them connect the USB that was already in my center console to the unit, attach my AM/FM antenna, and run the second USB into the glove compartment along with the aux cable.
The backup camera is mounted in the spokes of my Wrangler’s 5th tire and it works like a charm. When you put the vehicle in reverse it comes on automatically. Then it automatically switches to the normal screen when you are back in drive. This unit gives you access to that camera at any time, so you can see what is happening back there while driving, if you desire. If you use it with a Jeep for off road excursions, it could help keep up with what is going on with the Jeep behind you.
Since I often travel with the top off, I didn’t have them mount the mic in the rear view mirror location, as the manual suggested. I had it mounted on the steering column which should be a better location given my situation. That being said, the sound quality of the microphone is not as clear for callers as the original Jeep microphone.
The unit has some steering wheel controls, as well. I was able to use 5 of my steering wheel buttons. The unit allows you to set which control works with each button. I have volume up, volume down, Siri, skip forward, skip back setup on my steering wheel. I can change these later, but I am happy with having these specific controls available without taking my hands off the wheel.
I tested Siri with the top off and the front doors off and it still picked up my voice without any problems. Since I have an Apple Music subscription, I can just tell Siri what I want to hear and it will play on the head unit. CarPlay also works with Pandora, Google Music, Messages, Phone calls, and several more applications, but you lose most of Siri’s great features with third party apps. Personally, I would recommend an Apple Music subscription for CarPlay users that subscribe to streaming. I also tested using Siri to send a message and it worked like a charm,. The audio was great (on my end) during phone calls….it should be mentioned that the sound quality on my end is better in every way over the stock system.
Below are a few of the Apple Music pages:
The unit has many settings. You can change the screen brightness for day and night independently. You can change the colors of the buttons on the front or have it automatically change colors. The volume can be set for different devices. There are a lot of settings that let you adjust the EQ and adjust how much volume goes to each speaker (front and back).
Bluetooth and the iPod
I also tested Bluetooth and it works with audio and making phone calls. The reason you might want to use Bluetooth rather than CarPlay is that you might not want to plug your iPhone into the car every time you drive. If you go this route, you can actually use the CarPlay USB input with an old school iPod. I tried it out with my 160GB classic and it worked great. If you are outside of cellular range, like I have been in the Smokies or out on the open road, it is nice to still have access to music that isn’t stored on the iPhone. Also, you may want to use the iPhone for photos or video and might not want to have it plugged in during certain excursions. I should mention that sound quality of Apple Music was noticeably better with CarPlay vs Bluetooth Audio.
Below is the Bluetooth Screen from Apple Music:
Below is one of the screens for the iPod 160GB Classic (the background is one of my photos):
The main downside to CarPlay, in general, is that it is limited to certain compatible apps, so Google Maps isn’t an option. I have had decent results with Apple Maps in this location, but I wonder if my luck will hold up while I am out on the road? Also, I lost the SiriusXM built into my stock system, which means that if I want to use it on my iPhone, it needs a cellular signal. For traveling, it could be frustrating having it cut in and out. Also, SiriusXM isn’t built into CarPlay, so you have to start it on your phone before it will play on the unit. I knew all of this going in, so I was willing to make these trade offs, but worth mentioning for those making a similar change.
Below is a screen that shows up when you are plugged into CarPlay and manually choose SiriusXM from the iPhone (since it is not in the CarPlay Menu:
The AM/FM works great, too. It allows you to hit a star icon on the screen to set any channel as a favorite. You can then pull up a list of your favorites in the menu. The Aux input works well, too, I had the Aux and the second USB routed to my glove compartment, so they will be out of the way when I am not using them. I tested the second USB with a thumb drive and I was able to play my 24/96 FLAC files and see jpg photos. I did not test video, but I would rarely use video since the screen will only show photos or video when the parking brake is up.
Below is a 24/96 FLAC file playing over the second USB:
Below is the aux input screen:
Below is a jpeg photo, but it is only accessible when the vehicle has the parking brake up:
The Wrap Up
The CarPlay and Siri are awesome. Bluetooth Audio works great as my secondary option and I love the ability to assign steering wheel controls, button colors (I chose red because it matches my neoprene seat covers), and the ability to set AM/FM favorites. The sound quality on CarPlay is awesome and makes my speakers sound much better than my old head unit.
I would recommend this unit for those that want CarPlay and are on a budget. For a Jeep Wrangler driver, being able to put in a backup camera helps with visibility especially when you have an oversized tire blocking most of the back window. All in all, I am very happy with the Planet Audio PCP9800!
Is there a place for the TrackBall at this point in time? The Logitech MX Ergo makes a very good argument that there is.
This is my first Trackball mouse, so the Magic Trackpad is about the closest thing I have used to the Ergo. Compared to a regular mouse, this one does not require you to move it around on the desktop so it is fantastic to have in a small space. It should also be a better experience for those that have problems with their wrists, though it does require a lot more thumb movement as the trade off.
The design is fantastic. It has a nice soft rubbery material on top, so it is comfortable to use all day. Speaking of all day, if it is running low on power, you can plug it in for a minute and get a day’s work of power out of it. The mouse has a magnetic hinge on the bottom that makes it easy to rotate the mouse 20 degrees, which allows you to rest your wrist on the surface.
The mouse has the typical left/right buttons, but it also has a scroll wheel that can be moved side to side and has a click button built in. There are a couple small buttons on the top left side that can be used for going back and forth between web pages or if you download software from Logitech, the buttons can be remapped. For now, I have remapped the buttons to control up and down volume.
Right out of the box, I noticed that it took forever to move from one side of my 32 inch screen to the other. However, I went into the mouse settings on my computer and increased the tracking speed and now one flick will move me across the screen. The great thing is that Logitech has a small button above the ball that invokes Precision Mode. This means the tracking will slow down and make it easier to make precise movements. The Logitech Options software will also allow you to adjust speed of the ball and the scroll wheel.
For my personal needs, this is ideal for using my computer that is plugged in to the TV or for using with my laptop in areas where you don’t have a lot of room to work. My typical spot on the couch has a small side table and I can use this mouse with a computer plugged into the TV or the laptop by pressing o button that makes it easy to switch back and forth. You can also setup “Flow” using the software which will allow you to seamlessly move from one computer to another in a way that is similar to using a multi-monitor setup with one computer.
The Wrap up
I have several mouses, but this is the only one I can keep on a couch cushion and use with my laptop for an extended period. So, yeah, I have a place for the Logitech MX Ergo Trackball Mouse at this point and time!
Dog loving, Big Green Egg worshiping, Tech enthusiast, residing in Memphis, TN. Home of the Tigers, Grizzlies, Elvis, Al Green, Stax, Hi Records, Ardent Studios, Beale Street, Peabody Ducks, etc.. I have also added the Jeep Wrangler to the list of things I am enthusiastic about.
Flickr pics below