29 Jun 3 Great ‘Smart’ Gifts For Father’s Day

With Father’s Day right around the corner, I wanted to talk about three “smart” products that are certain to make Dad feel special. Since I began writing this column for Moor Insights & Strategy last year, I’ve been inundated with numerous “smart” products (some very good, some not so good), but here’s a quick recap of three solutions that have stood out to me.

The Tablo Dual cord cutting solution.

Tablo Dual escalates the cord cutting war

As some of you will recall, I wrote glowingly of AirTV on back in late December, describing it as “tantalizingly close to the perfect cord cutter solution.” One other great alternative to consider is the Tablo Dual from Canada-based Nuvyyo. With an MSRP of $220, Tablo Dual is essentially a network-connected DVR (which includes 64GB on embedded storage) that allows you to stream your live and recorded Over-The-Air (OTA) video content from your digital antenna to any mobile and TV device inside or outside your home.

The Tablo Dual form factor is small and compact (similar in size to Apple  TV), taking up little space.  While it does have an Ethernet port to connect to your home network, it can also connect to your home network in a wireless manner. Tablo Dual comes equipped with 2 integrated digital tuners, which allow you watch live TV on an OTA channel and record on a different channel at the same time. Tablo also offers a 4-Tuner OTA DVR (priced at $299), targeted at cord cutters with larger households.

While it operates very similar to AirTV, Tablo Dual has a few advantages that differentiate it. First and foremost, AirTV currently does not have local storage support for DVR recordings, while the Tablo Dual has a healthy 64GB of embedded storage, which can be augmented with additional USB storage devices. Secondly, Tablo Dual boasts superior 802.11ac wireless connectivity, versus AirTV’s 802.11n. This comes in handy if you’re planning on having multiple TVs or devices access Tablo Dual and want snappier performance in your home. Tablo also offers a Dual LITE model that has no onboard storage and is priced at $140. However, I think the standard model is worth the extra dollars—64GB of onboard storage is more appealing than relying on adding an external USB storage drive. Finally, and this is largely a subjective observation, Tablo’s 10-foot colorful interface feels more “Apple-esque” and the channel guide was easy to read and navigate.

Without getting too technical, the core reason why both AirTV and Tablo Dual are so delightful to use is they both employ Pixelworks transcoder technology. This technology compresses and decompresses OTA video output, thereby facilitating a high-quality video experience regardless of the bandwidth conditions. I cannot emphasize how critical this ingredient is if you’re considering a cord cutting solution and you want to optimize your video quality.

Tablo doesn’t require a paid subscription for DVR service, but it’s hard to believe that most consumers will not want to have one. There is a $5 per month/$60 per year service fee that comprehends continuous 14 days of TV guide data service.  If you don’t elect to sign up for the program guide service, the free service only supports manual recordings that are time-based and offers one day of guide data.

The Tablo Dual excels in device support capability: Apple TV, Apple iOS products, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Android TV devices, Microsoft  Xbox One console, and even LG and Samsung smart TVs. The Tablo Dual is a great solution if you’re looking for an extremely easy way to watch and record your OTA channels and access your local home TV from many different devices. What I like best about Tablo Dual is it that smoothly integrates into your video experience. You can’t go wrong with it.

The new Roidmi F8 Storm Vacuum Cleaner.

Roidmi F8 Storm Vacuum Cleaner makes an impressive debut

While Xiaomi, the popular Chinese smartphone manufacturer, is not known for vacuum cleaners, the introduction of the Roidmi F8 Storm Vacuum Cleaner could change that. I had the opportunity to spend several days using it and I came away impressed.

I’ve always been a big fan of smart robot vacuums—I’m particularly fond of Neato RoboticsBotvac D7 Connected model, which allows you to create virtual “keep out” zones. However, most apartment and home dwellers need an upright vacuum for difficult nooks and crannies, and to deal with quick cleanup situations.

The Roidmi F8’s attractive ergonomic design can easily be mistaken for a high-end Dyson Cyclone V10 Animal, that goes for a much more expensive MSRP of $599. This wireless vacuum has an impressive battery life of 55 minutes and weighs only 5.5 pounds. Its light weight belies its strong vacuum power—a 100,000 RPM motor that produces suction up to 115W. While I found it extremely effective at cleaning, it is a bit on the loud side—you won’t be having many conversations while using it.

Priced at $289 on Roidmi’s Indiegogo crowdfunding site, the Roidmi F8 has all the features you’d expect in a modern wireless vacuum: a quadruple filtration system that helps avoid blockage of filter dust (the product claims to have a purification rate of up to 99%), an innovative magnetic wall mount that doubles as a charger and storage holder, a large roller brush that helps with pet hair and fine dirt, and a design that can easily be converted to a handheld brush. I think its standout feature though is the ability to connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. Its Intelligent Life App can help you check battery usage, filter capacity, and alerts when you need to empty the vacuum. It even tells you how many calories you’ve depleted while cleaning. Who knew that vacuuming could be such great exercise?

The new Saber Romeo Power Pack

Saber Romeo Power Pack may be the only external battery you ever need

While external batteries for quickly charging your smartphone or tablet have been on the market for some time, the new Romeo Power battery from a new company called Saber has what might be the best solution to charging all of your mobile devices.

While the $299 price may sound high, keep in mind it can easily replace all of the batteries for all of your devices. The Power Pack is a relative light 2.2 pound lithium-ion portable battery with a whopping 86-watt-hours of power (about 23,000mAh). It can charge most 13” and 15” laptops, a typical smartphone up to 10 times, and your tablet up to 5 times, before having to be recharged itself. Other potential applications include charging a drone or a DSLR.

The Romeo Power Pack is roughly the size of a large water bottle and has outlets at each end of its rectangular form factor. It has great interface connectivity with a USB Type-C (crucial for most new modern notebooks that do not have proprietary power supplies) and two standard USB ports. What’s extra convenient is that it has a variable AC outlet with a universal port, which allows you to plug into as if you were plugging into a standard wall outlet. It’s TSA-approved, as well as waterproof and dustproof—critical since most consumers will be using this outdoors and while traveling.

Naturally, the Saber Romeo Power Pack has Bluetooth connectivity and an accompanying smartphone app that provides notifications when all your devices (including the battery itself) are fully recharged. The Saber Romeo Power Pack is a must-have solution for families who manage large collections of devices. You may never have to hear the “Mom, my iPhone is dead” grumble again while on vacation.

Final thoughts

These products are all great potential Father’s Day gifts and underscore my continued view that smart connectivity is not an end in itself. Just about every device today appears to have a connectivity element to it, but if the app doesn’t supply you with useful information, I’m not sure what the point is. Happily, these particular products benefit from being “connected” and their associated apps make them exponentially more useful.