About eight years ago, we had a rash of car break-ins in our neighborhood. Our community is pretty tight and friendly, and we often chat, neighbor to neighbor, as we take out the trash, work in the garden, get the mail, or walk the dog. We also had started a very informal, community email list to share important neighborhood information. The break-ins quickly circulated on this list. And, I checked one of my “new-fangled” security cameras to see if I had caught anyone. In fact, I did. (*Disclosure below.)
Early in the morning, someone came into our driveway and checked our car doors. I was one of the first people to actually have security cameras at my house. And using the night-vision feature of the cameras, I caught the guy in the act. I contacted our local sheriff and gave them a downloaded copy of the video for their records. And I also uploaded the video to YouTube and sent the link out to our neighborhood mailing list. This was the only way I could think of to share this critical content with my friends and neighbors.
But that was eight years ago. And technology has evolved making this process much easier. And Ring Neighbors seems to be leading the way.
There are now many different types of security cameras available to consumers to easily install and use to monitor their home and its surroundings. Many of these cameras merely hook into your WiFi connection, are powered by batteries, and have easy-to-use smartphone apps to help you always keep an eye on things.
While having a plethora of security cameras around the neighborhood is a good thing, because there are so many choices out there, there is no standard when it comes to letting your neighbors know what had been captured. Yes, you can download videos from most systems pretty easily, but then what? Upload to YouTube? Send via text? You wouldn’t want to email a video because the recipient would be mad – video files are big and clog up email systems.
This is where Ring Neighbors stands out. While yes, it is a service offered by a company that makes security camera devices for in and around the home, it is built around the idea that sharing is critical, regardless of the camera system. It’s focused on the concept of the community and keeping people safe and informed.
What does that mean? Well, the app lets you share any security camera video, regardless of manufacturer. Other systems I have seen allow you to share as well, but only within their closed ecosystem. Not Ring Neighbors. Share any video from any source.
How Does Ring Neighbors Work?
Ring Neighbors is a service that is available as a stand-alone app (or as part of the Ring app if you have Ring products). You don’t need to be a Ring customer to use it or sign up. In fact, you don’t even need to have a security camera at all? You can still benefit from the neighborhood sharing of video content and important information.
As a Ring customer, you can simply opt-in to the Ring Neighbors service within the app. Everybody else can just download either the iOS or Android version of the standalone app. You will need to create an account and provide address information to help define your neighborhood. (If you are a Ring user, just turning on Neighbors is all you really need to do.)
From there, you define what your neighborhood consists of. You set an area to monitor in general and then a smaller radius for alerts. Once you have your settings configured, the Ring Neighbors app just does its magic.
The Neighbors App does what any good neighbor would do. It provides real-time alerts on suspicious activity and crime shared by other neighbors in your area. But, it is not just limited to your local neighbors, updates and alerts are also sent to the app from the Ring Team as well as local law enforcement.
And what if you capture a video or photo of something happening around your own home? You can share it, either using your name or anonymously. And, as I said, you don’t need to have a Ring product to do any of that. Pretty nice, right? Best of all, the service that Ring is providing is free. So you get the benefit of a digital community and neighborhood where everybody is looking out for everybody else.
But what will make the service better for your neighborhood is having more people signing up and sharing those alerts or warnings. The bigger the user base, the more effective the coverage. This is especially important with the rise of online shopping and package deliveries at home. In my neighborhood, we no longer use an old-fashioned email list (we now rely on services like NextDoor), and unfortunately, one over-common thread is always about mail and package theft.
On NextDoor, for example, there are lots of written notices of people having packages stolen from their front porch, or unwanted door-to-door salespeople or solicitors coming to the door. Sometimes, these messages include a picture. But often, the notifications of these “watch out for” messages come at the end of the day or in a summary email.
With the Ring Neighbors app, you get real-time notifications, so you receive “BOLOs” (Be On Look Out) immediately which potentially ensures that people actually ARE looking out in real time.
So I circle back to this. What makes up a neighborhood? Is it merely a collection of houses occupied by people? Or is it a community consisting of homes, families, friends, and acquaintances? More often than not, it is the latter. A neighborhood is a community of relationships, mostly good. But occasionally, a bad character or group disrupts a hopefully normally-peaceful environment. This is nothing new. As a natural evolution of the community, people began to watch out for each other. In 1972, the Neighborhood Watch organization was formed as a way for communities to unite in this watchful activity. More recently, however, people are turning to digital methods of watching over their homes and surrounding areas through the use of security cameras. But these were very individual. There was no way to truly “share” videos with your surrounding neighbors. Ring Neighbors aims to change this.
Take a few minutes to download the Ring Neighbors App and join the digital community watching out for the security and safety of your community.
Disclosure: I have a material connection because I received a gift, sample of a product or service, and/or monetary compensation for consideration in preparing to review the product/service and write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own and are typically not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. Also, some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate” or “advertising” links. These may be automatically created or placed by me manually. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item (sometimes but not necessarily the product or service being reviewed), I will receive a small affiliate or advertising commission. More information can be found on my About page.
HTD says: The Ring Neighbors app and platform allows for communities to remain digitally connected when it comes to crime and safety around their homes. Get real-time alerts shared by neighbors and law enforcement to ensure your neighborhood remains safe.
We all know that waking up in the morning with fully charged devices is critical to a successful day. There is nothing worse than picking up your iPhone or Apple Watch, only to see that you only have a fraction of the battery capacity charged. Part of my nighttime ritual is to charge up my devices so that I’m ready to go in the morning, fully charged. But often that involves remembering to plug everything in every night. The nice thing about the Kanex GoPower Watch Stand with Wireless Charging Baseis that you can juice up three devices through the same charger, your Apple Watch, your iPhone 8 or X, and your Apple AirPods. The GoPower handles all three at once, minimizing the number of cables or charging docks on your nightstand. (*Disclosure below.)
If you have an iPhone that supports wireless charging, that would be the iPhone 8/8Plus and the iPhone X, I would highly recommend making the transition to wireless charging if you haven’t already. With a compatible wireless charger, you simply place your iPhone on the charger and it magically starts charging. I must admit, I now have a few wireless chargers around my home and at work. It eliminates the need to have cables spread throughout the house. And many wireless chargers work with many of the newer smartphones on the market, not just iPhones.
Charging your Apple Watch, however, is a different story. Many of the Apple Watch chargers, not all of them, require you to use the charging “puck” that comes with the Apple Watch. So if you are shopping for an Apple Watch charger or dock, be sure to read the fine print. Many (if not most) of them require you to use the Apple Watch charger where you have to fit the puck into the dock and plug it in. While I do carry the Apple Watch charger with me, it’s a bit of a commodity, and I really wouldn’t want to dedicate the charger to a dock. (Remember this point as the Kanex is a winner here.)
Lastly, I have my Apple AirPods. The fact that the case is also a battery that charges the AirPods is a great design feature. But, you have to remember also to charge the case otherwise you could find your AirPods dead because you forgot to charge the case. While the charge level indicators that pop up on a connected iPhone is extremely helpful (showing the battery levels of both AirPods as well as the base), I often miss that little indicator when it pops up to a connected iPhone. So, you have to remember to charge that case periodically.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a nighttime dock and charger that handles three devices at once, charging all three while you sleep? That’s where the Kanex GoPower comes into play.
Charging with the Kanex GoPower Stand
The Kanex GoPower Watch Stand with Wireless Charging Base lets you easily charge your iPhone, Apple Watch, and another USB device (like your AirPods) from a single, small form factor device. Primarily billed as a watch stand (just from the title of the product), every night now I simply place my iPhone X on the Qi wireless charging pad and my watch on the watch stand and by the time I wake up, they are fully charged and ready for the day ahead.
And I must say, having a wireless charger for the iPhone is much more practical on the nightstand. I know that we are not supposed to look at screen devices when you are going to sleep or if you wake up in the middle of the night, but sometimes I just can’t help it. And struggling to unplug or replug my iPhone when I’m half asleep actually is what was waking me up more. Now, I just slide my iPhone onto the charging pad and forget about it.
There is a little light on the GoPower that shines blue when nothing is charging, and then it turns red when I put my iPhone on there. With the iPhone, the light remains red; however, I believe with other Android devices, once the smartphone is fully charged, the light will turn another color (but I haven’t tested that). So instead of struggling to plug in or dock my iPhone, I just look for that red light to go on.
Now in terms of the Apple Watch charging, this is where the Kanex GoPower really shines for one main reason. You DON’T have to use your precious Apple Watch charging “puck” in the dock. It has an Apple Certified magnetic charger built directly into it so you can use your puck elsewhere. The Watch charger works with all of the current Apple Watches (I charge my original Apple Watch during the day since I wear it at night to track my sleep and wake me up in the morning, and at night I charge my Series 3 so that it is ready for the day ahead).
And what about that third device? Well, in the back of the GoPower is an additional USB port. It’s low power, only a 2.0 AMP. But this makes it perfect for a couple of things. It’s great for periodically charging your AirPods, for example. Or, if you are using it as an overnight charger, you can slowly charge other USB devices like another smartphone or tablet. Remember though, it is only 2.0 AMP so the charging may take longer.
How well does the Kanex GoPower work? It’s pretty good. But I do have to mention that the wireless charging is a bit slow (it’s not a fast charger). This is because there is only one wireless coil in the base and it is only rated at 5W max output. There are other dedicated wireless bases or docks that have a higher output rating (and more coils), so they tend to charge your wireless-charging smartphone a bit faster.
But again, I feel the best use case here is as a nighttime charging solution, where you are leaving your devices a minimum of 6 hours or so. If you want to quickly charge your iPhone, I would recommend plugging it into a corded solution with an iPad wall plug and/or get a higher output wireless dock.
The GoPower Stand does make the Apple Watch the feature of the design. And when the GoPower is charging the Apple Watch, it goes into nightstand mode so that you can easily see the time and charge level by just tapping or slightly moving the Apple Watch. And the stand is compatible with 38mm and 42mm Apple Watches.
The Kanex GoPower Watch Stand with Wireless Charging Base retails for $79.99. The GoPower Watch Stand is available on Amazon currently for $79.95. There is one thing you should factor into the price. With other Watch Stands, you have to supply your own Apple Watch Magnetic puck and those retail for about $25 (according to a quick Amazon search). So, in essence, the price of the GoPower Watch Stand is more like $55.
Clean up your nightstand and hide all of those charging cables and docks with the Kanex GoPower Watch Stand and charge up to 3 devices at once!
Disclosure: I have a material connection because I received a sample of a product for consideration in preparing to review the product and write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own and are typically not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. Also, some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate” or “advertising” links. These may be automatically created or placed by me manually. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item (sometimes but not necessarily the product or service being reviewed), I will receive a small affiliate or advertising commission. More information can be found on my About page.
HTD says: If your nightstand is a tangled web of charging cables and docks for your various Apple devices, consolidate them all with the Kanex GoPower Stand which allows you to wirelessly charge your iPhone, juice up your Apple Watch, and charge one more device through a single stand.
For this past 4th of July week, since the 4th fell mid-week, my family and I thought we would road trip down to Los Angeles for some college touring and some general fun while visiting friends and relatives. As luck would have it, I was able to secure a loan of the 2018 Mazda CX-9 (the Grand Touring trim specifically) to pamper us safely on our voyage down and in and around greater Los Angeles. Towards the end of the trip, a heat wave hit LA which was fairly crippling when we were outside and not in the Mazda CX-9. Luckily our college tours always ended in the air-conditioned comfort of the CX-9. Don’t believe me about the heat? Take a look at what the CX-9 showed as the outside temp! (*Disclosure below.)
So, with that theme of cool and hot, I thought I would share my thoughts on some of the cool and hot features that my family and I uncovered in the 2018 Mazda CX-9 during our trip.
Remember, when I review vehicles, I don’t really geek on on the specs the way some car mags do. I try to approach my reviews as hands-on observations of things that families might appreciate. They might be tech features (which I love), comfort or safety features (which everyone should like), or general observations.
In no particular order (with the exception of the first item of course), here are things that really stood out to us in the 2018 Mazda CX-9:
3-Zone Climate Control
Yes, so I had to start with this feature which proved to be critical for our trip, especially towards the tail end when the outside temperatures broke triple digits. The Mazda CX-9 comes with three-zone climate controls, two zones up front for the driver and passenger to independently control the temperature, and then a middle row zone for the three passengers there (more about the middle row shortly).
From the front, the driver or front seat passenger can control the rear climate as well so if you have little kids strapped into their car seats, you can blast them with cool (or warm) air. But, if you want, that middle row can control the temperatures and fans as well.
Also, the front seats and middle row seats (side ones only) have seat warmers. The funny thing was, as we were packed into the CX-9 with a ton of luggage (more about that shortly as well), all three of my daughters were in the middle row. As they aren’t exactly “small kids” anymore and had pillows and blankets to make the trip at night extra comfortable, there were times that one of my daughters accidentally kicked on of the seat warmers and a few minutes later, another daughter said she was burning up! (I guess the seat warmers work pretty well – it just wasn’t appropriate for 100+ degree weather!)
The HUD (Heads Up Display) is actually called the Active Driving Display. It was difficult for me to get a good picture of it as it simply projects on the windshield in front of the driver. And the best display examples occurred when driving on the highway, so it wasn’t exactly safe for me to snap a photo. But here’s why I really liked it. It had a lot of very critical information for the driver.
I have driven a few cars with a HUD, but none had quite the same information as the CX-9. For starters, blind spot indicators actually appear on the HUD so that you don’t have to always look to your side mirrors to see the orange indicator lights. Also, obviously speed is displayed as well as the speed limit. Car distances in front of you are displayed as well as are adaptive cruise control settings. It also displays the lane and sign detection information (see below). And, of course, navigation details if you are using the GPS navigation in the CX-9.
Bottom line, there was enough critical information being projected in a non-distracting way on the windshield that I rarely took my eyes off of the road.
Lane and Sign Detection
As I mentioned in the previous section, the CX-9 has lane detection. This feature works when you are going over a certain speed. The forward facing camera can detect the lane lines. In fact, there is an initiative within California (and probably some other states) to replace or update many of the lane lines to make them a bit wider and more reflective so that cars equipped with lane detection will have an easier job doing so.
The funny thing is, for most of our trip, I thought that I had lane detection enabled. On the instrument panel, the CX-9 did show the lanes. But it wasn’t until I got back home and was exploring some more of the technology that I found the switch that enables or disables the actual lane detection actions. Once I activated it properly, the lanes actually showed up as being solid, and, as I intentionally (and safely) tried drifting out of the lane, a got an audio and visual alert that I was leaving the lane. Couple this with Lane-Keep Assist and if you do start drifting, the CX-9 will give some minor steering corrections to get you back into the lane. If you have your blinker on however, the lane drift detect is disabled.
For long highway drives, lane detection is a great safety feature to have.
Also, early on in my test drive, I started to notice speed limit and stop signs popping up on the HUD. Initially, I thought that the GPS navigation was feeding signs and limits to the HUD. But, as I did a bit of research, I learned that the CX-9 actually uses the forward-facing camera to detect signs along the road. This is an innovative feature that I really haven’t seen in other vehicles, but I’m sure it will become more commonplace as the technology evolves. And as cameras become more high-definition, the system can be (and probably has been) coupled with other camera types like infrared to allow for detection of other objects.
Adaptive Cruise Control
If you have lanes detection and sign detection, you will probably have a fairly techy cruise control system. But not all cruise controls are built the same. In my regular car, my cruise control is pretty “dumb.” You turn it on and set the speed, and you still have to be pretty focused on maintaining a safe distance between your car and the one ahead of you. That means, a lot of tapping the brake and then resuming the cruise control once your path is cleared.
With the Mazda CX-9, there is a built-in radar system which allows for adaptive cruise control. What this does is detects the vehicle in front of you and measures the gap distance. Then once you set your desired cruising speed, the CX-9 will automatically slow down if it detects a slower car ahead of you in your lane, all while maintaining a specified gap (short, medium, or far). Once your path is cleared, the CX-9 will automatically speed back up to your pre-set cruise speed.
While I totally love this adaptive cruise control feature, I still have some PTSD from my old-school cruise control (which I actually don’t use that much). So, even while I had faith in the CX-9’s ability to maintain both the pre-set speed as well as the safety gap between vehicles, I found my foot always hovering over the brake pedal.
2-3-2 seating & Cargo Space
This design feature of the 2018 Mazda CX-9 is one that my family really loved. We have done test-drive road trips in many SUVs. And typically, the seating was two up-front seats (duh – unless you are in a truck with bench seating), two in the middle row (captains chairs), and three in the rear row (bench seating). And typically, if you want storage, you fold down the rear row to load up the back.
But that tends to pose a problem with a family of 5. In those 2-2-3 types of seating configurations, one child has to be in the rear row all alone. Sometimes that is not a bad thing, particularly if you don’t have much luggage or the vehicle has ample storage space behind the 3rd row. But more often than not, if you have the third row active, your storage space is limited (not with the CX-9, see below).
With the CX-9, the configuration is 2-3-2 and in this case, perfect for my family. All three of my girls shared the middle row and were comfortable in the process. And we could, therefore, fold down the rear row. What that translates to is the ability to really load up the rear cargo area with tons of luggage (which is exactly what we did). But, the nice thing is, without luggage, you still can easily and comfortably fit 7 people.
I had to add this feature in specifically because my wife commented on it. She was impressed by how wide the windshield of the CX-9 is. And I have to agree. Where you normally would expect the front pillars, the glass curves away a few more inches to provide some extra visibility. Frequently, the front pillars obstruct the view, but it wasn’t really the case with the CX-9.
And while I’m talking about blind spots (and yes, as I mentioned, there are blind spot indicators on the side view mirrors as well as on the HUD), I actually found that the Mazda CX-9 actually had excellent visibility. Glancing over your shoulder when backing up or turning, you didn’t have much of your view obstructed. Kudos to the design team for crafting a design with good visibility.
Auto Lock doors
And here is another feature “for my wife.” With our older cars, my wife sometimes will leave the doors unlocked as she has her hands full. As part of my routine, I automatically lock the doors of the cars at night just in case. The CX-9 has a nice feature buried in the settings which allows you to auto-lock the doors as you walk away from the vehicle. As with most modern vehicles, the CX-9 is keyless. You simply carry a key fob on you and use the buttons on the door handles to unlock or lock the doors.
Well, this setting proved to be quite handy, even for me. As you walk away from the CX-9, you hear a beep and then as you walk further away, it beeps again, and all of the doors automatically lock. I was a bit worried about somehow locking the keys in the car, but I couldn’t figure out a way to actually do this. If you leave the vehicle while the car is running and you have the key fob in your pocket for example (sort of the opposite scenario), the CX-9 will notify you of this audibly. Regardless, by activating this setting, I knew that the car was securely locked when we walked away.
So yes, I do have to talk about the CX-9’s engine here. Down on the center console area near the shifter was a small little button that merely said “Sport.” I decided to be a sport and test it out. While the CX-9 is pretty peppy for an SUV, when you kick on the Sport mode, it becomes just a little bit peppier. From pure observation and experience only, I noticed a couple of things. For starters, the ride stiffened a bit. Bumps in the road were a bit more apparent. Turning was a bit tighter. And the engine allowed higher RPMs closer to the redline before shifting than in the standard mode.
What this meant was that getting off the line was a bit faster (and more fun in my opinion, but my kids don’t really like it when I test out acceleration). And the whole drive experience was definitely more “sporty” (as sporty as an SUV can get). I actually used the Sport mode when we had a full load so that I could accelerate onto the highway a bit faster as well as pass vehicles a bit more quickly.
The Mazda CX-9 has 227 HP (using 87 octane gas). If you want a few extra horses, put in 93 octane gas and the HP bumps up to 250. (I guess since I’m a bit of a cheapskate..
For years, my family and I have been making an annual summertime trip up to Lake Tahoe. And ever since I have been doing car reviews (from a family perspective), I have always thought it would be appropriate to get a Chevy Tahoe for the trip. You know, a “Tahoe for Tahoe” type of thing. Well, this year, my wishes came true as we got to experience the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD Premier with the RST Performance Edition package for our week-long trip. And I must say, we truly enjoyed spending time being pampered in this full-sized SUV. (*Disclosure below.)
Now I feel that I have to set the record straight first. This is not a Road & Track or Car & Driver type of vehicle review. Those guys are subject-matter experts, and I couldn’t even come close to writing as comprehensive or “in the weeds” type of review as they do. I approach car reviews a bit differently, more from the perspective of a dad who is taking his family on a road trip. Luckily, I had over a week to form some opinions. To truly know a car, you need a much longer time (or must be a true car geek). So, what I have compiled here are some of the features or highlights that stood out to me based on the short time I actually had behind the wheel of the Chevy Tahoe.
The features you see below are not in any type of order, but they are items that I truly felt should have some mention. Some of these appeal to the “CarTechDad” inside of me while others come from my wife or kids, or are just some items I felt needed to be mentioned.
So let’s jump into some of the techy or otherwise features that stood out to me of the 2018 Chevrolet Tahoe!
1 – Wireless charger
One of the biggest problems of being on a long car drive is running out of power on your smartphone. There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to find your smartphone dead or on its last percentages of power. One of the great things about newer smartphones is the fact that many of them now support wireless charging. And, the Chevy Tahoe has you covered if you want to charge up your wireless-charging capable smartphone. On top of the center armrest between the driver and front passenger is a tray to charge your smartphone wirelessly. Just place it down on the tray, and it should start charging right away. Oh, and the funny thing is because my wife wasn’t used to having that type of capability, she sometimes opened the center console storage (which has the wireless charger on the top), catapulting my iPhone into the back seat. Oh well!
2 – In-Vehicle WiFi
Another great tech feature of the 2018 Chevy Tahoe is the fact that it has built-in 4G LTE. While my family does enjoy unlimited data on our smartphones (shhh, I haven’t told my kids that they can stream things to their hearts’ content – within limits), there are sometimes other devices that don’t have built-in data capabilities. Think about tablets that only have WiFi, or a laptop, or even a radar detector (I’m testing one that benefits from having on-board WiFi for real-time updates). These types of devices totally benefit from an in-vehicle data connection. The way this works is that the car gets cellular data and then you can activate an in-vehicle hotspot (with password). Then you simply pair your device with the onboard WiFi, and you have instant data connectivity!
3 – Seat warmers in middle row
For some reason, whenever we test drive a new vehicle, this is one feature that my kids always look for. It could be the dead of summer when there is no need for a seat warmer, but my teenaged girls always look for this. Well, the Chevy Tahoe has this feature, for the middle row only. (One of my daughters is always disappointed because there isn’t a rear seat warmer.) But this is a very nice little feature to have. With the click of a button, the seat individually can be warmed up to varying levels. On cold days, this is a definite plus! So, check this feature off in the Chevy Tahoe. My daughters say it’s there!
4 – Seat coolers and warmers in front
Not to be outdone by my daughters stating that their seats heated up, I was able to brag that my wife and my seats not only had the ability to heat up, they could ALSO be cooled down! So coupled with the three levels of heating in the front seats, the Chevy Tahoe adds three levels of cooling as well. And, to make things even better, you could control if you wanted your back or your butt cooled/warmed individually or together. Being able to cool down a bit after a hot day on the beach and not get “stuck” to the leather from being a bit sweaty is a really nice feature.
5 – Three climate control areas
Since I’m talking about temperature control, I feel it is important to note that the Chevy Tahoe has 3-zone climate controls as well. For the front, there are separate controls for the driver and passenger. You can elect to sync the temperature controls up so that everything is uniform in the front of the cabin. But, it is also extremely convenient to have dual controls for the front. I tend to run a little “hot,” so I like having my temperature a bit cooler.
The other nice thing is that there is a control for the back part of the cabin to handle the two rows of seats. These can be controlled from the front by the front passenger or driver, or there is a control in the back of the center console which is reachable by the middle row passengers. And for those traveling in the rear row, there are vents directly above the passenger so that fresh air can be directed to them – hopefully eliminating any carsickness.
6 – Multiple charging ports
So, I already mentioned the wireless charging capabilities of the Tahoe. But what about those other USB-powered devices? Well, there are 7 USB charging ports available to juice up those other devices. There are two right in the front which also connect to the entertainment center so that you can play music or audio through the sound system. There are two in the center storage console. And there are two that are accessible to the middle row seats. For people in the way back row, you should be sure to bring a long USB cable to share from the middle row.
But what about the seventh USB port? See the feature below for that.
7 – Slide-Up Center Hidden Storage
There is a pretty nifty feature right in front of the driver and front passenger. With the press of a button, the center Infotainment display will magically rise up to reveal a cubby that can hold your valuables. Things like your wallet or smartphone or other small items can be stashed in this “hidden” compartment. AND this is where you can find the seventh USB port. You can connect your smartphone in there and “lock” it away while you are driving to prevent you from looking at texts or other messages while you drive. And, if you put the car in valet mode, this center console cubby will remain “locked” until you turn off valet mode. While I wouldn’t store diamonds or gold in there, it’s a good place to put things out of sight.
8 – Automatic folding middle and rear seats
The Chevy Tahoe trimline that we tested had seating up to 7 people: two in front, two in the middle row (separate seats), and 3 in the rear row (bench seating). There are other seating configurations available depending on the trimline. As we were going up for a week in Lake Tahoe, we had a ton of luggage – 5 people total with beach equipment and groceries as well. So, we opted to fold down part of the rear row so that we could load it up with cargo. The rear bench seating has a 60/40 split, so one of my daughters took the 40 split as her seat and had a wall of luggage next to her in the folded down seat. A quick word of warning, if you have more than five people traveling with a lot of luggage, the actual cargo space is pretty limited (but that is where a roof rack and/or towing capabilities would come into play).
But if you don’t have a lot of passengers, the Chevy Tahoe is extremely flexible in terms of cargo configurations. In the rear hatch area, there are buttons that automatically fold the rear seats flat (in 60/40 split), and there are buttons to power release the middle row to get extra storage at literally a click of a button. I’m sure with everything folded down you could get quite a lot of sheetrock or lumber in the back if you needed to.
The summer heat is upon us. And our natural reaction is to reach for the A/C switch and crank up the cool air. The problem is, many times people tend to congregate in only a couple of rooms in the house and most air conditioners are designed to cool down the whole house, regardless of whether you are in a room or not. Of course, you could get a single room air conditioner, portable or wall mounted, but these devices aren’t exactly energy efficient. While they do work to cool down a room, they do consume considerably more power than a fan. There is a nice alternative though. And one that actually had three options built into a single device. The Quilo 3-in-1 Tower Fan also has a built-in evaporative air cooler as well as a humidifier. So why would you want a device like this? I’ll tell you! (*Disclosure below.)
Obviously, there is a time and a place for cranking up the air conditioning. But, if you are looking to cool down a bit and want something that does it a bit better than just a plain old fan, you may want to look at the Quilo 3-in-1. I would like to walk through the three types of tech at work here. And each of these really isn’t “new” or “revolutionary” in any way. The technology, or rather, science, has been around for a long time. But combining them all in this unique fashion is where the technology comes in to play.
The first “tech” is essentially a fan. Fans are not new. Even think back to the ancient Egyptians being fanned by palm fronds. Moving air across your skin can produce a cooling effect (more on that shortly). Of course, back then as well it took energy (in a human form) to create the fan movement. Fast forward to where we now have electricity, and electric fans now move air automatically. But yes, these take energy as well. Air conditioning is essentially a massive fan that blows cooled air around. The energy is consumed mainly in the cooling process. The Quilo has a built-in fan that moves air around.
When your body gets hot, it will sweat. It is the process of the body sending water to the surface of the skin and then that water evaporating that causes a cooling sensation. As water evaporates, it cools. This is the second technology that makes the Quilo a cooling device. The Quilo is an evaporative cooler. You may have heard the term “swamp cooler” before – it’s a more casual term for an evaporative cooler. According to Wikipedia, “evaporative cooling works by exploiting water’s large enthalpy of vaporization. The temperature of dry air can be dropped significantly through the phase transition of liquid water to water vapor (evaporation).” The Quilo Tower Fan uses this evaporative process to create a localized cooling effect.
Lastly, through this process of evaporation, water is introduced into the air. In dry climates, this can be beneficial as dry air can irritate your nose and mouth and can make conditions like asthma and allergies worse. (Conversely, too much humidity can make mold or mildew grow more. The optimal range, according to the EPA, is between 30 and 50 percent. The Quilo then also acts as a humidifier. Humidifiers are good all year round. During the winter season, in some areas, the use of heating can dry out the air significantly. Adding humidity back into the air helps prevent issues like dried nasal cavities and even nosebleeds.
The Quilo has uniquely positioned itself to combine these three technologies and sciences of air movement, evaporation and humidification into one portable device. And the Quilo has a lot of ways that you can use this tech to cool and/or humidify your house. Let’s take a look at the Quilo and how it works.
For starters, the device is portable. There are two big wheels and two small wheels on the base which allow you to easily move it around from room to room. (A quick word of advice, if you are going to be moving the Quilo around, be sure that the water reservoir is empty or at least low so you don’t splash water around on the floor.)
The Quilo measures 9.84” wide by 12.44” deep by 28.86” high and weighs just 11.68 pounds. The water reservoir (more about that shortly) holds 1.85 gallons of water. Energy consumption ranges between a mere 7.4W when in Sleep Mode to only 36W in Turbo Mode. In comparison, a small wall air conditioner can consume 500W – that’s quite a difference.
On the top of the Quilo, there is a flap that opens up to an area where you can put ice for additional cooling. As the Quilo runs, water is pumped up from the bottom water reservoir and to the top of the Quilo where it then flows down through a honeycomb filter. Before it flows to the filter, you can optionally put ice into the ice compartment so that the water flowing down is extra cold. As it flows through the honeycomb filter, it is also vaporized and blown into the air via the fan, humidifying and cooling the air.
At the top front of the Quilo are the main control panel and indicator readout. Note: you can also control the Quilo with the included remote control. From right to left on the control panel, you have the following buttons: On/Off Power, Cool, Fan Speed, Timer, Swing (Oscillation), and Turbo/Quiet Mode.
The display also shows a warning if the water is low. And note, the Quilo will also beep when the water is empty so be sure you fill it up before you go to bed. I found that even full, on Turbo mode, you will use up the water while you sleep so be ready to be potentially woken up when the water runs out. I would recommend not using Turbo mode for longer durations.
When you use Cool mode, you need to be sure you have the water tank filled up at least above the minimum level mark. You can then press the Cool button, and the water pump will begin pumping the water up and over the honeycomb. Note: if you turn off the cool button, the Quilo will just operate as a fan only.
Quiet and Turbo modes operate the way you would expect. Quiet is essentially low power consumption and wind speed (and is obviously quiet) while Turbo cranks up the fan (and has higher energy consumption – remember, it’s pretty low at only 36W on Turbo mode). The Swing button turns on the vents inside to oscillate the fan.
On the sides of the Quilo are two handles that help with the moving and positioning of the device.
In the center is the main area that contains the vents which can oscillate as well as what Quilo calls the honeycomb cooling media. The Quilo comes with a Carbon Dust Filter and the Honeycomb Cooling Media. One nice thing is that you can easily remove and clean these two items yourself. You don’t need to always purchase a new filter (unless you have found it to be dirty.) Under normal conditions, you can rinse the filter with clean water, let it dry, and put it back in.
At the bottom of the Quilo is the water tank. The tank holds almost 2 gallons of water. You can slide the tank out and fill it in a sink if you want to, however, I found that when I was carrying a full tank of water, I tended to spill water all over as the “full” fill line is almost at the top of the removable tank. It’s a bit easier to get a large measuring cup and just slide the tank out like a drawer and pour the water in. On some versions, there is a little round water filter you can put in and pour the water through to prevent particles and dust from entering the water. If you use clean tap water, you shouldn’t have to worry about it.
As I mentioned, there is an alarm when the Quilo runs out of water. Also, it will auto shut off if the water tank is detached or not slid in correctly.
So how well does the Quilo work? Well, you have to put everything into perspective first. For starters, it is NOT an air conditioner. Consequently, it cannot cool an entire house or even a large room significantly. But along the same line, it also does NOT use up the same amount of energy an air conditioner does. It uses a considerable amount LESS energy than air conditioners which is a big bonus.
It’s better to think of the Quilo as a personal cooler fan. It’s much better than a traditional fan as it is truly cooling air via evaporation and not just moving it around. And, it is also humidifying the air which has good skin and breathing benefits. For me, in Northern California, the Quilo seems to work pretty well. I have measured our indoor humidity, and it seems to range between 45 and 60% (closer to the 60%). If you have more than 60% humidity, the evaporative cooling might not be very effective, and Quilo actually recommends getting a portable air conditioner instead. However, if you live in more of a dry air environment with low humidity, the Quilo is a good choice. Living in Northern California (specifically the Bay Area), I’m on the edge of the effective zone (see the map below).
However, I did find that when it was hot in our house (over 80 degrees), sitting directly in front of the Quilo as it blew the ice-cooled and humidified air at and around me, I did notice a cooling. Also, I have some in-room thermometers which did indicate that after an hour of the Quilo running (on Turbo), the room’s temperature did drop a few degrees. Stepping into the room, you could distinctly feel the difference in temperature as well as a slight change in humidity. It was quite comfortable actually and seemed to be effective.
So, for immediate cooling, I would recommend sitting directly in front of the Quilo. And, over time it did drop the temperature of a fairly large room a few degrees. Much better in terms of energy efficiency than using a whole-home A/C!
Overall, I like having the option to have an energy-efficient personal air cooler and humidifier available to me to move around from room to room. I’m always setting the temperature higher on my A/C (as the rest of my family sets it lower), and now, with the Quilo, I have the option to use a room cooler that uses much less energy instead of the whole-home air conditioner.
Disclosure: I have a material connection because I received a gift, sample of a product and monetary compensation for consideration in preparing to review the product and write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item or gift after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own and are typically not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. Also, some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate” or “advertising” links. These may be automatically created or placed by me manually. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item (sometimes but not necessarily the product or service being reviewed), I will receive a small affiliate or advertising commission. More information can be found on my About page.
HTD says: Instead of turning on the entire home air conditioner to cool just one room, try using the Quilo Evaporative Air Cooler and Fan which both reduces the temperature and humidifies the air for breathing and skin benefits. The Quilo is especially effective in areas of low humidity and saves you $$$ over expensive A/C units.
Have you ever suffered from gift buyer’s block? It’s kind of similar to writer’s block where you simply can’t start writing. It’s especially bad when you are under a deadline. Well, there are a few deadlines looming for those guys in your life. (In fact, some may have already passed!) Think about those grads who after toiling for years trying to graduation have finally accomplished it! And what about good ol’ dad? He deserves a least one day of recognition (and…eh hem…spoiling) each year, right? But the hardest thing is finding that perfect gift, one that fits his likes or needs. And that’s where buyer’s block comes into play. Well, never fear! Thanks to the help of BabbleBoxx, I have six unique gifts that can help you break through that buyer’s block for Father’s Day, Grad Day, or Any day. And some of the items on this list have some discounts if you act now so read on! (*Disclosure below.)
Gifts are either good or bad. It all depends on how much thought, time, and effort you put into it. And if you are searching for gift ideas for Dad and Grads right now, I’m guessing you are a bit out of time. But don’t worry, I’m pretty sure one of these ideas will work.
From golfing to learning more about your ancestry and heritage to making sure your dad or grad is nicely pampered under his outer clothes, here are some ideas. And what about a unique tie? One that he doesn’t already have? Or how about some brew? I’m talking cold (coffee) brew here! Or maybe cap off the celebration with an actual cap!
Here are the specific things I’m talking about:
U.S. Open Championship 2019 Tickets
MyHeritage DNA test kit
Hanes Ultimate Men’s Comfort Flex Fit Ultra Soft Boxer Briefs & Hanes Ultimate Men’s Comfort Fit White Crewneck Undershirt
A Unique Tie from Ties.com
Grady’s Cold Brew – Bean Bag Cold Brew Kit
Black Clover Hat
Read on for the details as well as some limited-time discounts.
Tickets to the 119th U.S. Open Championship in Pebble Beach, CA
I’m going to guess that there are quite a few golfers out there. At one point in my life, I bought a set of cheap golf clubs and started teaching myself how to swing at the local driving range. I wasn’t very good. And then my clubs were stolen from my car. I took that as a sign that I probably should give up on my golf career.
But that shouldn’t stop me or anyone else from enjoying the sport and observing the professionals! The U.S. Open has a long history with Father’s Day. And in 2019, it’s being hosted at the Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, CA (a beautiful spot). So why not get that dad or grad tickets to the 2019 U.S. Open Championship?
Tickets go on sale on June 11, 2018, with ticket packages starting at just $60. You can learn more about the 2019 U.S. Open after June 11th, 2018 here.
Learn More About Your Family History with MyHeritage DNA
DNA testing and understanding my family’s history is particularly interesting to me. I was adopted when I was a baby, and I don’t really know that much about my family history or DNA ancestry. While I fully embrace my adoptive parents’ history, it is always interesting to understand where one truly comes from.
With the MyHeritage DNA test kit, you can get DNA information including understanding who you might be related to based on the DNA you have in common. And the more people who participate in DNA testing means there is a greater possibility of finding that long-lost relative. With the test results, you can also discover your true ethnicity from over 42 supported ethnicities in the MyHeritage database.
The DNA test kit comes with instructions, a serial number to get your results, a cheek swab and vial for collecting your DNA, and a postage-paid envelope to send your DNA off for testing. NOTE: use the code BABBLEBOXX1 for free shipping here (and ALSO, the kit is on sale for $59 until June 17th, 2018)!
Ultra-Comfortable Hanes Boxer Briefs & Undershirts
Getting clothes as a gift is pretty awesome, but sometimes it’s what’s under those clothes that makes a difference. I’m pretty particular about my undershirts and boxers. If they aren’t comfortable, it’s simply not worth wearing them! So while you might think that fancy clothes are the best bet for your dad or grad, it’s almost easier to get something that isn’t really seen by the public. No need to choose patterns or styles or colors, just comfort!
The Hanes Ultimate Men’s Comfort Flex Fit Ultra Soft Boxer Briefs are super soft and features FreshIQ which provides odor protection. They are also designed to wick away moisture (like when you sweat). They are stretchable and don’t have an annoying tag (yay!). The Hanes Ultimate Men’s Comfort Fit White Crewneck Undershirt are extremely soft as well (like the boxers), have the moisture wicking tech as well, and a collar that won’t get out of shape.
And, if you want to save 50%, just click on the links above to go to Hanes.com and get the discount!
And, Of Course, There Is Always a Tie (from Ties.com)
I used to love wearing unique ties. But then I started working in tech and suddenly “business casual” came along and now I actually rarely wear one. It’s too bad actually because I feel that the styles and designs have really evolved over the years. And, there seems to also be a resurgence of “older styles” as well, so now really seems to be an excellent time to wear ties. Wearing unique and fun ties can help you define your style.
Ties.com has a huge selection of styles from which to choose. While I’m a bit more conservative in my tastes, it’s nice to know that if I wanted to “make a statement” there is a tie to match that! And for dads and grads, you can’t go wrong with a tie as a gift. The tie shown above is the Luther Tie which sports a small scale floral print. But take a look at the Blue Polka Dot Canary Tie, or the Prowling Foxes Tie, or (for the golf lovers) the Oh, The Possibili-tees Tie, or even the Jules Tie.
If you use the following code on Ties.com – TIESXBABBLE15 – you get 15% off your order.
How About A Cold Brew, the Coffee Kind
Personally, I haven’t tried a cold brew coffee. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to coffee. Or maybe I’m just a bit boring. I make my iced coffee with cold leftover coffee from the morning. I think I’m missing out actually! If your dad or grad likes or loves coffee, you should ask them what they think about cold brew coffee. You may find a gift in the waiting right there.
Grady’s Cold Brew Bean Bag Cold Brew Kit is one of those potential gifts that the receiver can easily share with others. Traditional cold brewing is a bit involved. But not with this Grady’s Cold Brew Kit. Inside this portable kit are a bunch of literal “bean bags” (which have ground coffee beans, chicory, and spices) which you soak overnight. Once the soaking is completed, you dispose or recycle the bean bags and you are left with the pouch full of concentrated cold brew coffee. Each kit makes 36 servings, so there is plenty to go around. Then you can use your imagination on different cold brew concoctions!
On the Grady’s Cold Brew site, use code BABBLEBOXX20 to get 20% off. This code is valid through June 30th, 2018!
And To Cap It All Off, a Black Clover Hat
In a previous BabbleBoxx campaign, I received a Black Clover Hat. And I have to say it is the most comfortable one that I have owned yet. There are a ton of different styles to choose from on the Black Clover store, one that is sure to please your dad or grad. Protecting your head or face from the sun is something everyone should do. And with Black Clover, you can do it in style.
The Black Clover hats are extremely well made, you can feel it. The feature that I like the best is the padded headband. This feature is NOT making headline…literally! And it adds to the snugness and the comfort, as well as keeping your brow dry from sweat. I also particularly like the phrase “Live Lucky!” on the side – good words to live by.
If you use the code LUCKY15 you can get 15% off your order on the Black Clover website through June 30th, 2018.
Happy Father’s Day and Congrats to the Grads!
Hopefully these ideas, courtesy of BabbleBoxx, allowed you to break through that buyer’s block. It’s important at these times to recognize the accomplishments of the graduates as well as remind dad that he’s special. I’m personally excited to test these items out! Hope they helped!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by BabbleBoxx.com. I have a material connection because I received a sample of a product for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own and are typically not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. More information can be found on my About page.
HTD says: Congrats to the Graduates and Happy Father’s Day to all the dads and father figures out there! These gift ideas from BabbleBoxx can definitely help you overcome that “buyer’s block” and choose the perfect gift for the occasion!
It’s that time of year again. Summer is right around the corner. School is wrapping up or, for those lucky kids, is already out. And Father’s Day…you can’t forget about those dads and father figures in your life, right? Well if you are scrambling to figure out a grad or dad gift, I’ve got a recommendation for you. Pick up an Ultimate Ears WonderBoom portable Bluetooth speaker from Verizon. Actually, you may want to pick up TWO of them…I’ll explain why shortly. (*Disclosure below.)
It’s always a dilemma, trying to figure out that perfect gift for a graduation kid or for a dad. And what really qualifies as a graduation? It could be from a specific grade, or from elementary, middle, high school, or college. Successfully completing a school year is an accomplishment. My youngest daughter is going to be a freshman in high school, and my middle daughter is “graduating” from being an underclass person to a junior. These are significant milestones to recognize.
And then, of course, there are those dads and father figures that “officially” get recognized once a year on Father’s Day. We deserve a little recognition once and a while, right?
Well, this is where the Ultimate Ears WonderBoom portable Bluetooth speaker fits in perfectly. (Which, by the way, is current 30% off on the Verizon website as of this writing…just in time for graduation, Father’s Day, and summer in general.) It’s an excellent little speaker with sound that performs even despite its small size. But it has some other cool features as well which I tested it this weekend by my pool as the temperatures hit 100 degrees.
About the Ultimate Ears WonderBoom Speaker
For starters, I was impressed by the WonderBoom’s compact size. It’s about the size of a softball, but it’s cylindrical. It’s about 4” high and has a 3.68” diameter. It weighs about 13.7 ounces so you can easily throw it into a backpack or purse. And there is a little loop attached to the top so you can attach it to a carabiner and simply hang it somewhere.
On the top are three buttons, two that are obvious, and one a bit less so. On top, there is the power button which looks like a dash, and there is the pairing button that looks like a circle. Both of these two buttons are backlit.
And then there is a sort of “hidden” button that is basically in the center of the top. To activate it, you press the Ultimate Ears logo. This button on the top plays or pauses the streaming music. And if you double-click it, it will skip to the next music track. This button is also used if you have two WonderBoom speakers as well. More about that in a second.
On the side of the Ultimate Ears WonderBoom speakers are some huge plus and minus buttons. These are relatively obvious in terms of what they do – raise and lower the volume. You can also use the volume control on your smartphone or tablet to control the volume output.
In the back of the WonderBoom is a rubber flap that covers the micro-USB port. This port is used to recharge the WonderBoom speaker. I charged the WonderBoom to being fully charged from nothing in about 2 hours or so. And the playback supposedly lasts about 10 hours. The playback time does depend on the type of music you are listening to as well as the volume level you have the speaker set at. A higher volume of music with a lot of bass will drain the battery faster than lower volume of voice-only audio, for example.
The Ultimate Ears WonderBoom portable Bluetooth speaker has an IPX7 rating. This means that it is definitely splash, dust, and rain-proof and it can supposedly handle water up to 1 meter in depth for about 30 minutes. But if you want to maintain the water integrity of the system, I would recommend not floating it around a pool or immersing it for very long. Better to keep it along the edge of the water.
To pair the WonderBoom with your smartphone, you first need to power it on. Press and hold the power button until you hear the tones. If this is the first time you are powering it on, it will automatically go into Bluetooth pairing mode. If it has connected to a device before, it will try to connect to that device. If you need to pair (or re-pair) it to your phone, just press and hold the Bluetooth button (the circular one on the top). Then, on your smartphone, look for “WONDERBOOM” and select that. Also, if the WonderBoom does not detect any streaming activity, after 15 minutes, it will power itself down to save the battery.
In my testing, I was quite impressed with the sound quality, bass, and sound coming from this small speaker. It’s definitely loud enough at high volumes to make teens happy around a loud pool or at the beach. And it seemed to be pretty distortion-free. The range was fairly decent. If you go beyond about 100 feet of direct line-of-site, you may get some drop-outs. I recommend keeping the connected smartphone about 25 feet away for best performance.
Now for one of the coolest features. If you have two WonderBooms, you can pair them together for a more immersive experience. While it doesn’t provide stereo playback, it does extend the sound immersion quite well. In my tests, I put one speaker at either end of my pool so that music could be heard anywhere people were swimming. This is where that top button comes in to play.
This takes a little bit of practice the first couple of times, but with both speakers on, you press and hold the top button simultaneously for a few seconds until you hear some pairing tones. Doing this process with the speakers side-by-side is helpful. They should, theoretically, easily pair. I found that you have to sometimes do this a couple of times to ensure that they are paired, and I also noticed that you had to sometimes connect with the other WonderBoom via Bluetooth to get them both streaming together. With some practice, it becomes easier.
Once you pair two WonderBooms together, the fun begins! You can place them fairly far apart (again, don’t go much further than 100 feet or the connection will drop). I believe the way this works is that your music is streamed from your smartphone to one speaker and then that speaker then broadcasts to the other speaker. So, you may encounter a tiny bit of delay between the speakers. This can actually add a pretty cool “live” effect of almost being surround sound. At one point, the delay got a bit too much (like a second), so all that I did to correct was hit pause and then play and then the audio was seamlessly synched up again.
I highly recommend getting two Ultimate Ear WonderBooms for this ability to pair. And since they are currently 30% off at Verizon, it’s an even better deal! The retail price is $99.99, but they are $69.99 currently with Verizon. And, of course, you can use each of them separately. Oh, and you can have two devices paired with each speaker to be able to share the DJ control.
The Ultimate Ears WonderBoom portable Bluetooth speaker is an essential for any dad or grad…actually, for just about anyone. It’s lightweight design and amazing sound (for such a small speaker) makes anyone happy. Drop, dust, and water resistance makes it a no-brainer to throw into a bag for short or long trips. So there you have it – check that gift off of your shopping list!
Disclosure: I have a material connection because I received a sample of this product from Verizon Wireless for consideration in preparing to review the product and write this content. I was/am not expected to return this item after my review period. All opinions within this article are my own and are typically not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. Also, some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate” or “advertising” links. These may be automatically created or placed by me manually. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item (sometimes but not necessarily the product or service being reviewed), I will receive a small affiliate or advertising commission. More information can be found on my About page.
HTD says: Playing back music from your portable device is always a slam dunk when it comes to social activities. But having a way to play it back from a small, portable, water-resistant Bluetooth speaker that has good bass and crisp highs is even better. The Ultimate Ears WonderBoom Bluetooth speaker brings the audio party with you!
So, I’m not a huge fan of short-form content. Well, I have to clarify that a bit: short-form blog articles. While I know that there is a time and place for short-form content (think social media), articles that appear on blogs, in my opinion, are simply not doing a reader justice if they are just a few short paragraphs. Yes, I know that there are plenty of bloggers and writers who are masters of the short-form article. And I commend them for being able to pull it off. Unfortunately, I simply cannot.
I have been writing blog articles, professionally and personally, for well over a decade. Heck, HighTechDad.com has over 1000 articles. (Where I find time to do it, I’m not entirely sure but it has become a sort of addiction.) And as my writing evolved, I started to notice a tendency towards longer pieces. Let me qualify what I consider a long and short piece. For me (currently) any article over 700 words I consider to be “longer” and I tend to now write a minimum of 1000 words. If I were to write a “short” piece, it would be between 500-700 words. Anything below 500 words I feel is almost not worth writing (there are exceptions, of course).
And, as I said, there are some superhero bloggers out there that can pull off the short-form article and do it all of the time. But frequently, those same authors also post their short articles daily or several times a day. This I cannot do for one reason or another – time being one of them. But also, many of those authors are masters of the written word and able to pack immense amounts of meaning into minimal prose. They are concise and effective. (I, on the other hand, am verbose and…er…well, I hope equally effective.)
The funny thing is, one of my most favorite authors, Ernest Hemingway, is a master of the minimalist writing style. In fact, he has been attributed to being the author of the world’s shortest story (although it’s not proven that he DID actually write it). But this is the “story:”
“For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn.”
That’s it. 6 words. Those 6 words pack in a lot, subject to the imagination and interpretation of the reader. According to the legend, Hemingway won a bet writing this short story, all complete with a beginning, middle, and end. But that was the purpose of the writing — to win the bet.
When we talk about content marketing or blogging, you also have to tell a story, but you have to do it deftly while still conveying a key message or convincing the reader to take a certain type of action or evoke some sort of positive (or negative) reaction to the words.
I’m definitely NOT that great of a writer. I make tons of mistakes. I sometime ramble on and on, veering away from a concise execution. And I adopt a very casual style when writing, even with my work articles. I have my own reasons for this (for one, I find it much easier to write that way – words tend to flow a bit more easily). Also, my father taught me when I was young, to write the way you speak. And while I think that I’m fairly articulate when I speak, I definitely don’t want to have a huge disparity between my verbal and written communication styles.
But, your style of writing is extremely personal. I marvel at those freelance writers or copywriters who are able to change styles from one article to another. I always find myself slipping comfortably back into a more casual and conversational tone. But heck, I have written white papers, ad copy, ghostwritten for other authors, etc., where you don’t have the luxury of “doing it your way.”
How did I get sidetracked by writing style? Well, I believe it does relate to long- versus short-form content, as well as your “writing assignment.”
I always gravitate back to the long form, especially when telling a story.
Telling A Story
As an exercise for myself as I prepared to write this article, I decided I would try to illustrate the difference between short and long form content, specifically as it relates to story-telling and contextual details. I’m a firm believer, as I said, that the best way (unless you are Hemingway) to story tell is with more (despite the saying “less is more”).
So, I started playing with an extremely simple storyline, actually an extremely simple sentence.
The man walked.
Ok sure. You have someone doing an action. To me, this is the epitome of short-form content (almost like a tweet). Let’s add a bit more context and detail.
The man walked into the bar.
Now we have a bit more. A destination. We can start thinking about this guy. Is he a drinker? A drunk? Suddenly you want to learn a bit more, right?
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar.
With a few adjectives, we know a bit more. The man is tall. And he’s angry. Why is he angry? And the bar is dark. We all know that type of bar. Perhaps it’s a dive. It’s probably not a more modern bar. Those are pretty well lit.
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar and sat at the end.
We now are moving into a story. He had a destination within a destination. And hopefully you, the reader is beginning to become engaged.
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar, sat at the end, and asked for a Scotch.
Ok, so he’s a drinker. But why is he drinking? There is just not enough context here.
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar, sat at the end, and asked for a Scotch. A smile broke across his face.
So, he’s now happy. Is it because of the drink? Or perhaps something else…
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar, sat at the end, and asked for a Scotch. As the woman sat next to him, a smile broke across his face.
Now we have some more context. There is a woman involved and the action of her sitting next to the angry man makes him happy. But we are still missing the full story, aren’t we?
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar, sat at the end, and asked for a Scotch. As the woman sat next to him, a smile broke across his face. “Happy anniversary,” he said. “Sorry I’m late. The car wouldn’t start again.”
Woah! Lots of context here. We learn that the man and woman are a couple and that it is their anniversary. And that perhaps the man is angry because 1) he’s late to the bar and/or 2) his car is broken. More context = more of a story.
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar, sat at the end, and asked for a Scotch. As the woman sat next to him, a smile broke across his face. “Happy anniversary,” he said. “Sorry I’m late. The car wouldn’t start again.” She gave him a squeeze on his broad shoulders. “It’s ok,” she replied.
More details starting to round out the story…
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar, sat at the end, and asked for a Scotch. As the woman sat next to him, a smile broke across his face. “Happy anniversary,” he said. “Sorry I’m late. The car wouldn’t start again.” She gave him a squeeze on his broad shoulders. “It’s ok,” she replied. She slid a small box across the bar. He opened it and peered inside.
And now we have a cliffhanger, right? And now, the conclusion…
The tall angry man walked into the dark bar, sat at the end, and asked for a Scotch. As the woman sat next to him, a smile broke across his face. “Happy anniversary,” he said. “Sorry I’m late. The car wouldn’t start again.” She gave him a squeeze on his broad shoulders. “It’s ok,” she replied. She slid a small box across the bar. He opened it and peered inside. A set of shiny keys glinted back. “Happy anniversary,” she replied.
Ok, yeah, it’s not Hemingway. And I probably could continue adding details and context to provide much more to round things out.
But the idea here with this overly-simplistic example of short versus long content should be incredibly obvious. Starting with “the man walked” and adding substance and detail throughout the process is, in my opinion, much like writing a short versus a long article. Sure, you communicate something in a short article, but without relevant details or providing more context, the short form (even the mid-story example above) doesn’t really engage the reader that much.
Now I’m not saying that you should write dense blog posts that people struggle to work through (unless of course long form is your style or that is what your readers are expecting you to produce). I sometimes bail out on reading really long articles. Call it Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or just me being lazy. But if I’m really interested and engaged, and the writing is amazing, I will work my way through 20,000 words if I need/want to.
My main point in this section of this article is really about the importance of telling a story. Hemingway was a master. Me, well, hardly close to that at all. Good content, in my opinion, does tell a story or has sections within the content that engage the reader to want to consume more. But there is a time and place for short form content or dropping a story line entirely. It depends on the purpose of the writing.
Other Reasons Why Long Form Content Might Be Better
Apart from trying to evoke an emotional reaction by the reader or providing contextual details to make an article relevant, there are other reasons to consider making your articles a bit longer. A big plus that you should consider is that Google now seems to prefer longer-form content for positioning in search results. There is a key word missing though – quality. Sure, you can spew out thousands of disjointed and meaningless phrases and sentences together, but Google is getting smarter. It’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) at work, making search results more relevant.
Agrawal goes on to describe tactics to help with SEO and SERP (Search Engine Result Pages) like making sure your pages load quickly (something that my site is absolutely HORRIBLE at…sorry) or adding Rich Media to give the reader some memorable eye-candy to get them through the long form content. (If you are interested in some additional, more scientific tactics for bettering your long-form content, read this article by Agrawal.)
So, Google likes long-form QUALITY content and as its search algorithm becomes contextually more intelligent, those writers who produce longer, quality content will get better SERPs among other things.
Ramsay Taplin writes on his site, Blog Tyrant, states “…long-form content is nothing new. In fact, journalists (especially investigative journalists) and authors have been writing like this long before blogs came along.”
Ok, time for another tangent here. I’m not a trained journalist (my wife is). I’m “just a blogger.” But one of my professional career jobs was that of being a “brand journalist.” Essentially, I was an embedded reporter within a company searching out and writing about stories that traditional journalists on the outside might not have access to. Our model was to research and write stories and articles and publish them freely for others to take, copy, plagiarize, and use as source material (complete with videos/photos under Creative Commons licensing).
Why do I bring this up? Well, the funny thing is, I often got into “arguments” with my Editor in Chief on the topic of long versus short form content. My whole argument was that I believed the pendulum was swinging (once again) AWAY FROM favoring a higher quantity of shorter articles instead of fewer, longer higher-quality ones. My boss wanted more, short-form articles that were quickly churned out. This was 5-6 years ago.
But I really didn’t want to write 300 to 700-word articles. So, I always handed in 1000+ word articles. My boss affectionately called this the “Sheehan-factor” and often either sent my drafts back to be chopped and reduced in size or would heavily red-line the article, deleting much of the storylines that I felt were helpful to paint the full picture.
Long story short (haha), I really haven’t lost that “Sheehan-factor” in my writing, and am glad that I haven’t because, yes, long form is truly back!
Anyway, if you are planning on writing longer articles, here are some tips that Ramsay offers:
“Solve problems, but not all of them” – essentially, leave some room for discussion
“Research carefully (like really carefully)” – so yeah, before I started even writing this article, I read a bunch more to make sure I wasn’t completely off-track
“Don’t do it just for the sake of it” – the topic (like this one) should be relevant to you (and you should have some passion behind it)
“Get a feel for what works” – see what others do as well as what’s successful on your own site (my how-tos are evergreen, for example)
“Practice writing like you’re speaking to a mate” – remember what I wrote earlier that my dad told me? Write how you speak!
How about some facts here about longer-form content?
HubSpot (heard of them?) did an audit and analysis of their own content on their marketing blog. From the 6,192 blog posts, they extracted a bunch of relevant measurable items like the number of words in the title, the number of words in the article, overall views, organic search visits, external links, social shares, and more. From that, they were able to find some interesting factoids.
Articles with a word count between 2,250 and 2,500 earned the most organic traffic (by the way, that short-form content of fewer than 800 words, barely a blip in comparison)
Social shares were highest for articles over 2,500 words
More inbound links came from those longer-form articles
It’s an interesting analysis so definitely take a look.
One more interesting read (pretty technical with lots of stats) is by Neil Patel on the QuickSprout site. More focused on rankings and conversions, Patel draws many of the same conclusions: bad content doesn’t perform well, longer content tends to have better conversion rates, social media helps, and don’t ramble on (which I think I’m starting to do here!).
So, maybe you made it this far, or maybe you just scrolled down to the end of the article (cut to the chase, right?). Either way, here are some nuggets of insights and knowledge. Let me preface this with: these are my opinions, completely open for discussion, ridicule, adoption, rejection, what have you. While I play a content marketer by day (and a dad, husband, and technology blogger by night), I’m definitely NOT one of those hugely popular and famous content bloggers out there.
I do have ideas, and some strong opinions about things though. Long form content being better is one of them.
Anyway, here are my suggestions:
Tell a story
Provide relevant details to make point #1 actually work
Don’t write to just fill up space – use your passion to support #1
Google seems to like longer, QUALITY content…
…so does social media
Overall, however, write in a style or format that you feel comfortable with. If short form is your style, do it! If you have a ton of information or stories you want to convey, then perhaps long form is better for you. Those who produce lots of regular, short-form articles probably have a regular following and readership, and in those cases, the audience is clamoring for the regularly-paced, quick content. My site, on the other hand, really doesn’t have a huge following of “regulars.” In fact, over 80% of my traffic is from Search. So, in that case, I’m “winning” that battle of making my content available to many (but on a more as-needed basis).
How do you feel about content? If you write it, what..
Do your eyes feel tired at the end of the workday after staring at a monitor? Do you get headaches often when you stare at your screen? Does screen flickering make you nauseous? Well, there is a good chance that it is your monitor that is causing these problems. Things like blue light, flicker, refresh rates, having your monitor too bright or too dim, shadows, reflections, ambient lighting, or any combination of these items can actually be affecting your viewing comfort or lack thereof. By not thinking about these combinations, you will suffer from eye fatigue, headaches, lack of energy while working, or having your brain simply too stimulated to relax. So how do you create the proper environment and/or configure your monitor to be optimal for your eyes? Well, you can constantly tweak and fine-tune the settings on your monitor, or you can get one that actually does all of the configurations for you automatically. I will be going into greater details of some of these issues described above as well as reviewing the BenQ EW3270U, a 32” monitor that has all of this built-in! (*Disclosure below.)
Warning: this is a bit of a long review. There are essentially two sections, one about eye care and safety and the other about the BenQ EW3270U itself. It’s a lot to digest but investing in a good monitor means that you have to understand the differences and things to look for. This article hopefully gets you part of the way there on your research and eventual purchase decision.
Before I jump into a brief lesson on what could be making your work environment less than ideal for your eyes, mind, and well-being, I want to quickly mention the impressive specs on the BenQ EW3270U monitor (which I will go into greater detail later in this review). While specs are always good to know, what they really mean is something completely different. If you look at any box that holds a monitor, you will probably see badges and marketing claims galore. So first, let’s show the specs and then later get into their meaning (I didn’t include all of the specs, btw):
Screen size: 31.5″
Max Resolution: 3840×2160
Backlight Technology: LED backlight
Native Contrast: 3000:1
Response Time: 4ms
Refresh Rate: 60Hz
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Display Colors: 1.07 billion colors
Dynamic Contrast Ratio (DCR): 20M:1
Color Bit: 10 bit
Speakers: two 2W speakers with a headphone jack
HDMI: 2 ports
DisplayPort: one DisplayPort (v1.4)
USB Type-C: 1 port
Dimensions: 20.56” x 28.6” x 8.5” (522.2 x 726.4 x 215 mm)
Weight: 16.5 lbs (7.5 kg)
And there are some items that are unique to BenQ monitors, specifically:
Low Blue Light
Brightness Intelligence Plus (B.I.+)
Ok, got the specs memorized? Great! Let’s learn a bit about eye care!
What You Should Know About Caring for Your Eyes
We have to be a bit grateful for advances in technology. When you think about flat-screen monitors now compared with those huge, bulky, and heavy CRT monitors of a few years ago, you just have to gasp that we managed to survive. And before that? How about just black screens with green text and NO graphics. We have definitely come a long way.
Now we have 4K HDR monitors (like this BenQ one) that can produce billions (with a B) of colors. Our eyes must be a lot happier, right? Not necessarily. Not every monitor is built the same way with the same type of technology. And there are some critical eye care factors that you really need to consider, especially if you are sitting staring at a screen for hours upon hours.
For starters, you should always take a break from staring at the screen. Some people recommend a 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes you should look 20 feet away for about 20 seconds. This will actually let your eye muscles relax a bit. I learned a trick when I was young as well to strengthen the eye muscles. It was something I learned to help with tennis. Hold your finger a foot in front of you, focus on it for a second or two, and then focus on something in the distance for a few seconds. Do this a few times and repeat it regularly. For me, I had to do it to help with a mild case of strabismus when I was a kid. But it is a good exercise to do even today.
And be sure to blink regularly. I have often found myself staring at a screen and my eyes have gotten dried out. Blink and/or use some moisturizing eye drops occasionally.
But let’s talk about a bit of the science and tech behind eye strain and fatigue. There are a few main things you should think about: blue light, flicker, color, and brightness/contrast.
Let’s start with blue light. Visible light that can be detected by humans occurs within the 420 nm and 780 nm spectrum. Beyond 780 nm is infrared light (think about that remote control you have). And at the other end is ultraviolet (below 420 nm). Ultraviolet light (UV) is potentially bad (think sunburns or eye damage if you stare at the sun). But there are visible portions of blue light that the eyes can perceive.
Blue light can be broken up into two types: short wavelength (420-455 nm) and long wavelength (455-480 nm). Interestingly, the short wavelength is bad and the long is good. The short wavelength is closer to ultraviolet and can cause eye strain and blurred vision and even long-term exposure can potentially cause cataracts. The long wavelength, on the other hand, actually can be beneficial during daytime hours as it has been shown to boost attention and positively affect mood control centers in the brain.
So blue light is both good and bad. But luckily the wavelengths differentiating the two have been identified. And that is where technology can come in to play. More about how BenQ’s technology in the EW3270U and other monitors in the next section.
The next thing that is truly bad for your eyes is flicker. Monitors over time have gotten better, but as I said, not every monitor is the same. What is flicker in the first place? Basically, it’s the eye detecting changes in brightness during short time periods. Oversimplified, flipping a light switch on and off is a super slowdown example of flicker. Or think about old black and white movies. As the frames rolled by and changed the action on the screen, each film frame would flicker briefly between the next one.
The same thing happens with monitors. The frequency of a shift between on and off (or brightness levels) is defined as the number of times a second this shift happens. So, if you have 5 shifts per seconds, that equates to 5 Hz. The human eye gets bothered up to about 20 Hz (or 20 times per second). At 50 Hz, the eye practically perceives this as a constant light (not registering the on and off).
Flickering also becomes an issue, even more so, when the brightness of the display is lowered. This stuff is a bit above my engineering pay grade (heck, I’m not even an engineer) but it has something to do with Pulse Wave Modulation (PWM) and if it is used for backlighting. These are pulses on and off. But when the brightness is lowered, the “off” setting is longer and it’s during these times that flicker is more obvious. Not all monitors use PWM and you can easily test it by taking a picture of your monitor with your camera. If you see horizontal lines in the output, PWM may be in use. Flicker can also cause eye fatigue, eye strain, and headaches.
There are other backlighting techniques but they aren’t as frequently used due to costs and complicated circuitry. One of these is Direct Current (DC). For long-time viewing, DC seems to be preferred over PWM. BenQ has some “flicker-free” displays which use Direct Current backlighting. The EW3270U is one of those monitors.
Brightness, color, and ambient lighting are also important factors, and they are quite intertwined. When you think about it, if you are near windows while you work, your workspace is probably subject to lighting changes. If you have your monitor in front of a window, it has bright backlighting at some points doing the day. This can actually be hard on your eyes. And, when it gets darker, having a bright monitor can definitely produce some eyestrain. Couple that with the fact that as you dim a monitor, the color values dim as well, distorting them and creating quite a different picture compared to the original one. So, yes, you can dim the monitor when the lighting around you dims, but you lose color quality in the process. And most monitors you have to dim and adjust manually – who does that? Some BenQ monitors, like this one, will automatically and dynamically adjust based on ambient lighting while still preserving the true color values whenever possible.
So anyway, that’s a LOT to digest, I know. But the key takeaway here is, old monitors are probably bad for your eyes. Newer monitors are better, but they lack many advanced technologies to keep your eyes happy. And some higher-end monitors (like BenQ and others), have the means to dynamically adjust their settings based on your environment while preserving high-definition and key colors.
Let’s take a look at how the BenQ EW3270U handles the challenge.
Review of the BenQ EW3270U Monitor
First, let me start out by saying this is not a scientific review. Nor is it from the perspective of a gamer. I treated this BenQ monitor as simply a work or home-office monitor. I tested using Netflix videos, 4K YouTube videos, photo viewing, web browsing, document editing, and day-to-day tasks. I tried it with different settings on and off (things like HDR set in the system settings).
And, it is important to note, in order to get the best out of the BenQ EW3270U monitor, you really need to be sure that your graphics card can handle it. When I originally received this monitor, I tried to hook it up to my wife’s older computer (which only had VGA and DVI outputs). The EW3270U only allows for HDMI, DisplayPort, or USB Type-C connections. After a quick purchase of a DVI to HDMI cable, I was able to run it in 1080p, but that was the limit to what that type of connection could handle. I wasn’t getting 4K, nor HDR.
So, we made the family decision to get a new, low-end gaming system (which would be the replacement for my wife’s home-office computer – definitely NOT for gaming). It had a good enough video card (an AMD Radeon RX 550) which would be able to support 4K (if you use the proper port). Once we had that computer configured and up and running, the 32” diagonal screen of the EW3270U was magnificent.
Setting up the BenQ EW3270U was extremely easy. You just need a screwdriver. Lay the monitor flat, face down (on some padding), and then slide the monitor stand into place. Then just tighten the screw(s) on the bottom. From there, connect your input devices.
Underneath and behind the monitor are the inputs. This monitor allows you to connect multiple sources assuming you have the proper connections. There are two HDMI inputs, a DisplayPort input, and a USB Type-C input so conceivably, you could have 4 devices attached and just toggle through the inputs. Then just plug the monitor in and head over to configure it. I highly recommend installing the appropriate Windows drivers so that this monitor doesn’t show up as just a “generic PnP monitor.” You can download the drivers here. There is also an audio-out port for headphones or other devices.
One thing became immediately apparent. People have different viewing preferences. And it depends on the type of content you are viewing. If you are a gamer (again, I’m not), be sure that you get an HDR game and you enable the HDR setting in Windows. And, you will probably want to enable FreeSync to prevent screen tearing, stuttering, and jittering during gameplay. I, however, found that I didn’t like having HDR always enabled. It dimmed out the display too much, especially as I was looking at mixed content, some HDR, some not. So, I elected to turn off HDR. If I wanted to get HDR, I could always toggle it back on, or I could use the HDR emulation mode.
You should have seen the evolution of my wife’s desk over the past couple of years. It has gone from being a bit cluttered to now being incredibly well organized and clean. (My desk is always a mess of papers and tech items I’m reviewing…I’m a lost cause.) But one thing that she has struggled with is somehow making her desk work both as a sitting as well as a standing desk. We all know the benefits of standing when you work (not all of the time but regularly alternating). I have been lucky at work to have a fully-motorized desk at my work. But at home, it was a different situation completely. But we now have a great solution. It’s called the ClassicRiser Standing Desk Converters M2. And it has transformed her work environment, literally. (*Disclosure below.)
My desk currently is a permanent standing desk (I use a tall foldable chair when I need to sit). But it’s not really a desk. It’s actually a baby changing table/drawer/hutch that has a section that pulls out where you would put a pad down to change your baby. As my kids are all teens now, I converted this piece of furniture into a standing desk. It was the perfect height and actually still looked pretty good. But, as I said, it’s permanently in “standing mode.” That’s fine. I only use it a few hours a week and I get the benefits of standing.
My wife’s desk, on the other hand, was this monstrosity. It was a dark wood corner desk that came with a filing cabinet and a bookcase and even an end table (we got rid of the end table years ago). It also had shelves and a hutch attached to it. Recently, my wife expressed that she wanted to get rid of the desk and get something that could raise or lower. I dreaded the idea of having to disassemble the desk and attempt to sell or give it away. But she’s the boss!
But then I started thinking. Perhaps there was a way to get a more open and minimalist approach to this huge corner desk. So while she was away one weekend, I decided to remove the hutch and shelving parts. Suddenly, she had a huge amount of surface area. This was a great step forward. But there was still the problem that the desk was still a plain old sitting desk. For years, she had piled books to make her monitor higher, or bought mini tables to raise up the monitor and keyboard. But it was very manual and time-consuming when she wanted to convert to a standing desk. And everything was very unstable (I don’t like seeing monitors wobbling). She started telling me she wanted something that would convert her desk easily into a standing one and sent me lots of links to various solutions.
Reading through many of the reviews, I found a bunch of similar complaints. It was too hard to raise or lower. It took up too much space. It wasn’t manufactured well. The work surface was too small. There wasn’t enough room for a keyboard and mouse, or for multiple monitors. It felt flimsy. It came up and out into the work area instead of going just up. The list of complaints went on and on.
Then as luck would have it, I was contacted by FlexiSpot asking if I wanted to do a review of one of their standing desk converters. (I felt like they had been snooping in on my browsing history or eavesdropping on my wife’s and my conversations! Haha!) Obviously, I accepted and now my wife is happily using the ClassicRiser Standing Desk Converter, one of their most popular models.
What Are Standing Desks Important?
Before I dive into the review of the FlexiSpot ClassicRiser Standing Desk Converter, I do think it is important to talk about why if you sit all day, you should incorporate standing breaks (or even get a sit/stand desk). Heck, even some Smart Watches now have hourly reminders telling you to stand. Research has found that people sit for nearly 6 hours a day (for you workaholics, it’s probably a lot more).
While we all know that exercise is good for us, some researchers say that it’s also important to focus on those times of the day where you AREN’T active. And while sitting allows our skeleton to have a lighter load for a while, it can also weaken it over time. Researchers have also found that when you stand, the risk of obesity can be reduced compared to those who sit all day. This Smithsonian article has several other medical benefits of standing.
Some tips from the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that you break up your sitting sessions regularly using the following tips:
Set a timer on your computer to remind you every hour that it’s time to step away from your desk, and take a short walk down the hall.
Instead of emailing a co-worker, chat with him or her over a walk.
If possible, stand up and walk around during phone calls and meetings.
Keep light hand weights in your office to use while reading email or talking on the phone.
While those tips are easy enough to follow, if you incorporate a sit/stand desk into the mix, it’s even easier. I have may conference calls a day. While during some of those I just sit, I actually find it almost relaxing to do most of the call standing. And while having a standing desk helps, especially if you need to take notes during the call, it’s not required. When you can, just stand up for a few minutes during each all.
Also, don’t suddenly decide you want to follow a strict standing regimen. You need to start slowly until your body gets used to it. Do it for 20 minutes at a time (or less). You will suddenly notice that you are using a lot of different muscles. It can be tiring. You can even get sore. Best thing is to just slowly integrate it into your daily routine and add to the standing time. Also, invest in a padded mat to stand on. It helps. Get a headset or use wireless earbuds so that you can move around a bit (and not get kinks in your neck). After a while, you will start to notice a difference
Oh, and by the way, standing does burn more calories than sitting!
Review of the FlexiSpot Standing Desk Converter
Ok, hopefully by now you understand the benefits of incorporating a standing ritual into your daily habits. Once you get started, it does, in fact, become habitual and you will be surprised you didn’t do it earlier. But a big part of this equation is having a functional desk that allows you to stand easily. And while I mentioned that there are some desks that have motors or cranks that lift the entire desktop up, often this might not be convenient or even feasible.
This is where the FlexiSpot solutions come into play. They are designed to use your existing workspace because they basically sit on the surface and then lift up using hinges and hydraulics. So, I only have hands-on experience with ClassicRiser Standing Desk Converter M2, most of their solutions seem to follow the same type of design.
The first thing you will want to do is to understand your environment. Be sure to measure your desk area and compare it with the footprint of the standing desk. A standing desk needs to be secure on top of the work environment surface. Then you should also think about what will actually be on the surface of the standing desk converter. Will you have one monitor or two? How big are the monitors? Will you have a laptop or anything else? Measure those out as well.
For my wife’s environment, we had a huge amount of (newly cleared) space for the base of the ClassicRiser. But, we also needed to be able to accommodate a 32” monitor (yes, that is large and I have a review of that monitor coming soon). What the folks at FlexiSpot recommended was the ClassicRiser with a 35” wide base. For this particular model, the size can range from 27” wide to 44” wide. Another important factor to consider is how much weight the ClassicRiser will be supporting. Depending on the model, that can be between 35 and 44 lbs.
So as I mentioned, we received the 35” model. It came in a huge, heavy box. There is minimal assembly required. One thing I only realized after I had lifted it onto the desk was that I had put it on the wrong way so I had to flip it around so that I could attach the (detachable) keyboard tray.
And, by the way, this model actually weighs about 50 lbs. so be careful lifting it on your own. the 35” model measures 31” wide by 22.3” deep.
Attaching the keyboard tray is easy – no tools are required. There are two clasps that you squeeze to insert the tray. It locks into place easily. This also means that you can remove the keyboard tray just as easily.
There are a couple of circular covers you can attach near the hinges. It doesn’t provide anything other than aesthetics though (but I did it anyway). Also, there are some cord-management attachments to keep all of your monitor cords out of the way. I decided not to use those.
In terms of raising and lowering the ClassicRiser, that is something that is quite easy (my wife commented about how easy it is). There is a single handle on the right side that you squeeze to release the lock. Then the hydraulics kick in allowing you to easily raise or lower the desk. There are multiple height settings that can click in. You will want to be sure that it does “click” to be sure it is set.
When fully flat, it is 5.9” high (which is good for simply raising the monitor’s hight to a good eye level.)
When it is fully extended up, it measures 19.7” high (which is almost too high for me as I’m only 5’7”). I would use it at a lower level (and my wife, even lower).
The hydraulics is important to mention again. Other standing desk options out there are simply spring-loaded. From reading some of the reviews, I have seen people complaining that these types of tables drop down to quickly or are very difficult to raise up. With the FlexiSpot ClassicRiser, this is NOT the case. You can, if you want, raise or lower the table with one hand (although I wouldn’t recommend it simply because it is more secure with two hands).