Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Gadget Goodies 23

image used under Creative Commons license,  photo by Flickr user pestoverde
In the last two Wednesday posts, we reviewed the Sony Xperia Z Ultra phone and a few cases for it.  With a screen size of 6.4", it's closer to a tablet in size while retaining the usability of a phone sized device.  Our beginning illustration Shows the Z Ultra with a Z1 for size comparison.  And the Ultra is still comfortable in the hand.

Today, we want to look at three more accessories.  One is a Z Ultra specific case.  The other two are more generic, but come under the "must have" umbrella.  So, let's look at today's goodies.

The Case

Photo courtesy of Amazon
The first is a case from Shapotkina, described as "Crazy Horse Grain Leather Folio Wallet Case With Stand for Sony Xperia Z Ultra".  It works as a landscape folio stand and has pockets for credit cards and money.  The color is "coffee". Like other Z Ultra accessories, it's inexpensive -- $12.99 US.

The case has a nice, slightly distressed leather look and feel.  The inside is smooth felt plush for the pockets and lining.  If you've ever had one of those really nice leatherette pad folios, this is similar in professional look.  

The design and workmanship are well thought out.  The plastic part that holds the phone in place is designed to leave access to all ports and buttons, while fully preventing the phone from slipping out. Those three holes at the top are so the case allows the speaker to be audible when the case is closed and the phone rings.  The strap has a magnetic closure.  While the case adds front and back cover thickness to the phone's .26" depth, it's also very close to the phone's height and width. Overall, I think this is my favorite of the cases I have for this phone.  You can buy it here:

The Stand

Photo courtesy of Amazon
I'm now on my sixth smartphone and I've had several tablets. One of the things I've found useful was a charging dock, usually my phone docks came with a spare battery slot. Every time I changed phones or tablets, the related dock would become personally obsolete.  They either got included with older phones I've sold or got sold separately.  But it got to be a pain dealing with some of the leftover accessories.  With some exceptions, that's nudged me into increasingly looking for generic accessories, where possible.

Anker, known for battery and other phone accessories for phones and tablets has another gem.  They're probably best known for those overpowered external spare batteries to recharge your device on the go. But this is a stand for smartphones and smaller tablets.  That's it, to the right. No, it's not a charging stand.  But it is a stand.  As we said, universal one.  I'm not sure how well it would do with an 8-`12" tablet.  I suspect, somewhere in that range, it wouldn't do too well.  On the other hand, it handles 7" tablets and smaller devices, in both landscape and portrait mode.

If you look at the top picture in the image, the slot to hold a device is a plastic piece inside the metal frame.  That's removable and, with or without a hardshell or gel case, most devices should fit well. There have been a few Amazon reviews that suggested the stand couldn't hold a device with a flip or folio case.  As you can see from the pictures, the stand is adjustable.  The hinge's left endcap is actually a button to release the hinge and adjust the stand's position.  And there are more positions than shown, including folding relatively flat for travel.  It works for my Xperia Z Ultra in both landscape and portrait.  And with or without any number of different cases.

Some Amazon reviews have suggested that the stand is cheap, with thin plastic.  The base is fairly thick aluminum and the plastic is thick, as well.  So, if the unhappy reviewers didn't get a defective unit, I'd like to know which Afghani mortar hit it took.  It would take some abuse to have real problems with this stand.

The one downside I see is in charging.  Since this is universal and not a charging stand, how a device and the stand are positioned to charge a device will depend on where the device's charging port(s) may be.  Both charging ports for the Z Ultra are on the same side -- relatively easy to work out a decent charging position in either orientation.

Considering that the Anker stand is just $11.99 US, it really becomes a "must have".  Especially if you use an external bluetooth keyboard for your device.  I'm trying to decide whether I need a second for my Kindle.  If I do, it's here:

The Charger

Our final accessory is also from Anker.  The full title on Amazon is a mouthful: "Anker® 40W 5-Port Family-Sized Desktop USB Charger with PowerIQ™ Technology for iPhone 5s 5c 5; iPad Air mini; Galaxy S5 S4; Note 3 2; the new HTC One (M8); Nexus and More (Black)".  That shrinks down to the fact it can charge most devices and has built in technology to prevent overcharging.  There are also a 4 and 2 port units, as well as a 5 port 25 watt version.  Why would you (I) want this?

When I first saw this, I had a smartphone, a smartphone dock with spare battery slot, an older large tablet (10.1"), a small tablet (7"), and a Kindle.  Think of all of that plugged into A/C. There's at least an extension cord with three slots, more openings probably calls for a bulky power strip.  And will the spacing handle all the charging blocks our devices seem to favor?  Pretty scary thought, isn't it?

Along comes Anker with a solution.  Almost every device has the charging block connected to the device via a USB cord of some sort.  And the end going into the charging block is the standard USB connector that plugs into a computer.  Except more and more smartphones and tablets require more power than a computer USB port will pass through.  I went for the 40 watt model with the idea that I can charge multiple items with the least slow down on charging time.  Right now, I often have my Z Ultra, the spare battery cover, and powered speakers connected at the same time.  That still leaves a slot to charge my Kindle and still have room if a buddy needs to charge his phone while visiting.

The charger uses a grounded three prong A/C cord.  That shouldn't be an issue in places with modern wiring.  The two port charger is a two prong plug, if you need it for older wiring.  If you're not in the US, I don't know if they're sold with a cord with an international plug or adaptor, or if the buyer needs to purchase an adaptor separately.  In any case, one of Anker's charging solutions should fill your needs.  The 40 watt, 5 port version is $25.99 US, not as inexpensive as many of the Z Ultra accessories.  But it's universal.  It's going to be around when your next device is a different model or brand.  And one or more ought to be on your "must have" list. It's Amazon page is here:


All three accessories are great to have.  Admittedly, the case is limited to the Xperia Z Ultra.  But the other two are universal, good for lots of our electronic goodies that we seem to increasingly find ourselves unable to do without.  So, why not a couple of accessories we can't do without?

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