What is a VPN: A Beginners Guide

What is a VPN: A Beginners Guide

Techsnob.net

In this VPN guide, we will look at what a VPN is, how it works, and is it actually important to use one.  As this term gains popularity, more people are looking into a VPN for their private home.  Learn how easy they are to use.

In this VPN guide, we look at what a VPN is, how it works, and is it actually important to be using one.  As this term gains popularity, more people are looking into a VPN for their private homes.  Learn how easy they are to use.

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN)  is a technology that enables you to access the internet safely and privately by creating a private network from a public internet connection.  In other words, think of it as a Harry Potter invisibility cloak masking the link between you and the internet, in which no one else can enter to see or steal your data.  This is possible because a VPN masks your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable.

More importantly, a VPN service establishes a secure and encrypted connection to provide greater security than a Wi-Fi hotspot.  A side-benefit, but one which many users find the most useful, is that they allow you to pretend to be in a different country enabling you to access blocked content, or test sites from all over the world.  

Why use a VPN?

If you have every heard stories of people losing mass amounts of Bitcoin after making a transaction on a public Wi-Fi network, at an airport or Starbucks, you know how unsafe it is to surf the internet over a public network.  Perhaps you have experienced data loss, or identity theft.  Any time you connect over a public network, you leave yourself open to exposing your private information or browsing habits.

In theory, a VPN would be a must for anyone worried about online security and privacy.  For instance, think about those times you have been on the go, browsing emails at a coffee shop, or checking your bank accounts.  Unless you have logged into a private Wi-Fi network that required a strong password, any data transmitted during that session may have been vulnerable to literally anyone else using that same network.

The encryption and anonymity that a VPN provides helps protect your online activities: sending emails, shopping online, or paying bills. VPNs also help keep your web browsing anonymous.  Basically, if you connect to that same public network, AND use a VPN, you can be assured that no one else on that same network will be able to spot your traffic, or intercept your data.  

Even if you accidentally connected to a honey pot Wi-Fi a fake WiFi built and renamed to resemble Starbucks or other public hotspots, they would still not be able to see your data.  

There are a number of good reasons to use a VPN:

  • It encrypts your activity on the web.
  • It hides your activity from anyone who might be interested in it.
  • It hides your location, enabling you to access geo-blocked content (e.g. on Netflix and other sites).
  • Makes you more anonymous on the web.
  • Helps you keep the connection protected when using a public WiFi hotspot.

Overall, use a VPN if your web privacy, security, and anonymity are important to you. Roughly $3-5 a month is a small price to pay for all of that.

Limitations of a VPN

Does a VPN protect your data from everybody?  No.  The VPN simply makes it much harder to find and intercept your data by disguising your IP address, however not hiding it permanently.  There will always be a digital footprint, no matter how convoluted you make it.  But why not make it harder to keep track of you, if you have that ability?

The integrity of the company you are purchasing the VPN from is going to be a big difference between having no logs of you using the service, to having them go behind your back and sell your data to a 3rd party.  Even if they don’t sell your data, if a law enforcement comes knocking, expect them to become law abiding, throwing you to the wind.  So do your research.

All VPN’s have their limitations.  There are multitudes of ways to track your online footprint.  Sites like Facebook, Amazon, Google use cookies that don’t expire even after you have left the site.  A VPN will not work against cookies, make sure you are practicing safe browsing.  There is a limitation on how much a VPN can actually disguise your browsing to make it anonymous.  If you 

are really serious about browsing anonymously, you should be using Tor.

 

The Good

Unlike VPNs, Tor bounces your traffic through several actual server nodes on the way to the destination.  Although it is not impossible to reverse, it does make it much harder to track down.  Essentially you would need a pretty big warrant, to be caught using Tor.  Tor is managed by a non-profit organization and is actually distributed for free.   Fun Fact:  Some VPN services will even connect to Tor via VPN, for additional security.

The Bad

It is important to keep in mind that most VPN services are not actually non-profit, philanthropic organizations.  They are there to make profit, thus act like a business.  This means that they have to protect their business, they need to respond to sub-poenas and warrants.  Keep this in mind when shopping for a VPN, making sure you know exactly what you are trying to disguise.  These VPN services also have their own bills to pay, and loans to pay back.  Do some research to make sure the company is not keeping too much data, and trying to make another profit behind your back.

Do your Research on VPN Services

 

Because for-profit VPN services must abide by the local state and federal laws, it is very important to read the privacy policy for VPN services, and to find out where a VPN company is headquartered.  NordVPN, for example, operates out of Panama, and is not subject to any laws that would require it to retain user data.

Because VPN services are relatively new, they are sometimes target of federal investigations.  PureVPN came under fire after it released log information to federal investigators in regards to a cyberstalking case.  PureVPN seems to have updated its privacy policy as of May 2018.  

“We DO NOT keep any record of your browsing activities, connection logs, records of the VPN IPs assigned to you, your original IPs, your connection time, the history of your browsing, the sites you visited, your outgoing traffic, the content or data you accessed, or the DNS queries generated by you.”

Are VPN services  the perfect solution to protect you against any threat?  No.  The truth is, if someone targets you, and is willing to put forth some serious effort, they will absolutely get to you.  Keep this in mind, and make sure you are shopping with realistic expectations.  However, using tools like VPN services to obfuscate your online footprint, ensure you are not an easy target for mass surveillance is not a bad idea.

Considerations

Here are some unforeseen consequences to using a VPN.  Chromecast, and other streaming protocols are sending data over your local network.  When you use a VPN service, this encrypts the information being sent, but will not tell your devices to decrypt the information.  The result is that your Laptop, Smart TV, and other streaming devices will not know what to do with the information.  These devices simply will not run along with a VPN.

The solution is to move the VPN up a level and install it to the router.  This will encrypt all data as its leaving your private home, but will keep everything internal to your network unencrypted.  All of your devices connected to the network will work smoothly, but also have a secured connection.  For those with Netgear routers, Netgear has written some instructions on how to install a VPN to their routers.

Legal vs illegal vs Company Policy

Will a VPN allow you access to anything by cutting ties with the country you are in, and pretending to spawn from a different location?  No.  Netflix, for instance, is notorious for chasing down and shutting down the VPN services that would otherwise allow you to view materials from other countries.  This comes down to strict licensing requirements, and brings us back to our point that a VPN hides you, as long as no one is targeting you.  Netflix has a keen interest in keeping you away from their content in other Countries.

Although some VPN companies strive to allow their customers access to streaming TV shows and movies, Netflix not only blocks most VPNs, but actively searches for ones that are circumventing its policy.  Basically, a VPN working today, may not be around tomorrow.   Keep this in mind as you are shopping around for VPN just to get around this rule!  

Another legal concern is Torrents.  Sites like thepiratebay.org 

allow users to share files like movies, TV shows and other applications.  In the past, both Federal Agencies and ISP providers have reacted strongly to users pirating content.  With the addition of VPN services, the companies have felt the pressure from Federal Agencies.  Because of this, many VPN services have outright banned BitTorrenting.

Speed

Another concern about the use of VPN services is speed.  The whole idea behind a VPN is to jump through as many hoops as possible with the disguise of completely masking your IP address.  As a general rule, a VPN will increase the latency, or the time it takes a server to respond to your request, and for your computer to read the response.  This slows site, download, and upload speeds considerably.  During your research, and depending on your goal of using a VPN, look into which VPN services create a fast secure experience.

Protect Yourself with a VPN

Remember that the internet was just pieced together about 20 years ago.  Not much thought or coherence was put into security or privacy.  As time went on, equipment became a lot more sophisticated, as well as methods of extracting data.  The internet protocols have not fully caught up yet.  As of July, 2018 Google Chrome browser FINALLY made changes to show sites not using HTTPS:// protocol as ‘Not Secure’.  In fact, HTTPS was not even a word many fully understood, and certainly became widespread in the business realm very recently. 

This leads to individuals fending for themselves by using their own Antivirus programs, and password generator apps, etc.  But this does not address how simple it is to mine your data, sell it to a third party, or even use that data to steal identities, clear out bank accounts etc.  Combine that with the publics generally low awareness of how to keep themselves safe, and you might be able to see you are clearly choosing your path of which side to be on.  Should you allow companies to continue to easily mine data, hackers to steal your information?  Or will you obfuscate the process, making things just a little harder for them, by choice?  The decision is yours.

Best Indoor Smart Gardens of 2018


Techsnob.net

Smart home technology has made its way into the world of gardening, and has made it easier than ever.  We review the best smart gardens of 2018, that help bring plants into your home.  

 

Smart home technology has made its way into the world of gardening, and has made it easier than ever.  We review the best smart gardens of 2018, that help bring plants into your home. 

These small, efficient gardens are perfect for cramped spaces in the city, or just adding some greenery to one of your rooms.  Some of these gardens add the perfect amount of light, some actually water the gardens for you.  Join us, as we explore our favorite smart gardens, and find your perfect indoor garden. 

 

The Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 will instantly catch your attention with its name.  Whether you have tried to garden and failed, or if you have a green thumb, and want some herbs year round, we recommend checking this garden out.

Ever wondered what it would be like to have a continuous supply of fresh herbs in the kitchen?  Thanks to energy efficient LED grow lights, the Click and Grow Smart Garden will grow your favorite culinary herbs, salad greens and flowers all year round without you having to worry about weather or lighting conditions. The Smart Garden 9 can grow up to nine different plants pods simultaneously and is the perfect addition to any kitchen counter, windowsill or living room.

What comes with it?

The Smart Garden 9 pretty much comes everything you need to get started.  Open it up, and you will see a complimentary set of plant pods so you can start growing right away. In the package you will find 3 mini tomato, 3 basil and 3 green lettuce plant pods. All you need to do to start growing is put the plant pods into their cavities, plug in the power adaptor, and fill the water reservoir.

The Verdict

The Click and Grow Smart Garden 9 Indoor Gardening System is a great place to start, if you are a beginner looking to grow indoor herbs or flowers year round.  The garden system is not too pricey, just under $200.00.   This will not be for the serious gardener, as the controls override a lot of the customization’s someone might want to make when planting.  

However, this includes everything you need to get your indoor garden started, and the seeds sprout very quickly.  The Click and Grow actually works, and produces real results.  The success rate is very high, so we call this one a win.   See more at their website, Clickandgrow.com.

Best AeroGarden:  AeroGarden Bounty 



AeroGarden Bounty

AeroGarden stepped onto the scene early, in 2002. The company was a developer, and direct-seller of Indoor Garden Systems for consumers, cooking, and healthy eating. As of 2018, they have shipped 1.7 million units of AeroGarden to consumers world-wide. Over the years AeroGarden has been incorporating smart technology, like WiFi and sensors, which leads us to our favorite AeroGrow Garden of 2018.

The AeroGarden Bounty with Gourmet Herb Seed Pod Kit can grow up to 9 plants simultaneously without the use of soil. The plants grow in a system of water called hydroponics. It features a 45-watt full spectrum LED grow light system (adjustable to up to 24” of growing height). Simply turn the light to the specific spectrum that you wish so that plants receive maximized photosynthesis for rapid growth and abundant harvests; white LEDs for rapid growth, blue LEDs for higher yields, and red LEDs for more fruit and flowers.

What’s Included?

 

  • 45 Watt LED Grow Light
  • 9 Plant Pods
  • Extends 24″
  • Interactive LCD Touchscreen, Fully Automated, Customizable
  • Includes 9-Pod Gourmet Herb Seed Kit that contains: Genovese Basil (x2), Thai Basil, Curly Parsley, Italian Parsley, Thyme, Chives Dill, Mint & 3 oz. liquid plant food

The Verdict

The AeroGarden Bounty has a 45 LED system and 9 grow pods just like the AeroGarden Bounty Elite WiFi, but at half the price tag.  It is lacking the stainless steel and WiFi, however holds the same power.  Having a hydroponics system that is capable of growing almost anything, in your home, is a huge perk.  Paying only $200 for the system, helps.

Best Low Price:  Smart Garden Smart Plugs 



Smart Garden Smart Plugs Rapid Rooter Grow Kit

Sexymates Smart Garden Indoor Smart Plugs Rapid Rooter Grow Capsule Gardening Kit with LED Grow Lights might be the cheapest Smart Garden you can find.  At under $25.00, it is a steal compared to any other Smart Garden.  The instructions are simple, water up to the water line, plug in the LED, and grow your herbs simply  in your own kitchen or space.

What’s Included?

 

  • LED Grow Light
  • 3 Plant Pods
  • Extends 9-12″ for growth

The Verdict

At $24.99, this is the cheapest amount you will have to spend for this technology.  The system works well, however the LED lights are not the strongest.  Many users have recommended putting the planter in a bright window sill.  However, if you are new to these Smart Indoor Gardens, or are looking at picking up a gift for someone else, we suggest taking a look at Smart Garden Smart Plugs Garden Kit.

Unrelated Distraction

This Venus Flytrap in B52 Mericlone may not be a Smart Garden, but is a new way to display your Venus Fly Trap.  Water plants have been gaining popularity, and are incredible to look at.  At $7.99, this was the perfect distraction.

 

  • Self-sustaining terrarium. No watering, feeding, or sunlight needed.
  • Watch in amazement as your Fly Trap multiplies to many new plants and grows in size!

Best Upcoming:  Ava Byte Smart Indoor Garden

As far as we know, Ava Byte Smart Indoor Garden is the first Smart Garden to combine AI technology, as well as machine learning to its user experience.  So no matter how many plants you have killed in the past, Ava is sure to lend a helping hand.  In no time, you will have a miniature farmers market right in your own kitchen.  

The Ava Smart Indoor Garden will ship its first units sometime in October 2018, and second wave in January 2019, it is estimated.  Starting in 2015 at Startup Weekend, and gaining popularity and traction, the team including the designers, engineers, horticulteralists and marketers have worked laboriously to deliver the product we are seeing today.  

Whats Included?

  • Ava Byte and HD Camera
  • Smart App for IOS and Android
  • Lights:  Energy-Efficient, Full-Spectrum RBG Plant-Optimized LED Lighting Panel
  • WiFi connection 802.11/b/g/n
  • Sensors: Relative Humidity, Temperature, Ambient Light, Water Level
  • Home Automation Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Home, Apple HomeKit
  • Features:  Automated watering, Plant-optimized LEDs, Water refill reminders, Environmental sensing, Wall-mount, Camera for timelapse, IOS/Android App.

The Verdict

As we have not tested this yet, this will not be a true review.  However, it is on our list because we are very excited to try it!  Pre-order one for 35% off, and see for yourself.  We love the features on this one, and combining the words hydroponics with AI seem to speak directly to our heart.  WiFi alerts, an app made specifically for the product, and integration with Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit.  

The directions:  Plug it in, place your pods, connect to Wi-Fi using the app, and fill the water reservoir. AVA notifies you when it’s time to refill the reservoir and when your plants are ready to harvest!  

We love the water recycling features it has, as well as the ability to take time-lapse videos.  We are excited and looking forward to the launch in October, 2018.   If you want more information on how to pre-order your own, or just want to check out the specs, check out their project on Indiegogo.



Best Headphones of 2018

Best Headphones of 2018


Techsnob.net

Check out the best headphones of 2018, including Beats, Bose, Sony and more.

With the rise of the latest technology, headphones have become increasingly sophisticated.  The latest headphones can provide unique, noise cancelling sound with deep bass and crystal clear sound.  When Beats made the deal with Apple, the soundwave was heard across the world, and you could actually see headphones trending.  We felt the need to review the best headphones of 2018.

To be honest, there are a TON of choices.  The best over the ear headphones, the best headphones for running, the best wireless headphones, the best Hi-Fi headphones, etc..  We take a look at the top headphones of 2018, for each of these categories.

 

Best overall :  Sony WH-1000xM2



Sony WH-1000XM2


With a newer, longer battery life, the Sony WH-1000XM2 Headphones are the real deal.  Backed by a large company that has been in the entertainment business a long time, Sony has crafted an excellent noise-cancelling, wireless headset.  The battery is now rated up to 30 hours with wireless, or 40 hours wired.

With High-Resolution Audio you will hear music true to the original recording.   With options like Virtual Surround Sound, become completely immersed, or tune into what is important to you with options like Ambient Sound Control.  The noise cancelling was upgraded from last time with Atmospheric Pressure Optimizer (a Sony exclusive), designed for those of you traveling by airplane.

As to the comfort of wearing these headphones, they are a little heavier than Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II, however the sound quality on the Sony leads this one for the win.  With the upgrades to the sound quality and adjustments, the wireless option, the new Atmospheric Pressure Optimizer, and extended battery life, the Sony WH-1000XM2 Headphones grab our top spot.

 

Best Smart Noise Cancelling:  Bose QuietComfort 35 II  



Bose QuietComfort 35 (Series II)

Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II was updated in 2018 to carry Google Assistant.  The headphones are very comfortable, extremely light-weight, and provide solid noise cancelling.  The battery life is only rated up to 20+ hours.   This can be greatly improved by turning noise cancellation off.  

The features of Bose QuietComfort 35 II include Google Assistant, which is housed in the left earcup, controlled by a button on the left side, and the right side adjusts volume, playback, pairing and a power button.  Google Assistant picks up your voice, even when in a crowded area, although it requires you to connect to the Bose App.

While both the noise cancellation and the sound are excellent in the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II, we liked the performance of Sony WH-1000XM2 Headphones better.  These performed well enough for the number two spot and are definitely worth looking into.  These headphones are excellent for travelers, and commuters.

Update – 7/5/18 – Amazon Alexa will be added shortly, so you will have support for both devices.  Once added, simply update the app and it will allow both assistants.  More at https://www.bose.com/en_us/products/headphones/over_ear_headphones/quietcomfort-35-wireless-ii.html



Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

Beyerdynamic has been creating some awesome sounding audio gear for quite some time.  These headphones are another testament to that.  Open studio reference class headphones for mixing and mastering,  These are some of the best sounds we have heard coming from headphones.  They are professional quality headphones that anyone can have fun listening to.

Almost double the price as the other headphones, the 1990 Pro are worth every penny.  Soft, replaceable ear pads and headband for long studio sessions. Headphone frequency response : 5-40,000 Hz.   Nominal sound pressure level : 102 dBSPL (1mW/500Hz).  

As we reviewed the best headphones in 2018, we realized Beyerdynamic had done something special here.  It was immediately clear when we put on the headphones to listen.  These headphones were my personal favorite, and best sounding of the bunch.  The price was a little steep, but it is definitely worth it if you are an audiophile.


Apple AirPod

 

In late 2017, Apple introduced a significant wireless upgrade to their headphones, the Apple AirPods.  The reviews have been mixed, but as for what they’re worth, they perform well, and the headphones / case charges very fast.  In about 15 minutes, you can expect about 80% battery charge. 

The AirPods are very easy to pair with bluetooth, your iPhone or iPad.  These perform great in the gym or going for a run, you don’t have to worry about wires getting tangled.  The sound quality is actually better than the wired headphones from Apple. 

If you lose, or break the AirPods, each AirPod costs around $30.  Obviously, the AirPods do not cancel noise, so if you are looking for a way to block out some sound around you, these are not the best for you.  One problem with small wireless devices, is they are very easy to accidentally drop.  We have dropped them in water a couple of times..  

 

 

The Apple AirPods are one of the better sets of headphones out there for one of the most widely used cellphones in the world, which creates a spot in our list of best headphones of 2018.  

 


Jabra Elite Active 65t

 

Jabra is a company that produces a wide array of headphones, headsets, audio devices and business solutions.  They put together the Jabra Elite Active 65t, a fully wireless set of headphone meant for active users, without sacrificing sound quality.  The top two features are the sweat-proof design, and what they call a passive noise isolation – which helps effectuate the top notch sound.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t headphones are not only a solid competition to Apples AirPods, but found them to be superior for active users.  

You can find them for around $189.99 on Amazon.

Our Top Pick:  Sony WH-1000xM2

Sony WH-1000XM2

Sony WH-1000XM2 over the ear headphones win our top spot for best headphones of 2018.  The battery life at 30 hours wireless is huge, compared to other headphones, and 40 hours wired.  The noise cancelling was good enough to be a contender, and works pretty well when traveling.  The sleek design and the comfort won us over.  

Pros:  The look and feel, comfort being the most important.  The noise cancellation upgrade is solid, but not as jaw dropping as advertised.  The battery life!  30 hours wireless, 40 hours wired.  Stellar.

Cons:  A bit clunky sometimes.  The buttons could be worked out or mapped a little better.  Not too many complaints.

Who should buy it:  Anyone who doesn’t mind wearing large headphones, but also travelers, and people surrounded by noise often.  These will help block it out, but isolate the sound coming through to you.  They are reasonably priced, giving a lot of benefits, and make our top spot on the list of best headphones of 2018.




Best Gaming Laptops of 2018

Best Gaming Laptops of 2018

Techsnob.net

With the tech industry booming in our current era, gaming laptops are entering their stride as powerful, lightweight, and increasingly affordable alternatives to the desktop PC. In this day and age, the best gaming laptop in 2018 can replace a many of the desktops out there. So lets cut to the chase and get to the facts.

With the tech industry booming in our current era, gaming laptops are entering their stride as powerful, lightweight, and increasingly affordable alternatives to the desktop PC. In this day and age, the best gaming laptop in 2018 can replace a many of the desktops out there. So lets cut to the chase and get to the facts.

Best Design: ASUS ROG M GX501

Rog Zephyrus GX501


ROG Zephyrus GX501 (8th-Gen) 15.6″ Ultra Slim Gaming Laptop
CPU:  2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.8GHz)
Graphics:  Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 (8GB GDDR5X VRAM); Intel HD Graphics 630
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,400MHz)
Display: 15.6 Full HD (1920x1080)
Storage:  512GB M.2 PCIe x4 SSD
The Asus ROG Zephyrus is a beautifully designed gaming laptop with the power to outperform some of the desktops out there. This ultra-thin design makes this laptop look elegant, yet with a touch of aggressiveness. The eye-catching design makes it a pleasure to show off to your friends. Only weighing 5 pounds, this gaming laptop comes in at the head of its class with a brilliant and innovative design, a color-rich display, amazing speakers and, most importantly, stellar gaming performance.
Unique to this laptop, the bottom panel separates when the lid is open, creating a 6mm high cooling zone. Aside from pushing the heat away from the components, the 6mm gap inclines the laptop slightly for better typing comfort. This may feel awkward at first when trying to set on the lap, but its rather easy to adjust. The thin bezels on the screen make the display look amazing. Graphics looked great and it gave a solid performance while playing Rocket League.

The ROG Zephyrus GX501comes equipped with an Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GeForce 1080 Max-Q GPU, giving solid gaming performance. However, the 1080 Max-Q GPU may be powerful for a thin and ultraportable laptop but may have troubles keeping up with a full-sized desktop GPU.

Regarding the battery life, I rather not mention. This laptop lasted short of 2 hours while playing Fortnite. With that being said, just remember to bring your charger along.

Best Battery Life:  MSI GS65 Stealth



MSI GS65 Stealth 15.6" Gaming Laptop

MSI GS65 Stealth, Light weight, beautiful. Yet Powerful

CPU: Intel Core i7- 8750H (6 cores)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB GDDR5X VRAM, Max-Q)
RAM: 16GB
Display: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080) anti-glare, wide-view 144Hz panel
Storage:  512GB M.2 SSDs

MSI GS65 Stealth is now even more impressive than what we’ve seen before. The entirety of the laptop’s chassis is made from black, matte sandblasted aluminum alloy. MSI did something special with this laptop and replaced its classic red emblem with a printed black-and-gold emblem. Top off this beautiful design, MSI added a thin, diamond-cut golden stripline the top of the lid. The company also added some gold to the side vents for an elegant flash of color. Designed for work and play, MSI equipped the Stealth with a flexible hinge that allows you to lay the display flat.
The thin frame of the Stealth did not sacrifice any of the needed ports. On the right sits a USB 3.1 Type-A port, Thunderbolt 3, a Mini DisplayPort, HDMI and the power jack. You’ll find a pair of USB 3.1 Type-A ports, Gigabit Ethernet, a microphone jack and an S/PDIF jack for high-res audio and a secure lock slot.

At14.1 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches, the 4.1-pound laptop is one of the slimmest gaming laptops beating the Asus Zephyrus ROG M GX501 in terms of weight and size. It’s almost as portable as an Ultrabook, but it has enough power to contend with other gaming desktops.

As for gameplay, The Stealth Thin packs a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q GPU, which is powerful enough to deliver good frame rates at the highest settings. As for the keyboard, the Stealth Thin features a SteelSeries keyboard with RGB lighting. The battery life on this beauty will last you a solid 7 hours.

 

Best Performance: Alienware 17 R5



Alienware 17 R5 17.3"

Alienware 17 R5 Top performing gaming laptop

CPU: Intel Core i9-8950HK (6Core, 12MB Cache up to 5.0GHZ)
Graphics: NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080 8GB DDR5X Overclocked
RAM: 32GB RAM (2X16GB) DDR4 2666MHZ
Display: 17.3″ QHD (2560x1440) 400nits TN+WVM G-Sync anti-glare with Tobii eye tracking
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD, 1TB HDD

The Alienware 17 R5 may just the most powerful gaming laptop out there, however, portability isn’t its strongest point. Weighing approximately 10lbs, this gaming laptop is thick, heavy and sturdy. This laptop may be heavier than other laptops on the market, however, most other laptops do not come strapped with the most powerful hardware available.
The Alienware 17 comes equipped with a full desktop version of the GTX 1080 and a 6-core Intel Core 19 processor. Packed with Tobii Eye Tracker’s utility, which tracks your eye movement. This tool can be neat at times with games that do support the feature. This laptop also comes with Windows Hello, Microsoft’s facial recognition login system.

A big part of this desktop replacement’s package is the 17-inch QHD screen with 120Hz refresh rate. the display is mindblowing, it can almost compare to an IPS monitor. The 120Hz G-Sync panel even the fastest pacing games look smooth and fluid, unlike a 60HZ display.

Now the Alien 17 R5 may not be as portable as the other gaming laptops mentioned in this article, but it will outperform them all. This laptop was created to just crush games. In addition to this laptop being wickedly smooth while gaming, it is also stellar with video editing programs and other CPU dependent apps.

Regarding the battery life. It’s laughable. it lasted about 1 hour and 40 minutes while playing Battlefront. So don’t forget your charger if your thinking about taking it on the go.

The Final Verdict? If you’re looking for the best performance when it comes to gaming, the Alienware 17 R5 is the way to go, no other laptop on the market will give this much power. On the downside, it is heavy, making it difficult to take on the go on a daily basis.

 

Best Google Best Display:  Razer Blade Pro (2017)



Razer Blade Pro Gaming Laptop

Razer Blade Pro 4K Touchscreen
CPU: Intel Core i7
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (6GB GDDR5) – 1080 (8GB GDDR5X)
RAM: 16 – 32GB
Display: 17.3-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080) 120Hz matte IPS – UHD (3,840 x 2,160)
Storage: 512GB – 2TB PCIe SSD
With its slim, attractive chassis, the Razer Blade Pro is out to prove that a laptop can replace your gaming desktop. Blade Pro comes strapped with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics, a 17-inch 4K display and 32GB of RAM standard – all packed away in a 0.88-inch thick frame. If that wasn’t enough, the slim stunner is also the first mobile device to feature THX audio certification. The premium design, 4K-resolution touchscreen, and mechanical keyboard make it a pleasure to use.
At 7.7 pounds, the 16.7 x 11 x 0.89-inch Razer Blade Pro is still the slimmest and powerful 17-inch gaming laptop. However, this beauty does not come cheap, starting at $3,999. Depending on your spending tolerance and on what you are looking for, this gaming laptop may be the one for you.

The battery life is mediocre, the Razer Blade Pro lasted only about 2 hours on our battery test (Playing Fortnite). Overall, the Razer Blade Pro is a beautiful and powerful laptop that has features to replace most desktops however it is one of the priciest.

 

Best Affordable: Dell Inspiron 15 7000



Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Series

CPU: Intel Core i5-7300HQ
Graphics: 6GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 (Max-Q)
RAM: 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 2400MHz
Display: Full HD (1920x1080)
Storage: 256GB NVMe PCIe SSD
VR ready and packed with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU graphics card, gaming laptops with these features can definitely come at a high, but not for the Dell Inspiron 15. With its starting price of $849.99, this may be the obvious choice for anyone who wants a solid gaming laptop that is still affordable.

As far as design goes, the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming is relatively subtle in its appearance. The Inspiron has a mean red matte finish, however, if you prefer the murdered-out look, it also comes in black.

The build is solid, the chassis is stable and there is some flex to the screen. The Dell Inspiron does not have the nice RGB keyboard that other gaming laptops may feature, instead, the Inspiron 15 Gaming does have a red-backlit keyboard with a full-size number-pad.

Regarding the battery life, this laptop lasted 4 hours and 31 minutes in our Techsnob battery test. For the price of this laptop, the games do look and feel amazing, which is what matters at the end of the day. On a scale of 1-10, this laptop is a solid 7.

Our Top Pick: MSI GS65 Stealth



MSI GS65 Stealth 15.6" Gaming Laptop

The MSI GS65 Stealth won our top pick because it is not bulky or underpowered, it’s beautiful and its light enough to carry on a daily basis. Out of all the laptops that were tested, this one was the one I enjoyed working with the most.  The battery life was rather impressing, and the design of the laptop is stunning. In comparison to the Alienware 17 R5, it is not a hassle to carry it around when you have to do work other than gaming. to rehash, the MSI GS65 Stealth is the top pick on this list due to its portability, beauty, and power.

Pros:
Powerful enough for work and play.
Beautiful display
lightweight.

Cons:
Gets HOT after long usage.
Speakers are located at the bottom of the laptop.

Who should buy it: Anyone who needs a powerful yet stylish laptop that will fulfill both work and play requirements.





Best Smartwatches of 2018

Best Smartwatches of 2018

Techsnob.net

Check out the best smartwatches of 2018 with the latest addition of the health trackers, heart rate monitors, water resistance and GPS.

We check out some of the latest and best Smartwatches of 2018.  Smartwatches went from fashion trend to functional when the added benefit of health tracking started allowing users to read their vital signs.  They were already smart phone accessories, making it easy to read notifications, texts, see who is calling you, and view your calendar.  Add in some amazing apps that are now being built for smartwatches and we see why this niche market is becoming so mainstream.  We simplify this process of searching for the perfect one by reviewing the best Smartwatches of 2018.  

 

Best Smartwatches of 2018

Best Overall: Apple Watch 3



Apple Watch Series 3

We believe the Apple Watch 3 is one of the best Smartwatches of 2018, and best overall.  Sleek and stylish, with its host of tons of apps to choose from, it’s an easy choice for those of you who do own iPhones.

The Watch 3 is available with cellular connectivity onboard, or with just GPS. For both, there’s an all-new chipset inside as well as some key new features on offer here.  But the real excitement begins with the new health aspects.

The Apple Watch 3 has on board fitness tracking; cycling, running, an improved heart rate monitor underneath, and even a water resistant case for swimming.  Take a call while running?  If you love to breathlessly tell people that you are currently running, then absolutely!  What we really liked the fact that something this sleek looking was waterproof.

One of the best parts about the new Apple Watch 3, is that it’s got its own cellular connection inside, letting it work independently of your phone.  You will still need to own an iPhone to work this watch, however.  You will also want to be intertwined with Apple Music, as you can ask Siri to play your playlist you already created, but you cannot browse your music on your wrist.

The battery life needs a little work, and the usability of the music feature while running or on the fly could use an upgrade.  However, the WatchOS 4 is worth the upgrade alone.  The bluetooth is solid, allowing you to connect to cardio equipment at your gym, the new health tracking is simply amazing.  Not only that, the Apple Watch 3 comes with 16GB of storage on board.  At roughly $340 we believe this Smartwatch deserves the top spot of our list.

 

Best for Android:  Samsung Gear Sport  



Samsung Gear Sport $299

Samsung Gear Sport Smartwatch

The Samsung Gear Sport brings the best Smartwatch of 2018 to Android users.  Though limited in color options, it’s quite striking, and has a fully water resistant body.  Waterproof up to 50 meters, it has a showcase of health tracking features and apps that make it competitive with the Apple Watch 3 and Fitbit.

One of the coolest features we found was that it has offline syncing with spotify.  This is the first ‘Spotify watch’, and can now sync offline with your Spotify playlists.  This is the watch you will want to take out on your runs.  Grab yourself some bluetooth headphones, like the Samsung Gear IconX headphones, and you should be all set for your run.

The Gear Sport has 17 workout profiles to choose from; running, walking, cycling, even treadmill and eliptical.   Although there are not as many as the Fitbit or Apple Watch 3, there should be enough to suit most users.   Combine this with a quick GPS, and users can track their workouts down to pace, heart rate, and mileage.

This is hands down the best Android friendly fitness trackers out right now.  For Samsung phone users, it is a no brainer.  For those with non-Samsung Android phones, I would consider this a great alternative.  It’s attractive, has a good battery life, has many guided workouts, works offline with Spotify, and has many other benefits.

Best Fitbit: Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch



Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch

Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch

Fitbit brought a couple winners to the table as we were searching for the best Smartwatches of 2018.  A difficult decision for best Fitbit Smartwatch, a clash between best looking and most powerful, the Fitbit Ionic takes the win for the most powerful.  While certainly not the most visually appealing out of the two, the Fitbit Ionic has tons of upgraded features, that may just sway your decision to purchase the pretty one.

For one, it has a built in GPS.  What this means for you, is that you can now go running without your phone.  It will not need to be connected to your phone in order to map out a route.  This is a huge bonus that only a couple Smartwatches on the market are capable of allowing currently.

The Fitbit Ionic currently allows your to make Fitbit Payments to stores that accept it, but I am not sold on how fruitful this will actually be.  Even the smartphones had to come quite a long way before anyone would consider purchasing over them, so we will see how well Fitbit Pay will do.

As far as battery life, I am seeing between 4-6 days before recharging.  I do admit I let it go completely dead sometimes, as I am not always up to date on how full the battery is.  Fitbit has come a long way since its original Fitbit tracker, just take a look at the ‘less visually appealing’ Fitbit Ionic below.

The Fitbit Ionic has a heart rate sensor that is top notch.  This hardware was originally part of what made Fitbit stand out, and they have continuously made improvements.  The Fitbit Ionic is waterproof up to 50 Meters.  The huge array of Fitbit apps and health tracking data that is made available to you on your dashboard makes this Smartwatch one of our top choices, and our favorite Fitbit.

Best Looking Fitbit:  Fitbit Versa



Fitbit Versa Smartwatch

Fitbit Versa Smartwatch

Fitbits better looking watch made our list of best Smartwatches of 2018.  Yes, the Fitbit Versa is a much better looking watch than the Fitbit Ionic.  However, we loved the Fitbit Ionic a bit too much to allow the Versa to be our favorite.  But we also liked the look of this one so much, that we created a new category for it.  Best looking Fitbit.

The Fitbit Versa reminds us a lot of the Apple Watch, and we liked that.  Fitbit nailed this one – the Versa is stylish, comfortable and elegantly simple.  Like the Fitbit Ionic, this Smartwatch is waterproof up to 50 Meters, and you can go swimming with it.  Look stylish while you track your exercises.

The Fitbit Versa does not come with built-in GPS like the Fitbit Ionic.  This Smartwatch will require you to take your phone with you, while you hike, bike, or run.  If you are fine with that, than this watch is for you!  However, one of the reasons we liked the Fitbit Ionic so much was because it had its own built-in GPS.

The Versa can track all the regular stats just like the Ionic, including heart rate, steps, distance, calories, active minutes, floors climbed, swimming, and even sleep.  Want a Smartwatch that looks stylish, and has top notch health tracking?  The Fitbit Versa is for you.

Best Rugged Outdoors: Casio PRO TREK



Casio WSD-F20 Protrek

Casio WSD-F20 Pro Trek Smarwatch

We wanted to add a rugged element to our list of best Smartwatches of 2018.  The Casio Pro Trek is a great smartwatch for Android users looking to explore rugged terrain.  An upgrade from its predecessor, the WSD-F20 now has built-in GPS.  The watch sustains up to 50 Meters underwater and can boast a battery life of up to a month in ‘watch only’ mode, and a couple days when connected with phone.

For the adventure lovers, it comes with an altimeter – answering how much more uphill you have left to summit.  The Casio Protrek includes a barometer, digital compass, and activity tracking.  It even has a built in microphone that lets you record notes and tag them geographically.

In addition to its standard GPS, there are other satellite systems that help triangulate your position to a scaringly accurate location.  We were impressed with the accuracy of the Casio Pto Trek.  Even when you lose signal, the color maps save your position offline and allow you to navigate around.  Using Google Fit, this works smoothly with iOS, but works much better with Android.

As the most rugged Smartwatch on our list, it is also the bulkiest.  That won’t matter when you are in the elements as it has military grade protection, but in the office it could look a little silly.

 

Best Discount:  Motorola Moto 360 Sport



Motorola Moto 360 Sport

 

Motorola Moto 360 Sport

Another winner on our list of best Smartwatches of 2018.  The Motorola Moto 360 Sport has won us over with their sleek design, GPS built-in, sweat proof and water resistant Smartwatch that easily competes with the rest of the lineup.  Covered with Gorilla Glass, the watch has a combination of a bright backlit display with a front end reflective display.  It boasts a variety of health tracking activities as well.

The Moto 360 Sport has 24/7 heart rate tracking, and the GPS built into the watch helps record location, pace and target heart rate during your activity.  This smartwatch is half price of the other watches, and its capabilities that lack show.  The really short battery life is a hassle, but the trackers work well for the price.

 

The Motorola 360 Sport is pretty much only ideal for running, it is not necessarily a sport watch.  But if that is your thing, the price is quite a deal compared to other watches.

Our Top Pick:  Apple Watch 3



Apple Watch Series 3

The Apple Watch 3 wins us over for our top position in the best Smartwatches of 2018 category.   The amount of apps it has available, the syncing features, the draw and appeal of the Watch OS 4, and of course the look and charm of the watch itself.

Pros:  The look and feel, waterproof, apps, built-in fitness tracking, built-in GPS, latest Watch OS 4, and many more.

Cons:  A bit pricy.

Who should buy it:  Anyone who owns an iPhone, or for those of you that can afford to switch over.  Hopefully Smartwatches will work with all devices seemlessly in the future, but that would require a bit of teamwork.  Do yourself a favor and check out the Apple Watch 3.






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Best Smart Doorbell Cameras 2018

Best Smart Doorbell Cameras 2018


Techsnob.net

With a motion-activated camera, two-way audio and brilliant HD video, you’ll never miss a visitor again. See, hear and speak to anyone at your door in real time from your smartphone, tablet or desktop.   Check out our reviews of the best Smart Doorbells of 2018.

 

With the recent surge in smart home technology, smart voice assistants like Alexa, and Google Assistant, the next step has come in the form of wireless security cameras that double as doorbells.  Who saw that one coming?  Ring did.  We look into all the competitors as we review the best smart doorbell cameras of 2018.  

Ring was one of the first companies to introduce internet connected doorbells, with it’s Ring Doorbell.  As demand increased, the number of companies joining the Smart Doorbell niche has increased tremendously.  Companies like Zmodo, SkyBell Technologies, Nest even Google are now competing to have the best Smart Doorbell.

To help simplify the process, we decided to review some of the Smart Doorbells that have come out since Ring was first introduced.  We take a look at video capabilities, design, feel, firmware and functionality so we can layout the best Smart Doorbell cameras to help simplify the process for you.

 

Best Overall: Ring Doorbell 2



Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell

Due to the Ring Doorbell 2‘s ability to easily connect to its smartphone app, and overall provide a more reliable connection for many users, the Ring Doorbell 2 takes the win for the best smart doorbell of 2018.  It has a colorful 1080p daytime video recording and sharp night vision making it easy to see who is a the door. The Ring Video 2 comes equipped with two-way talk and WiFi connectivity to instantly watch over your house no matter if you are inside or on the other side of the world.

Not only is the video quality amazing, but it also offers multiple motion detection zones.  Trigger an alert whenever visitors press your doorbell, or trigger rings built in motion sensors!  This gives you the ability to never miss a package, or catch anyone snooping around your door.

The Ring Doorbell 2 also comes with support for Amazon devices using Alexa voice commands. Easily charge your doorbell with the quick-release rechargeable battery pack or hardwire it to your existing doorbell if you don’t want to deal with recharging the battery.

Optional, If you want to have the ability to record and playback videos, you can pay an extra $3/mo. or $30/year for the additional storage.  There are also upgrades and packages available.

 

Best Business Doorbell:  Ring Doorbell Pro 



Ring Doorbell Pro $249

The Ring Video Doorbell Pro

Another top spot on the list of best smart doorbell cameras of 2018, Ring Doorbell Pro comes packed with features.  Sleekly designed and equipped with a full 1080p recording and HD camera, the Ring Doobell pro takes that and raises it with infrared night vision!  Protect your home / business—day or night.  Advanced motion detection!  Allowing you to create customizable motion zones that let you monitor high-traffic areas while avoiding false alarms.   Check-in on your home at any time with Live View!   Compatible with iOS, Android, Mac and Windows 10 devices

The Ring Doorbell pro comes with a pre-buffering feature which records before the motion sensor is triggered and it is also Amazon Alexa compatible. The Ring Doorbell Pro comes enabled with cloud recording allowing you to view your front door footage at any time. This smart doorbell does not come with rechargeable batteries, it only requires a connection to your existing doorbell.

It lets you check-in on your home at any time with Live View, so you can watch video on demand at your convenience, and our optional Cloud Video Recording service lets you review, save and share videos captured by your Ring Pro. It also has weatherproof construction and infrared night vision, so you can monitor your home around the clock—day or night, rain or shine.  That is a ridiculous upgrade.

A sleek design with four interchangeable faceplates and enhanced security features make the new Ring Pro our most advanced doorbell yet.

 

Best Storage: Skybell HD WiFi Video Doorbell



Skybell HD Wifi Video Doorbell

Skybell HD Wifi Video Doorbell

A tough split decision for best smart doorbell, but a close runner up, the Skybell HD doorbell has a lot to offer!  The HD image has the best quality, and somehow offers ‘full-color’ night vision!  Built for tough weather, the Skybell HD Smart doorbell is water resistant and is functional no matter the season.

One of the reasons we loved the Skybell HD was because it comes with free cloud storage allowing you to view and download videos at any time. There are four different video quality settings that you can choose from 480p, 720p, and 1080p and 5x Zoom.  In addition to the multiple HD settings, did we mention the SKybell HD comes with ‘full-color’ night camera?

The free cloud storage allows you to record and see what happens when you are away on vacation.  Because it is connected to the cloud, it actually can pick up motion seconds before the motion sensor was activated, allowing you to see more of the full picture!

 

Another feature we liked was that Skybell’s LED indicators are also customizable, allowing you to choose from way too many options!

One reason this did not make top of the list, is that the Skybell HD has a little trouble staying connected to WiFi.  It did not perform too well with our router, and we had to move the router closer to the front door to perfect it.  You will need to know your WiFi speed to choose the correct HD setting to avoid the camera from lagging.

However, they do make it easy on you after purchase.  This smart doorbell has a downloadable app compatible with Android or IOS which comes with step-by-step instructions making it easier to install your Skybell HD.

Best Google Friendly Doorbell:  Nest Hello



Nest Hello $229

The Nest Hello, Nest Labs has joined the Smart Home Industry with a variety of products, including their line of Smart Doorbells.  At $229.00, Nest Hello works in tandem with Google Assistant, and the Wi-Fi-enabled HD camera to the doorbell allows you see who’s at the door from your smartphone, tablet, or computer whether you’re at home or elsewhere, so you’ll never miss a visitor or package.  It makes our list of best smart doorbell cameras of 2018.

Smart A.I. allows for recognition of people and packages, while two-way audio allows you to converse with visitors or, tell those damn kids to get off your lawn.  The Nest Hello is rated to temps above 14 degrees F, (-10 C).   Installation does require you to install a small module in the chime and then replace the doorbell.

As far as recording, $5/month will allow you the ability to archive your video feed for the Nest Hello to view later.  This subscription to Aware includes facial recognition, and people at your door will be announced by name.  Not creepy at all.  Although free live 24/7 streaming is still an available option, recorded playback will be limited to the past 3 hours only.

The video feed was one of the better ones we viewed, and the WiFi connection was solid.  If you have Google Assistant products, the Nest Hello will surely be the doorbell for you, as it connects with Google Assistant, and various other products.

Best Affordable Doorbell: Zmodo Smart Greet Wi-Fi



Zmodo Smart Greet - Wi-Fi Video
Doorbell 155° Viewing Angle

The Zmodo Smart Greet WiFi video doorbell deserves an honorable mention on our list of best doorbell cameras due to its price of $59.99 found on Amazon.   Some of the specs of the smart doorbell include on-demand video with a new HD wide-angle lens that gives you a clear view of your entire space. With that being said, you can answer the door wherever you are, see and speak with visitors directly from your smartphone. This smart doorbell will send you alerts with a video recorded clip whenever motion is detected.

The set up is fairly similar to other smart doorbells mentioned before. The Zmodo Smart Greet simply connects to your existing home doorbell wiring. Zmodo offers its cloud service: Motion alert clips are saved in the cloud for 36 hours for free. All users are also eligible for a 30-day free trial of our 7 day cloud recording plan. Paid cloud recording plans for storing 24/7 footage are available in 7 and 30 day plans. With the paid plan options, you can review, save, and share footage at any time, and reduce false alerts with cloud intelligence

Best Recent Upgrade:  August Doorbell CamPro 2



August Doorbell CamPro 2

If you are considering purchasing the August Doorbell cam pro 2 this is what you should know before committing. Unlike other best smart doorbell cameras that are tall and slim, the Cam Pro 2 comes uniquely squared shape with an oversized button. The dimensions for the second generation of the Doorbell cam pro are 0.9 x 2.9 x 2.9 inches, making it a bit wide for for some areas.

The August Doorbell Cam Pro 2 is Alexa compatible for voice control. The camera records in HD video, and also has two-way audio making it easy to answer your door as if you were home. Know who’s there from anywhere, get real-time alerts on your phone whenever someone approaches your doorstep, even when you’re not home. The free, Basic Video Recording subscription, lets you replay any videos from the last 24 hours. Upgrade to Premium Video Recording to access 30 days of stored video recordings. A subscription costs $5 per month or $50 if paid annually.

This smart doorbell does not come in an wireless install option so you will have to install it to your existing doorbell wiring. No worries, August provides an app with a step by step installation guide with pictures based on whether you’re installing on concrete, brick, stucco, cement, wood, drywall, or vinyl siding.

 



Wisenet SmartCam D1
The wisenet SmartCammade it on our list of best smart doorbell cameras because of its Face Recognition with human detection, night vision, two way talk, and the ability to be saved to the cloud.  

Face Recognition w/ Human Detection: Receive alerts when visitors are detected at your front door. Create a list of your favorite guests and get alerts when the SmartCam D1 recognizes them.  Abnormal Sound Detection: SmartCam D1 notifies you when it detects significant sounds outside your home so you never miss another event again.  

Night Vision: Produces sharp and clear videos around-the-clock with True Day and Night by adjusting accordingly to the lighting conditions of its location.  Storage Temperature / Humidity -30℃ ~ +50℃ / Less than 90% RH. Input Voltage / Current : Wired AC(16~24V), 10VA  

Two-Way Talk: With a fully integrated two-way microphone and speaker, you can greet you visitors through the SmartCam+ app.  Cloud Storage: Save your video recordings onto Smart Cloud by selecting from one of our subscription plans. 

Our Top Pick: Ring Doorbell 2




Ring Wi-Fi Enabled Video Doorbell

The Ring Doorbell 2 won our top pick and best smart doorbell of 2018, as the most reliable, the easiest to install without having to use hard wires.  The ability to install this doorbell anywhere without the hard wiring is one of the main selling points.  As a bonus, the Ring Doorbell 2 works with Alexa, and IFTTT.  

Pros:  Reliability, and wire free capabilities!  Seemlessly connects to Wi-fi and stays connected, giving you the protection you were looking for in the first place.

Cons:  It is a little bulky compared to other doorbells.

Who should buy it:  Anyone who wants to know where their packages are, keep track of who is at their door, and overall just keep an extra lookout on your front door.  Great gift for Fathers Day, Mothers Day, Christmas, Birthdays, or a gift for yourself.