Smart home accessories for your ecosystem
A full-fledged Alexa speaker and a 140-degree security camera with face-recognition capabilities
- Published 9.02.20, 1:05 AM
- Updated 9.02.20, 1:05 AM
- 4 mins read
Qubo Smart Indoor Camera
Price: Rs 11,990
The Smart Indoor Camera is the first offering from Hero Electronix’s smart home accessories sub-brand Qubo, and for a first attempt at an ecosystem product, the camera impresses not only with its feature set but its ability to act as a hub for a smart plug (Rs 2,500) and a variety of smart sensors (smoke, gas, door/window, Rs 2,850 each). One to watch out for as the ecosystem evolves.
For what is sold as a camera, the Qubo’s smart speaker looks are a little misleading, what with the tall cylindrical design and 2.8-inch IPS touchscreen display. It’s when you start peeling away the layers that you realise that this is a full-fledged Alexa speaker and a 140-degree security camera with face-recognition capabilities to ensure only you get to access the recorded footage. As a security camera, the Qubo packs in quite a punch — live remote monitoring, a two-way talk mode along with a built-in siren, and a unique baby cry sensor which sends you a notification if it detects the sound of a crying baby!
Average build quality for the price.
GoPro Hero 8 Black
Price: Rs 36,500
GoPro is a household name in the action camera market, and the Hero 8 Black its latest flagship. The latest GoPro makes some significant tweaks all round to appeal not only to its core audience of adrenaline junkies and extreme sports fans, but also a wider base of content creators.
On the outside, the Hero 8 Black carries forward the familiar waterproof design on a body that’s slightly larger than the previous models. The big design change is the built-in mounting fingers at the bottom, which fold out when in use and obviate the need of a dedicated housing for mounting the camera on compatible accessories.
Under the hood, the Hero 8 Black has the same processing hardware that’s been optimised to shoot 4K video at a higher bitrate, along with some software tweaks that make changing your field of view and shooting modes easier — plus, I loved the added levels of digital stabilisation this GoPro offers. Daylight photos turned out pretty good and low-light shots were fairly usable, but GoPro’s unrelenting focus on video remains, with exceptionally stabilised video, both in full HD and 4K, without showing any significant artefacts of the stabilisation.
Interestingly, the Hero 8 Black now comes with the ability to add mods to it — a shotgun microphone and some extra ports, or an LED light mod and a flip-up screen for vloggers to take advantage of.
Loses the micro-HDMI port that used to be there on previous models. Low-light videos and images are still grainy and the GoPro’s biggest weakness. Even with mild improvements to battery life, you’ll still need a spare battery to be safe.
Samsung Portable SSD T7 Touch
Price: Rs 11,999/500GB onwards
Samsung’s long-awaited update to its ‘T’ lineup of external solid-state drives (SSDs) now comes with added peace of mind — security, by way of a fingerprint reader built into the top of the drive that’ll prevent curious eyes from prying into your data. Faster speeds than the previous generation will seal the deal for creative pros and folks looking to carry and speedily access large volumes of data.
Set it up with the free companion app, and thereafter you’ll need your registered fingerprint (up to four) or a password each time you want to access your drive and view its otherwise-AES-256-bit-hardware-encrypted contents. The T7, to its credit, still maintains the compact aluminum-chassis design despite the addition of the fingerprint scanner and takes performance a few notches higher from the already-fast T5 variant, thanks in large part due to the NVMe type solid-state drive used. Of course, you’ll need a computer with a USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface or a Thunderbolt 3 port to achieve anywhere close to the claimed peak read/write speed of 1,050MBps/1,000MBps. The LEDs around the fingerprint scanner indicate the locked/unlocked status and when data transfer is in progress, which is a thoughtful addition.
It’s pricey but would be well worth the money for professionals. Requires additional software for fingerprint unlocking on PC/Mac. If security is not paramount, wait for the variant without a fingerprint sensor, expected to be launched in Q2 2020.
Amazon Echo Auto
Price: Rs 4,999
As the name suggests, the Echo Auto takes Alexa-powered Echo devices into your car, responding to your voice requests by working in tandem with your smartphone for connectivity. If you spend a fair bit of time on the road and want to take advantage of over 30,000 Alexa skills, the Echo Auto is a nifty addition to your vehicle.
Setting it up is fairly easy, though a lot will depend on what car you own and whether it comes with a Bluetooth-enabled music system or not, though you can go old-school and use the 3.5mm aux cable if needed. The device is rather small — about the size of a small bar of chocolate — and it clips magnetically to an AC vent mount and is powered by a USB-C cable that plugs into an included car power adapter. Next, the Echo Auto connects to your smartphone over Bluetooth and relays its responses over the car speakers.
From here on, everything you’re accustomed to doing with an Echo speaker is available at your disposal in the car, be it asking for your favourite tunes, playing back audio books, dialling contacts, listening to news bulletins, or setting up reminders and the like. Other apps which publish Alexa skills can be accessed as well. The eight microphones pick up when you utter the wake word, even with the windows rolled down. Using the Echo Auto for navigation is a bit trickier, since you’re guided only by voice prompts.
Many cars these days ship with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, which cover most bases. Needs to be powered over USB — a built-in battery would have been ideal to have a truly wireless Alexa setup in your car. Experience varies if you’re driving through areas with patchy network.
Tushar Kanwar is a tech columnist and commentator. Follow him on Twitter @2shar. Mail your tech queries to firstname.lastname@example.org