Technology

hf-saltz10

We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday

By Marc Saltzman

Summer is (finally) here, which probably means more time in the great outdoors, whether it’s a trip to a cottage or barbequing on the backyard deck. But you don’t need to leave your gadgets behind to enjoy time outside.

While you might think that enjoying the fresh air and playing around with gizmos are mutually exclusive activities, the two can actually go hand in hand. In fact, many high-tech toys can enhance your outdoor excursions, such as the latest in fitness watches, waterproof ebook readers for the pool or beach, robotic lawnmowers, weather-resistant televisions and speakers, and rugged adventure cameras, to name a few.

And so, here’s a look at a few summer-ready considerations.

Goodbye, glare
Maybe you prefer paper books over an e-reader because you like to read by a pool, at the beach or in a bubble bath? Now you can have the best of both worlds with the Kindle Oasis (from $389), Amazon’s first waterproof e-reader. Load the Oasis up with great books over Wi-Fi (or even borrow for free from your local library), then use the buttons or touchscreen to flip pages on its stunning seven-inch anti-glare screen. The 300 ppi (pixel per inch) screen makes the text look like real printed words on paper. Along with a battery life measured in weeks rather than hours, there’s 8 GB of internal storage to hold many ebooks and magazines. Thin and light, there’s also a 32 GB, 3G + Wi-Fi version for $489, which lets you download books from anywhere using cellular connectivity (with no monthly data charges required).

Mow, mow, mow your lawn
Why mow your lawn when you can have a robot do the dirty work for you? Sit in your Muskoka chair with a cold one in hand and watch as the Husqvarna Automower 315X ($2,499) cuts your grass with its three quiet blades. The robot can cover up to 1,600 square metres before it needs recharging—at which time it’s smart enough to return on its own to the charging station, power up and then continue mowing. Powered by GPS-assisted navigation and by following a guidewire that you place along the perimeter of your property, the weather-proof mower can even handle lawns with a complicated shape, steep slopes or obstacles. In addition, users can make adjustments using the settings on the keypad and display (or smartphone app). After September 1, those who own an Amazon Alexa product will be able to use their voice to ask the Automower to start its job!

Netflix in the rain
Just because you’re relaxing in your outdoor hot tub on a summer evening doesn’t mean you need to miss your favourite television shows. Extra-bright SunBriteTV outdoor televisions—such as the 65-inch Signature Outdoor TV ($7,999)—feature all-weather exteriors that protect internal components from rain, dirt and insects, along with quad-fan airflow systems that keep the machine cool and dry (in temperatures of –31°C to 50°C). The cable entry system is also waterproof in order to keep the cords dry, along with the wireless remote and optional stainless steel wall mount. With high brightness (700 nits) so the screen can be viewed clearly outside, these slender, LED-backlit and anti-glare televisions feature top-of-the-line 4K Ultra HD resolution, quick refresh rates to smooth out fast motion and a 4,000:1 contrast ratio.

It’s all in the wrist
Fitbit is back and looking to give the Apple Watch a run for its money. Available in black, charcoal, grey, rose-gold, peach and lavender, the Fitbit Versa (from $249) tracks runs and workouts, and has a heart-rate monitor for accurate health data. In addition, you can pair it with your mobile device (iOS, Android) for on-wrist notifications, such as calls, text messages, calendar appointment reminders and social media updates, and app control. Unlike the Apple Watch, the Fitbit Versa can last for four or more days between charges. Along with a touch-sensitive screen and waterproof design, this watch can also help monitor sleep activity.

Adventure awaits
If you enjoy outdoor activities such as skiing, mountain climbing or cycling, you might want to opt for a trendy POV (“point of view”) camera. Still the brand to beat, you can mount the GoPro HERO6 Black ($579) to your helmet, chest or bike using the bundled straps, and capture all the action hands-free, from a first-person perspective. This version can shoot at up to 4K Ultra HD quality and a smooth 60 frames per second, and take 12-megapixel still photos (including a burst mode that snaps up to 30 photos in rapid succession). This GoPro features built-in and fast Wi-Fi connectivity to wirelessly share or upload your videos and photos via a nearby smartphone, plus you can have the HERO6 Black automatically edit amazing footage for you. When it’s time to expand its functionality, GoPro accessories are aplenty, ranging from pet harnesses to flexible mini tripods and wireless screens.

Staying afloat
Music is a part of any outdoor fun. So it’s a good thing the Monster SuperStar S200 Wireless speaker ($199) is not only waterproof—so you can take it to the pool or lake—but also capable of floating. This water- and shock-resistant speaker connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth, and delivers loud and clear sound with its three-speaker configuration. Chat hands-free while lying on your inflatable pool lounger, as the device turns into a speaker-phone should a call come in. The battery lasts up to 15 hours between charges, plus a USB port means you can also charge up your smartphone. The Monster SuperStar S200 includes a carry strap, too.

hf_bella_MARCRetro rocks
Paper isn’t passé. In fact, it’s trendier than ever. With the teeny FUJIFILM Instax Share Smartphone Wireless Photo Printer ($199), which includes a 10-sheet pack of photo paper to get you started, you can wirelessly print precious photos from a smartphone or tablet (or your FUJIFILM X-Series camera) in just 10 seconds per print. About the size of a smartphone and battery operated, you can take this Bluetooth printer with you everywhere. Image resolution tops 800×600 pixels, at 320 dots per inch, for sharp photo clarity. Using the Free Instax SHARE app for iOS and Android, add a filter, frame, stickers, text, emojis and more.

Battery chargers for smartphones are a dime a dozen, but most of them need to be plugged into a wall to juice up. The BioLite SolarPanel 5+ ($109) is a flat, portable charger that uses the sun’s rays to juice up your smartphone or other devices. In other words, you don’t need to leave your cottage porch, beach chair or camping site to upload to Instagram and stream your Spotify playlists. You can choose whether you want to lie it flat or prop it up on its 360-degree kickstand for better positioning, if need be.

Marc Saltzman is a recognized expert in computers, consumer electronics, internet trends, and small business technology. You can see him on CNN, CTV, Global TV, and on Cineplex movie theatre screens across Canada. Follow him on Twitter @marc_saltzman.