Our 2021 Holiday Gift Shortlist is a gathering of fun stuff, covering tools, phone cases, VOIP, and accessories! Products from WORX, Ooma, Catalyst, Scosche, Avadar, and ThinkTank Photo.
A couple of years ago we reviewed a couple of nifty battery-powered tools from WORX. Now, if you think of professional-level tools, you might think of Dewalt, Milwaukee, Black+Decker, but you need to add WORX to that list. While they are known for a wide-variety of consumer tools, WORX have been beefing up their prosumer line. We had a brief chance to take two of their tools for a spin. We have covered other compact jump-start batteries in the past, but we think the WORX 12V Multifunction Jump Starter with LED Lights is a very cool package. First of all, it has great ergonomics, fits in the hand nicely, and stands up on its own. It has a set of very bright lights, and the jump start works easily.
The WORX Nitro 20v Impact Driver & Hammer Drill Combo Kit is a serious, take-no-prisoners, professional-quality bit of kit for your workshop. The package is complete, it has both drills, charger, two-batteries, and a storage bag. Everything is well constructed, built to take abuse, and in our tests, proved to be very useful tools, with a good feeling in your hand. Impact drivers have created a new-found love affair by users, not necessarily for making holes in concrete, but because they are great at screwing in construction-quality lag bolts for structural use. The rechargeable nature of the tools means you can keep the impact driver in the trunk of your car, in case you need to change a tire. Both the WORX 12V Multifunction Jump Starter with LED Lights and WORX Nitro 20v Impact Driver & Hammer Drill Combo Kit would fill any stocking with joy on Christmas morning. And, because the 20-volt battery fits other WORX tools, next year Santa will know just what to bring!
For more information on the WORX 12V Multifunction Jump Starter with LED Lights visit: https://www.worx.com/multi-function-portable-car-jump-starter-with-usb-charging-wx852l.html
For more information on the WORX Nitro 20v Impact Driver & Hammer Drill Combo Kit visit: https://www.worx.com/nitro-20v-2pc-impact-driver-hammer-drill-combo-kit-wx971l.html
Catalyst Cases & Scosche Accessories
We’ve long been fans of well-designed automotive accessories and cell phone and smartwatch cases that can protect in any weather, for any klutz. If you feel the same need, then look no further than products from Catalyst and Scosche. We like tools that can serve more than one need.
The Scosche PowerUp 600 Torch is a 600 Amp Jump Starter/Powerbank/Flashlight combo. Most jump-start products are pretty much one-trick ponies, so we love it when a tool has more uses. And the PowerUp Torch is both a great flashlight and a great tool to save the day when your battery is dead. Browse the catalog of their products, and you’ll find lots of cool products to enhance your motoring life.
We’ve noticed that many phone mounts do everything but make it easy to use your phone in your car. So, it was great to try out the Scosche Cup Holder Mounts, which solve the problem of using mounts in vans, but also save you from having to stick adhesive to the dash or window. We especially liked their Magic Mount Pro2 Cup, Magnetic Phone Mount, along with PowerVolt 12 Volt chargers, rated at up to 32 watts. That means they can charge just about anything you throw at them. Another fun product, which could keep you healthy, is their portable MagicFogger. It’s the size of a small flashlight, and come with their Briotech Cleanser & Sanitzer+Disinfectant. We think this is perfect for both your car and your office space. The thing is, Scosche has far more than automotive products; for example, their Home Studio Smart Table is at home in the hippest of homes, so, keep an eye on their expansive product line.
For information on the Scosche Home Studio Smart Table visit: https://www.scosche.com/home-studio-smart-table
For information on the Scosche PowerUp 600 Torch visit: https://www.scosche.com/600a-car-jumper-flashlight-powerbank
Catalyst’s reputation is for their line of tough-as-nails cases. Over the years we have tested their iPad cases, Apple Watch, and iPhone cases. All have the same characteristic build quality, which is to say, bombproof, water resistant, and stylish. We looked at their Apple AirTag cases, and you know what? They work, very well. Great cases for a new product line. Have a new Apple iPhone, Catalyst has you covered. Their Total Protection case for the iPhone 13 Series is as good and tough a case as you can find. The Total Protection case is a bit pricey, but let’s face it, an iPhone 13 isn’t exactly bargain basement, and deserves serious protection, so we nominate a case from Catalyst for that task. They also have a full line of Tempered Glass Screen Protectors, and cases for the Apple Watch, Samsung, Google, and other devices.
For information on the Catalyst Total Protection case for the iPhone 13 Series visit: https://www.catalystcase.com/collections/iphone/products/total-protection-case-for-iphone-13-series?variant=39442462310487
For information on the full line of Catalyst Cases visit: https://www.catalystcase.com
Ooma – VOIP
We have written about Ooma in the past, but to summarize, we think it’s the best VOIP solution out there. It’s clear, has superior customer support, and has been unfailingly reliable. We have put it through its paces, including home security, water sensors, and more. If you are looking for a way to keep your landline at a reasonable cost, Ooma reigns supreme with far more options - including a free second phone number. We like Ooma, not only because their pricing and feature set is fair, but because they have proven to be a customer-oriented service. For around $40 you can even transfer your landline number to Ooma, allowing your landline to continue at no extra cost. We like their handheld phones, which have all the features you have come to expect, including caller ID, phone book, voicemail, and more.
For more information on Ooma visit: https://www.ooma.com
Avadar – C3-City E-Bike
A couple of months ago, the fine folks at Avadar reached out to inquire if we would be interested in reviewing their newest e-bike, and we said,“Absolutely!” Despite FedEx’s best intentions of properly delivering the bike on time, one day it actually showed up, in a large cardboard box checking in at around 70 lbs. Assembling it was easy, especially if you’ve had some experience around bicycles. Because we only had the bike a few days, a longer review will be forthcoming next month. But we do have a few observations to share.
The bike comes in a few parts – very manageable. The only parts that have to be assembled are the handlebars, battery, pedals, front wheel, fender, and two reflectors. It ships with its own cool little multi-tool that includes, sockets, Allen wrenches, and an interesting wrench plate. We found the tool worked great for assembly, with the exception of the pedals, which required a thicker, normal metric wrench.
The removable 36V, 10Ah, 360W battery nicely integrates into the body almost invisibly. The build quality is high, and the welds are all uniformly beautiful with perfect beads. The paint had no flaws, and the parts are high quality. The 1-speed Shimano gear assembly provides the ability to ride the bike on any grade, and the powerful mid-drive motor with 80Nm torque can quickly ease your legs’ weariness whether you’re riding on hills or the flats. There is a small, LCD display on the left handlebar, with the ability to turn on or off the integrated headlamp, or change power settings for the motor assist.
The bike comes in two sizes, and ours was the Large. Because we are both around 5’5” we found the bike frame a tiny bit too tall, and a little bit of a reach to straddle. You do get used to it, and learn to lean with the frame, but we’s encourage Avandar to consider issuing bikes in a true "small" size. The difference between the Large and Medium versions of the bike is only two inches in heights, not enough to really make a difference. So, hopefully they will consider offering a Small in the future.
Riding it is a joy. It’s safe and secure on the road, and one can reach top speed quickly. This does not have a throttle, so it’s not an electric motorcycle, allowing it to be used in state and national parks. It has a short wheelbase, so it’s very responsive, and at speeds, one has to keep a firm grip and hand on the steering. Remember that mention of the weight? Well, this isn’t an unimportant fact. Our model weighs in at 59 lbs, which isn’t trivial. This doesn’t matter that much while riding, but it does impact you if you have to carry it up a flight of stairs, load onto a trailer, etc. Still, it’s in the expected range for a bike of this size, and design. Not a deal-breaker, just something to keep in mind.
We really enjoy the Avadar C3-City E-Bike. It’s beautifully made and finished. The incorporation of a torque converter is something not found in similar bikes at this price, the elegant integration of the battery, and use of top-quality components, make this an e-bike worthy of your consideration. We wouldn’t be surprised if you spot Santa on one come spring, working off some of those holiday carbs.
For information on the Avadar C3-City E-Bike visit: https://avadar.com/product/avadar-c3-city/
Way back in 2011, our Holiday Pick for camera bags was a wonderful bag, the Retrospective 5 from a new company, ThinkTank. After lugging that bag through airports around the world, kicking it around subways, tossed into the boot of cars, it still looks as new as the day we received it. Seriously. We’ve tested their rolling bags, spinners, and all are built, well, like a tank. That’s so bad it hurts. But, it’s true. It’s great gear.
Ten years later, the Retrospective series are still among our favorite bags, and last year, in the midst of the pandemic Think Tank sent the newly updated larger version, the Retrospective 7 V2.0. A good camera bag should be a real joy to have around, and keep your gear happy and dry, which the Retrospective does.
A fairly young company, ThinkTank Photo makes some of the most imaginative bags on the market. Founded by two working photographers and two designers, their bags cut to the chase. One example is their clever Hydrophobia camera cover, which surrounds your gear, and keeps it nice and dry while you’re out shooting, no matter how close you are to Niagara Falls.
The ThinkTank Retrospective 7 V2.0 could make even Goldilocks happy since it’s just right! Sized to fit a camera, lenses, and accessories, yet small enough to hang nicely from your shoulder, its retro look will beckon you back in time and remind you of those old tan Leica bags of yore. It comes in two colors – black, and our favorite, Pinestone, a tan color that blends in no matter the situation. Best of all it is light, flexible, and will fit a DSLR and a lens, or a complete compact system like those from Olympus, Panasonic, Sony or Nikon.
The soft canvas feels and looks non-threatening and doesn’t scream “I have a fancy camera, come rip me off!” like a typical black ballistic nylon bag can, so it’s great for shooting in an urban setting. The soft cloth feel to the Retrospective line makes it look anything but a camera bag, which is perfectly suited to our way of working. If the weather suddenly turns nasty, just pull out the simple-to-use rain cover it ships with to keep things dry. The system has larger bags, but we love the size of the 7.
Photographers who like to maintain a quiet presence will appreciate the silent mode, which can keep the Velcro from sticking and noisily unsticking. As with all the ThinkTank Photo bags and accessories, the build quality is first-rate. We couldn’t find any material or component that we felt needed upgrading, which is high praise indeed. ThinkTank says the bags have the feel of “old-school” bags but with “new-school” technology, and we couldn’t agree more.
For more information on the ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 7 V2.0 Camera Bag visit: https://www.thinktankphoto.com/collections/retrospective-series/products/retrospective-7-v2-0
Harris Fogel and Nancy Burlan, with Editorial Assistance from Frank Schramm & Ken Kramar, posted 12/6/2021