Blast away the February blues, keep your data safe and all your devices charged with Tech Trends’ latest product reviews!
Dot Creativity Kit
Essentially the younger sibling of the Cue robot ‘Dot’ — part of Wonder workshops Creativity kit — is a chatty little robot equipped with a wide range of accessories to encourage children to both play and learn via a picture based language the basic mechanics of robotics and programming.
Less mobile and obviously aimed at a younger audience than its counterpart (6+) Dot nevertheless comes with three core downloadable mobile apps that give access to projects that range from crafting and active play to storytelling and construction.
Blocky — Playing with Dot’s lights, sensors, accelerometer, and sounds, Blockly introduces advanced concepts of coding through playful projects and puzzles. Turn Dot into a ticking time-bot, or use Dot as a robot remote control for sending Dash on adventures.
Go — Go is the first step to getting to know all that Dot can do. Give Dot a new name, change the colour of the lights, blink a robot eye, and more! It’s your mission to teach Dot how to play. Act out storybook characters, and explore the world together.
Wonder — Wonder can power all of the Do-It-Yourself projects in the Dot Creativity Kit. Start with Wonder and discover how the picture-based language allows kids to explore and code adventures with the Dot Creativity Kit.
Dot itself is very dependant upon the apps and it is advisable if possible to use a tablet to play with them rather than a mobile as we found it very fiddly and hard to control on the relatively small screen of a smartphone. Younger children may also need a little direction to help get them up to speed and embrace the interface and how the picture language works. When things get a little baffling, on-screen prompts show the child exactly where to move each module to complete the code.
Unlike Cue — which came to life very quickly and was racing around the room in no time at all — Dot takes a little more effort and involvement before the surprises really begin. It is the project cards that really bring Dot to life and show off its varied capabilities. The project cards provide games and challenges that direct creative play with each of the kit accessories and turn Dot into — among other things — a Disco ball, a fortune telling Magic 8 ball, a talking dice or even (our favourite) a friendly programmable mood lamp.
Add in Lego style connectors and a variety of stickers and ‘dress-up’ accessories to personalise your Bot and Dot transcends your usual ‘tech toy’ to become both a source of endurable fun and creative learning.
What Comes in the Box:
• Dot the robot with attachable stand
• 2 building brick connectors
• 2 plastic to cardboard connectors
• 20 project cards with games & activities
• 10 costumes
• 1 squishy case
• 1 constructible mood lamp
• Over 100 stickers
• Multiple project accessories
• 1 charging cable
• 3 free downloadable mobile apps (Wonder, Blockly, & Go) with dozens of challenges, puzzles, and hours of free play
Aukey 20,000mAh Power Bank
Has Tech Trends found the best power bank ever? Well, we just might have! Sure it is big but it is deliciously slim and rounded so it will slip effortlessly into bags and briefcases.
It isn’t one of those sharp cornered bricks that end up blocking satchel pockets and making itself a flipping nuisance, this power bank will sit comfortably between your laptops and folders of paperwork. Its smooth, slim shape is not its only practical feature though, as it also packs 20,000mAh of juice to charge an iPhone 7 around seven times or your Samsung Galaxy Note 8 four times.
I challenge you to find a cable this won’t work with! It has all the standard connections for Apple and Android users, Lightning IN, USB-C IN and Micro USB IN mean you can charge it up whichever flavour of smartphone or tablet you prefer. The three standard USB and one USB-C OUTs mean you can drain all that lovely power into your devices, be it an iPhone X, an iPad, an Honor 7X or a Samsung Galaxy S8 or, charge all four devices at the same time!
Of course, there are LED indicators and a small power button one side but that won’t get much use as it also comes with Aukey AI Power which supports healthier battery function and faster-charging speeds as well as automatic charging, so just plug in your tech and start charging. Currently reduced on Amazon this power bank is the boss, and no mistake.
- Large Capacity: 20000mAh to charge your iPhone 7 6.8 times, or 9.7-inch iPad Pro 1.8 times, or Samsung Galaxy Note 8 4 times
- Universal Charging: 3A total output to charge a USB-C device and three USB-A devices simultaneously (the USB-C port can supply a powerful 3A by itself). Recharge your power bank via USB-C, Lightning, or micro-USB port
- Refined Design: Slimline form makes it comfortable to hold and matte surface keeps it free of fingerprints. Minimalist LED indicator shows remaining battery level at a glance
- Safety Features: Built-in safeguards protect your devices against excessive current, overheating, and overcharging
- Package Contents: AUKEY PB-Y14 20000mAh Power Bank, USB-A to USB-C Cable, User Manual, 24-Month Warranty
RRP: £34.99 reduced from £54.99, wow!
TeckNet Raptor Wired Optical Gaming Mouse
The wired, desktop mouse might feel old school nowadays when digital artists and illustrators use pens & tablets for line drawing instead. But for fine cursor control and ease of use, nothing has really beaten the mouse. It also allows you more finger controls than a pen and this lovely USB optical mouse from TeckNet has 8 buttons to keep your digits busy. It also has shifting coloured LEDs meaning you can find it in the dark and frankly it looks quite cool, definitely not retro.
After testing this out for a few weeks I can safely say that I don’t need all 8 buttons but the options are there for those who need them. The one button that has changed the way I navigate my PC is the extra thumb button that acts as a second left click option, it just feels more natural, squeezing the whole mouse from the side with your thumb is much more comfortable for me. The super accurate scroll and click wheel with its rubberised edge is also really comfortable and does exactly what I want, when I want, unlike many other scroll wheels I have used.
The next most useful additions are the two Back and Forward buttons that also sit by the thumb. You need to consciously articulate your thumb to reach them but having those common navigation functions right there in your hand is awesome for surfing the web. ‘Built for winners’ and ‘developed with gamers in mind’, every component from the really nice braided cable and tactile surfaces to the gold-plated USB connector is constructed from high quality materials and the 8 buttons also boast a 7 million click lifespan so both gamers and regular users will get more bang for their buck. What’s more, by adding 40g of extra weight to the mouse and a nice ergonomic design, this mouse can be used for hours in total comfort. When it comes to mice, evolution is everything.
- Accuracy is everything: The RAPTOR’s features exclusive TeckNet TruWave gaming sensor optimizations for high-accuracy cursor control. Whether zipping across the screen or honing in on a single pixel, the TruWave gaming sensor responds accurately to your hand movements. This mouse also can be used on any surface, including transparent glass
- Premium Eight Buttons: Bear up to 7 million times click with clear and crisp sound. The unique fire button enables triple clicking at one press and keeps you on top of your game, all the time.
- Fits Like a Glove: Ergonomically designed to fit snugly under the palm of your hand with intuitive button placement for the most comfortable gaming experience yet.
- Be ready in an instant: Make the right moves in any game situation. Shift through up to three DPI settings, from pixel-precise targeting to lightning-fast manoeuvres with a single button press, conveniently located behind the scroll wheel
- TeckNet 18 Months Warranty: At TeckNet, we believe in our products. That’s why we back them all with an 18-month warranty and provide friendly, easy-to-reach support
- Compatible: Win 98/2000/ME/XP/Vista/7/8 /10
Aukey USB C Cable to USB 3.0 Type A — 5 Pack
The adoption of USB-C is almost complete. The majority of smartphones and laptops have this superfast connection as standard now and it won’t be long before external drives make use of its fast bus speeds to connect computers to the next generation of SSDs whose transfer speeds far outpace USB 3.0. USB-C ports are even popping up on ATX Motherboards alongside USB 3.1 Gen2 connections so it in your interest to have a few cables to hand.
Again Aukey is on hand with an insanely well priced and high-quality option. This 5 pack of (different length) USB 3.0 to USB-C cables is only £16.99 on Amazon here in the UK and claim Data Sync and Charging for Samsung Note 8 / S8+ / S8, MacBook Pro 2016, Nexus 6P / 5X, Google Pixel, LG G5 V20, HTC 10 among others. I had no problems transferring data with these cables but it is important to note that in the emerging and confused world of ‘fast charging’ standards, different smartphone manufacturers vary a lot so it would be foolish to guarantee these would fast charge all devices. The fact the phone manufacturers all recommend you only use their branded cables for fast charging is a bit of a hint that they have different standards so be aware of this. However, these Aukey cables fast charged my Samsung Galaxy S8 without an issue using the a Quick Charge USB 3.0 Mains Charger.
Data transfer to and from Android devices is a bit of a pain in the arse and I had no luck connecting my S8 to a MacBook Pro with either the supplied Samsung USB-C cable or these Aukey cables. Android and MacOS famously don’t get on and even Google’s Android File Transfer app failed to get the two devices connected. However, on a Windows 10 PC, there was no problem and no extra drivers needed. Transfer speeds over the Aukey cables were stunning — Read 492MBs & Write 231MBs with 4GB files. That is quick!
- Compatible Devices: Samsung Note 8 / S8+ / S8, MacBook Pro 2016, ChromeBook Pixel 2015, Nexus 5X / 6P, OnePlus 3 / 2, HUAWEI P10 / P9, Lenovo Zuk Z1 and other type c supported devices including PC, Tablets, and other Smartphones
- USB Type C: USB C reversible connector design (plugs in both ways) allows you to conveniently connect cable in any orientation
- Data Sync and Charging: USB C cable to USB A cable enables up to 5Gbps USB 3.0 super-speed data transfer, which is 10 times faster than USB 2.0. Built-in 56k Ohm, it protects your device
- Durable and Convenient: Nylon braided cable with reinforced aluminium shielding is designed to withstand every-day wear and tear, and five cables with different lengths can satisfy all your daily needs
- Package Contents: AUKEY CB-CMD2 Three 3.3ft A to C Cables + One 6.6ft A to C Cable + One 1ft A to C Cable, User Manual, 24-Month Warranty Card
These are sturdy, stylish and fast cables for a very low price. The connectors are solid and attractive and the woven cable cover is a nice upgrade from rubbery plastic. Great product.
Aukey USB C to Micro USB Adapter Grey Aluminum — 2 pack
As a cheaper option to the cables above you can simply adapt your old Micro USB cables and chargers to fit your new USB-C smartphone. You won’t get the fast charging or the fast data transfer speeds but you will be able to charge your phone using any of the thousands of old Micro USB cables modern households have kicking around.
These little, beautifully made, aluminium, USB-C to Micro USB adapters are super smart and solidly built and at £7.59 on Amazon are a steal. I tested them out and they did exactly what they were supposed to do. Personally, I scattered them around the house on the old charging cables I keep handy and reserve fast charging to my office desk and bedside.
- USB C Male to Micro USB Female: It allows you to charge USB C devices and transfer data from micro USB devices to USB C devices with a micro USB cable
- Data transfer: USB 2.0 transfers data at a speed of up to 480Mbps; equipped with a 56-kilo-ohm resistor to ensure the safety and reliability
- Supports USB OTG: Plugin and you can use those computer peripherals like a flash drive, keyboard, hub, or mouse with your USB C equipped phone or tablet
- Easy to Use: Lightweight and compact, with aluminium alloy design, you can take it with you anywhere; plug and play, don’t need to install any drivers; the reversible USB C connector that plugs in either direction
- Package Contents: AUKEY CB-A9 Two USB C to Micro USB Adapters ( Grey ), User Manual, 24-Month Warranty Card
Apricorn Aegis Fortress USB 3 Secure Drive
Here we have a rugged, portable, USB 3 external drive from Apricorn, boasting incredible data security, with FIPS 140–2 level 2 Validated Encryption Module, the Aegis Fortress is a 1TB beast! Tough on the outside, FIPS-validated on the inside, and pocket-sized portability to safely carry your data anywhere you go.
Available in a wide variety of storage capacities in both HDD and more speedy SSD models the Fortress is Software-Free, 100% hardware-based 256-bit AES XTS encrypted, onboard keypad PIN authenticated, with ultra-fast USB 3 data transfer speeds. As with the other Apricorn drives Tech Trends has tested, all data is encrypted on the fly and all PINs and remains encrypted while the drive is at rest so relax, your data is safe!
This beauty will work wherever you work, it’s completely cross-platform compatible and OS agnostic. The Fortress thrives with Windows, Linux, Mac, Android, and Chrome. It also works where software-authenticated encrypted devices can’t function, such as embedded systems and equipment in possession of a powered USB port and storage file system, but no keyboard. All internal componentry is protected from physical tampering with a layer of hardened epoxy, and the firmware is locked down to prevent any modifications making it impervious to malware attacks such as BadUSB.
The Aegis Fortress comes with IP56 Certification, meaning it is dust and water resistant with a durable ABS housing and membrane keypad preventing the drive’s most commonly used buttons becoming visible through use. The drive is unlocked by entering a PIN on the keypad and not the host computer’s keyboard. Until the device is unlocked via its keypad, it remains invisible to the host. Tough enough to go anywhere, the Aegis Fortress’s resilient design makes it perfect for travel and generally well protected against physical damage but the tamper-evident external plastic shell does feel less sturdy than some of their other products.
When Programmed and Activated, Performs a Crypto-Erase and Becomes New Access PIN. The last line of defence for data security when the device’s physical security is at risk. The Self-Destruct PIN defends against these physically compromising situations by erasing the drive’s contents, leaving it in normal working order appearing yet to be deployed
Drive Reset Feature:
All Apricorn Devices can be Reset and Redeployed Over and Over. Drive reset clears both the User and Admin PINs, destroys the data, creates a new randomly generated encryption key and allows the drive to be reused repeatedly, with an infinite number of randomly generated encryption keys, allowing the admin and or user to reset the drive as often as is needed.
Unattended Auto Lock:
Programmable Length of Time of Inactivity Permitted Before Drive Locks Itself. All Aegis Secure Drives will automatically lock once disconnected from a computer’s USB port or the power to that USB port is interrupted or after a pre-programmed period of inactivity.
Two Read-Only Modes:
Global, All Access Settings Controlled by Admin, and User Mode Controlling Individual Settings. Employed in situations that require the drive’s contents to be kept intact and unaltered for later examination. The two Read-Only modes are as follows: Universal Read Only is set by the admin from within the admin mode and can’t be modified or disabled by anyone but the admin. The second read-only mode can be set and disabled by a user but can also be enabled or disabled by the admin as well.
FIPS 140–2 Level 2 Inside:
Meets the U.S. government standards for information technology and computer security. NIST FIPS 140 is the cryptography standard program required by the US federal government for protection of sensitive data.
The Aegis Fortress’s FIPS 140–2 validation covers 11 areas of its cryptographic security system, including physical security, cryptographic key management and design integrity. The Aegis Fortress’s FIPS 140–2 Level 2 encryption validation encompasses both the Fortress’s physical tamper-resistant features as well as its identity-based authentication. Tested and validated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for use by the Federal governments of the USA, Canada and others, the Aegis Fortress Drive is based on Apricorn’s FIPS 140–2 Level 2 validated encryption module as indicated by certificate #2835. The Fortress’s security policy is located on the NIST site at this link.
If it is worth saving it is worth protecting and we strongly recommend the Aegis Fortress and the other Apricorn products we have tested, they prove that security doesn’t have to be complicated, it just has to work.
Ashley Thorpe is Film and Games Correspondent at Tech Trends, award-winning director and animator at Carrion Films and full-time dad with an interest in educational toys that can entertain and educate lively young minds. Follow him on Twitter @CarrionScreamin