HouseParty Chatterbox: HP Envy 5540 All-in-One Printer with HP Instant Ink #HPInstantChat

With all the advances in computers recently, sometimes it feels like printers are being left a little behind. HP sought to try to remedy that by updating it’s venerable Envy series of printers with a touch screen, wireless capabilities, cloud printing and HP’s service, HP Instant Ink.

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I found the HP Envy 5540 AIO printer fell a little short almost everywhere, and way short in some places. To start, I’m not a fan of the “Instant Ink” service. Not only does it have a lot of intrusive, near constant pop-ups, but it wants to order ink way before the current cartridge is depleted. Not only that, it wants me to order paper, photo paper, and it does it every time you connect. That alone would have led me to box it up and take it right back. HP wants to claim “photo lab-quality prints” on pictures, and while the included photo sample paper made for a lovely print, it was obvious even to my untrained eye that I printed it at home. And HP’s yield for their ink is still near the bottom of the pack. The scanner wasn’t a lot better, but gave me good results for documents. There’s also no feed tray at the top for copies, faxes, or scans, just the flatbed, which after about 10 pages gets tiresome. Lastly, the minuscule monochrome touchscreen controls are frustratingly small. My hands were fine, but Hubby’s sausage fingers had him ready to pull his hair out. With everything tech under the sun having a big, bright color touchscreen, this is nigh unforgivable.

On the plus side, it grabs and holds the wifi signal, a clear improvement from the last HP Envy I tried out. It’s fairly quick to print, especially plain text black and white. The setup was painless, and going back to just two ink cartridges after using the 4 required for my Brother All In One printer was a welcome relief.  And while Hubby found the touchscreen on the “too small” side, I didn’t have any issues entering commands and found the interface very user friendly. And while I liked some things a lot, the things I disliked weighed more heavily on my mind because while they weren’t the kind of things that make the printer useless, they’re annoying enough to me that I wouldn’t have bought, kept or highly recommended this printer to anyone. HP has always made good to great hardware hamstrung by bad to awful software, and it seems this printer is no exception to this rule. In the end, I went back to my Brother printer, and this is coming from someone who had only had HP printers for over a decade.Whether these things would be deal breakers for you is something you’ll have to decide for yourself.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from House Party/Chatterbox/HP. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Novapolt USB 3.0 External DVD/CD Drive

In this day of ultralight, ultrabooks, smaller, lighter, and faster, one thing that’s going the way of the Dodo is a physical disc drive. And while on the surface you might say “well, that’s fine, almost every major manufacturer puts their software and drivers online to download”, sometimes, they don’t. Especially with legacy equipment and peripherals.

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So it was with great gusto I agreed to give Novapolt’s External drive bay. It uses the newer 3.0 USB connection that has a much, much quicker read/write time than the older 2.0 standard we’ve all used for forever, but it’s still backward compatible with the old USB 2.0 and 1.1 standards. With a 24x speed on CD-r and CD-rw, and a 8x speed on DVD’s, it should be sufficient for all you basic CD/DVD needs. It has a dedicated built-in USB cable, so no need to worry about misplacing it and being out of luck when you need it but can’t find it. And thankfully it was truly plug-n-play with Windows 10 once I got a dedicated media player for videos. It’s relatively quiet and can scarcely be heard over ambient room noise. I can’t speak for the shock protection, so I wouldn’t go running anywhere with it, or other such activities. And a unit like the Novapolt CD/DVD drive is indispensable for data backups. Nothing like having physical media to back up pictures, letters or to re-install your hard drive after a catastrophic crash. “The cloud” is fine for some, but I like the safety and security of knowing I have my data here, at my fingertips, at all times, and away from prying eyes.

It’s not all wine and roses. To start, while it has a brushed aluminum look, it’s actually plastic. So while I’m sure that saved a few ounces in weight, it gives an overall cheap feel to the product. Next is that dedicated cord. In the interest of handy onboard storage, Novapolt out of necessity made the cord very short, which means it’s got to stay very, very close by. A minor quibble. My big gripe is the price. At the time I ordered, the Novapolt USB CD/DVD drive was priced at $34.87. And it doesn’t play blu-ray discs. I noted several external blu-ray readers and DVD recorders for $24.99 and $15 respectively from major manufacturers. I don’t know why Novapolt feels the need to charge so much, and I have a really hard time recommending them based on that, it’s just way too overpriced. It did the job, but you can find more affordable alternatives.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Novapolt. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Tree New Bee® Laptop Cooling Pad

It seems anymore we’re having to supplement the build of the gadgets we buy because manufacturers cut corners or put just the bare minimum needed to get by. Such is the case, frequently, with laptops and their cooling fans. But a whole niche market has popped up to fill the need, and I’m now quite fond of my Tree New Bee Laptop Cooling Pad.

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It wasn’t easy to get me to move away from my adjustable desk with it’s fans, but there are times where my desk wasn’t going to fit where I needed it to go, adjustable or not. So I was thrilled to find the Tree New Bee cooling pad was small and light enough to fit almost anywhere, and go almost anywhere. It has little legs in the back to prop the keyboard area up to more comfortable and ergonomic angle, and little arms in the front to keep your laptop from gradually sliding off the pad. The pad is lightweight plastic and some metal, and if I had one complaint it’s that there’s a great deal of flex in the panels, causing it to impact the fan. I also don’t understand the purpose of the LED lights. The fan plugs in to and standard-sized USB port on your laptop, so these lights just serve to drain the battery a little more. I did like that the plug is a pass -through design, so you don’t even lose a USB port while you use the cooling pad. That’s putting some thought into the design, and I appreciate it. I may disassemble the unit and disconnect them, but the do look shiny and bright, if that’s what your going for. The Tree New Bee laptop pad is also whisper quiet. You absolutely cannot hear it at all over ambient noise, which is a major plus from my old adjustable desk fans. You can really feel the temperature difference on the bottom of the laptop.

At only $13.99, it’s a great value to protect the (sometimes very significant) investment made into your laptop. Extreme heat is the mortal enemy of all the most important components, and the Tree New Bee Cooling Pad is the mortal enemy of heat. It will extend the life of your laptop and you’ll wonder how you got along with it before! With a full 1-year warranty, it’s definitely worth a look-see and find out if a laptop cooling pad is just what the computer doctor ordered!

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Tree New Bee. I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion. My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

Silicone Devices Comfort+ Wireless Waterproof Bluetooth Earbuds

 

I’ve had a coupe of different sets of bluetooth earbuds, some good, some not so good. Sadly, I feel these Silicone Devices “Black Edition” Comfort+ Bluetooth Wireless earbuds fall into the “not so good” category. The sound is lacking, and for the life of me neither I nor Hubby could get a fit where the earbuds stayed in our ears. So let’s go over these, shall we?

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Right off the bat the sound was tinny. Now, I don’t expect earbuds to deliver the full audio experience over-the-ear cups would provide. But I expected them to be at least the equal of the last pair of bluetooth earbuds I tested, and they weren’t, by a long shot. The sound wasn’t as full, there were almost non-existent lows, and the volume levels were noticeably lower. And that’s when we could get them to stay in. Any rigorous activity and we’d be picking them op off the floor quite quickly. And we tried all available combinations of earbud sizes, and these Silicone Devices Comfort+ in-ear headphones, to their credit, come with plenty. Alas, we just could not get a decent fit. They paired with all our devices quickly, thanks to the bluetooth 4.0 technology, but the range, advertised as about 30ft., was probably closer to 15-20 feet. We found the battery life was adequate, and held a charge for a fair amount of time, almost the full 4 hours advertised. Since it takes a few charge cycles for a lithium-ion battery to achieve it’s full capacity, for me, that’s close enough. I can’t say either of us really worked up much of a sweat wearing them, because they tended to come out of our ears fairly easy. Lastly, there was the price. Similar styles of earbuds (sometimes identical  looking) can be had for 50-60% of the $49.87 price point these are currently selling for on Amazon. I can’t, based the performance I witnessed and heard, see what value there is to be had for these in-ear headphones at this price.

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I liked the carry case they came with, and I like the plethora of ear bud tips that they came with. I like that you’re not tethered to your device, and that the charge lasts a decent amount of time. They paired quickly, and with every device we own with no problems. But I don’t like the tinny sound, they don’t stay in my ear well, and the price is really too high for the quality you’re getting. I really can’t recommend these Silicone Devices Comfort+ In-Ear Bluetooth Headphones. Sorry.

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I received the above product(s) free of charge from Silicone Devices.  I am not obligated to provide a positive or favorable review, just my honest opinion.  My review is based on my experience with the product and/or brand, which may differ from yours.

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