Before You Buy 161 (Transcript)

Leo Laporte: Coming up, the best Before You Buy ever! We’ve got the Amazon Echo, the YotaPhone, an electric scooter, a Bluetooth smart-blood pressure monitor. And I’m going to review the HP Stream 11. Oh my goodness! It’s time to watch Before You Buy!

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Leo:  Wow. A harassment of riches on Before You Buy today, some really interesting products. I think that happens. There’s product release cycles. And there’s some times of the year when we get all sorts of interesting stuff. And then there’s some times when you just flow in the doldrums. Mike Elgin is going to be going to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in March. We’ll see a lot of new smartphones but one thing you probably won’t have is an ink-based smartphone. That’s what Miriam Juarez is going to review in just a little bit. But let’s start with this which I think got a lot of attention when it was first announced. From Amazon, this is the Echo.

Mike Elgan: The Amazon Echo. This is really two products. So there’s a Bluetooth speaker with a microphone in it. That’s one part of the product. The other part of the product is a Siri or Google Now-like assistant called Alexa. So they come together. You can’t get them separately yet but I imagine that Alexa will show up on Amazon TV and so on. But for now it’s just an appliance that goes into your home and lets you talk to it. It talks to you back. You can get information, play music, do all kinds of things, the kinds of things you would do with Siri. But with some caveats. It’s really an interesting product.

Leo: There’s not a lot of controls. There’s an on-off switch and a mute button.

Mike: That’s right. The dial on the top is for volume although you can control the volume with your voice. You can do all kinds of random stuff like: Alexa, tell us a joke. Alexa? Tell us a joke.

What is black and white and red all over? An educated penguin.

Mike: Yea, they’re not good jokes but they are jokes. And so yea, so there’s all kinds of stuff you can do. People are judging this on the quality of the Bluetooth speaker. And on that account, it’s okay. It’s pretty good for its size. This is $99 if you a Prime member and get an invitation. It’s $200, $199 if you’re not a Prime member.

Leo: I would liken it to the Jawbone speaker which is like almost $200. So if you get it with the Prime price, it’s a good deal.

Mike: It is.

Leo: It’s a decent-sounding speaker.

Mike: The most compelling thing about it in my opinion, in addition to the fact that the audio’s very high-quality, you notice that her voice sounds perfect. It’s optimized for her voice.

Leo: It’s actually the best voice synthesizer I’ve ever heard.

Mike: It’s got good bass to it. Really high-quality voice.

Leo: Very natural.

Mike: We used it and tested it in our kitchen-dining room. Across the kitchen, you could ask it questions. You could hear very clearly what the answer was. It’s nice and loud. So that’s really nice. But the biggest thing is this is the future. All homes are going to have speakers and microphones with personal assistants on the other end of it. And you’re going to be able to talk to it. Right now this is a unique product. There’s nothing else like it. And it’s exactly the product that’s going to exist for the rest of our lives.

Leo: It does feel that way. I first experience it in your kitchen. And almost immediately though, wow, I want this. But not just in the kitchen; I want it everywhere I go. But I do in a way, don’t I? Because I have a phone that I can wake up with either Siri or Google Now. How is this different from that?

Mike: The biggest thing is the fact that it’s just such high-quality audio. And it’s loud and there. You don’t have to pull your phone out. You don’t have to think about if your phone is charged, do you have your phone? It’s just pure convenience. You don’t even have to care where the device is physically located. Just talk to the room; the room talks back. You feel it when you use it. That’s more compelling. If this was $500 or $400, then I would say don’t even think about it. But at this price point, it’s really a fantastic thing. Let me give you an example of what a great podcast or net cast appliance this is. Alexa, play This Week in Tech on Tune In.

Getting the latest episode of This Week in Tech. Here it is.

Leo: To your Tune In account. Wow!

Mike: It’s not required. Alexa: stop. It’s not required for that functionality but if you do have an account-which I do-and you tie it to the account, you can say specific things that you want it to play. Right now, I haven’t connected it. This functionality just…

Leo: it just knows.

Mike: Yea.

Leo: It does Pandora too, right? If you have an account.

Mike: That’s right. It does Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and Tune In. And also there’s a news function that will give you news from NPR and BBC plus Alexa herself will read the news to you as well.

Leo: Oh wow, I’m really liking that. Let me hear Alexa read some news.

Mike: Okay. Alexa: let’s see what is the command for that.

Here’s your flash briefing: NPR news from Tune In. From NPR news in Washington, the White House says President Obama.

Mike: Alexa, skip.

Leo: This is really great. I want this!

Mike: Yes.

Leo: Because this is the kind of thing you might do in the kitchen.

Continuing with your flash briefing. BBC News from Tune In. BBC News.

Mike: So I’ve set it up with the app to first play NPR, then…

Leo: Alexa, shut up. She doesn’t understand that, huh? I thought you could swear at her.

Mike: Alexa, stop. Just stop, will you. There is a…

Leo: Sound is great on voice. That I would listen to in my kitchen without any problem at all.

Mike: And since it’s in the kitchen, you can do stuff like this. Alexa, how many tablespoons in a cup?

One cup equals 16 tablespoons.

Mike: It will answer questions like that. When you’ve got your hands in dough and you can’t push buttons on a smartphone or anything…

Leo: That does raise one issue. It doesn’t know recipes yet.

Mike: No it doesn’t.

Leo: But this is beta. This is an early…

Mike: This is the beauty of this device. All the upgrades that are required for this are in the cloud or in software. All of it will be upgraded as they upgrade it. And we hope they do. They’re also going to roll out third party developers so you don’t know what kind of arbitrary capabilities this will gain. Meanwhile, it’s a great speaker and great microphone. And you can just buy one. I imagine it will be great for a decade with upgrades.

Leo: I would love to see for instance open table making apps so I can say Alexa I need a reservation for dinner for two tonight at Pueblo.

Mike: Exactly. One of the ways that it differs from Siri or Google Now is she’s a little dumber than those others. It doesn’t have a complete sort of knowledge that Google Now does.

Leo: Well Google’s been watching me for a long time which Alexa has not.

Mike: But Alexa will give you some Wikipedia results. For example, Alexa, Wikipedia Leo Laporte.

Leo Gordon Laporte is an American technology broadcaster, author, and entrepreneur.

Leo: But Google Now will do exactly the same thing and give you the same result.

Mike: In Google Now you probably don’t even have to say Wikipedia.

Leo: Siri will do that.

Mike: And she won’t. You have to specify Wikipedia.

Leo: You need Wi-Fi I presume?

Mike: You need Wi-Fi. Without an internet connection, this is useless. It’s a paperweight.

Leo: Do you have to have a smartphone app to go along?

Mike: I guess you do because you need to do the setup and it will connect via Bluetooth. Then you can do all kinds of setup.

Leo: So you set it up through the smartphone.

Mike: You set up the Wi-Fi connection for example through the smartphone.

Leo: So Android and iOS?

Mike: Yes. And the Fire OS devices.

Leo: Of course. I set it up with my app. This was one thing people were worried about? In fact this was in the parody video which we all remember. Alexa, buy some pens.

Pens added to your shopping list.

Leo: Now that was one concern because maybe I would get pen two days from now because Amazon would just send me some.

Mike: But you won’t. What it does is puts it on a shopping list. Notice it’s not on your wish list; it doesn’t use Amazon language for that. It uses Echo language. So the shopping list exists on your phone app. Nothing will happen until you go to the phone app and say here are the pens I want, how many I want, the shipping options that I want to choose. And then it will come to you.

Leo: Does it work with Audible?

Mike: It doesn’t unfortunately.

Leo: I’m telling you Sonos need to do a deal because Sonos is the speaker system in every room of my house. If they had the Alexa microphone built-in. Now I want to compare and contrast the two different synthesis. Because I have to say the voice is so good. Let me ask Siri something. How old is Michael Jackson?

Michael Jackson died June 25, 2009 at age 50.

Leo: Alexa, how old is Michael Jackson?

Michael Jackson died in Westwood, California on June 25, 2009 from cardiac arrest. He was 50 years, 9 months, and 27 days old when he died.

Leo: Despite the over-answer, you have to admit that sounds much more human.

Mike: It does and it doesn’t have that tinny distant quality to it. It just fills the room very nicely. Especially, this thing gets loud. You put it in a big room like a kitchen, it’s very satisfying to listen to.

Leo: I’m telling you, it’s Hal-9000. It feels like the future. As long as it gets better.

Mike: Let’s listen to some music. Now I’m controlling this from the app. If you have iHeart Radio, it will do specific songs, channels, genres through iHeart Radio. Tune In doesn’t do that yet but you can do Tune In music through the app. So this is Tune In radio.

Leo: The music quality is actually not bad. It’s like a Jambox, a Jawbone Jambox. It’s a little tinnier. You’re not going to get deep bass out of something like that.

Mike: Alexa, volume two. You can choose a number or you can saw louder, quieter.

Leo: I like that. Now it does come with a remote with a magnetic backing. But you don’t really need the remote because you can do anything you want…

Mike: That’s right. But pressing the button and whispering into the remote, you can avoid yelling across the room.

Leo: Oh, that’s the point.

Mike: Yea. Somebody’s sleeping next to you, it’d be great for a bedroom. It’s great for a kitchen. Personally at $99, if I could get multiple devices, I’d get three. I’d get one for the bedroom, one for the kitchen, and I’d have one in the office. I’ve had it in my office all day today; it’s been fantastic in the office.

Leo: Yea. And I feel like we’re going to get closer and closer to a personal assistant where I could say Alexa, send an email to Mike.

Mike: And it knows you.

Leo: You can’t do that yet?

Mike: No, nothing like that. But you will get to the-I imagine-you’ll do Amazon-y things. For example, you’ll say send so-and-so a birthday present. And Amazon will know what that other person has on their wish list. You can get it wrapped, shipped, and paid for.

Leo: But you don’t even know what you bought?

Mike: Maybe not.

Leo: It’s just whatever’s on the wish list.

Mike: Who knows? But that’s the kind of thing that I can imagine Amazon doing. They really want to facilitate the purchasing things on Amazon obviously.

Leo: Samsung recently got a lot of heat that we just talked about on Security Now. Because their TVs have a very similar feature to the Fire TV, the Fire Phone, and Alexa. You can talk to the TV and it will do stuff. And Samsung had a rather elaborate disclaimer which they said things like stuff you say may be sent to a third-party. I presume all of these things work the same way.

Mike: Yes, they do. And Amazon is not particularly shy about hanging onto your data, your audio and all that kind of stuff. In fact, the app will show you every command you ever have given it.

Leo: Oh so it really does keep track.

Mike: It does. And I expect Amazon to use that information to improve the quality of the commands. And also it has to be said that you can train it with your voice to improve recognition. There’s a little training app on the app. A little training feature. And you can sort of refine and fine-tune how it understands you.

Leo: Can I just say something like, Alexa, play Uptown Funk. Will it just play a song?

Shuffling music.

Leo: Oh it’s shuffling music.

Mike: My guess is it’s going to play… well I couldn’t guess that. This is the soundtrack to Tron for some reason. It’s not exactly funk. But you know, close enough.

Leo: I think Skynet is here. It knows!

Mike: Do you know why it’s playing that? Because I own that. I bought that album from Amazon. And it’s probably one of the only things.

Leo: Now I use Amazon’s music service. If you use it, everything you have on that will be available, right?

Mike: Exactly. And you can do samples and stuff like that.

Leo: Alexa, stop. Alexa, stop. Thank you.

Mike: So it’s really, all this kind of stuff. And of course arbitrary knowledge. Alexa, when is Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day will be on Saturday, February 14, 2015.

Mike: Sending panic.

Leo: This one’s good. Alexa, when is Easter?

Easter will be on Sunday, April 5, 2015.

Mike: Sunday? I didn’t see that coming.

Leo: What’s nice is that’s the kind of thing where maybe you’re not sure. I can’t probably yet add appointments to my calendar and things like that?

Mike: No you can’t.

Leo: And I can’t make phone calls because it’s not a phone?

Mike: Exactly. And it would be great to be able to do all that stuff. You can imagine all kinds of capabilities. For now we can’t review it based on what it might have in the future. So right now it doesn’t have those things.

Leo: It would be really easy for Google or Apple to make an external unit that ties to your phone and does all of those things.

Mike: It’s a little shocking that Google hasn’t done this already. This is the kind of thing that I would have expected Google to roll out at some Google IO like three years ago or something. But they haven’t.

Leo: I got to say, it seems somewhat compelling to me. Let’s get the pros and cons.

Mike: Okay, so the pros generally speaking are that people-although people complain about the speaker quality-I think the speaker quality is fantastic. Especially since it’s optimized for the voice. And it’s really nice to talk to a personal assistant where it sounds like a human being in the room talking to you. That’s how good the quality is. They are going to open it up to third-party developers. And it’s uniquely future-proof. We talk about all kinds of products, we talk about smartphones and stuff like that; next year the new processors and graphics chips and screens are going to obsolete everything that we’re talking about today. That’s not the case with this; this is still going to be great in five years. And it will be 10 times better because they’re going to upgrade the cloud services, the performance, and the apps.

Leo: All the work is being done off-site anyway. You don’t need to have a processor.

Mike: It’s not something you’ll need to replace every two years.

Leo: Incidentally, one of our chatters, Joe, says he uses his because it’s paired to your phone via Bluetooth, it can be used as a Bluetooth headset. So you can make calls in the sense that you’ve got a microphone and a speaker and you can place a call. What are the cons on this?

Mike: The cons are that it’s easily scratchable. Now this belongs to Anthony Nielson and we thank him for sacrificing it for a week. This is his personal unit. He was really quick to get on the list there. And so this has not been scratched. But I read a lot of people that say a little nick or scratch and it looks really visible.

Leo: Not so fast man. There’s a little scratch right there. Anthony, we’re going to… by the way and I want to tell Anthony this, Lisa, let’s give Anthony a check for his Alexa. Because I think that given that he’s given it up for a whole week just so you can review it, we won’t keep it. We’ll give it back to you Anthony but we’ll also pay for it.

Mike: Okay, so Alexa is not as powerful as Siri or Google Now. So in the world of virtual assistants, Alexa is a little bit of a laggard. She’s listening because I mentioned her name. She’s not context-aware. So if you say how old is Michael Jackson and you follow-up with how tall is he, she has no idea who you’re talking about.

Leo: Google does.

Mike: Exactly. It has big gaps in knowledge. So once it gets it right, it’s beautiful. Often times she goes eh, I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s not mobile. There are no batteries. So if it’s not plugged in, it’s nothing. It can’t do anything. If it’s not connected to the internet it can’t do anything. So that’s kind of a downside. So yea, those are the pros and cons. It’s a fantastically handy thing. It costs $100 or $200.

Leo: It makes more sense if you’re a Prime member already. By the way you have to get an invitation. So I immediately applied for an invitation.

Mike: Yes, you apply and they may or may not give you one. And if you do get on the list it’s going to be a few months before you get it.

Leo: By then I bet you Apple and Google have made something that does exactly this. In fact I think with Chromecast you’re really close to having something like this already.

Mike: And there’s always going to be an opportunity to sell. For example, Alexa, tell me a story.

You can find a lot of great books on

Mike: Really? Didn’t see that coming.

Leo: Buy? Try? Don’t buy?

Mike: Okay, this is an easy one. Alexa, put an Echo on my shopping list.

I’ve added an Echo to your shopping list.

Mike: This is a definite buy. This is a great device. It’s one of a kind. And I think everybody should get it.

Leo: I also think we’re seeing the future. You can easily see, it’s already kind of fun. You can easily see it becoming something you can’t live without.

Mike: Absolutely. And I want this in my living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, car, the office. I just want to be able to talk no matter where I am and have this kind of information and action and so on to happen every time.

Leo: Amazon’s first to the party. But I have the feeling you’re going to hear from other players quickly.

Mike: For sure.

Leo: Microsoft, Apple, and Google all have similar technologies with Cortana, Google Now, and Siri. And I can bet you there are already somebody working hard to make something like this.

Mike: And as you said, this is a natural fit for Sonos. Either Amazon should buy Sonos or Sonos should build this in. Something like that.

Leo: Thank you! Mike Elgin, he is our news director and heads the Tech News Today show each and every Monday through Friday, 10am Pacific, 1pm Eastern time, 1800 UTC. Or just Alexa, listen to TNT.

I didn’t find songs by TNT in your music library. To hear custom stations…

Leo: What do I say, on Tune In?

Mike: Alexa, stop. Alexa, play Tech News Today on Tune In.

Getting the latest episode of Tech News Today. Here it is from Tune In.

Leo: Is it today’s?

Mike: It’s today’s. It does the latest. You can also go, Alexa, skip. And it will go play yesterday’s.

Leo: It goes backwards. That is so cool. I think for podcast listening alone in the kitchen while you’re working or cooking, this will be amazing!

Mike: Amazing.

Leo: Alexa, stop. Thank you, Mike. We’ve got lots more to come. This is a jam-packed show. But before we do that I want to tell you about my mattress. It ain’t just any old mattress; it’s a Casper. It’s the best mattress you can get at a fraction of the cost of those mattresses in the showrooms. Casper is online, Casper doesn’t need a showroom. You go to, and you’re taking a look at some amazing mattresses, obsessively engineered mattresses at a fair price. They combine latex with memory foam so you get a firm mattress but just the right sink-in balance. Here’s my Casper. We got the queen. Actually we put it in the guest room and it’s just fabulous. It comes in a box so small… somebody was telling me we got a Casper because we couldn’t get a king-size bed upstairs into our bedroom. We had to put in two twins. The Casper comes in a box so small. It’s easy! You just schlep it up the stairs, you open it up and there’s your mattress. Soft, comfortable. You may say wait Leo, I want to try the mattress before I buy. You can! You get free delivery and painless returns within a 100-day period. So you get 100 days to decide if you’re Casper is right for you. Statistically lying in a bed in a showroom is not connected in any way to whether you’re going to like that mattress. You’ve got to sleep on it for a few nights. Casper’s mattresses are made in the USA. Even Ozzy adores it. In fact, I liked it so much I got one for my son. He’s in college. And he just loves it. Casper mattresses are affordable to begin with. $500 for a twin, $950 for a king-size. That’s a lot less than that premium mattress at the showroom. But when you use the offer code BEFOREYOUBUY at check-out, you’re going to save $50 even more. Use the offer code BEFOREYOUBUY when you check-out. I cannot recommend it more highly. We love our Casper mattresses. Now, it’s time for another product. And we’re going to bring in Myriam Joire. Myriam is really rapidly becoming our phone expert. She was here last week with a new, old Blackberry Classis. We gave her a really odd assignment on this one. The YotaPhone 2. Two screens. Let’s take a look. Myriam?

Myriam Joire: Hey there it’s Myriam with Before You Buy. Check it out, I’ve got the YotaPhone 2 today. This is a dual-screen phone. Check it out. E Ink in the back; OLED in front. In terms of spec it’s pretty much a Nexus 5. Let me show you a bit closer and personal, how this phone stacks up. So it’s a pretty high-end device. It’s pretty competitive today. On top you’ve got a 1080p five-inch OLED panel. It’s a really beautiful panel. You’d expect that from OLED. You can see the blacks are black and the colors pop. But they don’t pop overly so this is a really well-sorted five-inch OLED panel. You’ve got the usual speaker up here. Two-megapixel front-facing camera. A bunch of sensors to detect your face and light. No buttons obviously. These are all on-screen. Like more and more phones are doing. And then if you flip it over obviously you have this E Ink display. And the E Ink is really interesting because it consumes no power when it’s just static. Only when the display gets refreshed which is really interesting because it means this phone can go on the back display for several days in a row. Also you can choose. You can say I want to maybe read a book in sunlight where this display’s going to be a lot more usable. Or you can choose to save power when you decide to. So that’s kind of the shtick here. I’ll show you for example one of the cool things. If I start the camera in the front, the back changes to this graphic. Sometimes it says smile, sometimes it shows a camera. So that way you’re kind of aware; the people you’re taking a picture of are aware you’re taking a shot of them. It’s kind of a cool little interaction. And obviously the camera app was reworked to use a back-display to do that. There’s a bunch of other configuration apps you can throw at it: RSS feeds, notifications to the back of the phone. Right now I’ve got the time, the weather, quick shortcuts for phone calls, messages, etcetera. So I don’t have to always unlock my phone; I can just use the back-display. As you can see it’s a 4.7-inch. It’s a little smaller than the front display. And it’s QHD resolution that’s 960x540 pixels. You have an eight-megapixel camera at the top here with an LED flash. It’s a bit of a downgrade from the first generation device which had a 13-megapixel camera. But one of the big differences compared to the YotaPhone 1 is that the entire touch panel is touch-sensitive rather than just the bottom strip like the original was. That means that this phone can do something that the old one couldn’t. And this is mirror the entire Android experience right in the back. So you can decide to have these widgets appear while you use the front screen. Basically it’s a completely seamless Android experience on an E Ink display. And again you’re drawing so little power. If you look at the battery consumption on your Android phones, typically the screens-it’s labeled displays in your battery stats-is the killer, right? It’s what draws most of the power. So this device can save you quite a bit of battery that way. Now, continuing around in terms of specs, there is usual assortment of buttons. Let me walk you through: there is a headphone jack on the top here. Pretty standard fair stuff. Nothing at all on-let me think-this is the left side if you’re holding it from the front display; the right side if you’re holding the back display. And then you have a power/lock key and a volume locker on the right-hand side or the left-hand side depending on how you hold the phone. What’s unique about the volume rocker, two years ago the YotaPhone had the SIM tree incorporated in the power/lock key. And this year they’ve got it in the volume rocker. So you can put a little pin in the volume rocker, pull out the SIM. It’s a nano SIM this time. Previously it was a micro SIM. Still no micro SD storage on this device. At the bottom here you have micro USB charge and data port with a set of speakers. Obviously microphones are in there too when you want to make phone calls. What’s inside? Snapdragon 8.01. Two gigs of ram, 32 gigs of built-in storage, so no micro SD but it’s a pretty reasonable amount of storage. I’m not quite sure what we’re going to get when we get this phone in the U.S. if we get this phone in the U.S. There have been rumors that this phone is coming to the U.S. This model is a European model. I’ve got an AT&T SIM in here right now. As you can see it’s HSPA-plus. There’s LTE bands on this device but they’re not compatible with the U.S. Obviously if it comes to the U.S. it will have LTE-capability. So if it does have LTE, I expect that it will be compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile. Or maybe they’ll work out a carrier deal. The one thing you should keep in mind, sure you’re looking at a flagship. Pretty much last year’s kind of spec in terms of flagship. So you’re looking at essentially what a Nexus 5 would be like. But what you’re getting is this extra display. That costs you money. And you know the prices right now are really hard to tell because it’s a Russian company: YotaPhone. The rules vary a lot in price. So it’s $600-700 best case scenario right now to import this phone. And you still won’t get LTE. So keep that in mind if you’re getting this perhaps waiting for the carrier version in the U.S. might be a better way to go. In terms of pros, I think the killer app on this phone is the back-display, this E Ink panel. It seems gimmicky, but when you start using it especially with a full touch, it becomes very useful. The mirror option, bright sunlight it’s beautiful. You save a lot of energy. You can have your favorite books ready to read in the back here as PDFs or as e-books. And of course YotaPhone has an API that lets developers take advantage of this back display while the front display is in use. There’s a lot of potential here in the future. And to me that’s the biggest pro. The other pro is it is a pretty full-featured phone. You can’t go wrong. Plain Android, all the specs you can expect. It’s kind of last year’s spec but it’s still good today and this year. Cons: the camera, the main camera is eight-megapixel. It was 13 last year. You know it’s not about megapixels but I find this camera a little disappointing. Last year’s YotaPhone, generation, was passable for a 13. But this seems to be a little bit worse. But you know, it’s serviceable. But we get so spoiled with cameras today that I would say if you’re into photography this is something you should be aware of. The other con is the price. Right now it’s $600-700 at least best case. Unlocked, imported, without LTE support for the U.S. So unless we have some pricing and announcing on the U.S. carrier like it’s been rumored, it’s really hard to tell. So in a nutshell this is a pretty state-of-the-art phone. It’s a little pricy. Should you buy it? Yes, perhaps. I would say a try is the best until we get this in the U.S. on a carrier. And we have proper LTE band support. But compared to its original YotaPhone 1, this is a thoroughly better phone. A much better experience and yes, as such I recommend it as a try.

Leo: So as Myriam pointed out, not sure whether it will have full LTE support in the United States. It is expensive. On the other hand, she really liked that E Ink screen. So a try; thank you, Myriam. Myriam Joire who is now a regular not only on this show but on All About Android and we’re really glad to have her on our team. You ready to scoot? Alright, Brian Burnett who is… is he still our technical director? This is a mobile device. We give Brian all the things that are dangerous because he’s like a motorcycle guy. We thought we would give him an electric scooter. This is the EcoReco M3 scooter. Here he comes. Here comes Brian Burnett on the EcoReco!

Bryan Burnett: This is Brian Burnett for Before You Buy and today I’m taking a look at the EcoReco M3. No, not the M3 like the car, but this little speedy scooter is plenty fast. The EcoReco M3 is a scooter meant for helping those who have that last mile to get to and from commuting on the train or just getting across town and don’t necessarily want to take a bike or walk there. The underlying design of the EcoReco is it has a very sturdy aluminum frame. But it’s pretty much if you’ve ever ridden one of those Razor scooters around town, it’s like that with an electric motor strapped to it. It has a 250 watt Hub motor which means it’s fairly easy to pull wheelies when you’re not even trying. And the top speed has been rated at 20 miles per hour. The top speed for me was about 15 which was scary enough. But I’m sure with a little downward slant and the wind behind you, you’d easily hit 20 miles per hour. The estimated distance for the battery is about 20 miles and it takes 2.5 hours to charge up to 85%. Or 4.5 hours to charge to full, which was plenty or my testing needs. So with its sturdy aluminum frame, with the battery enclosed in the base of the EcoReco, it has a very low center of gravity meaning it handled relatively well but still was a little scary going over some bumps and things like that. And it took a little practice to not get twitchy steering it. The front of the EcoReco has these little spring suspension setup on the front. And it helped a little bit with some of the bumps but really wasn’t going to soak up very much. And the rear doesn’t have any suspension at all. But for getting around town and going over little cracks in the pavement it was fine. And you can even hop curbs if you have enough momentum going along. But deeper potholes and things like that definitely upset the rideability. Plug it in the, the EcoReco is pretty simple. You’ve got a three-prong input here and like I said it doesn’t take too long to charge up to full. Also the EcoReco is designed to be fairly portable where you can take down the top of the stock to the base of the scooter. And then you can also fold down the handles if need be. So if you have to get on a train or a bus or something like that, you can fold it up. It does come in at a weight of 35 pounds which doesn’t sound too heavy. But when you’re lugging it around for a little while it does start to wear on you. So I wouldn’t recommend getting this if you had to carry it for a long period of time. As for controls, it has a finger throttle on the right with a display showing your speed and trip. It also has a handy little icon for how much battery life you have. And on the left is the brakes which control the rear wheel. Fortunately not the front because you’d probably be doing a couple of stoppies otherwise. Altogether the EcoReco feels really well-made and put together. It’s been through its fair share of crashes and bumps and bruises being tested here at TWiT. And it handled it with a plumb. To really test it, me and Padre took it out to an off-road section and had a little bit of fun. And even raced a bicycle with a gas motor attached to it, which he won. But it was close. Also I wouldn’t be doing our loyal followers any justice if I didn’t test the Reco to its limits or my own. And while trying to do a wheelie, I definitely took a little spill. But it was okay. No damage done. As far as hill climbing it did struggle a little bit. But as long as I peddle a little bit with my foot going uphill it wasn’t too bad at all. As for the pros and cons, the number one pro I can think of is quality. It feels very sturdily-built and definitely handled all the difficult things that we put through it. And the next pro would be it’s just fun. Everyone who hopped on it around the studio really enjoyed it. And it was great for getting around town quickly. If not looking a little goofy. As for cons, it was a little scary with the steering because if you can imagine a Razor scooter with a motor strapped to it. Those are already a little twitchy whereas this is the same kind of thing. But once you get the hang of it it’s a lot of fun. And the second con would be it is heavy when you’re trying to carry it around for a prolonged amount of time. If you’re just folding it up and putting it on a train or a bus and then unfolding it, it’s not a big deal. But if you had to carry this over a long distance it would definitely wear on you. And finally the price. The price would be the last con as this scooter does come in at $1000. But you don’t feel like they cheaped out on any part of it at that price. And compared to other e-commuting devices like electric bikes and things like that, $1000 really isn’t too bad of a price. So would I give it a buy, try, or don’t buy? After all the fun we’ve had with this scooter, I would definitely give it a buy. If you’re in the market for a scooter to get you around where you don’t have to worry about a lot of maintenance or a flat tire or something like that, this could be the perfect last-mile commuting device for you. And thanks to Burke for trying to kill me by making a ramp in the basement. Which we totally had to jump. This has been Brian Burnett from Before You Buy. Thanks for watching.

Leo: Well a definite yow for the EcoReco M3 scooter. Brian says you can’t send it back. It’s $1000. I think you could hurt yourself. But he didn’t. So that’s why next week Brian Burnett will be reviewing powered roller skates. Are we just going to keep throwing stuff at him until he’s…?

Chad Johnson: Yea, the week after he’s testing out…

Leo: A giant life-size hamster wheel. It’s got to be amazing, rolling down the streets of Petaluma. I can’t wait.

Chad: Yea, and firework-proof gloves after that.

Leo: Fantastic! Hey, look at the old redhead, Chad Johnson is here. He is the host of OMG Craft. You can find him on YouTube, Also on where he raises money for his efforts to help school children all over the world get better at Mind Craft.

Chad: School children watch me on Mind Craft.

Leo: Do you love the HoloLens? Do you want to wear the Microsoft HoloLens and do Mind Craft?

Chad: That’s insane.

Leo: It makes me want to do it on Mind Craft. I just think it looks so cool. You saw, they did the demo of when you can look through the windows of the Mind Craft castle and inside they scrape away the wall. I mean it’s incredible!

Chad: Right. Part of me wants Mind Craft 2.0. Like if they come out with Mind Craft 2. Because I’m sure if they used a different engine other than Java, they could really optimize some cool effects.

Leo: Microsoft, they have some programmers over there.

Chad: They have a few, I hear.

Leo: How’s your blood pressure?

Chad: Not so good actually. I have high blood pressure.

Leo: What?

Chad: I’ve always had high blood pressure.

Leo: You’re 12 years old. How can you have high blood pressure?

Chad: It runs in the family.

Leo: Pork rinds, I’m sure. You come from Austin.

Chad: And the diet sodas I’m sure are for high blood pressure.

Leo: I have high blood pressure too. Anybody who has high blood pressure knows, when you go to the doctor it’s the worst time to measure. You’re nervous and scared. And they call it white coat hypertension. So my doctor has said to me many times, please get a blood pressure monitor and a fibril-thermometer. A fibo-mo-mometor. You get it at the drug store for $60. Take it home and take blood pressure readings and mail it to me because that will be more accurate.

Chad: So this is basically an updated version of that.

Leo: This is that but instead, it’s smart!

Chad: Right, this is the Pile Health blood pressure monitor.

Leo: In fact, Pile has been around for a long time making these.

Chad: Yes, brand name company. This is the PHBPB 20. If you want to be able to find it, it has no other name other than that. So that’s how you find it. And it’s inexpensive. This comes in online around $70. $69.99.

Leo: So that’s about what you pay for a decent, comparable blood pressure monitor and it doesn’t have the Bluetooth feature.

Chad: Yea, so the cool feature about this is that it connects via an app. You have a Pile Health app that you open. iOS and Android. And when you’re logged in one of the cool things is you can have multiple user accounts. So let’s say you have multiple people in the family who want to use this, they can have multiple accounts. You enter into your account and it’s actually a really nice app. It puts you on the measure page and so I hit blood pressure. Now we’re going to wait. Set this off to the side and take your blood pressure.

Leo: So it has a cuff which is the way to do it. In fact this is just like the other store-bought guys. Take your sleeve up.

Chad: The sleeve… either I could take off the shirt. I tested it before and it can read my…

Leo: The kids at home are saying take off the shirt, Chad.

Chad: Yea, I’m sure.

Leo: All the ladies. Come on, Chad!

Chad: I haven’t touched it in a while so it’s going into power-save mode. It does this where it looks like it’s taking a reading but it doesn’t. Anyway, you hit the power button. Also you can notice I’m in this page-one. You can have four different users on the device.

Leo: Oh that’s nice. The whole family can do this.

Chad: Right. So you can see that it’s connected via Bluetooth. It gives me a little animation of what it’s doing.

Leo: And now it’s filling the cuff, right?

Chad: Absolutely. So now this cuff is filled with air. It’s doing its job. It’s actually filling more with air. You’re not supposed to talk when you’re doing this so I may get a really weird reading. And then they also suggest that you keep both feet on the floor.

Leo: There’s your systolic. Now you’re going to do your diastolic and you’ll get your reading. And the nice thing about these is because it goes to the phone it’s much easier to tell your doctor. To say here’s my log.

Chad: Right. So I have very high blood pressure right now.

Leo: Quick, doctor! That’s not your blood pressure, is it?

Chad: Yea.

Leo: So 197 over 116 and your pulse rate is 99.

Chad: Now that’s the highest I’ve ever gotten. That’s most likely because I’m nervous and I’m on a show. You can see it gives you a history…

Leo: I think if this were not television, we’d probably send you to the hospital right now.

Chad: Say what are you doing?!

Leo: But because it’s television, you have a license to die.

Chad: Yea, that would be interesting television, wouldn’t it? So it gives you a history. So normally, the highest before this had been 170 over 86.

Leo: Oh that’s not bad.

Chad: That’s not too bad.

Leo: This is because you’re under pressure. And this is one of the reasons you want to measure your pressure a lot. It’s different for different times of day, different blood pressure, different stressful conditions. Generally speaking, your blood pressure on television is not recommended.

Chad: You can see how the graph goes up a bit.

Leo: Not your normal BP.

Chad: So here’s a graph of everything. What’s nice is that they pair very well. And this will actually work completely on its own. And so I can switch between…

Leo: Oh that’s interesting. So you don’t have to use the phone because you have a read-out.

Chad: You don’t have to.

Leo: I have a Wi-Fi thing that does this but it has no display. As a result you have to be tied to a device to do it.

Chad: Right, this will capture. The one issue I’ve had is if I take a measurement and I don’t have the phone over here unlocked with the app ready, it will not sync the data over. And that’s been my issue is that once I take a measurement and it didn’t sync over, it’s basically lost. I have no way to… now it does have storage but there’s no way to really send it back over, or send this to the phone so it can have.

Leo: It has a log on it.

Chad: Yea, so you can choose between the different people over here. So I’m number one. You can also choose between averages. So if I want to see my hour average, my day average, my seven-day average. So you can see this is a little bit better than what I just look.

Leo: I have some Lucinipro in the other room. Let me quickly…

Chad: Get it?

Leo: Or maybe some nitroglycerin at this point…

Chad: Yea. And it does all as well. So this is my average forever. This is nice that it does it on the device. You can also if you want to go back between the specific readings each time if you want to. So back on the app though, you can do a few things. Like you can email this to someone. So I started-where are we-May something. I forget when my-it started-where did I start my measurements? Where are we? I started June 31st. So if I go back to charts, I can email this. I can choose…

Leo: That’s nice. And again, the doctor really loves to see this. Because your blood pressure is higher after you wake up or after a cup of coffee. You want to see it after a couple days and over a couple weeks so you get a sense of how soon Chad’s going to have a heart attack.

Chad: Exactly. One of the things I don’t like is sometimes it’s difficult to determine which one is selected and which one isn’t. So here you go; this is the graph I can give to my doctor, which is really nice.

Leo: Just tell him that was the TV appearance.

Chad: Right, that was when I was on air.

Leo: It was a really cute nurse measuring it.

Chad: Right, so that’s basically what it does. Inside of the app they also offer other things like a scale.

Leo: They have other devices.

Chad: They have other devices: glucose and cholesterol. And also a thermometer.

Leo: Does this tie to Health Book?

Chad: It does not, that’s a con. It will not. And Health Book has an area for blood pressure but it does not tie in to Health Book.

Leo: Pros and cons?

Chad: The pros are this device will work all on its own if you want. Battery life is really long. It takes four double-A batteries and I used it for way over a week and it never needed replacements. And that it connects to your phone with Bluetooth. On the cons side, if you take a measurement and your phone isn’t ready, there’s no way to transfer the data back over. And it does not sync in with Health Book. The price is around $70.

Leo: Good price?

Chad: Yea, I think it’s a great price. Buy, try, don’t buy? For the Pile Health blood pressure monitor, I’m going to say buy. I like it.

Leo: Yea. Very nice. Now will you please go to the hospital?

Chad: Yea, I need to go. Call an ambulance.

Leo: it just goes to show that that’s the whole thing about blood pressure is it goes up.

Chad: You hear?

Leo: Oh good they’re on their way. Doctor mom called them. No, this is serious stuff. You want to take it seriously and it’s great to have that and it ties in nicely. I think that’s good. The Pile…letters and numbers.

Chad: Yea, the Pile-we’ll say-PHBPB 20. Yes. Start automatic wireless Bluetooth blood pressure monitor with inflatable arm cuff.

Leo: Thank you, Chad. OMG Chad, you can find OMG Craft on YouTube at And his Patron is OMG Chad. That’s his name. Chad Johnson that was your off-the-cuff review. Or was it on the cuff?

Chad: I guess yea, the cuff was on the review.

Leo: Of the Pile blood pressure monitor. We’re going to review this HP Stream 13 in just a second. Kind of pretty blue, huh? That’s nice. But first a word from Blue Apron. Ladies and gentlemen, Blue Apron, I love Blue Apron because I like to cook. But I don’t like to shop. And actually even when I like to shop I don’t have the time to shop because we work late. You get home, you’re tired. You want dinner and then you have to go shop. Blue Apron solves that by sending ingredients for a delicious meal to your home for less than $10 a meal. The freshest ingredients perfectly proportioned. Even the meats and the fish, they’re not frozen. They come in a refrigerated box so they’re completely fresh. If you’re not going to be there that week or that day, don’t worry. They work around your schedule with the ingredients you get step-by-step instructions. They have beautiful laminated cards suitable for collection so you can put together a Blue Apron cookbook. It is great. And there is no waste from unused ingredients. And they’re delicious! In fact if you go to, you can take a look at the deals they’re offering this week. You’ll never get the same meal twice by the way. Shipping is free, the menu is updated regularly. Cooking everything is about a half hour. Look at that, chicken pot pie! Shrimp po-boy sandwiches! How about roast chicken supreme with rutabaga and maple-glazed carrots? This is stuff that you probably attempt but trust me it’s easy because you’ve got the pictures, the step-by-step instructions. Even the salt and pepper, everything you need to make it is there. You could start in an empty kitchen and make a delicious meal in half an hour. It’s great for date night, it’s great if you want to show off, impress somebody. I feel like they’re teaching people to cook one menu item, one meal at a time. I really like them. And we thank them so much for their support of Before You Buy. My mouth is watering thinking about that chicken biscuit that looked good.

Chad: It’s a perfect thing. The thing that I hate the most is getting back from the grocery store and going I forgot that, I forgot that thing that I needed.

Leo: Or like on Sunday, I always say on Sunday I’m going to meal-plan and figure out everything I’m going to make. I’m going to go to the grocery store; and I never do it. I never do it. So folks here it is, this is something we’ve been thinking about and talking about probably since CES, the new HP Streamline. HP is basically making, the best way to understand this is, it’s a Chrome Book level computer. Celeron processor, 1080 screen, no touch. It’s a Chrome Book-class computer, around $200. But instead of running Chrome OS, it’s running a full version of Windows 8. With Windows 8 I always want to touch something so I have to get out of that habit. These HP Streams are great for a student because they’re colorful and kids like that. If you’re watching the video you’ll see some blinking on the screen. That is in fact not a problem with the computer, it’s the way our cameras are interacting with it. The screen is rock-solid. It’s not a bad screen, it’s LED backlit. It’s not a great screen either. But again, $200 and up. This is about $229 the one we’re looking at. Battery life, they’re claiming 7 hours 45 minutes. It’s five or six. But that’s pretty good, very lightweight. It has SD card reader. The traditional proprietary power plug unfortunately. You can’t go out and get standardized on this. Look at this though, HDMI out and two USB 3 ports. That’s pretty sweet. Plus of course a microphone-headphone jack, dual headphone jack. Speakers are somewhere here, somewhere hidden inside here. They say DTS studio sound. Not my studio. But again, what would you expect? And also, because this is an HP, you’re going to get and it’s so inexpensive, you’re going to get trial ware they call it. So HP’s connected drive, music, photo, get Dropbox offer, HP Office Jet Pro 8630 offer, HP Smart Friend, McAfee. You’ve got shop for supplies, Snap Fish, Trip Advisor, Amazon is on here. So here’s the HP stuff that you can see. There’s games and other things on here. The trackpad works pretty well in lieu of touch. You swipe in from the right to get the charms bar. You swipe in from the left to do the task switching. You know, it’s very much like what you’d expect. In fact I think it’s more than what you’d expect considering it’s $229. Part of this is really due to Microsoft. Microsoft now offers OEMs at very low cost versions, sometimes it says $0 in fact. Called Windows 8.1 with Bing, that’s the version you’re getting here. They also subsidize it with the trial ware. They’re using Intel Celeron processors. There’s only two gigs of RAM. It’s a student-class laptop. I think on the pros side, they’re beautiful design, lightweight. The keyboard actually is pretty good. Not backlit, but pretty good. It’s got a very usable trackpad. The screen is not touch but it’s good enough for what it is. It’s kind of like a low-cost student computer. On the cons, the sound is a little tinny. The screen isn’t a touch screen. And it doesn’t have a great angle of viewing. It’s an inexpensive computer. Battery life is decent, not great. Oh and the storage is minimal. Two gigs of RAM is terrible but it only has 32 gigs of storage for $229. And that’s not great either. This is really a cloud system. It does come, and thank you again Microsoft with Office 365. So you do get a full version of Microsoft Office on here. That’s pretty cool. Let’s launch Office, you’ll see how long it takes. Not too bad. Oh I didn’t activate it yet but we can try it. With Office 365 comes a terabyte of OneDrive storage. Very much like the offer that Google makes for its Chrome Books. If you’re a student, and I’ve got to say it’s for a student-it’s not for an adult-but if your student wants Windows, doesn’t want Chrome OS, wants perhaps to play Mind Craft that you can’t play on Chrome OS, I think this is a very competitive offer. It comes with different colors. It’s light, it’s portable. I don’t think anybody would be embarrassed to have this under their arm. And I think it’s totally usable.

Chad: It was the purple color.

Leo: The magenta, you shouldn’t even…

Chad: Maybe you should be embarrassed.

Leo: I don’t know. It just depends on the person I guess. So it’s a little under-powered but I have to say it’s a try. I don’t think, I really have to caution people because I think a lot of people see oh, $200 and I can get a Windows laptop. That’s it, that’s all I’m willing to spend on a computer. And I think for a lot of people that’s a big mistake. $200 that you never use is worse than $1200 for something you use all the time. You know what I mean? That extra thousand bucks-I know money’s tight-but if you don’t use this that’s $200 thrown away. And I think that sometimes happens with these less-expensive computers. But on the other hand, if it’s the second or third computer in the house and it’s for a student, you’re concerned about it getting lost or stolen, it’s a little breath of fresh air to say well it was only $229. And they’ll probably get a full year out of it. So I would say this is in its niche, a definite buy. There aren’t many choices at that price range like this. But I think you should try it if you’re considering it for yourself as an adult and maybe spend a little more money to get a nicer system. That Dell XPS 13 that I reviewed last week starts at $799 and is a much better computer in every respect. You’re going to like it a lot better. But kudos to HP and to Microsoft for creating a product that’s useful at that very low price point. A definite try for the HP Stream 13. And that concludes this edition of Before You Buy. We had a lot of great stuff. Thank you, Chad, Brian Burnett, Mike Elgin, Myriam Joire. Great to have you here too. We do this show Tuesdays so you can subscribe and get it every Tuesday evening after we produce it. By the way, we edited it up so you can get it on Not only the full half hour to hour-long show but also each individual product review. So it’s suitable for sharing. We also offer you subscriptions as always for all of our shows and on-demand versions too. Go to to find out more. If there’s a product you’d like to see us review, Myriam’s going to be doing a lot more phone stuff if you want to see her do something mobile for instance, email and let us know. We’ll get that product and get it out to one of our crack reviewers. Thanks for being here and we’ll see you next time. Remember, you’ve got to watch Before You Buy. I’m Leo Laporte. Take care!

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