Browsing Category


chicago cheap ass (2)
Reviews, Technology,

Save or Splurge? Panasonic Solar Charger Review

We’re neck-deep in Chicago’s music festival season with plenty more to look forward to until the summer is officially over. Earlier this summer, I wrote about what you need to survive a Chicago summer festival in style. Among what I’d consider one of the most important things to consider was a portable battery charger for phones and other devices. You don’t want to be separated from friends or lost while trying to navigate if you’re unfamiliar with the city when the festival is over.

I recently had the opportunity to review the Panasonic Solar Charger, and put it to the test during my three day stint at Lollapalooza.

Let’s start with the good.

What I really like about the Panasonic Solar Charger is that it has a lot of very useful features that compliment each other. Obviously, one of the main features is that you can use the sun to charge your device when traditional outlets are unavailable or in short supply. Most music festivals have charging stations of some sort, but I’m hesitant to leave my phone out and vulnerable on a charger in a heavily-trafficked area, or even just having to force myself to stay in one spot when there’s so much else going on. And if there’s a line… all bets are off. Empower yourself to not have to deal with that.

The Panasonic Solar charger also has a USB outlet for charging. This is a great option for making sure that you go into a festival with juice… even if it starts raining. There’s also a flashlight function which produces a very bright LED light. Perfect for if you’re at a festival at night and are trying to navigate in the dark, or find something you dropped.

A recommended use scenario would include setting up a space where you can sit for awhile and lay out the charger in front of you in full view of the sun. Another idea would be to secure it to a backpack or purse on the outside with some zip ties.

Let’s talk about the not-so-good.

Although the battery life on the charger seems good (it basically has a never ending energy supply), it charges my battery slower than free portable battery chargers I’ve gotten at various events. The free chargers I’m referring to, you could get on Amazon for less than $10.

It also takes up more space than the portable battery chargers I’ve just referenced, and many others I’ve seen friends carry. It’s skinny but long and wide.

My recommendation is that you should get this charger if you’re going to a camping festival, like Bonnaroo… You stand to benefit from the fact that there will be no outlets. The flashlight setting wouldn’t hurt, either. For all other situations… get yourself a cheap portable battery charger.

The Panasonic Solar Charger was provided to me by Verizon to use for free during a review period of one month.

chicago cheap ass (7)
Reviews, Technology,

Save or Splurge? Fitbit Aria

When I was in college, I started my own personal blog to get in the habit of writing and to document my travels. I was asked to review products for Verizon due to my young, technologically-savvy readership. I had a blast testing out all sorts of tech toys.

Fast forward to today. I’ve started a new blog with a similar audience. I reached out to Verizon’s Chicago team and will continue my technology reviews with a different twist. I call it “Save or Splurge?” because technology is never (well… rarely) cheap, but can certainly be worth the cost. Although the products are provided to me on a free rental basis, I’m given no direction on how the review should be written. So rest assured, lovely readers. What you’re getting from me is 100% no-bullshit.

Fitbit Aria: A Review

So I decided to start my reviews with a product I’ve been lusting over – the Fitbit Aria Scale. I’m pretty obsessed with my Fitbit tracker (the Flex model). I’ve convinced many of my friends to get one so we can participate in weekly step challenges – I’m always first or second, and it gets super competitive 🙂 What initially drew me to the Aria scale was that it pairs with any Fitbit tracker. If you’re like me, you like things that connect seamlessly. This would explain my obsession with Apple technology – each device is a specific extension of the others. I use my Fitbit not only to track my steps, but also to use that data to sync with MyFitnessPal to get a more complete picture of my health. So why not add the extra step?

So let’s talk specifics. The Aria is not cheap, especially by my standards. At $129.99, it’s a product you have to justify before swiping your card. The Aria can support up to 8 different users’ data – perfect if you live with another person who owns a Fitbit tracker. If you don’t, you can still use the scale on Guest mode without a Fitbit. The scale uses wifi to sync with your Fitbit account and track your data – no manual input required! The Aria scale tracks body fat percentage and lean fat so that the other numbers it tracks (weight and BMI) give a more complete picture of your health. This calculator shows you if you’re within a healthy range of body fat based on the type of lifestyle you lead.

I had the Fitbit Aria for about a month and weighed myself at least once a day (sometimes more). The battery stayed strong throughout my time with it. From a health perspective, it was beneficial for me to see the day to day changes in my body (and what stayed the same). Since your weight can fluctuate a few pounds everyday, it can sometimes be frustrating to see a higher number on the scale than what you expected. Having additional data made these fluctuations more bearable. Having a Fitbit (pedometer) has already helped change some of my health habits for the better. I make more excuses to walk instead of taking public transportation or cabs. And as previously mentioned, it’s gamified fitness in challenges against my friends. Having the Fitbit Aria Scale has made me more aware of what I eat and my fitness routine – I can see the changes on the scale everyday.

It’s worth mentioning the Fitbit Aria’s competition: the Wi-Fi Body Scale by Withings. It uses Twitter to keep you honest by tweeting your results to your Twitter followers. Definitely a good feature for someone looking to make a change, but it’s also more expensive than the Fitbit Aria at $159.99.

So what should you do? Save or Splurge? I would say this is right in the grey area. If you’re not super into health and fitness, you’re wasting your money by purchasing a scale that gives you more than the basic data most people seek from a scale. If you’re into data as it applies to your own personal health trends, you probably already own a Fitbit, and additional accessories are within the realm of possibility. Plus, if you’re into fitness, you’re probably already getting these measurements done at the gym or with a personal trainer… it’s so much more empowering (and convenient) to do it yourself.

What fitness technology do you think is worth a splurge? Let us know in the comments!