Griffin SmartTalk Solar and Stylus+Pen Review

Griffin continues to release new hardware products at a hectic pace. Here's a quick review of two items that are worth looking at more closely.

SmartTalk Solar

Have you ever tried using a Bluetooth smartphone car speaker? Some models require a dangling wire to drop from the suspended speaker and grab their power from the car's cigarette lighter plug, while others use batteries that drain quickly and need to be frequently replaced. More expensive models have built-in rechargeable batteries, but still need to be charged on a regular basis. And just when you need the speaker the most is just after you forgot to recharge or change the batteries, only to stare in disgust at a dead peripheral.

Someone at Griffin must have experienced this same problem, since the solution they developed addresses this troublesome power issue while at the same time helping to keep the planet cooler. Their sun-powered SmartTalk Solar Bluetooth external speaker has all the features you would expect from a hands-free mobile phone amplification system. And the clear suction mount can be conveniently placed in the upper corner of your windshield (or just behind the rearview mirror) so as not to be too distracting in your driving line of sight. The side of the SmartTalk Solar facing the windshield is essentially a solar panel while the side facing the driver is a speaker and a large push button that is used to toggle and initiate calls. A volume rocker is there to increase and decrease audio appropriately.

SmartTalk Solar

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Pairing the unit was the usual Bluetooth affair and only took a few seconds to get working with my iOS devices. The SmartTalk Solar works with Android and Windows smartphones as well.

Audio quality is what you might expect from a speaker this size, but more importantly, the SmartTalk Solar works as advertised when it comes to keeping itself charged. As long as you're not a driver who keeps their car parked in a garage and works at night, the daylight streaming through your windshield should keep the on-board battery topped off most of the time. And if you do happen to live in a place with limited sunlight for extended stretches of time, the battery can still be recharged via its built-in micro USB plug and accompanying power cable.

Two of the product's standout features are its motion sensing Auto Connect ability to automatically connect to your phone when you're in range of the SmartTalk. The other useful feature is its ability to multi-pair with another smartphone so that, for example, you and a spouse can simultaneously pair with and use the SmartTalk. That way, you only have to configure it once and it's ready to go regardless of who needs to take an in-transit inbound call.

Overall, the Griffin SmartTalk Solar is well designed and eco-friendly, and does so with simplicity and a minimum of distraction. So if you're tired of fumbling for your phone when receiving a call while driving, I suggest that you stop putting yourself and others at risk and consider making a safer and smarter investment in Griffin's SmartTalk Solar.

Product: SmartTalk Solar
Manufacturer: Griffin Technology
Price: $69.99
Rating: 4/5 stars

Stylus + Pen Review

Griffin has had a good, long run with their Stylus line. Two years ago, they introduced one of the first styli for the iPad. Last year, they combined it with a pen and laser pointer. And now, Griffin offers the stylus and pen minus the laser pointer at nearly half the cost.  Read on to find out if the new configuration worth the price.

This will be a very brief review, since the Stylus + Pen is essentially the same product I reviewed two years ago with the addition of an enclosed ink pen tip (like the highly rated Griffin Stylus+Pen+Laser Pointer I reviewed a year ago.

Griffin Stylus+Pen

Griffin's Stylus+Pen is at the midpoint of these two prior stylus designs and as such, offers the combined functionality of a stylus for the iPad and a spare pen for old fashioned analog paper. While I'm still not entirely sold on the fat tip stylus (and the fact that the iPad isn't optimized for a stylus experience), the note taking and artistic applications on the App Store really do benefit from having a dedicated writing implement versus a fingertip prone to accidental pointing errors.

So if you're a person who prefers to take a lot of handwritten notes with one foot in the analog and the other in the digital world, Griffin's Stylus+Pen should doubly satisfy your need to do so.

Product: Stylus+Pen
Manufacturer: Griffin Technology
Price: $29.99
Rating: 4/5 stars

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Mike Riley is a frequent contributor to several technical publications and specializes in emerging technologies and new development trends. Mike was previously employed by RR Donnelley as the company’s Chief Scientist, responsible for determining innovative technical approaches to improve the company’s internal and external content services. Mike also co-hosted Computer Connection, a technology enthusiast show broadcast on Tribune Media's CLTV.