Boom Urchin Speakers and Microsoft Surface Pro 2: Two New Electronic Items That Rule My House

Photo: Boom Urchin

I’m sure this has happened to you. One day you stop the hurry and scurry of daily life to look around and realize there are products you use on a regular basis that you had never even heard of a year ago. This happened to me twice in the last month. The beauty of being a writer for GeekMom is that I get to spread the word about these amazing products, beyond the seven people who follow me on Facebook.

The Boom Urchin speaker is a product I would have never asked for on my own, but it’s something my teenage sons would have begged for. And yet since we’ve owned one, I have used it as much as they have. If you are not familiar with this product, it’s a splash-proof, wireless, hardy speaker. It has a loop on one end so it can be hooked anywhere with the included caribeener or suction cup. There is an adhesive mount too, with a screw, which means you could technically attach it to a gorilla tripod and position it any way you want.

Photo: Judy Berna

The Southern California company that makes this speaker, and many other shapes/sizes of speakers, grew out of a desire to get music out in the streets, out into every day life. Their products are easy to use and easy to take along when life calls for an adventure.

The Bluetooth option is very convenient, which is part of the reason I often steal it from my son. It’s “my” music, where I want my music, and at great sound quality. I was amazed to find out it can also be used as a speakerphone, which opens up all kinds of options. The next time my son calls from the Middle East we can all gather around our little blue speaker and have a family conference call, in the living room, by the backyard fire pit, or even at a camp site.

Our Urchin came with a light blue plastic cover but there are many color options to fit every personality. The cover makes it splash-proof, but the company says that means it can handle a direct spray of water for five minutes. Welcome to my daily shower, little blue Urchin!

Photo: Boom Urchin

Battery life is pretty great too. At half volume (which is plenty loud for most situations) the battery will last 16 hours. That’s after a two hour total charge (USB or wall outlet). If you like your music really loud, the battery will still last just over 8 hours.

This portable little music maker easily fits into our household full of teens. I don’t worry when it ends up on the floor of the Suburban after a camping weekend. I don’t worry when it starts to rain in the middle of my son’s friend-filled fire pit night. It can handle anything my teen or his friends can dish out.

I wish something like this had been around when my kids were younger too, because it has all kinds of handy uses for households with Frozen-loving younger kids. I could have put away my mantra of  “Can’t we ever have anything nice around here?” because I’d have none of the worries that the kids are going to destroy it (bring on the juice spills and nighttime bath splashes).

If there are any music lovers in your house, including yourself, check out this really handy stone-shaped wonder, that allows you to bring your music with you, wherever you might go. And because I know you are wondering, the Boom Urchin retails for $149 and can be found at a variety of prices around the internet.

The second product I’ve found I can’t live without (comfortably, at least) is the Windows Surface Pro 2 Tablet. We have a home computer that the boys use for homework and I use to do my writing. I didn’t think there was a specific need in my life for a tablet. Within days of being handed the Surface Tablet I knew I’d been wrong.

We had a small seating area outside our room when we attended the GoPro Mountain Games in Vail a few months ago. In the evenings, after media meetings, I’d settle in at the little table and work on projects. I used the tablet with the keyboard attached but people walking by recognized that I was using something besides a regular laptop. No less than three times an hour I was interrupted by a curious stranger.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

“Is that the one from the commercial?”

“Is it really that easy to take the keyboard off?”

“Do you like it… more than a laptop?”

Over and over I’d say to them, “Go ahead and sit down. I’d be happy to answer your questions.” Then I’d immediately pick up my tablet in one hand and click the keyboard off with the other. With a slight ‘click’ my keyboard was disconnected, then connected again. I knew this is what my curious new friends wanted to see so I got it out of the way. The demonstration led to many other questions.

And the answers to their questions were yes. It is the same product that is shown on the colorful Windows Surface commercials. And it’s just as fun and easy to use as the commercial suggests. It’s much lighter and much easier to carry around than a laptop. It boots up almost instantly, which is something I can’t say for our family’s laptops. It has rear-facing camera for those times my cell phone is not charged enough to take that picture, or to video tape something I’m watching (which makes it a great fit for college kids who would like to video tape a certain lecture).

The kickstand that unfolds from the back makes it easy to use without the keyboard. A keyboard appears on the screen, should I need one without the firm one attached, but I find I use the touch screen so much that the keyboard is mostly unnecessary.

Photo: Microsoft
Photo: Microsoft

I  have Microsoft Office loaded on it, so if the urge to write strikes me, I’m ready, but I find I use it for so much more. On our recent flight to New Hampshire to visit family I was able to cruise around on the internet, and watch television and movies, much more comfortably than my son, who sat next to me with his big, clunky laptop. My tablet slid smoothly into my carry-on bag, taking up about as much space as a paper notebook, and not weighing much more than one.

We pulled up MapQuest directions on it, while in the rental car, and having a screen much larger than my phone, but much smaller than a full-sized laptop, was very convenient. Searching for anything on the internet was easy. I could technically use my phone for those tasks, but having a screen that is big enough to agree with my aging eyes, and also easy to slip into a large purse, made traveling much more comfortable.

In a real “review” I’d give you all the specs and tell you what’s under the hood. But several other techy websites, including GeekDad,  have done a great job of that. Our own GeekMom Jules broke down the basics last fall. I am here to tell how much it’s changed how I live my everyday life. As a product I would not have thought to ask for when the holiday gift season rolls around, I’m finding I’m using it more than many of my other daily electronics.

Photo: Microsoft

Its price is something that might scare some people off. But after using it for several months now, I am more and more a believer that the tablet could very well be the replacement of a conventional laptop. (GeekMom Jules breaks down the argument in this amazing post). Consider the ways you use your current laptop, and do a little research on the Windows Surface Pro 2 Tablet. It might very well be a handy replacement for what your laptop currently provides. If that’s true, as it is in my case, being priced in the same category as laptops makes perfect sense. The information I’ve been reading online about the Surface 3 is pretty exciting too, so be sure to do your research.

For now I’m perfectly happy with my Surface Pro 2. I haul it to work with me, would never forget it on a vacation, and often have to pry it out my kids’ hands when they sneak it out of my office. I’m actually typing this post on the home computer because my husband ‘stole’ my Surface Pro 2 to use on his latest work trip. When I do get my turn with this handy little device, I’ve accepted that any time I use it in public, I’m going to get comments and questions. I’m happily the one who gets to share my favorite new electronic device, the one  I didn’t even know I needed until it fell in my lap.

GeekMom received these items for review purposes.