Blog

MM Select | Fall 2015

UE Roll
$100
USA
★★★☆

Ultimate Ears, a subsidiary of Logitech, has been a successful brand in the portable Bluetooth speaker market. The Boom speaker has been leading this success but I found the design to be heavy-handed so never really liked them. When I came across the new Roll speaker though, I was immediately intrigued. The Roll is an attractive disk-shaped Bluetooth speaker and is covered entirely of a durable fabric on the front. I particularly like the volume button treatment, which is sewn directly into the fabric, creating graphic appearance. The Roll is tested to an IPX7 water resistance rating, which can withstand splashes and even light dunks in water. It’s perfect for taking to the poolside or listening to music while in the shower. There’s even a bungee cord (there’s normally a branded tag on this but I really don’t like the design of UE’s logo so cut it off) making it easy to hang in the shower or loop onto your bike frame. Given the low price tag and compact size, it’s no surprise that the Roll doesn’t have audiophile grade sound quality. It’s not bad though, and I found it plenty loud for most situations. The only big faults are that the speaker doesn’t have speakerphone capability and the flap covering the ports doesn’t close very well, which made me a bit nervous when using in wet situations.

 
 

Japan may not be the place that pops in your head when you hear the word “Whiskey” but Suntory has been making some big waves in the whiskey world in recent history. Their portfolio has been winning an prodigious number of awards and thanks to whiskeys like the Yamazaki Single Malt, the company’s products are now considered some of, if not the best whiskeys in the world, The Hibiki Japanese Harmony is their latest addition and is an intriguing one. It is made up of a blend of 10 malt and grain whiskies, aged in five different casks from all three of Suntory's distilleries in Yamazaki, Hakushu and Chita. The base of the Japanese Harmony is creating using American White Oak malt whiskies and then brought to life using Japanese oak and sherry cask malt whiskies. The result is a delicate yet complex harmony that’s absolutely spectacular. The aroma is extremely floral followed by a mature woodiness. The taste is smooth, tender and subtly sweet. There’s so much in this delicate harmony be explored, so you simply have to taste it to truly understand its flavors and aromas. It’s a great exemplar of what makes the Japanese mindset and philosophy so brilliant. It distills immense complexity to create an end result that is so simple and subtle. Because the blend is so well done and delicate, I personally recommend drinking this one neat. I love whiskey but I’ve never found one quite as mouthwatering as this. What a wonderful product.

 
 

band&roll iPhone Case
$63
Germany
★★☆☆

band&roll is a small company in Berlin with just a team of two making accessories, primarily for iPhone and iPad. It’s immediately noticeable that there is a real love of craftsmanship and care here. I like the combination of colors on the iPhone Case and details like the deep debossed logo, which really shows a good sense of taste. Unfortunately though, the iPhone Case is a disappointment due to a few faults. I find the leather grain too coarse, and it looks completely different from the photos on their website. Also, wool felt can be a great material for certain applications but here, just makes the case too thick and difficult to pull out of the pocket. Judging by what I’ve seen, band&roll has the technical capability and passion to make some great products, but as an honest reviewer, it obligates me to say that this specific case just gets lost in the huge ocean of similar iPhone cases.

 
 

Apple iPhone 6S
$649 - 849
USA
★★★★

This is an “S” year for the iPhone, and the big addition is 3D Touch. I was skeptical at first, but after a month with the 6S, I think it could become an important part of the iOS experience. For now, we just need more apps to support the feature in more meaningful ways. Currently, my favorite 3D Touch experience is the ability to push on the keyboard and bring up a cursor. A more meaningful improvement for many may be the faster A9 chip. The 6S is significantly faster than the previous phone; so much so that going back to the 6 will make you wonder how you ever lived with it. The phone is also made from 7000 series aluminum now, which is a stronger alloy and should improve some of the durability issues of the past. That being said though, I don’t think the 6S is a necessary upgrade for 6 users. If you’ve got the money, sure, but phones have become so good in the past few years that recent improvements have shown diminishing returns. I bought a Space Grey iPhone last time but decided to change things up a bit and went for the Silver model this time. I regret it big time though. The black face of the Space Grey phone simply looks more cohesive and the darker aluminum finish looks more sophisticated as well. You’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned the Rose Gold model. I’m just hoping that if I refuse to acknowledge it, it will cease to exist.

 
 

Apple Magic Keyboard
$99
USA
★★★★

It’s been ages since Apple launched a new keyboard and let me tell you, it’s been worth the wait. To put it simply, the Magic Keyboard is my new favorite keyboard. If you haven’t heard, the new Apple input devices now charge using a Lightning cable, just like your iPhone. This is a very welcome change as the keyboard and mice are probably the last reasons for purchasing batteries for many. The best part about the new keyboard is the new scissor mechanism design. It enables a lower key profile and offers a tactile typing experience that makes the previous keyboard feel mushy and clumsy. I know that there are those that prefer a longer key travel, and for those, this may not be the ideal keyboard. If you’re like me and prioritize tactility, you’l love the tight, rigid typing feel. Opinions diverge immensely on keyboards so I recommend that you try it out at the Apple Store before making a purchase. Pairing your keyboard to your Mac is now easier than ever too - just plug it into your Mac using the Lighting cable, and it’s automatically paired. The $99 price tag may seem a bit high but it’s worth it when you consider that the keyboard is probably one of your most frequently used products. Apple also includes a lighting cable in the box, so it really doesn’t seem like too bad of a deal

 
 

Apple Magic Mouse 2
$79
USA
★★★☆

I know that there are haters but I’ve always loved the Magic Mouse. I find its streamlined, low-profile shape comfortable and love the multi-touch surface for scrolling and gestures. The Apple Magic Mouse 2 isn’t a huge upgrade from its predecessor but if you’re like me and use it everyday, the small changes are meaningful. Apple has improved the tactility of the clicking mechanism, so it feels tighter and more satisfying than before. There’s also an improved foot design that slides with much less resistance than before. Of course, like the Magic Keyboard, the Magic Mouse 2 now charges using a Lightning cable. Unlike the Magic Keyboard though, the Magic Mouse 2 can’t be used while charging because of the position of the Lightning port. I was hoping Apple would replace the plastic multi-touch surface with a glass one but it sadly didn’t happen this time. If you liked the previous mouse, you’ll really like this one. If you didn’t, you’ll still hate it. To each his own.

 
 

The Microsoft Designer Bluetooth Mouse is a great bluetooth mouse for those on a budget. It’s the most handsome PC-specific mouse I’ve ever seen and performs flawlessly as well. The dark grey housing is attractive and has a smooth, matte finish that will compliment most computers. It’s primarily plastic in construction but the scroll wheel is metal, adding a nice premium touch. More than anything, it’s great to see an option that has any sense of taste or self control. There are way too many mice out there that are over designed and tacky. Due to the plastic construction, I do find the mouse to be a bit on the light side but it’s not necessarily a bad thing since most will use it as their portable mouse. The battery cover is my favorite detail - it’s held on magnetically, so you don’t have to deal with cheap/annoying latches. People often ask me why I don’t review more affordable products. The truth is that making a cheap product good is really difficult, but here’s one that’s succeeded.

20151021-L1010396.jpg
 
 

Marvis Whitening Mint
$11
Italy
★★★☆

I’ve always been dissatisfied with the overly artificial flavor of toothpaste so I’ve been using the less offensive Tom’s of Maine’s products for sometime now. I’ve seen the iconic Marvis toothpastes in many shops but never tried it, primarily because spending $11 on toothpaste didn’t seem justified. But I’m here to tell you that Marvis is worth trying at least once. I’ve tried the Whitening Mint and Jasmine Mint flavors and both have a subtle, creamy flavor that make the toothbrushing experience delightful. If you’re like me and can’t stand the taste of Crest or Colagate, I’d definitely give Marvis a try.

 
 

Midori Brass Pen Case
$68
Japan
★★☆☆

Midori is a popular stationary brand that has a typically Japanese philosophy that many have come to adore. Some of their better known products are from their brass lineup. Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc, darkens in color over time, and patinas beautifully. The Midori Brass Pen Case makes a great first impression with its light grey paper box. The packaging is beautiful and enhances the aesthetic of the pen case so well that without it, the pen case looks a bit dull and unsophisticated. The design of the pen case is on the bland side although it does let brass become the highlight of its design. Being made of brass, it does create quite a racket when carrying it inside your backpack, and I have found the lid to pop open a bit too easily. It’s a fun object though, and one that I wouldn’t mind watching patina for decades to come.

 
 

Midori MD Notebook Cover
$78
Japan
★★★☆

MD Notebooks have a cult following for their quality. They’re bound with stitches for exceptional durability and open flat for writing with ease. The perfect partner for an MD Notebook is of course the MD Notebook Cover. Its made with genuine goat leather that’s supple, soft, and smells fantastic. From the moment you take the cover out of the box, you immediately know that it’s a product made with a sense of craftsmanship. The leather is untanned, so is a very light, rosy-beige color when new. Over time, it darkens into a deep caramel full of character. It also features handy slots for business cards and a pen loop. $78 is a pretty steep price for a notebook cover but the MD Notebook Cover makes a compelling case with its beautiful craftsmanship and charming, timeless approach. Like so many of Midori’s products, this is one that you nurture over time.

 
 

Midori Brass Ballpoint Pen
$28
Japan
★☆☆☆

The Midori Brass Ballpoint Pen is another member of the brass line of products by Midori. Available in a number of colors, the design is rather unusual with a mix of brass and wood. The pen splits in two parts can be made super compact by inserting the tip into the barrel. It’s compact size makes it a good companion but I find the design a bit too bizarre and think the ball-point is too thin for most people. The wooden part of the pen also feels a bit loose, making me question its durability. I’d pass on this one.

 
 

Muji Fibre Tape Measure
$5
Japan
★★★☆

A compact tape measure a handy thing to have with you, and this one by Muji is cheap and reasonably attractive. The tape is made from durable (but unattractive) glass fibre and extends up to 1.5m. It has centimeter and millimeter markings but unfortunately doesn’t have imperial units. I guess they suck anyways. The front of the tape has numbers labeled horizontally and the back side, vertically, for measuring things like the height of a table. A single button releases the stopper and automatically rewinds the tape. This is the type of simple, everyday product that Muji truly excels at.

 
 

Moment Sandal
$125
USA
★★☆☆

Moment is a new business in New Mexico that currently produces small batches of sandals. The sandals are entirely constructed from heavy leather and focuses on being durable and lasting a lifetime. At first, they feel uncomfortable - almost painful - to wear but over a few weeks, slowly morph to the shape of your feet. I appreciate that Moment is focusing on creating products that can last a lifetime - there are too few that do these days. Moment also has a respectable lifetime promise where they’ll send you a new pair of sandals for free if you walk a hole through your old ones. Unfortunately, while I don’t have doubts about the sandals durability, I can’t say that I find them attractive. If you’re into the rough aesthetic, you’d like them, but I’m was hoping they’d have more of a refined touch.

 
 

Haerfest H5 Capsule Backpack
$695
USA
★★★★

I first came across Haerfest while shopping at Barney’s and immediately fell in love with their products. Their signature Backpack and Capsule Backpacks are particularly attractive and have and iconic, simple form that stands the test of time. Getting the balance of being fashionable and timeless at the same time is one of the keys to good design, and Haerfest is a rare brand that does a good job at this. The backpack I’m showcasing today is the entirely leather H5 Capsule Backpack. Haerfest’s sense of taste is clearly evident in the purposeful, subtle tonal difference between the top and bottom half of the backpack. The company also offers the same design in a variety of materials, with my favorite being the models that combine cotton twill with leather. However, what I find really clever about these backpacks is the ring and stud strap system. It’s an immensely witty design that transforms a singular strap into both the hand and shoulder straps. This is the type of clever simplicity that I really love to see in a product. The only thing I’d caution about is the compact size of these backpacks. They look best on a female frame and unfortunately look undersized if you have broader shoulders like me. I’m a big fan of this brand and having used a large range of their products, I can vouch for their high level of craftsmanship and sense of design. I’m always rooting for Haerfest to become a modern classic. Good job guys

 
 

★☆☆☆
Mediocre. An average product.

★★☆☆
Good. Meets its promises.

★★★☆
Great. Worth praise.

★★★★
Exceptional. Highly recommended.


DISCLAIMER

Some of these products have been sent by their respective manufacturers.
As always, I do not accept payments and no posts are sponsored by manufactures.