Sunday, 24 May 2015

Windoo 3 review

I like gadgets, I always have. It’s a weakness and I often carry  many. A device that measures windspeed, temperature, pressure and humidity serves little real purpose on the trail yet I often take one. I justify it by telling myself that I need to know just how wind resistant my latest shelter is, or how low that new bag can be pushed and still keep me warm, but actually I’m just a sucker for gadgets.

Windoo 3, small and very light

Windoo is gadget lovers delight, a simple device that plugs into the headphone socket of an Apple or Android phone and magically transforms it into a competent weather station. It appears tough and well made and is powered directly by the smartphone, so needs no batteries. I was initially skeptical about the accuracy of device like this but having used it everyday for 1 month I'm very pleasantly surprised. Compared to my previous weather and wind-meter, a Kestrel 2500, the readings are almost identical yet the Windoo offers more features, for a fraction of the weight and bulk, and is cheaper. Measuring 52*20mm and 19g in its protective aluminium and carbon fibre case Windoo 3 is small and very light, perhaps to the point of being easy to misplace. There are 3 versions with different sensors and I have the top of the range Windoo 3 which offers windspeed, pressure, humidity and temperature. Cost is around £75. 
main screen shows the basics

Operating Windoo is easy enough, plug it into your smartphones headphone socket, open the free App and push the volume to max. A few seconds later your readings should appear. Windspeed is updated every 1 sec and other readings every 3 sec. Windoo has been designed to work with your phone fitted in a standard thin case and sits a little proud of the phone without one. I use Lifeproof waterproof cases that are too bulky for Windoo but fortunately you can use a small extension cable just fine. Check that Windoo is compatible with your smartphone and a full list is on the website. I found it out of date as the iPhone 6 is classed as incompatible (in testing) yet it works fine (and the App has been updated to support it). 

Windoo works with smaller, thinner cases
With more protective cases an extension cable is needed

The App is a little basic and I found it crashed more than I would like (tested on iPhone 5S and 6+). It’s certainly an area that could be improved. Opening the App takes you to the Live Data page which shows you the basic sensor readings but pressing the arrow below each reading takes you to a more in-depth page with realtime graphs and additional information which might include min/max/average, dew point, windchill etc depending on the sensor selected. You can change the measurement units for any sensor through the App which is great as I like temperature in C but windspeed in mph.

each sensor has its own page

Readings are saved directly in the App (with or without a photo) or shared to twitter/facebook or other Windoo users through their servers. I would like to see a save to Camera Roll option but you can do that with a screen grab (press home and power button together). 

 readings are saved to your mobile or upload to twitter/facebook

Things I don’t like about the App include that it’s a GPS hog. Windoo uses the GPS to correct pressure readings for altitude but rather than getting that and switching off it keeps the GPS on and drains your battery, you can stop this by denying Windoo access to Location Services but then you will only get actual pressure which is less useful. The App will also not work in the background so you couldn't leave it recording all night (good job given the GPS drain already mentioned). Sensor readings can sometimes be slow to appear on the screen, and occasionally the readings are just wrong (-24C in Scotland during May, I don't think so!) but closing the App and re-opening generally sorts it out and when all is working fine it is very accurate (when compared against my Kestrel). 

Overall this is a nice weather/wind gadget and is so small and light that I now always carry it. Generally very accurate the App needs more development to really shine but even as it is this is a very usable gadget that does exactly what it says. I don't see myself carrying the Kestrel again anytime soon and if you have a need for a gadget like this then the Windoo 3 is recommended.

*Windoo 3 was bought full price by me and was not suppled for test.  I do not review free gear!*