Category: Product Reviews

Golden Nugget Lake Charles Welcomes The High-Tech Texan (and all Texans)

When it comes to gambling, eating, sipping cocktails, playing in the sun or – heck – just about living life to its fullest, I am your man.  This fact is not hard to figure out since Las Vegas is my most-visited city in the U.S.  (confession – but don’t be a hater – I’ve already been to Vegas 4x this year alone).  But instead of hopping a flight for all this fun I may have found my new hangout just a few hours drive from Houston.

Golden Nugget Lake Charles Casino.  (PRNewsFoto/Landry's)

The Golden Nugget in Lake Charles, Louisiana, opened in December 2014, and I recently spent a Friday night at this palatial playground near the swamp lands.  My crew and I headed eastbound along Interstate 10 to broadcast my radio show from “the Nugget” and we experienced a wonderful time from arrival to departure.  The $700 million project came into view as we crossed over the I-210 bridge.  Thoughts of ringing slot machines and stacks of casino chips in my head had me more excited than seeing Space Mountain the first time I approached Disney World as a kid.

Walking into the hotel was akin to entering one of the glitzy hotel casinos in Las Vegas.  That is a high compliment from me as I have been in many casinos around the world that looked similar to my upstairs poker room at home.  The marble floor and high ceiling gives the lobby and casino a roomy feel.  Several retail shops dotted the aisles and I caught a glimpse of several restaurants throughout the ground floor.  More on this later as restaurants play a large part of the Golden Nugget since it is owned and operated by Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta.  Yes, that Tilman Fertitta of Landry’s Inc. fame and fortune.

Check in was quick and simple probably because I was staring at the large window behind the counter which overlooks the H20 pool and bar.  It was a Friday afternoon and the outdoor area looked rocking as tanned guests were wading around the swim-up bar.

My pool view room with balcony overlooked this same scene and I could not wait to get down there to sample the libations and do a quick site check for my radio broadcast location the next day.  But I spent a while in the nicely appointed room looking at the many features.  500 square feet of space included a large soaker tub, king size bed, 42″ TV, stand-up shower and a dining nook.  I’m not sure how many guests utilize the small table and chairs to eat as we soon found out there are so many things to do to keep you downstairs.

The pool scene was indeed loud and fun.  Cabanas are spaced around the adult pool and bar (21 and up) with a large stage for DJs, concerts and other entertainment.  A lazy river is adjacent to the adult pool winding its way around a waterfall and under foot bridges.Golden Nugget photo4

Back to the restaurants.  It is hard to determine whether this facility was built around the restaurants of Fertitta’s empire or the hotel/casino just happened to place a Fertitta-owned restaurant every few feet along the spacious corridors.  Familiar brands can be found throughout the grounds including Saltgrass Steakhouse, Grotto, Landry’s Seafood House, and Cadillac Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar.  We wanted to go all out for dinner so we opted for Vic & Anthony’s, a top steakhouse with locations in Houston and Las Vegas.

V&A General Manager Craig Harrington was inviting and worked the elegant dining room filled with guests dressed in sport coats, blue jeans and even shorts.  An order of maple glazed quail and a jumbo lump crabcake started us off.  Those appetizers quickly gave way to a table full of prime porterhouse, organic lamb chops, blackened scallops and grits, and of course there was a lobster tail.  The wine list is extensive and – my personal affection to a bar – the bourbon collection was first rate.

Golden Nugget photo2Once our bellies were full and happy it was time for one of my favorite ways to kill time and money (or hopefully make money)…the casino.  The Golden Nugget has 70 gaming tables and 1,600 slot machines.  This Friday night seemed busy and it took a little while to find an open spot at a craps table.  But once I realized there was 20x odds on the numbers all was well.  A large bar sits in the middle of the casino floor which makes for a nice place to relax and meet on the couches or tabletops.  A high roller section is situated in the back of the casino with its own bar and higher minimum tables and slot machines.  I did not notice a VIP lounge on the casino floor but, alas, there may be one somewhere for actual VIPs.

The staff was friendly whether they paid you winnings or took your losses.  This was a real Vegas “feel” which is hard to replicate outside of those large Nevada casinos.

Saturday morning found us broadcasting my radio show back to Houston (KPRC 950AM) and the world (iHeartRadio app).  The marketing staff found a wonderful location for our booth with a backdrop just a few feet away from the sparkling water and in-pool lounges.  My guests on the show included the property’s executives from the resort, operations, and beverage departments as we learned some of the interesting facts about the gleaming property.  [Note to self:  I need to visit again soon to play the recently-opened Country Club 18 hole golf course]  And our good friend Craig Harrington stopped by to bring some more delicious snacks from Vic & Anthony’s.

After the 2 hour show it was time to pack up the radio gear and change into swim gear.  We hung out the rest of the afternoon in a cabana which I recommend reserving if you have several people in your party.  It provided a nice place for shade with couches, small refrigerator stocked with bottled water, and a TV.Golden Nugget photo1

Our quick 24 hour visit left a great impression on us and many of my radio listeners.  Lake Charles has become a booming destination for entertainment for southerners but especially with Texans who daily cross the border in hoards.   Until Texas approves legalized casino gambling (hint: do not hold your breath) this will continue to be a hot place to visit.  The Golden Nugget is shiniest new star in the area and I can’t wait to go back.

Listen to The High-Tech Texan Show podcast from the Golden Nugget:

Hour 1

Hour 2

Review: Simplicam

There are many webcams on the market and most are easy to setup and monitor.  When looking to purchase a webcam you need to look at the different features each one offers.  One killer feature on the Simplicam is facial recognition.

Simplicam can be placed most anywhere as long as it can be plugged into a standard power outlet and within range of a WiFi signal.  It can be used as a baby or pet monitor, home or business security detection, and even welcome the kids home from school via the two-way talk feature.

The facial recognition feature lets you create up to 10 profiles for your camera to recognize. Imagine getting a text alert letting you know your son came in past his curfew.  Priceless.  $149


Review: Arccos Golf GPS + Tracking App

I am always looking for ways to improve my golf game.  In addition to spending more time on the driving range I am now getting immediate feedback from a tiny device attached to each of my clubs.

The Arccos Golf GPS + Tracking app tracks every shot, every distance and every hole on your iPhone.  There is no need to input anything as each shot is recorded and measured by a virtually weightless sensor that attaches to the end of each club.

Just pair each sensor once and follow your analytics on the free app in real time.  It hasn’t shaved many strokes off my game yet but at least I know how poorly I’m playing. $399

Arccos Golf

Review: Samsung Gear Circle

It seems a new headset or wireless earbuds come out every day and most of them are personal preference based on the style you are comfortable with.  I prefer lightweight Bluetooth-enabled earbuds and I am very impressed with Samsung’s near Gear Circle.

The unit weighs just a few ounces and securely fit in my ears thanks to several earbud sizes that come included.  They charge quickly and the battery power lasts quite a while.  But my favorite feature is the magnets built into the tips of the buds. When not in use they securely clasp together and can be worn like a necklace.

Oh…the sound is great and the unique touch-style volume control works well which reduces the number of buttons.  $99


Review: Ring Video Doorbell

Home security products are popping up everywhere and many of them are do-it-yourself devices.  A video doorbell named Ring is the latest offering on store shelves and it can not only enhance your home’s security but also let visitors know you have a high-tech home at the push of a button.

The device streams live audio and video of a home’s front doorstep directly to a smartphone or tablet. Built-in motion sensors detect activity on your property and trigger instant mobile alerts, giving you the ability to know what’s going on even if you’re not there.

The doorbell comes with everything you need for installation.  Once installed it connects to the Internet via WiFi.  You can sync an unlimited number of smartphones and tablets.  The HD night vision camera works well in any light and can be customized with four faceplate finishes.  $199

Ring video doorbell 2

Review: Oort SmartLED

The OORT SmartLED is based on Bluetooth technology, allowing users to manage the bulbs in their home from their smartphones or tablets without an internet connection.

Put the bulb in a standard socket and download the app.  You can schedule actions up to one week in advance such as turning on and off the light.  With a SmartHub connection, you can create custom actions, such as triggering blue light to flash when you receive a Facebook message or red when your child comes home.

You can also change the atmosphere of your home or office within seconds – 16 million different colors are available.  The SmartLED is energy efficient as the company claims it will last up to 40,000 hours.  $40


Review: XY Find It Bluetooth Smart Beacon

We lose things – keys, purses, wallets and even pets.  Here is a smart little gadget that can help track those lost items.  The XY Find It Bluetooth Smart Beacon helps find nearby items just by attaching it to your valuables, your possessions and your pets.

Download the app, remove the battery protector and then open the app to sync it.  You can assign each beacon a name and a picture, to make it easy when using multiple devices to track multiple objects.

It has a 150 foot range and tells you how close the selected beacon is.  You can also set a function to alert you when you move out of range of the tag.  3-pack $60; 6-pack $100


Review: Spine Eyewear

Eyeglasses these days seem to be adding tiny screens and cameras to make them more high-tech.  Can’t someone design a pair of glasses that actually stay on your head?  Thank you, REM Eyewear, as they created an innovative hinge and cable system that not only fit any sized head but also stay put when worn.

On most glasses the “arms” are hinged but only move in one direction.  But with the new Spine glasses the hinge is made up of multiple segments held together by a single cable within, allowing the arms to move in, out, and even up and down.

They grip, they flex, and they shut automatically. The grip ensures the frames do not slip down your face, which has already been proven during a recent round of golf.  The company has designed a modern men’s collection designed for everyday wear.  The classic, minimal shapes feature a signature tip and nosepads.

The optical and non-prescription sunglasses sell for around $250.Spine Eyewear

Spine Eyeware 2

Review: Tablo DVR

If you are ready to discontinue your cable or satellite TV service then you need a backup plan to watch TV.  Houston offers dozens of free, over-the-air (OTA) channels accessed via an HDTV antenna but how do you record your favorite shows?  Tablo DVR is one answer and its sleek, high-tech box is simple to use.

Tablo is the first broadcast TV system designed to combine the functionality of a DVR with the convenience and mobility of a tablet app.  It lets users browse, record and stream OTA programming on a variety of devices including tablets, smartphones, and computers.  And yes you can even watch those shows on a good ‘ol television sets with the aid of an HDMI adapter like Apple TV, Roku and soon Chromecast.

The small device connects to an HDTV antenna and a USB Hard Drive.  Accompanying free apps (iOS, Android, web and Roku) provide the interface.  Tablo comes in two variants – two and four tuner – to suit households of all needs and sizes.  Stay tuned for a new version coming soon with a built-in antenna.  $220/$300


Review: TCL Pulse Alarm

Waking up is hard to do for many of us. Traditional alarm clocks and hotel wake-up calls aren’t always enough to rouse heavy sleepers or people with hearing loss in time for work or class.  If you fit into one of these categories you should try the TCL Pulse from Amplifyze.

This is a wireless solution that fits in the palm of the hand and under pillows.  The Bluetooth-enabled alarm/timer offers a choice of vibration, sound or both and can be programmed for multiple users.  Download the app from iTunes (Android coming soon) to set vibration strength and sound level.  If the audible alert doesn’t wake you the vibration of the device should gently awaken you from your slumber.

The device also functions as a timer or reminder system.   It uses 3 AAA batteries and comes with a travel pouch.   $39.95

TCL Pulse