The Geek AV Guide

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Home Movie:
Te c h
The Geek A-V Guide
EVERYBODY WATCHES TV. But if
you’re still watching on a miniscule
screen that spews tinny sound
from the built-in speakers of your
ultra-thin TV, you probably haven’t
got a clue about how much fun you
could be having in front of what
they used to call “the tube.” You
think you get wrapped up now in
an hour of The Walking Dead? Just
wait until you see walkers coming
toward you on a massive display
that looks like the viewscreen of
the Starship Enterprise. Clearly,
what you need is your own home
theater. And, these days, there’s no
reason you can’t have it.
Now, this takes some qualification. There are degrees of everything, and it is possible to spend
$100,000 or more to build the
dedicated movie palace of your
dreams that’ll kick the butt of your
local cineplex — yes, even the one
with the plush motorized recliners
and gourmet popcorn delivered to
your seat. But that’s not the only
definition of a “home theater. So
let me open your eyes and ears
with another perspective.
A home theater is any
assemblage of technology whose
purpose is to enhance the visual
and aural perception of movies and
television shows, with the intent
of creating a more engaging and
immersive viewing experience.
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JULY 2013
Notice, I said “visual and aural,”
not “visual or aural.” A home
theater is a home theater because
it delivers an enhanced viewing
experience for both audio and
video — they go hand in hand.
Buying a new HDTV without sound
reinforcement does not count. And
notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t
say you had to have a subwoofer
the size of a boxcar or seven tower
speakers. Nor do you need an
amplifier that makes the house
lights dim or even a TV of a particular size or type. You simply need
to be committed to “enhancing”
your television experience with the
intent of making it more “engaging
and immersive.”
So let’s say you’re streaming
movies and shows today in a college dorm room on a laptop while
listening through earbuds and you
bring in a pair of high-quality powered desktop speakers with a little
subwoofer. You just got yourself
WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM OUR
FRIENDS AT HOME THEATER
MAGAZINE — AND NOT TOO MANY
QUATLOOS — YOU, TOO, CAN
BRING THE BIG-SCREEN THEATER
EXPERIENCE HOME. By Rob Sabin
DON’T BUY CRAP
You think I’m being funny but I watch
ever more fully into the fantasy
world. Throw on the Imperial
Walker attack in The Empire Strikes
Back on Hoth and feel a slight
chill as your room rumbles — now,
that’s home theater.
So if you’re ready to take your
first step into a larger world,
here are some important items
to remember.
n SOUND OFF: A wireless soundbar
and subwoofer from Sonos is
a great way to enhance your
audio experience.
pleasing for the room and wall.
people spend their cash on low-value,
poor-performing equipment at all budget
levels. Once you get above a certain rela-
BACK IN BLACK
I’m not talking about the color of the
THE IDEAL HOME
THEATER AUDIO
SYSTEM HAS A
MINIMUM OF FIVE
SPEAKERS THAT
COVER THE FRONT,
LEFT AND RIGHT
POSITIONS (THE
TRADITIONAL
STEREO MUSIC PAIR),
A CENTER CHANNEL
SPEAKER FOR
DIALOGUE, AND A
PAIR OF SURROUND
SPEAKERS.
musically accurate and highly dynamic
sound. Most soundbars come with a
wireless powered subwoofer you can
place anywhere in the room where there’s
a wall outlet. Some simply reproduce
tively low entry point, there is a select mix
TV frame, I’m talking about the image
of high-value, high-performance gear in
coming off the screen. When you start
every price bracket. As an editor for Home
reading, you’ll see a lot of reviewers
Theater magazine and hometheater.com,
blathering on about black levels. It’s
I’m frequently asked by people what they
an obsession because it makes a huge
should buy at a certain price, then I watch
difference in the picture. When a TV
them ignore my advice and listen to the
can make black look deep and inky
salesperson in a box store instead. When
instead of just gray, you can get natural
I ask them why they didn’t buy what I
gradation and details in the shadows
recommended, they tell me that they’re
and spectacular contrast between the
not as serious as I am about sound or
darkest and brightest parts of the image.
video, so their purchase should be fine.
In short, you get “punch” and resolution
That’s dumb. If your eyes and ears work
that starts to mimic real life. Both types
properly, there’s no reason you won’t
of HDTV display technologies you see
get the same pleasure out of a piece of
advertised — plasma and LED-backlit
gear that I do, and your appreciation will
LCD — can achieve great blacks, though
speakers to go with the side surrounds,
more musically accurate performance
mature over time just as an oenophile’s
there are tradeoffs. Plasmas are still
you’ll have a match for today’s newer
as well.
palate does. So do your research and get
valued by enthusiasts for their black
7.1-channel movie soundtracks, but that’s
your money’s worth.
levels and saturated colors, but they’re
overkill for most folks and only a modest
less efficient and not as bright, a weighty
enhancement. Driving all these speakers
The old “garbage in, garbage out”
factor if you watch in a bright room. And
usually requires an audio/video receiver
adage fits for the home theater market.
SIZE DOES MATTER
While there’s no minimum screen size
a home theater. If you then move
to an off-campus apartment
and upgrade to a 42" HDTV and
plug your desktop speakers into
that, you’ve enhanced your home
theater and made the experience
more engaging and immersive. If
you step it up further to an all-inone soundbar that offers virtual
surround sound, that’s a home
theater, too. See? It’s not about
how many speakers you have or
how big the screen is. Sometimes,
it’s about the
intent and the
incremental
changes you can
make to escape
what seems balanced and aesthetically
soundtracks in two-channel stereo, while
others can process the 5.1 channels in a
soundtrack coming off a cable box or disc
player and create a modest semblance
of virtual surround speakers at the sides
of the room.
In lieu of a component system or
a soundbar, you can also consider a
powered compact speaker system, which
is typically a pair of speakers plus a small
subwoofer. They offer similar benefits
to a soundbar minus the faux surround
sound, but allow you to spread the
speakers a good distance apart for better
imaging up front, and they may deliver
DINE WELL
don’t forget to take your new TV out of
(AVR), which combines a multichannel
You’re getting a high-def television and
that constitutes a home theater, try to
the default Vivid or “torch” picture mode
amplifier with a surround processor that
an audio system to help you extract the
get the biggest display you can afford
and select Cinema or Movie for the best
steers the correct information to each
incredible sonics imbedded in today’s
that properly fits your space. I’m not
image quality. If it looks a little dark, you
speaker. They come in both the 5.1- and
programming, so make sure you feed
saying you should sacrifice good picture
can edge up the Contrast (and/or the
7.1-channel varieties and, like speakers,
your theater the good stuff. That means
quality, but stepping up to a larger
Backlight on LCD TVs), but the picture
in a wide range of prices. Non-techies
opting for high-def streams of movies
screen or sitting closer to the one you
should be fundamentally right.
inevitably find AVRs terrifying to set up
and shows when you can, getting an HD
and operate, and I can’t blame them. But
cable or satellite box, and using Blu-rays
you’ll likely get the best performance by
instead of a standard-definition DVDs.
mating a good AVR and speakers and
Good Blu-ray movie transfers have a
own widens the viewing window and
drives up that engagement factor. If you
SOUND IT OUT
purchase a full-HD television with 1080p
Most of today’s flat-panel HDTVs have
screen resolution — and that’s most TVs
speakers that point toward the back wall,
cabling it all together, either by yourself or
noticeably better HD picture than broad-
nowadays — you can get awfully close to
away from the listener, so it’s no wonder
with the help of a professional installer.
cast or streaming, and if you use an A/V
it without seeing the pixels that comprise
we can’t always hear the dialogue. They
An installer can also hook you up with
receiver, it’ll decode the higher-resolution
the picture. That’s even truer with the
cannot throw a wide, tall and three-
a universal remote to simplify system
new 4K-resolution Ultra HDTVs that are
dimensional sonic image that even small
operation.
just hitting the market, which offer four
standalone speakers with real woofer
times the pixel density of 1080p.
and tweeter drivers can deliver. Their
all the speakers and wires is simply too
tonal balance and timbre is off, so instru-
much for many people, which is why
room is different, and things like your
ments and voices don’t sound natural. In
sales of all-in-one powered soundbars
room size, furnishings, wall hangings,
short, TV sound sucks.
are exploding. These are typically squat,
As for zeroing in on a screen size, every
position of windows and other factors
The ideal home theater audio system
Still, that traditional A/V system with
wide speaker systems that go in front of
have bearing on what feels right for your
has a minimum of five speakers that
the TV and can often
space. Here’s what to do: Visit the manu-
cover the front left and right positions
be hooked up with only
facturer’s site for a set you’re considering
(the traditional stereo music pair), a
a single cable to the
and get the outer edge dimensions
center channel speaker for dialogue, and
TV. A decent one that
(width and height) for a couple of dif-
a pair of surround speakers that are best
won’t hurt your ears
ferent screen sizes you want to compare.
positioned to the left and right of the
can be had for around
Then, on the wall you plan to use for your
main seating but can be placed behind as
$300-$400, or you can
TV, create the outline of one of them with
well. Add a powered subwoofer to assist
spend up to $2,000 on
blue painter’s tape in the location you
with special effects and bolster the bass
a high-performance
expect it to appear. Step back and take a
of your main speakers — that’s the “.1”
model. The sweet spot
look. You’ll instantly know if you can go
in a 5.1-channel system. If you’re flush
range is $500 to $800,
bigger or need to drop down a size to find
and want to add two back-wall surround
which will deliver
audio soundtracks that remain exclusive
THE SWEET
LIFE: You
don’t need
a 4K monitor to get
beautiful
video with
the right
equipment.
to this format (DTS-HD Master Audio
and Dolby True HD). A Blu-ray player
may also make your regular DVDs look a
little sharper, and most players today are
Internet-ready and loaded with apps for
Netflix and the other popular video and
music-streaming services.
geekexchange.com
37
Tech
G-Tested
All Systems Go!
Open the Blast Doors…
Rob Sabin is the editor of Home Theater magazine.
BUILDING YOUR FIRST HOME THEATER
If you’ve got some idea of what to keep in mind when shopping for your
home theater system, these recommendations may help complete your
journey. Remember that these represent just a tiny offering, and there’s
plenty more to know about when selecting gear in each of the categories
mentioned, so do the extra homework. When you’re ready to buy, it’s OK
to shop online, even for a TV, but stick to reputable, known retailers. If
you go the brick-and-mortar route, don’t fall prey to an aggressive sale
on a product you haven’t researched, and please do not buy from people
who drive up in a white van to sell you speakers you’ve never heard of,
even if said brand has its own website. — Rob Sabin
SYSTEM
RECOMMENDATIONS
All prices are manufacturer suggested retail prices and may be subject
to retailer discounts. For reviews on
most of these products and additional
recommendations, visit the Top Picks
section at hometheater.com.
GOOD
• Panasonic ST-P50ST60 50"
3D Plasma HDTV, $1,150
• ZVOX Audio Z-Base 580 TV
Sound System, $500
• Panasonic DMP-BDT230 3D
Blu-ray Disc Player, $130
Total system cost: $1,780
For a tight budget, this is a killer system that has no right to look or sound
as good as it does. The Panasonic
ST series plasma (Available in 50",
55", and 60" screen sizes) is Home
Theater’s (and everyone else’s) value
darling. You get super deep blacks,
robust, saturated color and an almost
silky look with film-based content.
Panasonic’s budget DMP-BDT230
Blu-ray player delivers the superb
picture we expect from the format and
built-in Wi-Fi for streaming. The ZVOX
Z-Base 580 is a squat, rectangular
box upon which you rest your TV, or it
can slip it on a shelf below. It throws a
38
JULY 2013
big sonic image and sounds great with
both movies and music, thanks to bass
output that goes down to about 50 Hz,
but if you really need to rattle the walls,
there’s also an optional subwoofer
output. And it learns the volume commands on your cable box remote for
simple daily operation.
Alternates: The Paradigm Millennia
CT Compact Theater System, with
two superb compact speakers and
powered sub ($700), offers a bit less
operational convenience than the
ZVOX but has more refined sound. And
for those who want the full surround
sound experience, Yamaha’s RX-V475
($400) budget AVR will mate well with
Pioneer’s remarkably inexpensive and
stupidly good-sounding SP-BS22-LR
compact 5.1-channel speaker system
($520), engineered by high-end
speaker designer Andrew Jones.
You’ll trade some image quality
for size in this Vizio E-series HDTV
compared with the best, but at only
$1,600, it delivers a huge 70" picture at
a stupendous bargain. The Denon AVR2313CI receiver proved a solid performer
for its price in Home Theater’s tests,
and it’s mated here with Definitive
Technology’s outstanding redesigned
StudioMonitor 55 bookshelf speaker
(really at its best on a stand) that
creates audiophile sonics for a song.
The recommended Blu-ray player offers
up Samsung’s world-class streaming
platform and Smart Hub interface, and
even makes viewing recommendations
based on your preferences.
Alternates: At similar price to the
Vizio, demanding videophiles can opt
for Panasonic’s 60" version of the
ST series plasma mentioned above
($1,700). If a receiver-and-speakers set
isn’t practical, the Playbar soundbar
from Sonos ($699) puts out an
astonishingly wide, tall and naturalsounding image from a rectangular box
the size of a 3' wide deck plank, though
you should mate it with the matching
donut-shaped SUB subwoofer ($699).
Once installed, you can spread Sonos’
$299 powered speakers around the
house and use its smartphone and iPad
app to enjoy your iTunes and Internet
music in any room.
BEST
• Vizio E701i-A3 70" LED LCD
HDTV, $1,600
• Denon AVR-2313CI A/V
Receiver, $900
• Definitive Technology Studio
Monitor 55 5.1-channel
Speaker System, $2,494
• Samsung BD-F5900 Smart
Blu-ray Player, $150
• JVC DLA-X55R Projector,
$3,499
• Elite Lunette 96" Curved
Cinemascope Screen ($1,600,
fixed frame)
• Cambridge Audio Azur 751R
A/V Receiver, $2,799
• GoldenEar Technology
TritonCinema 3 Speaker
System, $3,000
• OPPO Digital BDP-103
Universal Blu-ray Player, $499
Total system cost: $5,144
Total system cost: $11,379
BETTER
For rooms with controllable light,
a separate projector and cinematic
screen is the ultimate home theater
experience. The JVC DLA-X55R is the
over-delivering entry-level projector
from the brand favored by many
enthusiasts for its deep blacks and
accurate color. Elite’s curved Lunette
screen also boasts high value, and its
2.35:1 aspect ratio shows theatrical
films without the black bars. The
Cambridge 751R receiver skips a
few bells and whistles in return for
world-class amplification and sonics.
OPPO’s Blu-ray players won’t look
much better on screen than a good
budget model, but they’re the reference point for virtually every reviewer
out there, thanks to made-to-last
build quality and a superior audio
section for music playback. You’ll
hear every detail it can muster on
GoldenEar Technology’s much-lauded,
high-end-for-a-fraction-of-the-cost
TritonCinema three floor-standing
speakers. They’ve got built-in powered
subwoofers (no separate box needed),
and you can blame the great imaging
and accurate timbre on the folded-foil
ribbon tweeters.
Alternates: If projection won’t
work for you, have a look at Samsung’s
new top-line F8000 series LED
LCDs, which use the company’s new
Precision Black Local Dimming for
the backlight (46", 55", 60", 60", or
75"; $7,999 for the 75", or just $3,500
for the more popular 65" size). Also,
Panasonic’s new 65" breakthrough ZT
series plasma, whose price was unannounced at press time but is estimated
to be in the $4,000 to $4,500 range. If
you’ve got coin and like being futureproofed, Home Theater found Sony’s
84" XBR-85X900 4K-resolution Ultra
HDTV impressive (it should be given
its $25,000 ticket), and the 65" XBR65X900A ($7,000) Ultra HD model
ought to deliver similar image quality.
Braven 570
// It’s not often that a device revolutionizes a tech subset, but Braven
has unleashed its Spartacus upon a
Republic of ill-conceived, underpowered and finicky Bluetooth speakers.
Like Spartacus himself, the 570 is
diminutive, but extremely powerful.
And unlike the Romans in the Starz
series, this thing does exactly what is
says it’ll do — and does it extremely
well. It paired smoothly and painlessly
with every Bluetooth device we could
throw at it (iPhone, iPad, MacBook
Pro, HP laptop, iMac and Galaxy S, to
name a few). For its size and form factor, the audio quality is unbelievable.
Couple that with its stereo inputs and
outputs, it can be daisy-chained with
multiple 570 units to create a wall of
sound. Braven has distinguished itself
as the premiere portable wireless solution. And unlike similar products, this
sucker stays paired to your device until
you tell it not to be. It has a solid lineof-sight range of 50' and a 25' range
through closed doors and around corners, so you don’t have to fret about
leaving the room with your phone in
your pocket to go the kitchen, worry
about having to re-pair your device to
the speaker when you get back. And
then there’s the coolest feature of
all: This little monster will also serve
as an emergency USB power source
for your mobile devices and can even
recharge them. In one of our tests, an
iPhone was taken from a 33% charge
to an 80% charge while the Braven
was being used to play music from
the same device. Yes, it’s the ultimate
travel companion. Its small form factor
makes it easy to include in a backpack,
briefcase or even a shaving kit, and its
solid aluminum construction makes it
tough to damage yet it’s so lightweight, you could slip it into the front
pocket of your hoodie and
forget that it’s there but
for the thumping
sound it
IS G
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!
produces. Another extra is its incredible
10-hour battery life. The only downside
to the 570 is that while it will also
serve as a decent speakerphone, it’s
very unidirectional, so it’s not going to
replace that thing in your conference
room anytime soon. — Shian Storm
$120 braven.com
>I Verdict: 98%
Favi SmartStick
// With networked Blu-ray players
and other set-top options, it’s getting
easier to turn your regular TV into
a “smart” TV for access to content
providers such as Netfilx, Hulu, HBO
GO and so on. But perhaps there is
no easier way to transplant a brain
into your “dumb” set than with the
Android-powered Favi SmartStick. It
quickly plugs into any free HDMI port
and powers on automatically. It comes
with an infrared remote, but we tested
it with the optional Bluetooth keyboard/trackpad via USB dongle and by
using an iPhone running the Google TV
app. The SmartStick has built-in Wi-Fi
for accessing apps, games and entertainment content, or for a faster connection you can use any USB-based
Ethernet adapter. Any USB 2.0 drive or
fat 32 Micro SD card can be used to get
media to and from the device. Not that
you’ll need to, as one of the coolest
features on the SmartStick is the PLEX
Media Server, which allows you to
stream content right off your computer
over the network. You have access to
all your music, movies and pictures
right from your TV. Once it was set up,
we found ourselves kicking back on
the couch using it to play games from
the Android store, read email, surf the
Web, watch Netflix and YouTube and
stream movies right off an iMac over
Wi-Fi. Another cool feature is access
to your local radio stations. Any local
station with a live Internet feed can
be streamed and bookmarked for
future easy access and, like all HD
OUR GADGET EXPERTS TRY
OUT THE LATEST GEAR FOR
HOME, WORK AND FUN.
radio players, it displays
the song and artist
information onscreen. As an added
bonus, music will
continue to play
until you tell it
to stop, so you can
listen to MP3s or the radio
while playing games or browsing the
Net. A few caveats, however: The
manufacturer recommends using a
USB hub with the SmartStick as there
is only one USB connector on the
device and a multitude of uses for it,
such as loading pictures, video and
music via USB drive onto the 4GB of
internal storage (8GB optional). With
an Android phone, the remote setup
is pretty seamless, but with an iOS
device you’ll need to manually enter
the IP address every time you want to
use it as a remote. (Mac and Windows
compatible, yes!) — S.S.
$50 (4GB), $80 (8GB);
SmartStick Wireless
Keyboard with
touchpad $40
favientertainment .com
>I Verdict: 83%
Favi
FE02BT-BL
Wireless Keyboard/
Touchpad
// This remote is a perfect accessory
for meetings where you need full
access to a laptop or computer running a presentation or Powerpoint.
It sets up in seconds and gives you
a mouse trackpad and QWERTY
keyboard control along with a laser
pointer, all in the palm of your hand.
It has a snappy response within
15', though a bit of a delay beyond
that. But the coolest things about
this remote are its unintended uses.
You know that annoying friend who
always wants to use your computer
to check their email or Facebook,
logging you out of your accounts and
“inadvertently” snooping through your
browser history? Now you can have a
lot of fun getting back at those inconsiderate nimrods. The FE02BT-BL
controller can be used to covertly
make your computer seem possessed.
You have full remote control over your
PC all in a device that looks
like a TV remote. So while you’re
pretending to be channel surfing, you
can introduce your own customized
poltergeist to any unsuspecting
computer user. Think of the fun you can
have opening up a text window and
typing things like “Seven days...” This
could easily become a great incentive
to make sure employees secure their
workstations when walking away from
their desks. The controller is so easy
to set up it can be done in the time it
takes for someone to use the restroom,
meaning the irresponsible party would
return to a haunted workstation.
Extras: After about five minutes of
using this, I couldn’t help but want a
scroll wheel of some kind, only to find a
convenient set of scroll tabs on the side
of the controller, making it easy to read
long documents or Web pages. The
FE02BT-BL has a similar form factor
to a PSP, so it feels familiar. Just like
with a smart phone, you can type with
your thumbs and the trackpad can be
operated with your thumb but is a bit
more accurate when using an index
finger. (Mac and Windows compatible,
again!) — S.S.
$80 favientertainment .com
>I Verdict: 85%
V-MODA Crossfade M-100
//These metal-framed, over-ear,
noise-isolating headphones are in a
class of their own, at least when it
comes to my use, as nothing in my A/V
setup comes close to challenging their
well-documented and award-winning
capabilities. The top-of-the-line
entry in V-MODA’s Crossfade line,
the M-100 offers several features
not offered by the others, including
CliqFold hinge design (folding the set
into an impressively small case), dual
inputs, SharePlay audio (allowing a
geekexchange.com
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Tech
G-Tested
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!
second monitor line to directly jack
in), CoilPro capability (allowing you
to use V-MODA’s locking extended
coiled cable designed for musicians)
and an M-class “modern audiophile”
sound profile powered by a 50mm
dual-diaphragm driver. Another
manufacturer-claimed attribute is the
M-100’s ability to survive more than 70
drops to a concrete floor from a height
of 6', which I chose not to test given
the fact that the set’s exceptional
two-year warranty and Immortal Life
Program basically obviated the need
(and I just couldn’t bring myself to
trash such gorgeous gear). I recently
tried out a pair of Beats Studios and
while they were incredibly lightweight
and comfy, the plastic construction
was a turnoff. The steel-framed
M-100s have a solid, balanced feel
that gave me the impression that I
was piloting an F-22 in supercruise.
The M-100s also aren’t as bulky as the
Sony MDR-1s I recently tested. Visually,
these similarly priced Beats and Sony
competitors are also cartoonishly
DJ-looking, which is not an image I’m
after. My first audio test for the M-100s
came courtesy of the Dust Brothers,
as their Fight Club score is a distinctly
eclectic sonic brew with a variety of
deep bass tones that I thought would
give the M-100s a solid workout. But
they just delivered it perfectly to my
now-spoiled ears. I then turned to
Goblin’s famously shriek-filled Suspiria
score. Frighteningly impressive. The
Kevlar-reinforced primary cable also
features a one-button EasySpeak mic,
so you won’t miss a call while freaking
out over how great these things sound.
— David E. Williams
$300 v-moda.com
>I Verdict: 95%
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JULY 2013
ibattz Mojo Battstation
Tough Dual Pro
// Ever since the arrival of ubiquitous
cell phone ownership in the late
1990s and early 2000s, it has become
increasing difficult for horror movie
writers to come up with plausible
reasons why somebody would be
anywhere where they couldn’t easily
punch a giant plot hole into the movie
with the use of a simple cell phone.
And so began the “no signal” trope,
followed by the “dying battery” on
the ingénue’s ever-present cell phone,
which prevented her from calling
for help and ending the movie. Well,
ibattz has thrown yet another obstacle into the path of the unimaginative
screenwriter. The Mojo Battstation
Tough Dual Pro will not only power
and recharge that dying cell phone,
but can also recharge an iPad at the
same time, so your no-longer-helpless
victim can play Fruit Ninja while she
waits for help to arrive. And like the
name implies, this thing is tough. It
has a stylish water-resistant rubber
case to protect it from rain, moisture,
and clumsiness. It is small enough
that the brainy nerd with the normally
unfulfilled crush on the ingénue can
easily have this thing on his person in
the unlikely event of psycho slashers
or murderous hillbillies, allowing him
to save the day and win the girl. And if
that weren’t enough, it has a built-in
LED flashlight. They
should just rename
this thing “The
Horror Movie
Survival Kit.”
It plugs into any
USB port to charge
and takes a couple of
hours to charge to max
capacity. With two available
USB charging ports, it can easily
replenish two devices simultaneously.
One of the smartest features is the
Battstation’s power cable, which
can be repurposed with the included
adapters to fit and recharge both the
iPhone (30-pin) and the Samsung
Galaxy. — S.S.
$40 ibattz.com
>I Verdict: 85%
PhotoFast i-FlashDrive HD
// The most frustrating thing about
my 16GB iPhone is that I’m constantly
running out of space. It’s such a useful
device that I find myself keeping lots of
videos and pictures on it almost permanently. Upgrading to a larger version
would make sense, but that’s a bit
pricey. Then along comes PhotoFast’s
i-FlashDrive HD and suddenly my
troubles are over. As you plug the
i-FlashDrive into your phone, it takes
you to the app store to download the
app, which contains options for backing up all your contacts, exporting files
from your phone onto the drive and
what is likely its most attractive feature: built-in music and video players.
That means all that music you can’t
seem to fit onto your iPhone and those
MP3s you didn’t buy from the iTunes
store because they just don’t seem to
want to work with the iPhone’s music
player will now play flawlessly right off
the drive. The device has a USB port
on one side and a 30-pin connector
on the other, so you can exchange
files between your phone and Mac or
PC with ease. Included with the drive
is a 30-pin-to-Lightning Connector
adapter for use with iPhone 5 and 4thgeneration iPads. Users will find that it
is an excellent solution for sharing files
between your iPhone and a colleague’s
iPhone or iPad and vice versa. The app
has a multiformat document viewer,
voice recorder and text editor, Dropbox
support and, finally, security encryption
in case you lose it. Another nice feature
is once the app is installed, the first
time you connect the device to your
phone or iPad, it will give you an option
to play an instructional video right
off the drive, showing you how
to use all of its functions. The
i-FlashDrive comes in 4GB, 8GB,
16GB, 32GB and 64GB sizes. — S.S.
$130 (16GB) photofast .tw
>I Verdict: 86%
OT-Adapt
Bluetooth Adapter
// Remember watching Captain
Picard slap the Starfleet logo onto
his chest to communicate with the
Enterprise and wondering when we’d
have that kind of technology? Yeah,
me too. Unfortunately, the OT-Adapt
does not give us the slap-to-talk
communicator of our dreams just yet.
What it is, though, is a solution for
those of us who have a favorite pair of
headphones/earbuds we like listening
to music with and that we wish could
be used as a hands-free device for our
phone. This adapter allows us to listen
to music with our Beats headphones
and still take calls the same way
microphone-equipped earbuds allow.
The almost weightless adaptor clips to
your shirt and features a crystal-clear
mike. It takes a few seconds to pair to
your phone, but once it has you can
plug your headphones into it to listen
to music or watch videos, and rather
than having to take your headphones
off to answer an incoming call, you
merely tap the button at the center
of the device and then return to your
music when the call is complete.
The adapter comes with five-to-six
hours of talk time
and 150 hours
of standby. It’s
great for runners
or just adapting
your headphones/
earbuds into a
hands-free communicator. — S.S.
$40 outdoortechnology.com
>I Verdict: 77%
MOTO TC Monster
// This is not for dogs. I’m not kidding.
The last thing in the instruction
manual is a picture of a dog in a circle
with a slash through it. I laughed at
this, but just to be safe I put my dogs
outside before revving the engine
and launching the MOTO TC Monster
AERO GARDEN
LIQUID IMAGE EXPLORER
SCUBA MASK
Indoor gardening has never been
easier with an Aero Garden system.
In a compact space, it provides light
and waters plants automatically on a
set schedule. The on-board computer
walks you through the growing process. Plant tomatoes, peppers, salad
greens, “herbs” and more with seed
kits (sold separately). $90-$250
aerogarden.com
The next time you go snorkeling or
scuba diving, wear a Liquid Image
mask and shoot hands-free,
underwater photos or video at
depths down to 130'. The Model 324
camera has a built-in 12MP camera
that also shoots 1080p video at
60fps. Images get stored on a
micro SDHC memory card. $300
liquidimageco.com
CHARGECARD IPHONE
CHARGER CABLE
SIFTEO CUBES
Now you can carry a USB iPhone charging
cable in your wallet. Slightly larger than a
credit card, one model of the ChargeCard
charger cable works with iOS mobile
devices that have a 30-pin Dock connector,
while the latest model supports the iPhone
5, iPad with Retina Display and iPad Mini,
which have a Lightning Port connector. $25
bitemyapple.com
Bites
Compiled by Jason R. Rich
into full-on fun mode. (It’s a good
thing, too, because the moment the
dogs saw it zipping around, they went
bonkers.) You’ll have to do a little work
to pair the truck to your iOS device, but
the company’s site has videos to show
you how. Said work includes removing
the chassis that is held in place by a
few cotter pins, removing some locking
screws — fore and aft — that keep the
truck from moving inside the packaging and downloading the control app.
The instructions say to remove a cover
on the bottom to access the Bluetooth
pairing button, but it can also be
easily accessed through a slot using a
tiny screwdriver. Once paired, it’s fun
to play with all the different control
modes that implement all of the iOS
gyro and touch functions. So no matter
what control method works for you,
you’ll soon be driving this little speed
demon like it’s a 3D video game. The
truck is so fast that if you are not careful it will quickly escape your device’s
Bluetooth range, but once it does, it
kills the motor and comes to a stop
almost instantly. — S.S.
$60 griffintechnology.com
>I Verdict: 80%
BARBIE DIGITAL
MAKEOVER MIRROR
This high-tech toy is designed around
a group of 1.7" cubes that contain
a full-color touch-screen display
and are programmable. The cubes
communicate with each other wirelessly. More than a dozen strategy and
puzzle-type games (some of which
are sold separately) are available.
Three-cube starter set is $130 (which
includes four games).
sifteo.com
NEW TECH NUGGETS
WORTH NOTING.
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TIVO STREAM
When used in conjunction with an iPad, this
new toy from Mattel allows young girls to
look into a virtual mirror (the iPad’s screen)
and apply virtual makeup. The iPad slides
into a Barbie-themed vanity frame and
allows girls to choose makeup colors when
applying eye shadow, lipstick and glitter to
their tablet’s “mirror” image. $70
mattel.com
TiVo users who already have a
Premier series DVR can add this
upgrade device in order to stream
and watch recorded shows on an
iPhone, iPad or Android mobile
device at home. When on the go,
programming saved on TiVo can be
wirelessly transferred to, saved and
viewed on a mobile device. $130
tivo.com/products/tivo-stream
ION AIR COPY
WIRELESS SCANNER
ZBOARD ELECTRONIC
SKATEBOARD
This highly portable, battery-powered,
300dpi scanner connects wirelessly
to an iPhone or iPad and can be used
to scan paper-based text or photos
(prints) directly into the mobile device.
The scanner is great for gathering
research information or scanning
receipts while on the go. $180
inmusicbrands.com/wnamm2013/
ionaudio
This “high-tech” skateboard has a
built-in motor. It allows riders to lean
forward to move forward, lean back
to apply the brake or lean from side
to side in order to turn — even when
traveling uphill. The basic model
goes up to 15mph and has a five-mile
range per charge. $649 to $950
zboardshop.com
geekexchange.com
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