Archive for the ‘Other’ category

Locking Doors Never Looked so Good

September 12, 2007

Samsung may not have an iPhone, but it’s determined to maintain the best-looking design in one undisputed category: home door-lock remotes. The “EZon SHS-1110” is a handheld device that controls Seoul Commtech’s EZon Home Network System, according to Newlaunches, but it looks more like one of Samsung’s sleek handsets or other gadgets. 

After all, how many domestic security systems have a remote control with a touch screen housed in a case of alluminum alloy and tempered glass? (For that matter, how many have remotes at all?) Certainly none in the United States, anyway, at least from Samsung–the EZon is available at present only in South Korea. But fret not: With all the applications being crammed into the iPhone, we wouldn’t be surprised to see it unlock doors too.

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Incoming: Military-grade carrying case for the PSP

August 25, 2007

Over the years, we’ve gotten letters from soldiers stationed in Iraq, and they’ve talked about how hard the place is on electronics gear–and I’m not talking bullets and bombs, but just the raw elements (dust, sand, and so on…). Well, I just noticed this item on PSP Fan Boy: a $100 military-style PSP case from TAD Gear that claims to be military-grade.

A note on the site about the PSP Pod reads:

“This is a very special, limited custom run of nylon accessory pouches. These PSP Pods were produced at the request of some our associates and customers deployed overseas. The Sony PSP has become a common sight in many a soldiers’ kit these days. The PSP has become ideal for personal entertainment for many while in transit or stuck at barracks. This is built with MILSPEC construction and materials thru-out. There is no sturdier, better built, and versatile storage pouch for the PSP available anywhere. TAD Gear is not a video game store, but we clearly see the merits of the PSP as a personal electronic device and wanted to offer this very special case to carry yours. Due [to] the high cost of production it is highly unlikely we will produce these again.”

A hundred bucks is a lot to spend on a case, but it looks pretty sweet, and I suspect a few civilian commuters might pick one up for that rough train or bus ride between the ‘burbs and the big city.

Alesis unveils the iMultiMix 9R rack mixer with iPod dock

July 31, 2007

Take a look behind the sound board at most small-to-medium size concert venues lately and you’ll probably find the sound guy is playing the pre- and post-show tunes from an iPod jacked into the mixer — a trend Alesis is hoping to capitalize on with its new iMultiMix 9R rack mixer with built-in iPod dock. While we’ve seen a lot of mixer / iPod dock combinations in the past, this is the first we’ve seen targeted at the pro market, and it shows in the lack of chintzy features — in fact, apart from the iPod dock, you’re looking at a pretty standard seven-channel rack mixer: five mic preamps with phantom power, two line inputs (one switchable from the iPod dock to the external input), three band EQ with bandpass controls, and an effects loop.

Interestingly, the unit also features a composite video output, which presumably will allow videos to be played right from connected video iPods. Expect these to start shipping later this year for around $299.

iLoad…

June 22, 2007

While many of us are content with using iTunes to rip CDs and load the music to our iPods, there are those who simply can’t accept the notion that a computer needs to be involved in that process. The iLoad is a desktop box that allows you to rip audio CDs directly to a compatible Apple iPod MP3 player without having to use your home computer as a middleman. It is a product intended for people who love their iPod but hate using computers. The idea of avoiding a computer may seem like a strange concept to most CNET users, but we all know someone who just can’t seem to get onboard with the digital revolution.  

 If you’re reasonably OK with using iTunes to rip and transfer your music to your iPod, then there’s no incentive for you to spend $300 for this product. The value of a product like iLoad is directly proportional to the user’s hatred of computers.

 

 

Design
The iLoad looks like a bloated knockoff of a Mac mini. It measures 7 inches wide, 8 inches deep, and 3.5 inches tall, and features a slot-loading CD drive on the front, a 2-line monochrome LCD screen on the top, and an array of connection ports on the back. The user interface is on the top of the box, surrounding the dimly lit 0.5×2.5-inch screen. The controls are basic (part of the product’s whole concept) and include tactile buttons for power and Go (enter), horizontal arrows for scrolling through the iLoad’s menu, and vertical arrows that baffled us for quite some time (read the Performance section below).
 Looking at the back of the iLoad is like pulling the curtain from the Wizard of Oz. With two USB ports, an Ethernet connection, VGA monitor output, peripheral connections, and audio ports, it looks like the back of a computer. Don’t tell grandma, but the iLoad actually is a computer (albeit a very basic one). Of the 13 connections found on the back of the iLoad, only 5 of them are actually used by the device. For a product designed for technophobes, the inclusion of 8 useless and confusing computer connections runs counter to the iLoad’s philosophy.  

Features
The iLoad can serve several functions. Its main purpose is to allow users to turn on the device, connect their iPod, insert a CD, press a few buttons, and rip the CD audio directly to their iPod. The iLoad will only rip music to an MP3 file format with a bit-rate quality that can be adjusted from 32kbps through 320kbps (default is 128kbps). The iLoad can also transfer files from one iPod to another (although DRM-protected content will be crippled), and can back up or restore your iPod using an external hard drive or flash drive. While these last two features are useful, they also point to one of the weaknesses of the iLoad system–ripping music directly to your iPod leaves you vulnerable to losing your whole music collection if you lose your iPod. Ripping music to a computer before moving it to an iPod creates a backup music library on your computer that will still be there even if your Nano gets abducted by the family dog. Archiving your music collection using iLoad and an external hard drive may give you the same results, but it starts getting complicated. Suddenly your computerphobic grandparent is saddled with an iLoad, an iPod, and an external USB hard drive. One has to wonder if buying them an inexpensive laptop might have been a better option (plus, maybe they’ll graduate to e-mail someday).

 

Performance
While the iLoad works as advertised, using an off-the-shelf computer would get the job done just as fast or faster. A computer would also give you access to album artwork, music videos, lyrics, podcasts, and a whole universe of information. Still, presuming that for some reason a computer is simply not an option (let’s also forget for a moment that the iLoad is, in fact, a computer), the iLoad does what it says, and the ripped MP3 audio sounds comparable to the results you’d get out of iTunes.
However, even after suspending our computer-loving sensibilities, there were some frustrations we encountered with the iLoad that may send technophobe grandparents into a tizzy. For starters, there’s no clearly labeled Eject button. Let’s say mom puts her John Denver CD into the iLoad, only to suddenly realize that she already has it on her iPod. Naturally, she would look for the Eject button. Try as she might, she likely will not find it. Maybe (like us) she’ll try powering the iLoad off and booting it back up (wrong again). To eject a CD from the iLoad, you will need to press the “down” arrow to the right of the screen. The “up” arrow will eject your iPod.  Another potential headache is the iLoad’s built-in music database, which it uses to match CDs with their appropriate artist and song title information. While the iLoad uses a database of nearly 2 million songs, it doesn’t have everything, and to keep it current you must either connect it to the Internet using the iLoad’s Ethernet connection or subscribe to periodic database updates that arrive on CD by mail. If you’re using the iLoad to rip a collection of oldies but goodies, you should be fine. However, if the CD you’re ripping is hot off the charts, or worse, a mix CD given to you by a friend, you’ll need to find an Internet connection or make peace with the idea that the songs will display as “Unknown Artist” on your iPod.  Last but not least, there’s the issue of fan noise. The first thing we noticed when we powered up the iLoad is that the interior fans used to cool the computer put out a constant and unusually loud noise. 

Final thoughts
The iLoad concept poses an interesting question: Do we need to use our personal computer to mediate the transfer of music from CDs to an iPod? I believe there is probably great solution out there for computerphobic music lovers, but sneaking a noisy, crippled computer into a lunchbox-size enclosure with a small display is probably not the best idea. Still, it is the only off-the-shelf solution we’ve seen so far, and despite its flaws, it does work as advertised.

 

iPod Hi-Fi

January 28, 2007

Which iPods does it work with?

 

 

The Design:  The iPod Hi-Fi comprises of a white case with black speakers and removable speaker grille. On both sides are handles, which have been built into the top of the rectangular shape. The Hi-Fi itself sits on a thin gray base.

It’s unfortunate that the look of the iPod Hi-Fi isn’t as striking as it should be, particularly given Apple’s strength in design. Removing the speaker grille does make it a more attractive system, but overall it’s a little bland.  

Using the iPod Hi-Fi

The iPod Hi-Fi sounds best at high volumes with the speaker grille removed. The bass is rich and there’s a high level of audio depth. Unless you’re an audiophile, it would be very hard to fault the sound quality of the Hi-Fi itself.

While the design tends to suggest that this is a good personal system, it produces much better sound when positioned several feet away, at ear level. This is really a whole room speaker system rather than a personal speaker system.

 

Audio clarity is slightly off but this is an audio file problem rather than a problem with the iPod Hi-Fi itself. If you’re using songs that have been bought from iTunes Music Store or that you’ve imported into iTunes as AAC or MP3 files – which is what most people do – these will not sound as clear as songs that are AIFF or WAV files. While more noticeable on a speaker system than it is when using headphones, this problem of clarity is much less obvious when the Hi-Fi is used at higher volumes.

 

The iPod itself sits in the Dock – which is located on the top of the iPod Hi-Fi. While this setup looks good, the iPod is in a precarious position, and it should be removed when moving the iPod Hi-Fi. The iPod Hi-Fi’s Dock is also able to charge the iPod.

 

On the front of the iPod Hi-Fi, in the bottom right-hand corner is a small light that flashes green for any command it’s able to complete and orange for any command it’s unable to complete.

 

Looking a bit like a miniature iPod nano, the included remote works well, although the control you have is limited to play/pause, skipping forwards/backwards between songs, and increasing/decreasing the volume.

 

The iPod Hi-Fi also comes with a selection of Dock Adapters – which are pieces of plastic that enable the various iPod sizes to work with the Hi-Fi’s Dock. In the box I tested, there were Dock Adapters for all iPods except for the 1GB iPod nano. A Dock Adapter for the 60GB iPod video wasn’t included either because that model is compatible with the Hi-Fi’s Dock.

iPods without a Dock Connecter – First-Generation and Second-Generation iPods, and the iPod shuffle – can connect to the iPod Hi-Fi via the audio-in jack on the back. Also on the back of the Hi-Fi is an AC power jack (power cable included in box), and a key that can be turned with a coin to open the battery space for six D-cell batteries.

Price

Apple does tend to produce products that are very easy to use, but the iPod Hi-Fi loses points for being a little too simple for the asking price of $349 USD.

Final View

While the iPod Hi-Fi falls down in the design stakes – making it difficult to justify the price – the system is easy to use and the audio quality is hard to fault.

 

What’s in the box?

  • iPod Hi-Fi and removable grille.
  • Apple Remote.
  • iPod Universal Dock Adapters.
  • AC power cord.
  • Product documentation and user guide.

Technical Specifications

Height: 6.6 inches (167.6 mm)
Width: 17.0 inches (431.8 mm)
Depth: Including grille – 6.9 inches (175.3 mm)
Weight: Without batteries – 14.5 pounds (6.6 kg), with batteries – 16.7 pounds (7.6 kg)
Drivers: Two 80-mm wide-range; one 130-mm woofer
Frequency response: 53Hz to 16kHz ± 3 dB
Maximum peak sound pressure level: 108 dB at 1 m (AC), 102 dB at 1 m (DC)
Power: AC power via internal universal power supply or DC power via six D-cell batteries
Price: $349 USD.

 

Top 5 Digital Camera Memory Cards

January 25, 2007

Lexar 4 GB Professional Series 133X CompactFlash Card with Write Acceleration

Both the storage and the speed impress with this card, which features a 133x write speed. With 4GB of storage, it’s also sure to hold plenty of pictures, even for digital SLR users.

U.S. Modular Secure Digital 4GB Extra High Speed 120X Secure Digital Card

For such a little thing, it’s amazing what this card does. For digital camera owners with cameras that use Secure Digital, the cards have come a long way on storage capacity. This 4GB card stashes lots of pictures, while writing at a swift 120x speed.

Sony 2GB Memory Stick High Speed PRO Media

With 2GB of storage, this memory card by Sony can write up to 80 megabits per second. For Memory Stick users, this is a great choice.

Hitachi 6 GB Microdrive High-Capacity Ultra-Miniature Hard Drive

Wow! With 6GB of storage, this is the big mama of all memory cards on the market today. It can store pictures at a rate of 9.4 megabits per second, and it is compatible with CompactFlash drives on digital cameras.

FujiFilm 1 GB xD Memory Card

This is one of the smallest memory cards, yet you can still store a heavy picture load with this high-capacity, high-speed xD memory card.