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    Show and Tell: Bluetooth Hands-Free Car Adapter

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will shares his current solution for playing back music and making calls from his phone in his car. While his car has an auxiliary audio jack, he prefers using this Kinivo hands-free receiver as an intermediary. Its decent audio, built-in micrphone, and music playback controls are why it's Will's pick for an aftermarket car Bluetooth solution. What do you use to listen to music from your smartphone while driving?

    Show and Tell: Ultimate Ears Boom Speakers

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will tests Logitech's Ultimate Ears Boom, a step up from the mini Bluetooth speaker we reviewed last year. The larger speaker is durable and meant to be used on the road, like for camping trips. Its 15-hour battery can last a weeklong road trip, but it's also great for backyard use.

    Show and Tell: Astro A38 Bluetooth Headset

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will shares a new bluetooth headset that he's been testing: Astro Gaming's A38. While the company is known for its gaming headphones, these wireless headsets are made to be worn outside the home, with good active noise-cancellation. Here's what Will thinks about them after some use.

    Apple Announces Its Watch Collection, Launching 2015

    Here it is. Apple's watch. And it's decidedly a watch, not a curved band or "wrist wearable" as we and some other people had predicted. Here's what you should know about it.

    The Apple watch is a touchscreen device worn on your wrist, running a special version of the iOS interface. The big deal here is the user interface--users will interact with it via touchscreen, voice, a dedicated button, and a crown dial on the right side. This digital crown dial is used to zoom in and out of applications as well as scroll and navigate. On the bottom of the watch are four optical sensors for monitoring the wearer's heartbeat, as well as an inductive charger for wireless charging. Activity monitoring is a big part of the Apple Watch, and an Activity app monitors different types of motion like workouts or sitting down at the office. Feedback is provided via a small speaker and haptic feedback provided over what Apple calls a "Taptic Engine." The color screen displays digital clockfaces like Android Wear watches, and you can tap into Apple services like Siri and the new Apple Pay. Developers will be able to adapt their apps and create Watch-specific apps with Apple's WatchKit SDK and APIs.

    The Apple Watch connects to iPhones--starting with the iPhone 5C--via Bluetooth 4.0, but also has Wi-Fi connectivity. As for when you'll be able to buy one, Apple has only said that its Watch will come out in 2015, with a starting price of $350. Apple Watch comes in two sizes--38mm and 42mm--as well as several different finishes and strap options. What are your thoughts about this new smart watch? We'll be talking about it in-depth on this week's podcast, which we're recording tomorrow.

    In Brief: USB "Condom" Protects Devices from "Juice Jacking"

    Cory Doctorow of BoingBoing shares this crowdfunded USB dongle that acts as a protective barrier between your USB device and a potentially malicious charging station. The $10 USBCondom was funded on CrowdSupply earlier this year, and is now shipping and taking pre-orders for the next production run. It works by blocking the data pins on a USB connection, only allowing power to pass through to your device. As Doctorow points out, you can also buy a USB cable that does the same thing for $9.

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    Show and Tell: Favorite Exercise Armband

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will reviews the Tuneband, his favorite athletic armband to use with his iPhone while jogging. It's secure enough so that it doesn't flap around when you're in motion, but also keeps your phone at a good position where it doesn't get in the way of your arm movements.

    In Brief: USB Promoter Group Finalizes Design of Next USB Connector

    Arstechnica reports that the USB Promoter Group and the USB Implementers Forum have completed the design and spec for the next-generation of microUSB connector. Dubbed the Type-C, the plug will be similar in size to the current MicroUSB 2.0 connector, but will support the USB 3.1 spec with speeds up to 10GBps and power delivery up to 100W. The design is also reversible, much like Apple's Lightning plug, and is designed to be upgradable and scale with future USB spec changes. The USB Promoter Group promises that adapters for existing Type-B plugs will be readily available. And there's no word of changes to the venerable "standard" A plug--the end on desktops and laptops--which is really the one that needs to support reversibility.

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    The Best Handheld Vacuum

    This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome. Read the original full article at TheSweethome.com

    For small spills and tight spots that a regular vacuum can’t reach, we recommend using the Black & Decker BDH2020FLFH 20 V MAX Flex Vac ($130). Its powerful 20-volt lithium-ion battery delivers about 16 minutes of strong, steady suction, which means better cleaning for longer than most of the competition can muster. Equally important, its 4-foot flexible hose reaches where other hand vacuums (including our previous pick) can’t, like under car seats. And it even accepts clip-on attachments like a regular vacuum would. It’s the most versatile portable vacuum out there.

    We spent a total of 56 hours researching and 20 hours testing hand vacuums over the past few years. Of the roughly 40 models we’ve found, this new Flex Vac has proven to be the best bet for most people.

    Who needs a portable vacuum?

    A portable vacuum excels as a smaller, lighter, nimbler sidekick to a plug-in upright or canister vacuum. It cleans spots that a big vac doesn’t easily reach: countertops or the floor of a car, for example. And since there’s no cord to unravel, it’s super easy to grab off the charging dock for 10 seconds to suck up a few dust bunnies or grains of spilled cereal. However, if you think you can replace a floor vacuum with one of these, you will be sorely disappointed. They’re simply not designed for that kind of heavy lifting.

    (That being said, some new battery-powered vacuums are designed as all-purpose cleaners, meant to pull double-duty as an all-house upright and a hand vacuum. This guide does not cover these types of vacuums.)

    Testing: Android Wear Battery Life

    Since we shot our video review of the LG G Watch, I've spent more time testing the watch and Android Wear. It's now my primary watch, replacing both the Timex Weekender I had been wearing since December and the Pebble Steel (a loaner unit since returned back to Pebble). The biggest problem I had with the LG G Watch was battery life--with default notification settings and brightness set to 30%, I couldn't get the watch to last a full day of use. Granted, that's because I'm a pretty heavy email user and am constantly managing (checking, archiving, replying to) email through the watch, but that's one of the reasons I liked it over the Pebble in the first place. Having the watch switch off on me before my phone battery died sucked, and I didn't want to carry the proprietary charger around.

    The battery life is largely attributed to the LCD use. By default, LG's watch LCD is on all the time. It switches between a dark display that only shows the time to a brighter one when you lift your wrist up or tap the screen, but in both states, the LCD is active and the backlight is on. There is, however, a setting on the watch that turns the active LCD off when its in the dormant state, meaning that you can't casually check the time unless you tap the screen or trigger the wake state. In this mode, the battery life is significantly improved, lasting even over two days without going back to the charging dock. I ran several test scenarios: an extended session with minimal watch use, and one with heavy use. Under minimal use (only using the watch for time and notifications), the LG G Watch lasted two and a half days before powering off. In the heavy use scenario (constantly checking email and using navigation for daily commutes), the watch still lasted to the end of the second day.

    This extra full day of use--which still falls short of the Pebble's battery life--made a big difference in my day-to-day appreciation of the watch. This sounds really silly to say about a watch, but I was no longer worrying whether I would be able to check the time during my drive home. That's just the unfortunate state of this first generation of smart watches. Having to tap the watch to activate the screen is a reasonable trade-off, though it makes me hope for some kind of LCD/E-Paper hybrid in future models that can display the time in a low-power state. I really don't need a fancy full-color display running at 30Hz to see what time it is.

    And then there's that Apple wearable that we're expecting, which may or may not even be a watch.

    Show and Tell: Laptop Screen Privacy Filter

    For today's Show and Tell, Will shares his method for preventing unwanted eyes from seeing what's on his laptop screen. He uses a 3M privacy filter attachment on top of his MacBook Air, which restricts the viewing angle to just the person using the laptop. Where would you use this kind of technology?

    Testing: Traveling Abroad without a Laptop

    I just got back from a two-week trip to France to see my wife's extended family. This is only my fourth time leaving the country and I've been working on paring down my travel gear to the essentials. The only thing worse than not having what you need is having a bunch of stuff you don't. This year I tried to travel as light as possible. I knew I should spend most of my time visiting family, not staring at a screen, but I also knew that two weeks without doing any sort of writing would drive me nuts.

    Even trying to bring the bare minimum, I brought a bunch of stuff I didn't end up using. One Bag Travel people would laugh at me. But I did manage to travel without a laptop for the first time. If you can manage, I highly recommend it. You'll save a lot of weight and volume and most of the things you use a laptop for can now be done with a smartphone or tablet.

    Before getting into the specific gear I brought (and what I'd leave behind next year), let's talk about what I consider to be the travel essentials: power and data.

    In Brief: Be Mindful of USB Security Risks

    At next week's Black Hat security conference, researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan on presenting a demo of malicious software that shows just how fundamentally at-risk the USB protocol is for unprotected computers. Their software, called BadUSB, lives in the firmware of a USB key, not the flash memory. The researchers say that reprogrammed firmware used as malicious code can't be detected by current anti-virus software. And the scariest part may be that the BadUSB firmware can be installed on any USB device, not just memory sticks.

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    Tested In-Depth: Android Wear LG G Watch

    Will and Norm sit down to discuss Google's Android Wear platform, testing the new LG G Watch, and compare Google's smart watch to our experience living with the Pebble Steel watch. Here's why we think smart watches have the potential to be really useful accessories for smartphones.

    The Best Cheap Printer Today

    Color is swell, but for most documents, black and white look just fine. Monochrome laser printers and avoid the waste and hassle of inkjet machines (no cleaning purges!), the cost and bulk of color laser (only one toner cartridge!), and still churn out a couple dozen pages per minute with razor-sharp text. For students, small-office denizens, or anyone with modest printing needs, the Samsung Xpress M2835DW is the most efficient way to make hard copies of term papers, tax forms, or any other documents that look great in grayscale.

    I spent more than 20 hours researching the mono laser category, looking over dozens of expert reviews and hundreds of user testimonials for the best, most affordable black-and-white printers. Meanwhile, Wirecutter researcher Audrey Lorberfeld spent another 32 hours analyzing existing professional printer reviews and comparing them to user reviews to identify how we could improve upon them with our own testing. With her findings in mind, I’ve spent 23 total hours testing a handful of the top contenders, jumping through hoops to set them up on a smorgasbord of devices and operating systems and printing stacks of monochrome documents to measure speed and print quality.

    Like any worthwhile laser printer, the M2835DW spits out crisp text fast and at a wicked low cost per page.

    Like any worthwhile laser printer, the M2835DW spits out crisp text fast and at a wicked low cost per page. It’s affordable to buy, yet still includes cost- and time-saving features like automatic two-sided printing and wireless networking, which are often missing from some pricier models. And for what it’s worth, it’s the candidate least likely to send you into fits of rage, Office Space-style, during setup.

    In Brief: Samsung's VR Gear Solution Could Launch at IFA

    Engadget's report that Samsung is developing a virtual reality solution in partnership with Oculus VR to work with its Galaxy phones is becoming more believable. While neither Samsung nor Oculus have confirmed that a device is in the works, SamMobile claims to have the first images of the device design, along with details about its name and debut. The Gear VR name sounds believable, as well as the purported IFA unveil (Sept 5-10). Three new technical details stand out from this leak: first that Gear VR would use a cushioned elastic band to hold the headset in place, that it would have a dedicated button to activate the Galaxy phone's camera to let users "see through" the HMD, and that the side controls would be a touchpad. The latter two make sense as good UI, especially the see-through button--something I hope the consumer Oculus Rift will include. If calibrated properly with a camera lens, the see-through option opens up augmented reality potential for this kind of HMD.

    I'm still unconvinced that smartphone screens (as run through smartphone GPUs) can achieve the low persistence of vision that Oculus fans are expecting, but that's based on my experience using Google's Cardboard with an LCD-based phone, not Samsung's AMOLED screens. The other weird thing about this is that we're not expecting the Oculus consumer release any time soon, so Samsung's Gear VR may be the first Oculus-related virtual reality device to hit the consumer market. I'm not sure that would be a good thing for Oculus and the VR community if the reception isn't anything but glowing. If Gear VR does get announced at IFA, it'll be something that may distract from Oculus' agenda just two weeks later at their first Connect conference.

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    Show and Tell: 3D Messenger Bag

    For this week's Show and Tell, Will picks up a unique bag that he saw someone wearing at Maker Faire. It's a messenger bag that looks like a 2D drawing. But after searching for one online, the one he ended up with doesn't exactly meet his needs. Have you seen bags designed with this concept before?

    The Best Wi-Fi Router (for Most People)

    If you have a laptop or smartphone that uses wireless-ac technology and you're ready to upgrade your router, you should get the Netgear R6250. The R6250 has the best combination of speed, price, stability, and features of any router in its price range. It can make your new device's Wi-Fi connection up to three times faster than a wireless-n router could. It's a smidge more expensive than the sweet spot for a router of its class (hovering around $130-$145 on Amazon), but we feel the benefits are worth the slightly higher cost.

    A $200 router can be faster, but only if your devices can take advantage of the improvements it provides. If you don’t have anything that can (like most people), you’d be paying for performance you’ll never use. And don’t buy more than you need with the idea of futureproofing your network. Prices will drop over time and networking tech will improve before you know it. On the flip side, if you pay less than $100 for a wireless-ac router, you’ll lose out on features, speed, or range (or all three). The best combination of price and performance right now is in the $100 to $130 range.

    Tested In-Depth: Pebble Steel Smart Watch

    What's the point of a smart watch, and how does it complement your use of a smartphone? That's what we wanted to figure out in our testing of the Pebble Steel. Will and Norm both use the Pebble for a month and discuss how it changes the way they regularly interact with their iOS and Android phones.