Archives For Accessories

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Amongst Apple’s WWDC announcements and product releases, a smaller ticket tablet accessory was introduced. The iPad Smart Case ($49) builds on Apple’s Smart Cover ($39) by kindly adding protection to the rear of your iPad 2 or New iPad 3. And, at first blush, it looks pretty sharp. Which just goes to show, one shouldn’t judge an iPad case by it’s cover.

ipad-smart-case8The Smart Case is sleeker than Apple’s first attempt at an official iPad case, but it retains that model’s pointy side seams – making it somewhat uncomfortable to hold as a book or magazine. Conversely, when folding the cover into a triangle as a stand, the iPad angle is too steep for comfortable usage and better suited for passive viewing. Further, and more importantly, the iPad is unstable in this upright position. While the iPad certainly is secure within the case, it can slide around a bit and reveal gaps between tablet and the polyurethane which makes it all seem a bit unrefined and cheapy. Continue Reading…

The Unwired has taken a quick look at the Innergie Magic Cable Trio (~$20) and concludes that it’s “a little bit pricy but definitely a recommended accessory for travelers.” And, from the description, I might have to concur… as these days the bulk my mobile syncing and power cable needs would be covered by Innergie’s USB-to- Apple Dock and microUSB connectors – that third miniUSB is bonus. In addition to offering three connection options, the “tips” don’t actually come off so there’s no possibility of leaving one on a table or losing it in a bag. Instead, they pull forward and flip back for access. Clever. Unfortunately, and probably a deal breaker for me, is the minimal length of the cable which clocks in at under 8″. Perhaps v2 could feature a longer retractable cable and spindle?

Choosing A Tablet Keyboard

Dave Zatz —  November 20, 2011 — 7 Comments

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While saddling a touch-optimized tablet with a physical keyboard may seem like sacrilege, there are those who prefer the speed and tactile feedback of true touch typing as slates displace netbooks in the market. I’m not quite sold on tablets, but to maximize performance on my wife’s iPad during short weekend getaways I picked up Logitech’s Bluetooth keyboard (~$60). It’s not as compact as some and not nearly as sturdy or elegant as Apple’s aluminum offering, but it strikes the right balance between appearance and performance. In fact, industry analyst Ross Rubin came to a similar conclusion. Unlike the Apple keyboard, Logitech’s features an on/off slide — meaning it won’t accidentally trip in your saddle bag and kill the battery (of the keyboard or the tablet). The Logitech keyboard also ships with a semi-rigid pastic sleeve/case that doubles as a stand… which ended up on our junk drawer (and I highly recommend the convertible Incase Magazine Jacket to more effectively protect and prop up one’s iPad).

Logitech offers two version of this keyboard – the iPad edition that I purchased (with a half off coupon) and an Android-centric variant featuring their OS-specific function keys. Indeed, Logitech mistakenly shipped the Android one and their phone rep attempted to convince me the keys and functions were the same. Fortunately, I knew better given my hands on experience with the incorrect model and insisted on what turned out to be a tedious exchange. Amazon for the win?

Overall, I’ve been pleased with the Logitech keyboard which pairs nicely with various other devices in our household. So while the hot Asus Transformer Prime sets the bar high for tablet/keyboard integration, most tablet owners interested in occasional keyboard use would be well served by this wireless accessory.

Will Apple Crush The PlugBug?

Dave Zatz —  November 1, 2011 — 25 Comments

Apple accessory maker Twelve South is out today with the PlugBug. As with their other gear, it offers a clever and effective solution to a problem you may not have realized you had. Assuming you’re into all things Apple. In this case, the $35 PlugBug retrofits your existing two-piece Macbook (original, Air, Pro) power adapter to also provide 10w of USB power — sufficient for iPad or iPhone recharging. Nifty, yes? And there’s no reason you couldn’t charge non-Apple USB devices like that corporate Blackberry. While Twelve South holds that most favored position of retail Apple Store product availability, I wonder if their latest initiative will run afoul of Apple… who previously took issue with vendors riffing off their (patented) MagSafe power adapters. Regardless, as a guy with too many gadgets, I think I’m in.

The organization that controls the HDMI spec appears to be cracking down on unlicensed products. And its first significant victim is Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI cables, as the specification only permits HDMI connectors. In fact, Macrumors reports that Monoprice has already pulled their inventory… offering instead an adaptor/dongle.

As a Macbook Air owner intending to turn this 23″ television into an external display, I’m somewhat bummed that I hadn’t previously made a purchase. However, I expect cables to remain available via a variety of online storefronts - including ebay.

Of course, it’s worth reiterating that HDMI licensing and related specifications (including HDCP) are the factors preventing devices like the Slingbox from utilizing the more compact and lossless technology to capture video (along with audio). It’s not a technical limitation, it’s the terms. And why we spotlighted both the Gefen HD PVR and HDFury which had seemingly bypassed those requirements to enable recording over HDMI. Yet, unlike possibly misguided DRM attempts to limit piracy, attempting to remove the relatively harmless but oh-so-practical Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI cable from the marketplace emphasizes an overly restrictive and antiquated industry thought process. C’est la vie.

Here’s a weird one… Should your 3rd generation Amazon Kindle begin spontaneously shutting down, fail to reliably power up, sprinkled with a dash of page sync issues, the culprit is most likely your official Amazon Kindle Leather Cover. Apparently, Amazon has been aware of this issue since at least late last year… and the cover is no longer available for purchase. Yet, for obvious reasons, they haven’t wanted to draw attention to it with any sort of support note or user outreach that I’m aware of.

Unfortunately, Mom found out the hard way while away on travel. I suggested she contact Amazon, upon returning home, to troubleshoot the unidentified weirdness and/or replace the unit. Her rep stated that what she’s been experiencing is not unusual, but wouldn’t elaborate on the cause, other than to finger that official Leather Kindle Cover. He guided her through removing the offending model and provided a $60 credit to purchase the fully functional upgraded cover with light.

Based on what appears to be symptoms of electrical flakiness and what I gather from the commentary, it seems like the cover’s integrated metal clasps could be getting bent or paint may wear off, resulting in some sort of short. However, regardless of cause, the course forward is clear. Remove Amazon’s leather cover… and call in for your free replacement.

One Plug to Rule Them All

Mari Silbey —  February 14, 2011 — 6 Comments

One of the best conversations I had at CES this year was with the VP of sales and marketing for a company called Green Plug. Now granted, meeting with Graeme Finlayson was also the first chance I’d had to sit down in many hours, but even so, the GreenPlug story is one I’ve wanted to tell since coming back from Vegas.

GreenPlug was founded in 2006 with the goal of fixing the “broken” power model. You know how there are a bazillion different adapters for a bazillion different gadgets? Well, it would be nice to standardize them all and be assured that when your lovely little laptop power cord breaks, there’s another nearby that can be switched out from a different device. Unfortunately, as anyone in the industry knows, there is huge resistance from manufacturers around standardizing power accessories. According to Finlayson, the technical challenges of creating one power adapter for all major devices is essentially solved, though there would likely need to be different versions for different power needs – like a 15-50 watt version, a 50-150 watt version, etc. Trying to get manufacturers on board is the major nightmare. Apparently the IEEE is attempting to standardize power adapters for laptops, but when we’ll get any concrete solutions from that initiative remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Green Plug has extended its efforts beyond just creating a universal power adapter. In order to make powering devices more efficient, the company is proposing to add a little CPU, and a new communication wire into the cord that goes between your device and the outlet on the wall. The purpose is to create a feedback loop that communicates battery status, enabling functions like rapid charge and power shut-off when a battery is powered to capacity.

This is a fundamental shift in the way we think about power. Instead of dumb power cords, we’re suddenly looking at intelligent power networks. The Green Plug concept also provides another way to connect devices into the smart grid, which has its own set of implications. That new communication wire makes it potentially possible to connect with a larger grid even when a device, for all other intents and purposes, is turned off. Continue Reading…