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Author Archive for Smythe Richbourg – Page 2

Toast iPad cover review

ToastCover10

Why is it we feel a need to cover over our gadgets? Designers spend thousands of hours perfecting the look and feel of the enclosures for these little pieces of glass, aluminum, and plastic, and yet, we cover them up in the name of protecting something we’ll almost never see. My first iPad rarely went anywhere without a case, but when I got my “new” iPad last March, I went native. I do carry it in a Javoedge slipcase, but use it “naked” most of the time. Lately, though, I’ve tired of always feeling the cold metal on the back of my iPad and was thinking about some sort of case or cover. So when Julie offered the team a chance to review the Toast wooden iPad cover, I was right there in the front row with my hand up screaming “Me! Me! Pick me!” It was quite embarrassing, so she took pity on me and let me review it. Read More →

Everyday Carry Bags – Smythe Richbourg

Salt, pepper, and hot sauce make lunches tastier. A titanium spork and a good, sharp Opinel folding knife help transfer it to my tummy.

Salt, pepper, and hot sauce make lunches tastier. A titanium spork and a good, sharp Opinel folding knife help transfer it to my tummy.

I have not one standard geek bag, but three! I have a favorite for work, a different one for days off, and, if I’m taking my lunch to work, I have my required condiment and tools selection. Let’s start with the last mentioned – my lunch kit. Read More →

SoundBender iPad Sound Amplifier review

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I love watching video and listening to podcasts and books on my iPad. It’s so much more portable and useful than my MacBooks have been over the years (which is to say it doesn’t have a hinge and require me to figure out what to do with that keyboard while watching!) The constant drawback to iPads, however, is sound. Specifically, getting enough of it in all but the quietest of rooms. A new, non-powered solution has recently come onto the scene, and I was fortunate enough to get one for review. It’s called the SoundBender from Simply Amazing, LLC. Is it? Does it? Let’s take a closer look.

Read More →

Just Mobile Gum Max Duo review

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A new entrant into the crowded field of portable power supplies has recently arrived from a trusted mobile vendor – Just Mobile.  It sports some unique features without missing any of the standard items. The Gum Max Duo (GMD) is Just Mobile’s  top-of-the-line USB charger, and it packs quite a wallop: 11.2 Amp/hours of power! Let’s take a closer look. Read More →

iDreamCase for iPad 2/3/4 review

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Like it or not, iPads have become ubiquitous. We see them everywhere, in food courts in the hands of toddlers, in schools, as cash registers in coffee shops and restaurants, and in that last bastion of low tech, the business boardroom. I read the other day that somewhere north of 90% of all Fortune 500 businesses were deploying or have deployed iPads. In formal business settings, that bright flowery case or that ruggedized military spec case is going to be quite out of place. For this reason, the folks at iDreamcase have recently added the iDreamcase for iPad 2/3/4 to their line of protective cases. They offered one to the team, and I was chosen to review it. I was sent a black leather model, with a camera hole on the back. Read More →

Griffin iTrip Auto review

Griffin iTrip

Most folks these days carry some kind of device with them that has at least a subset of their music collection on it. Some have services like Spotify, Pandora, or some other service that will deliver music to a smartphone. When we get in our cars, however, there’s usually no built-in connection for getting the phone and car radio connected. Enter the iTrip Auto from Griffin Technology. This little cable charges an iOS device via your vehicle’s power port and broadcasts the audio content of your device to the FM band, allowing you to tune into the “station” it creates and hear your music over your car stereo. Griffin Technology, of course, is no stranger to true Gadgeteers. They’ve been making power cables and cases for handhelds for years. And a gadget that connects your phone gadget to your car (which, for many, is just a big transportation gadget) while charging your phone – it’s like a Gadget Trifecta! So, how does it work in real life? Read More →

MAPI Byze Leather iPad sleeve review

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Like most everyone who has ever used one, I love my iPad. And, true to my gadget-loving nature, I’m never satisfied with the case I’m using for long. Sometimes, I want a casual case, sometimes I want maximum protection, and sometimes I want it to look nice, because I’m going to be in a business meeting where “sporty” would be considered unprofessional. Enter the MAPI Byze Leather iPad sleeve. Read More →

Arctic P402 Headphones review

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When Julie asked if we were interested in some stuff from Arctic, I was more interested in their four-port USB charger that I recently reviewed, but was pleased to see the Arctic P402 headphones in the package. Many headphones these days are either mostly plastic (which means they break easily) or huge and bulky (which means they don’t travel well). These, however, are light, on-ear, and quite tough. Read More →

Lovetrack – it’s not what you think…

I love riding bikes. I rode bikes as a kid, like everyone else, but I started again as an adult when I hit my mid-50s and health problems started rising. I quickly became addicted. Due to global climate change and the push-back against car-dominated design, there’s a new interest in bicycling all over the country and, indeed, the world right now. Even car companies have reported lower percentages of those in younger age groups getting driver’s licenses and cars. Cities are starting to introduce more bike-friendly designs: bike lanes, greenways, and places to secure bikes. For these reasons (and perhaps because its just plain fun!), the modern reason for cycling has become as much entertainment as it is utilitarian.

Sharing where you ride and finding new places to bike is a constant subject of conversation among those who bike regularly. We pull out smart phones, show rail-trails, maps, photos of trips, the works. So why not use this as a basis for a social network? That’s just what the indiegogo project called Lovetrack has done.  Read More →

The North Face ETIP gloves review

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Here in the Northern Hemisphere it’s winter, and that means gloves. With touch screens on all those smart phones, tablets, and such, what’s a geek to do? Why, get a gadget-friendly pair of gloves, of course!

The North Face company, known for outdoor gear of all types, has had a line of gloves for use with touch screens for a year or more, but this year, it’s been expanded. They call their version of this tech “ETIP”. (I am so happy to see a company not use the initial “i” for a product name!) I bought a pair last year at the end of the winter season, but thought it’d make more sense to review them now. Read More →

iHome 13″ Smart Sleeve for Mac review

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We Gadgeteers haul our tech everywhere. Sometimes, we just need a few things, sometimes we need a lot. Sometimes we need to look presentable and business-like, sometimes it’s OK to look like we’re packing for a trip into a war zone or the wilderness. The 13″ Smart Sleeve for Mac from iHome is for those times when you need just a few things, and you want to make a good impression. Minimally sized for a MacBook Pro or Air, iPad, iPhone and just a little more, this will not be an EDC bag for many. But when you need to just have any of those devices, their power cables, and maybe a few files or magazines, this is going to rock your world. Let’s take a closer look. Read More →

AppFinity Game Controllers review

AppFinity makes many different types of game controllers.

AppFinity makes many different types of game controllers.

The iPod touch and the iPhone create arguably one of the best-selling handheld gaming systems in the US, if not the world. While not all of them are sold for the purpose of gaming, there are a lot of them out there being used for games as well as other things. That means they’re open season for casual games. I’ve never been one for gaming add-ons to my phone, but, when Julie offered us the Appfinity Racing driving wheel attachment, I thought I would give it a try. Read More →

TechSlingers shoulder holster review

TechSlinger Overview

TechSlinger Overview

Tablets and mobile phones are great tools, and I wouldn’t want to be without either of mine very long. I use both of mine constantly throughout the day, both for work and for personal information. Carrying them around, however, is a pain. Especially an iPad. Shirts and pants have pockets that can handle most smart phones, but iPads or other tablets (and most phablets), are really tough to manage on the road when they’re not in use.

This same issue exists for police officers, delivery drivers, phone repairmen and meter readers, who all have to carry something bulky that is only used occasionally. You’re not always getting a signature, reading a meter, testing a line or arresting/Tasing someone, and you need to stash those tools where they’re handy, but not in the way. Most of the above occupations have opted for the tool belt as a storage approach, but for most users of modern gadgetry, that tack is a little passé. A rather new company has looked at the new market (information professionals, physicians, and other data intensive jobs) and put forth a repositioning of an old solution – the shoulder holster.  TechSlinger has created an eponymous product that holds a tablet, a phone, and various other gear snugly and neatly beneath the arms, where it can be quickly brought to bear from under a lab coat, a sports jacket, or from being just out in the open. The TechSlinger is a set of two side pockets held together by a harness that clips easily onto those pockets. Read More →

RichardSolo FreeWheelin Audio System for Helmets review

FreeWheelin attached to clip with round charging cable.

FreeWheelin attached to clip with round charging cable.

Bluetooth speakers are becoming quite popular, since most folks are carrying their music on their phones or tablets. Sure, plugging in an AUX cable gives a better connection in most cases, but trying to use something while its tethered, or having something fall off the edge of a counter because it was precariously balanced next to the stereo and power outlets is a drag. I’ve found Bluetooth also is much more flexible when sharing devices between folks. Once you learn the pairing process, it’s trivial to connect from another device. As Bluetooth 4.0 becomes more common, the quality of both the audio and the connection is growing continually.

RichardSolo, the new company from the founder of the Sharper Image, makes several different products that we’ve reviewed here in the past. His newest offering is the FreeWheelin Audio System for Helmets, a Bluetooth speaker system designed to use on your bike, in your car, and on your desk. Since I try to bike as often as possible, I requested to be the one to review it.  Read More →

Avantree Pluto Air Hifi Bluetooth mini speaker review

The Avantree speaker is a compact package with a USB charging cable and a plush carry bag.

The Avantree speaker is a compact package with a USB charging cable and a plush carry bag.

With the rise of better music players and streaming services in the last few years, we have also seen a rise in the number of speaker systems, personal earphones/buds and other ways to actually hear the music being offered up. In public situations, folks usually want to have their music pumped directly into their ears, both for music fidelity and for privacy. (Let’s leave the discussion of using speakers in offices and street benches intruding into the soundspace of others for another time, OK?)  Sometimes a small speaker is needed when you do want to share music, and the Pluto Air Hifi Bluetooth speaker from Avantree looks like a good candidate as a travel speaker.  Let’s give it a look. Read More →

Arctic Charger Pro 4 Rev. 2 review

The Arctic Charger is a 4-port USB charger with international adapters.

The Arctic Charger is a 4-port USB charger with international adapters. Note the two top ports are orange, which means they can handle higher power needs, such as tablets.

Power – it’s what runs a Gadgeteer’s digital lifestyle. Until solar power is everywhere or we discover a perpetual motion machine or invent the Mr. Fusion Home Energy Reactor that works on kitchen waste, I guess we’ll just have to deal with power plugs and wall warts. So, what about those who travel to other countries on occasion? Yes, there are adapters, and most larger companies have made their power bricks world-ready, shipping a different cable in the box for different parts of the world. But should I have to travel to Europe and go to an electronics store to buy a decent charger? Not any more.

The Charger Pro 4 Rev 2 from Arctic, LTD is a 4-port USB charger that arrives complete with interchangeable plugs that will work in the US, Europe, and the UK / Ireland. The only ones I have seen that are similar are Apple’s line of chargers, and their World Travel adapter kit. Read More →

Blue Mikey Digital Microphone Review

The Mikey Digital from Blue Microphones is a simple, yet powerful little device.

The Mikey Digital from Blue Microphones is a simple, yet powerful little device.

Everyone, except, of course, the tech “pundiots” (pundit idiots) of the world, knows that iPads and iPhones and even the lowly iPod Touch can be used for more than just playing music or games. There are hundreds of thousands of apps out there, as well as cases, speakers, holders, lens attachments, and tripod mounts for these devices like no other consumer electronic device on earth. I have owned every iPhone except the 3GS, and every iPad except the iPad2, plus more iPods than I can remember. I have no idea how many chargers, cables, and adapters I have for these tools. So, when the opportunity came to Team Gadgeteer to review Blue Microphone‘s new Mikey Digital microphone, which is specifically made for these devices, I jumped at the chance. Fortunately, my queue was pretty empty, and I was given the nod. In a few days, I received the package, and eagerly tore into it. Read More →

Cooler Master Jas Pro Stand Review

Large, airy, and elegant - the Jas Pro stand from CoolerMaster.

Large, airy, and elegant – the Jas Pro stand from Cooler Master.

We’re a nomadic group, we geeks. Few of our main devices require constant power, a steady place to rest, or a permanent home. But, when you’re back from the road, and want to plug that laptop/netbook/tablet into a large monitor, having a proper place to put said device can really make a difference.

The Jas Pro MacBook Pro Display Stand from Cooler Systems, however, does all these things, and more. But first, an overview. The stand itself is a frame that adjusts into an “A” frame stand. Brushed aluminum has become all the rage for fashionable computer accessories since Apple moved from plastic and Titanium. The Jas Pro starts with this, in the ubiquitous bead-blasted finish of most current Apple products, along with cushions of pure grey rubber, and keeps the design light and airy. The stand measures 10″ by 5.5″, and can fold down to less than an inch thick. Every single point that would touch your device or the surface you’re resting it on is cushioned to prevent scratching, and to prevent slipping in use. Read More →

Booq Python Photo Sling Review

Photographers are the original Gadgeteers. Meters, lenses, filters, and esoteric little bits and bobs that assist in your camera’s performance are just what the Gadget Doctor ordered! Carrying those things around, however, has always been an issue. Even generations ago, photogs needed a bag or two to carry their stuff from studio to shoot. Once anyone moves from a general point-and-shoot to a serious digital SLR camera that can use more than one lens, the temptation begins.

New on the scene, however, is using your laptop or iPad along with your camera. Whether for actual editing or just to get a better idea of how your shots are turning out on a larger screen, having a laptop or iPad along for the ride on your shoot can help you catch or present much more easily. Booq, a stylish, cutting edge creator of interesting and useful bags for portable tech, has a line of bags with the express purpose of transporting dSLRs and laptops. (Their full line is divided into just laptop bags, professional and casual bags, backpacks, and sleeves dedicated just to MacBooks and iPads.) The Python Sling, the focus of this review, is one advertised to hold a dSLR or two, 4 lenses, a tripod, and an iPad or MacBook (11″/13″ screens). Read More →

vonCase for iPhone Review

I’m usually not one to go in for flashy or bulky cases for my phones. I’ve usually used leather or silicone, since they have durability and don’t slip out of your hand. Metal cases always looked as though they would add a lot of weight to the slim device, and since I’m not one to go rock climbing or work in a hazardous environment, they look to be overkill. Enter vonCase. These American-designed and -built cases are anodized aircraft-grade aluminum cages that suspend your iPhone 4 or 4s in an open cage of design. They make no claims of protection or waterproofing in any of their marketing materials. I was sent the red Variant 2, which features a honey-comb pattern on the back, perfectly highlighting the silver Apple logo. Read More →

Tekkeon TekCharge Pocket Power Pack MP1820 Review

The TekCharge Pocket Power Pack, showing the top and activation switch.

The TekCharge Pocket Power Pack, showing the top and activation switch.

As we Gadgeteers become more and more laden with gear that requires power, rather than batteries, we become much greener for the planet. But this positive has with it a negative – we also are constantly, whether consciously or not, scanning every place we pause for a few minutes for power outlets. And it only gets worse as we use our gadgets more. I used to always sit at a power outlet when traveling with my MacBookPro, but stopped doing that when I first got an iPad. But now, I use my iPad constantly, so that huge 10 hour battery starts getting a bit thin late in the day, and the search begins again. Same with the iPhone. The more I use apps that help in navigation, music search, or voice recognition, (or, on occasion, play a graphicly intense game), the less time I get from it, and the more I want to park in front of an outlet.

I’ve reviewed several cases that have batteries for various phones over the years, and late last year, got a chance to review a new piece of tech for me: a pocket-sized power unit that can fully charge various items not once, but several times on a single charge. This is a great category, and I think until battery technology gets an order of magnitude or two advanced, this will be the prefered way to keep our devices slim and light. If you can stash a few top-offs in a bag or pocket, why weigh down your gadget with the weight of a huge battery?

Tekkeon, Inc. has this as their main guiding mission. They make “innovative accessories that enable customers to take full advantage of today’s high tech world.” Other companies, such as Mophie and Choiix, do this as well. The current unit under consideration is the Teekeon TekCharge Pocket Power Pack MP1820. (Wow, that’s a mouthful! What is it with naming things in such a manner?) Let’s take an overview of this device before comparing to others in the category. Read More →

Comfe Hands for iPad Review

With Comfe Hands, you can hold the iPad and more easily type with your thumbs!

With Comfe Hands, you can hold the iPad and more easily type with your thumbs!

I love the move from paper forms to digital, and the advent of handheld information systems. I have moved into the post-PC world wholly and happily, and try to keep most records on one of the digital devices I usually have close at hand. My company, too, has moved into this new realm, with all of our appointments, scheduling, work orders, and even HR forms fully digital. We use iPads in the day-to-day work of gathering customer information, checking employees in and out for breaks and lunches, and monitoring and requesting parts from our in-store inventory system. This means a lot of folks walk around with an iPad in hand much of the day. While it’s lighter than a laptop and much easier to manage, our hands get tired holding a thin piece of glass and metal all day. So when Julie asked for those interested in testing Comfe Hands, a new product designed just for this use, I jumped at the chance. Read More →

Wedgestand eReader Pillow Stand Review

The Wedgestand is a simple foam pillow, molded and covered with soft fabric. But it's quite handy to have around!

The Wedgestand is a simple foam pillow, molded and covered with soft fabric. But it's quite handy to have around!

While iPads and other tablet/ereaders are light, easy to carry, and hold a lot of books, there is one thing they share – after several hours of reading, your hand and arms become tired from holding them. It’s even an issue with books and magazines. Reading stands and book holders have been around for years, but recently, due to the proliferation of single-slab devices coming out, they seem to have been making a resurgence. The Wedgestand is one of the new line of stands, designed for laps as much as for a table or desk. Read More →

Beacon Case iPad 2 Case Review

Old World Craftsmanship. Hand-finishing. One hundred percent American-made products. Building your own tools of wood and metal. Financing everything yourself, with no outside investors. Helping to drill water wells in countries where fresh water is not readily available. Being open and honest with customers about sales goals and expenditures. Which of these items sounds like something a modern gadget-focused company would be doing? What if I told you there is a company that does all of these things? Beacon Case Company is such an outfit. The company is a part-time venture for two guys who have been friends since elementary school; they have only been selling a single product for the few months of their existence. On 30 January, they released their second product, a case for the Kindle Fire. Julie emailed me last month and said “There’s a company in your town that makes iPad cases. Care to do a ‘factory tour?'” Challenge accepted. Allow me to show you the product, the founders, and their company in action. Read More →

MobiSafe Portable Secure Storage Review

MobiSafe is a compact, high-impact plastic lockbox with a steel cable for security.

MobiSafe is a compact, high-impact plastic lockbox with a steel cable for security.

We write a lot about keeping gadgets safe from damage.  Cases, gear bags, screen protectors and the like are all subject to being damaged by something you may accidentally do. But what about preventing an unwanted transfer of technology (ie. theft)? We can’t all go around with safes and lockboxes strapped to everything, can we? Well, there is a company on the market now that tries to help you prevent an uncontrolled loss of gear access. FJM Security  has a series of products that can protect various items. Their MobiSafe  is a smallish plastic box with an attached steel cable and combination lock, designed to prevent anyone from walking away with your gear. Light and easy to open or lock, the high-impact ABS plastic case is held to any support that can be surrounded by a 2″ circle of steel airplane cable. I was sent one to test, and found it to be as described on their website. Let’s take a closer look at this little gadget! Read More →