Category: Hardware »
The iPad’s form has been seducing digital artists and those who love to doodle since its launch. It’s also the ideal size for taking hand-written notes. There are dozens of apps that create rich drawing or writing environments, but until recently input devices have been limited. Fingers just won’t do when precision is needed so artists and copious note takers usually rely on capacitive styluses which simulate the feeling of a pen, but are limited by the touchscreen interface. They aren’t sensitive to pressure, they offer no control over line thickness, and holding one comfortably tends to leave palm marks on the virtual page. Ten One Design offers one solution with their Bluetooth 4.0 Pogo Connect stylus. It doesn’t get everything right, but it’s a solid start in a promising direction.
At 5.1" (130mm) with a price tag of $80, the Pogo Connect sports a stylish silver barrel with a rubber tip at one end and decorative cap at the other. There is a single button on the side and a LED light. It uses one AAA battery and because it’s Bluetooth 4.0 that battery will last a long time. A little wider than a regular stylus, the pen lacks heft, but it fits comfortably in the hand and has good balance. The tip is the same thick dark rubber that one finds on traditional styluses and is magnetic for easy replacement. Ten One promises new tip designs in the future.
Pogo Connect doesn’t pair with the iPad in the usual way a Bluetooth device would. To assist in getting everything set up correctly, users can download the free Pogo Connect app to link the stylus and then each of the 19 compatible apps - up from the original 13 - goes its own way. Some apps like Procreate just find the pen, while others like Noteshelf require users to poke around in the settings. It's easy.
Because the stylus uses Bluetooth 4.0 it is only compatible with 3rd and 4th gen iPads and the iPad mini. Ten One offers iPad 2 owners a less-than-elegant work-around: there is a Pogo Bridge app that connects to the iPhone 4S or 5 and then sends the signal to the iPad 2, but at present only one app - Procreate - has incorporated the feature.
One of the more glaring flaws when I first tested the Connect back in December was that it didn’t prevent palm marks, but recent updates have improved that functionality. How well it works seems to depend more upon the app than the stylus.
And what about pressure sensitivity? That’s the key selling point, but it’s very hit or miss. Some apps respond to pressure by varying line thickness, others opacity, and none respond to a light touch despite claims that the proprietary Crescendo Sensor technology requires “0 grams of activation force.” That said, the Connect outperforms captive models. It's not transformative, but with the right app and practice, sketching feels more holistic.
There are a couple of neat features worth mentioning: the Pogo Connect app has a pen locator, the button on the stylus works as an undo command, and the LED light indicates the active ink color. Still, while somewhat more intuitive than capitative models, the Pogo Connect needs a lot of tweaking before it warrants the hefty price tag, much less turns the iPad into a device that can compete with a dedicated graphics tablet.
A full list of compatible apps can be found here on the Ten One Design site.
Bluetooth is a fantastic technology. It lets me connect my iPhone or iPad to a ton of different devices, including speakers, keyboards, other computers, headphones, and mice without wires. The latest version, 4.0, draws very little power and features an increased signal range of up to 100 feet.
148Apps received three different portable Bluetooth speakers recently, and we decided to put them all through their paces, to better understand which ones might be better for specific uses. We'll be looking at the Braven 600, the CubeEdge, the Disco 2, and the Logitech Boombox (which we also reviewed here).
This little monster is a powerful portable speaker that retails for $149.99. It comes in two colors, red and gray, and has features like a long battery life, a USB port to charge your iPhone on the go, and a nice little bag to carry it around in so as to avoid scratches on the metal case. Like most small speakers, the bass response is limited, but resonant enough for most uses. The highs are crisp without being brittle, and the mid-tones are warm without muddiness. The volume ceiling is low, as you might expect for a tiny speaker, but can reasonably fill a smaller room at higher volume.
I was able to use the Braven 600 for hours on end without the need for a battery charge; upwards of six hours during one testing session. It comes with a little square wall plug and a micro USB cable to charge it up with. I connected my iPhone to the speaker's USB port when the Braven had a full charge; it brought my iPhone up to about half full. While you won't be able to use the Braven as a full juice box, having that little bit of safety is a good thing. Pairing the device with my iPhone, iPad, and Mac was super simple; a press and hold on the phone icon button sets the Braven 600 to pairing mode and the iPhone or Mac did the rest. The speaker phone functionality is equally as easy to use, and never seemed to need any re-pairing, unlike many other accessories I've tried.
Overall, the Braven 600 is a great mini portable speaker with all the trimmings, and is well worth the asking price.
Here's a speaker that's much larger and more powerful than the other two in this roundup, delivering 28 watts of power and a bass boost feature that will please fans of the boom. With a larger profile than the Braven or the CubeEdge, the Supertooth Disco can reach much higher volumes, and boasts a spectacular stereo separation when doing so. The design of the unit makes it stand out on any shelf, with a large, offset analog knob for volume, and audio option and media control buttons around the knob in a circle.
The battery life topped out at about three hours of continuous use at a medium to low volume setting, which isn't horrible, but does limit where you could take the speaker. It comes with a neoprene case that has cutouts in it to allow you to use the speaker inside, making it just a bit more spray and sand resistant, perhaps. The plug is a standard wall-wart affair with a round, non-usb charging plug. Pairing the Supertooth Disco is a breeze, though having to turn it off and then on again to pair with a second device feels kludgy.
At $99.00, the Supertooth Disco is a fantastic small speaker in the same class as the Logitech Boom Box we reviewed a while back. It's non an ultra portable like the other two here, but it does have great stereo sound and the ability to pump up the volume for larger spaces.
This is the ultra portable speaker with the least amount of features, and that's by design. The $149.99 speaker features three buttons along the top for up and down volume and pairing, plus an on/off toggle on the back. That's it. It's charged by a wall plug and micro USB cable, comes in a cute little carrying bag, and has a cool looking design with the upper right front corner looking like it's been sliced off. This corner lights up blue while in operation, and red when pairing or charging. The sound profile is a bit light, though it's hard to tell much of a difference between this and the Braven; they're both similar size and quality.
I had trouble keeping the Edge.Sound charged between uses, though that could purely be user error. Pairing is super simple, but it did require a couple of re-pairings between testing sessions. It's super light and rugged; it feels like it could take a little bit of abuse without any problem at all. The casing is textured rubberized plastic around all sides but the front, which has a silvery metal mesh grid for the sound to come out of. The speaker phone function works as advertised, with callers saying I sounded just fine when using it.
So, in the final call, I'm happy to recommend all three of these small and ultra mini portable bluetooth speakers. When comparing the Edge.Sound to the Braven 600, the difference in sound is negligible; the rugged design of the Edge.Sound is as valid a reason to pick it up as is the extra charging port on the Braven 600. WHich you prefer will be a matter of taste and choice. If I had to choose, I'd go with the Braven 600.
The Supertooth Disco, on the other hand, is my new favorite mid-sized portable bluetooth speaker, with amazing stereo sound, high volume capability, and a variety of attractively placed on-device buttons to let you run your music without having to pull out your iPhone or iPad.
Whichever speaker you choose, however, you won't be disappointed. These types of speakers are popular for a reason, as they allow you to have better sound out in the wild than your portable devices can produce on their own for a fairly attractive price.
IK Multimedia already offers a plethora of great products for iOS device-owning musicians. Now, the firm has extended that selection with the introduction of five new accessories as part of the iKlip range.
In each case, the new iKlip models provide ways in which to mount and position the iPad or iPad mini, thereby enabling users to operate devices hands-free as well as set up the perfect viewing angle towards a microphone stand, tabletop or anything else of use in the studio. It's the kind of solution that's ideal for presentations as well as music studio work, or just around the home.
The iKlip 2 offers such a solution for iPad users, enabling them to attach any type of iPad (from the 2nd generation and later) to a microphone stand securely, as well as be able to adjust the device to just the right viewing angle. For iPad mini users, there's the iKlip 2 for iPad mini, offering the same potential.
Tabletop stands are also available in separate iPad and iPad Mini versions, with the iKlip Stand making things much simpler. It's the ideal stand for connecting the iPad above the desktop so that it's easy to position equipment, such as a musical keyboard or mixer underneath, but it can also be used in the home. Too small an office desk to fit all the devices easily? Use the iKlip Stand to solve such a problem and revel in the extra space!
The iKlip Studio offers a similar solution but is specifically designed for use on flat surfaces, and aimed at those apps that require "energetic tapping and beat making", tying in nicely with the many DJ based apps already out there. Non-slip rubber grip feet, as well as adjustable viewing angles keep the iPad safe and secure, plus it folds flat, lending itself perfectly to easy storage.
The iKlip 2 for iPad and iKlip 2 for iPad mini will be priced at $39.99 or €29.99 excluding tax, while the iKlip Stand for iPad and iKlip Stand for iPad mini will be $59.99/€49.99. The iKlip Studio for iPad mini is priced at $29.99/€24.99.
We're big fans of IK Multimedia's accessories and I suspect these new iKlips will be quite the hit when they ship during the first quarter of 2013.
There has been a very exciting rush by TV show producers to get their content onto mobile devices. But it hasn't been without a good number of issues. First, the content is split amongst dozens of different apps. Next, the shows have seriously stupid usage rights. Sometimes you can only watch shows weeks after first aired. Some shows expire after a few weeks only to appear again many months later. Trying to keep it straight and figure out where any show is can be annoying.
What about your DVR? I have been a long term fan of TiVo. I bought the first box they made and have upgraded multiple times over these past ten plus years. The problem with TiVo is that they have been very slow to adapt to new technologies like streaming content to mobile devices. Until recently you just couldn't do it without special PC software and a hours of processing time. While TiVo has released a new streaming device, it only works locally unless you remember to download your shows first. Better, but still not good.
Sometimes I just wished I had access to everything on my DVR while on the go. Well, that's where Sling comes in. A wholly owned subsidiary of Echostar, Sling has been making devices to give you access to your recorded and live content while on the go for years. They do this by having their box sit between your cable box or DVR and your TV. You connect the output of your cable box to the Slingbox and the output of the Slingbox to your TV. While this process can be a bit tedious with many of the included cables to connect, the included instructions are clear and easy.
We've taken a look at the Slingbox and player before but a lot has changed since then. For one, the latest Slingboxes support full 1080p HD streaming, assuming you have a good enough connection. They have also been updated to support the iPhone 5 screen for widescreen 16:9 viewing. And at some point after our previous review was posted, support was added to allow streaming over cell networks.
The iPad and iPhone versions of the app both do a good job allowing you to stream from a Slingbox. The iPad version is much easier to use due to the larger screen size, allowing for more controls on the screen. While the iPhone interface isn't horrible, it could use a rethink.
Overall, the Slingbox 500 was easy to setup, if not super quick. Once it was installed it worked well. Connecting to it from remote was quick and worked well. Changing or selecting a recorded show to watch can be a bit tedious, though, with a 3-4 second delay for each remote key press. Once the streaming started, very few hiccups were noticed.
Is the Slingbox 500 the ideal way to get your content on the go? No. But it is, by far, the best very option right now to give you access to that content on the go. And let's be honest, it's likely to be the best option for some time. Access to content will get much stricter before it gets more convenient.
The Slingbox 500 is available online or at Best Buy now for $299.99.
While not as interesting as the other new iOS controller we talked about earlier, the Duo Gamer, the Duo Pinball controller is a pretty cool device, but perhaps with a very small audience.
The Duo Pinball is well made, solid, and the buttons and spring launcher both feel of pretty good quality. The device uses AA batteries, an AC adpater would have been nice for the price. The iPad attachement is a bit fiddly, but solid once you get everything lined up properly.
Actually playing the games, works well. The controls are responsive and the addition of the spring launcher is fantastic.
The real problem with this device is that it only works with Pinball HD Collection. While a great pinball app, it's still too restrictive to have a $60 controller for, except for the most die-hard pinball fans.
The Duo Pinball controller will be available soon from Apple.com, Traget, and Amazon. But I'm guessing most readers will wait for it to go on sale.
Sure we've seen other good controllers for iOS like the iCade. But the Duo Gamer is the first controller approved and supported by Apple. Let that sink in. The first controller officially approved and supported by Apple.
It's the first game controller that doesn't need to pretend like it's a keyboard; it can be a controller. Core gamer nirvana? Slow down those dual analog stick loving thumbs for a second and take a look at this beast.
It's true, it's a real controller for iOS, but there are some downsides. Well, one really big one. You see, to meet Apple's guidelines for a fully supported external device, the device can only work with a single developer's apps. In this case, that means that this controller will only fully work with Gameloft games. It is not, and can never be (under current rules) a universal controller. It is yet to be seen if other developers may be able to unofficially support it. But even if so, without rule changes by Apple, it will only be supported by Gameloft games.
But back to the good stuff. This is a dual analog controller, and it is for Gameloft, the presumed leader in first person shooters on iOS. And if any genre needs strong controller support, it's FPS.
To use the controller, it first needs to be connected to your device. To do so, you connect the controller via Bluetooth. A simple and quick connection. It works with any iOS device that supports Bluetooth. A recent iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad should work fine.
Once the Duo Gamer is conected, if you don't have any supported games installed, a dialog pops up and takes you to the App Store with a list of supported games. That's what official Apple support gives you. A special window on the App Store just for your device. Huge.
I put the controller through it's paces. And while it may not be the most comfortable controller to hold, a little thick, heavy, and blocky for long sessions, it is the best I've tried for iOS. Perhaps the official support makes it a bit more responsive than others, not sure. I'm not completely sure of the technology being used, and the companies involved have been expectedly quiet on it.
The Duo Gamer has dual analog joysticks, a 4-way gamepad, and six buttons (ABXY on the front and two shoulder buttons). That makes it fairly functional for the games we tried. And with the greater hardware support--meaning it doesn't have to play tricks and act like a keyboard--it functions much more smoothly. With other controllers we would occasionally lose a button click or joystick movement--likely a key press event being missed. This hasn't happened with the Duo Gamer controller. Impressive.
After spending a lot of time in NOVA 3, one of the three games currently supported (of a promised six or more), seemed like a dream compared to the touch system, which was already one of the best for a first person shooter on iOS. It's how a game like this was meant to be played. Targetting was a breeze. Movement seemed much more natural. I flew through the already familiar levels, the dual analog sticks giving me new found precise control. It's like a breath of fresh air. Though the button mapping could be better, it is hopefully fixable in an update to NOVA 3.
Asphalt 7 was likewise a great treat. Really being able to use fine control, the car steering alone is almost worth the $80 cost of the controller. Order and Chaos benefits as well, but perhaps the least of the three.
The Duo Gamer controller will be available in a couple days via the Apple online store and Amazon. The downside is it will set you back $80. Perhaps a bit steep when you consider that's more than the cost of all of the games it supports combined. But, if you are a core gamer, looking for an experience on iOS like you are used to on consoles, it's easier to justify.
We can only hope that this controller will be a huge success and we see Apple loosen the rules around external devices a bit. A universal controller would really be a huge boost to the core gaming segment on iOS. But for now, we at least have this controller for the developer making some of the best FPS games on the App Store. It's a step in the right direction.