Posts Tagged Hardware

MOGA Ace Power Gamepad Review

The first official MFi gamepad is here, from the maker of the best Android gamepad on the market, but does this gamepad make the grade?

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Sandisk Connect Wireless Media Drive and Flash Drive Review – Portable Wireless Media Storage for iOS Devices

These little devices help alleviate the problem of having an always-full iPad. Offloading large movies to this device, they can then be shared amongst multiple devices.

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Sonos Play:1 Review – Top Streaming Music System Gets Affordable and Maintains Amazing Sound

The Sonos system is the number one choice for music playing in the home. It's super flexible, sounds great, and can go in any room in the house.

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MOGA’s new MFi controller, the MOGA Ace Power, is set to offer full console-style controls for your iPhone 5, 5c, 5s, and iPod 5th generation. It comes with dual analog sticks, a d-pad, action buttons, and L1/R1 L2/R2 shoulder buttons. It also features MOGA Boost: an internal battery which helps power your phone while you play, extending the battery life so you can enjoy all your favorite games for a longer period of time. Pretty nifty, yes?

The early reviews are good, but not great. CNET mentions that it “feels more like a $50 device than a $100 one.” Don’t be too excited yet, even the developers that have added support for controllers haven’t had time to test their games with an actual controller. Pocket Gamer reports “Judging by games like Trouserheart and Into the Dead, which are supposed to have controller support but barely even work in practice, it’s clear that developers need more time with the actual hardware to get their games feeling good.

The MOGA Power Ace should be available for pre-order this week at mogaanywhere.com and will reportedly cost $99.

MOGA_ACE_POWER_sliced

via: Pocket Gamer source: MOGA

NeatConnect Cloud Scanner Review

A great document scanner for people wanting to go paperless. Either with or without the NeatCloud service it's quick, accurate, and flexible.

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Olloclip Quick-Flip Case Review

The Quick-Flip case from Olloclip is a case that allows use of the Olloclip lens without removing the whole case.

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Automatic: Your Smart Driving Assistant is now available in over 250 Apple retail stores for $99.95. It’s a device that attaches to your car and teams up with your iPhone to help with all of your driving habits. This means it can help you save gas, decode and clear the check engine light, and remember where you parked. It can also detect a crash and automatically call for help and alert loved ones. The best part, it’s all subscription free.

“Apple sets a high bar for the quality of products they carry in their stores. We’re thrilled to make Automatic available to the millions of people who trust Apple to curate beautiful and easy to use products,” said Thejo Kote, CEO and co-founder of Automatic, in a press release.

via: Automatic

Anki Drive is set to release next week, October 23rd, bringing artificial intelligence and robotics to your living room. It’s a video game in the real world, and can be purchased in Apple stores for $199. Players can use their iOS device to control their character’s position, speed, weapons, and more as they compete against other players or against an AI car.

“Anki Drive in its current form would never have been possible five years ago. We’ve been able to take advantage of a unique ecosystem of components that are more capable and affordable than ever before, and benefit from the prevalence of powerful mobile devices. Even with this, it required a great deal of exploration and creativity to combine such diverse technologies to enable a truly intelligent product, at a tiny fraction of the cost typically seen in robotics.” said Boris Sofman, co-founder and CEO of Anki, in a press release.

Check out the video below to see just what is possible with Anki Drive!

Dodocase Folio for iPad mini Review

The Dodocase Folio for iPad mini is a impeccably-made protective and functional case for the iPad mini.

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Sonos Controller for iPad puts new features at your fingertips in its latest update. You are now able to play and pause music with the push of a single button, and press the button twice to skip to the next track. Another feature makes it easier for you to control Sonos from multiple households without the need to reset the controllers.

Lastly, Sonos has released PLAY:1, a mini wireless speaker with quality sound that you can control through the controller app. PLAY:1 can be purchased for $199, putting the sound of music in any location inside your home.

Dodo Leather Wallet for iPhone 5/5s Review

The Leather Wallet case for iPhone 5/5S from Dodo is a very sturdy portfolio-style case with an extra insert on the front for credit card storage. In spite of the name, it is only partially made of leather. The back is made with a thick cardboard and plastic frame. The result is a super heavy duty iPhone wallet. Highly Recommended.

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earHero Headphones Review

When safe earphone use is a concern, and it probably should be in more instances than we normally make it, earHero is a great option as it allows users to monitor surrounding sounds as well as output from an iPhone. The downside is that they are not really great for music due to their tinny sound.

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ZaggKeys Cover Keyboard Case for iPad mini Review

The best iPad mini keyboard case I've ever tried. There are still problems, but this case gets so many things right they are easy to ignore.

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Dodo Hardcover for iPhone 5/5S Review

The Hardcover from Dodo is a well built, sturdy portfolio type case for the iPhone 5 or 5S. It feels good in the hand and does a good job of protecting the iPhone when in a pocket or bag. Highly Recommended.

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Wahoo Fitness is terribly close to bringing their RFLKT+, the enhanced device that turns an iPhone into an advanced bike computer, to fruition thanks to Kickstarter. With the campaign over on Friday, September 20th, the team took time to answer my questions about the RFLKT+ and how it improves over the original RFLKT accessory.

RFLKTPlus-1148Apps: What are you trying to do with the RFLKT+? How are you trying to improve it over the RFLKT?
Wahoo Fitness (WF): The RFLKT+ adds in ANT+ connectivity. ANT+ is used in over 60 million devices on the market and is the current standard for wireless technology in the cycling industry. Most cyclists are currently riding with some sort of ANT+ device, whether it be heart rate, speed and cadence, or power. RFLKT+ gathers all this info via ANT+ and then using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) sends the data to the iPhone and integrates it into your cycling App. The iPhone combines the ANT data with GPS info and then BLE’s it back to your handlebar mounted RFLKT+.

148Apps: For those who aren’t well-versed in the specific protocols, why should cyclists, even those already using RFLKT, be excited about RFLKT+ and the ANT+ protocol?
WF: It connects the iPhone to basically every cycling sensor on the market. Whether it be BLE or ANT+ the RFLKT+ will harness that data and put it to use in your app and on your handlebars. Makes it extremely easy to get everything you need pre, post, and during your ride all in one place on the iPhone. By allowing cyclists to leave the iPhone, screen off and in the jersey pocket, you keep it safe and save your battery.

RFLKTPlus-3
148Apps: Why turn to Kickstarter to fund the RFLKT+?
WF: It presents an amazing opportunity that you rarely have, to validate demand prior to hitting market. The Kickstarter community provides high level and immediate feedback for your product and your company. It’s one thing if Wahoo thinks they’ve come up with a great idea, it’s another for Wahoo to have thousands of outsiders say prior to the product hitting shelves ‘Yes we want that!’. Two, it also provided a chance for Wahoo to reach beyond the target consumer and out to a more broad group that will also have an important use for Wahoo products.

148Apps: How much does trying to promote and appeal to backers for a fitness Kickstarter compare to other types of Kickstarters, if you’ve researched this? Was the success of something like the Pebble an inspiration to go with crowdfunding?
WF: Yes. The Pebble watch kind of put Kickstarter on the map. Its very enticing to think that something can just really hit like the Pebble. Definitely with being something specific to cyclist, you do limit yourself a little more than a smartwatch or say a Bluetooth speaker. But in general cool, smart technology seems to resonate with people on KS.

RFLKTPlus-2
148Apps: As a company working in the field of fitness technology, how much has the market changed since you launched RFLKT, both in a business and a consumer sense? Where do you see the future going?
WF: It’s changing everyday. Sleeker wearables, more data, and most importantly “valuable” data will shape the future. Its not tracking everything, its tracking the data that helps you reach your goals and tracking it in the most seamless way possible. Most people are already running and riding with their iPhone, why also have a $500+ bike computer? The iPhone is the most powerful bike computer on the market when paired with our tools. Harness that power and get your music, text, calls, fitness info, cycling data and run log all-in-one place. No need for syncing, transferring, etc. The iPhone is with you all the time anyway, might as well put it to work.

Thanks to the team at Wahoo Fitness for their time.

IK Multimedia is at it again with yet another device that fits the needs to musicians who are on the go. The iRig Pro is an all-in-one universal audio/MIDI interface for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac that allows musicians to connect their mics, guitars, line instruments, or MIDI devices while on the road. This means you can record vocals, harmonies, acoustic instruments, electric bass or guitar, and more without having to adjust the interface.

iRigPro

via: iRig PRO

traceActiveReplay is trying to provide “action sports” enthusiasts with the kind of data collection most runners and bikers have been making use of for years already. Their answer to the problem? A (almost fully-funded) Kickstarter campaign for Trace.

Think of Trace as a kind of advanced pedometer. It’s packed with all kinds of sensors that allow it to track complex movements such as a snowboarder catching air off a jump or surfer taking sharp turns in the water. The tiny device simply snaps on to a mount that can be installed on a skateboard, surfboard, snowboard, or skis. Then you just go out and do your thing while it collects all the data. Once you’re finished, just open up one of the three free apps for Skate, Surf, or Snow and all the information from your session will be displayed automatically. It even shares that info online so you can compare your own speed, height, and so on with other users from around the world.

As of now, Trace is well over two-thirds of the way to reaching its $150,000 goal with 9 days remaining. If you’re into any (or all) of these action sports, or if you know someone who is, it might not be a bad idea to stop by ActiveReplay’s Kickstarter page and contribute.

trace2

Tech Specs
- Bluetooth 4.0
- 2.0 inches diameter, 0.86 inches tall
- 7 hour rechargeable battery
- Mounts to any hard surface
- Durable, Shockproof, Waterproof
- Ridiculously adhesive
- Exports GPX data

source: Kickstarter

I have very fond memories of seeing the sights of the world through a View-Master, with its fancy stereoscopic imagery. In a way, that’s the sort of thing that Poppy is set to offer, with the added bonus of users being able to create and share their own 3D videos, rather than be constricted to pieces of cardboard acting as film.

poppy

It’s the brainchild of Joe Heitzeberg and Ethan Lowry. Both previously have a solid background in software, with Ethan having co-founded Urbanspoon, and Joe establishing Snapvine and MediaPiston, but this is their first step into physical products.

“I’ve always been interested in products that let people express themselves and be creative,” explained Ethan. “At the same time, I love how the Viewmaster lets you lose yourself in another world. Poppy really came out of a desire to let people capture and share their own experiences in that same immersive way.”

It’s certainly proven to be a wise idea, given that Poppy hit its Kickstarter goal of $40,000 in less than 9 hours. As Ethan told us, “The success on Kickstarter has definitely exceeded our expectations. We’re thrilled that there will be thousands of people with a Poppy. [We] can’t wait to see how they use it.”

Sketches of the Design's Evolution

Sketches of the Design’s Evolution

The excitement is understandable, too. Poppy is set to be an inexpensive solution for those who love the look of technology such as the Oculus Rift, but not the price. Currently, for Kickstarter backers, Poppy only costs $49 with the full retail price set to be a respectable $69.

Despite that low price, Poppy looks like it’s going to offer a lot of functionality. A matter of placing one’s iPhone inside the device, the Poppy’s mirrors capture two stereographic images with the iPhone’s camera, before combining them into a single 3D video. It’s clever stuff, indeed.

Besides the photographic potential, users will be able to take in 3D imagery, such as the 3D videos available on YouTube, with future possibilities in the realm of augmented reality and in the use of other 3D applications. Indeed, numerous game developers have expressed an interest in the technology, so there’s the hope that Poppy could be used as part of a virtual reality world game in the future.

whitepoppy

Currently, there’s still a little time to order the Poppy at the Kickstarter promotional price of $49 plus shipping, but for those who miss out on the offer (the campaign ends on Friday), Ethan told us that a pre-order system should be up after it ends. Bear in mind though, the price will be higher at $69 and Kickstarter backers will be shipped to first. The current plan is that Poppys will be shipped to backers around November/December time, with pre-orders to be shipped after that time.

Learn more about the project at the campaign page, and we’ll be sure to keep an eye on the Poppy’s progress in the future.

Besides there being something intrinsically cool about having a projector and showing off imagery on a huge screen, it’s also immensely useful for a variety of different purposes. Portability isn’t a projector’s strong point, though. At least, that is until Bem Wireless came along with their new product: the Kickstand.

kickstandconcept

Currently, and rather appropriately, part of a Kickstarter campaign, the high-definition projector is both portable and packs quite a punch. It’s set to offer 720p resolution, with it possible to view media almost 96 inches across from 10 feet away. More conveniently, the light source used to project images will boast a 20,000+ hour lifespan, which should prove plenty of time for its users.

There’ll be an assimilated remote control too, doubling up as a lens cover for convenience and functionality. Connectivity is assured, as well, courtesy of an HDMI port, USB port and Auxiliary Audio Out.

The Kickstarter campaign has 17 days to go to reach its $100,000 goal. It’s a little distant at the moment, but for those keen to pledge, there’s quite a significant discount involved. Set to usually retail at $799, those who pledge now can get one for $750, along with a limited edition embroidered bag and a Bem t-shirt.

kickstand1

Mike Nakamura, co-founder of Bem Wireless, told us how going the Kickstarter route seemed like “a very interesting channel to speak to the consumer”, citing the “real passion” amongst those who get involved with the site. That passion is something that’s clearly come through in the design process at Bem, given the 5 months of “high energy” work it took to achieve the stylish look for the projector, and the strong focus on being inspired by what “made sense from a portability factor [as well as] ease of use”.

Bem Wireless seem pretty confident that regardless of what happens with the Kickstarter, the Kickstand will go ahead. As Mike put it, “One way or the other, I believe it will get to the consumer!” For those keen, though, I’d recommend taking the plunge now. The discounts available through pledging are quite good for a potentially invaluable device, both for business and personal purposes. Lower pledges can also reap users some great mobile speakers, as well as helping towards the Kickstand.

kickstand2

The Kickstarter currently has just over 2 weeks to run with plenty of useful backing options to consider. We just can’t resist cool looking product design here, so we’ll be sure to keep an eye on its progress. Check out the prototype testing video below.

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.

When a week starts off with New Year’s Eve, it’s bound to be a good one, and this week was no exception at 148Apps.com. Site founder Jeff Scott started us off with a bang by saying, “We are proud to announce the nominees for the fifth annual Best App Ever Awards. The awards that celebrate the best apps available, not just the best selling. This year we saw an amazing response with over 715,000 nominations submitted for 6,755 unique apps!

Voting is now open and will remain open through January 31st, 2013. Winners will be announced in February and details on that are to come.”

Want to see the complete list of nominees, and get in on the voting? Head to 148Apps.

Over at GiggleApps.com, Amy Solomon took a closer look at Hansel & Gretel: Lost, saying, “Hansel & Gretel: Lost is a well crafted re-telling of this classic story for iPad, wonderfully illustrated with animations as well as including top-notch narration, music and sound effects. Auto-play is also an option as well as silencing the narration to read this book by oneself.

It is easy to tell from the first page that this app is something special. The illustrations are lush with color and beautiful to look at with a marbled textured style that I always find appealing. Every element in this book is at a superlative level of quality that adults will greatly appreciate, as will their children.”

Read Amy’s complete review at GiggleApps.

$3.99
iPad Only App - Designed for the iPad
Released: 2012-10-05 :: Category: Books

Finally, AndroidRundown.com writer Carter Dotson took on the establishment and challenged the conventional wisdom about “iPhone Killer” hardware: “Well, it took a bit longer than expected, but it seems like Google is finally going to use their Motorola acquisition to actually make a standout phone for themselves, the “X Phone.” Or whatever the next Nexus device will be called.

The immediate speculation swirling around is that this is finally Google’s “iPhone Killer.” You know, like the other Nexus devices that were iPhone killers. I don’t think that anything at this point will be an iPhone killer. It just isn’t going to happen.”

Read more of Carter’s missive at AndroidRundown.

And so begins 2013! Keep track of all the latest happenings, including developments in the Best App Ever Awards, by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook and following us on Pinterest. And from all of us across the 148Apps network of sites, have a Happy New Year!

iWALK Link 1700i Review

Manufacturer: iWALK
Price: $49.99
Device Reviewed With: iPhone 5, iPod touch 4

Usability Rating: Rating: ★★★½☆
iOS Integration Rating: Rating: ★★★☆☆
Hardware Design Rating: Rating: ★★★½☆
Reuse Value Rating: Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

So iWALK came out with a useful little external battery pack recently, the iWALK Link 1700i. It claims to offer just about a full phone charge in an adapter that could fit on a keychain. It’s more convenient than lugging around a separate power brick with USB cable, or using one of those bulky Mophie cases. For iPhone 4S and earlier owners, it promises to be an extremely useful device. Just one problem: it’s got the “old” 30-pin dock connector, not Lightning. So, iPhone 5 owners are out of the loop with the Link1700i, right?

Well, not necessarily. Apple does make a 30-pin-to-Lightning adapter, which provides charging and audio support to the iPhone 5. Which means that the Link 1700i may just be useful for iPhone 5 owners just yet.

Using it with the adapter on the iPhone 5 gives it one big advantage: it’s actually more comfortable to use it in portrait versus on a 30-pin device, as the Lightning adapter provides enough space to grip the phone and do things like typing and scrolling with the Link 1700i safely out of the way. Landscape is a different story, as the i-Walk already provides a bit of an uncomfortable barrier; it’s ludicrously bigger on the iPhone 5. I’d suggest not playing games while charging with this thing, though I could hold it in a way where my thumb was not reaching over the battery. Still, I don’t recommend it.

While the box claims that it has 1700 mAh battery capacity power, in practical circumstances, I could rely on it to recharge about 3/5 of my battery, particularly with it being used occasionally in that time. Part of the problem could be the connection: I noticed that the iPhone would act as if the Link 1700i was being occasionally disconnected and reconnected when unlocking the screen, or even just periodically while it was in my pocket. I haven’t noticed this when using the adapter otherwise, and haven’t seen it in testing on my iPod touch 4th gen either. Using it with the dock adapter does leave some space for headphones, but it’s a tight fit, and would likely cause damaged headphone connectors.

The Link 1700i comes with two lids by default: one with a slot for the loop to be put on a keychain and one without. As well, it comes with the micro-USB cable to recharge it, the port being conveniently located on the side of the battery.

While it’s hard to measure the device’s actual effectiveness because it’s working in a roundabout way on the iPhone 5, it is far from an ideal solution. However, this is in part thanks to Apple: by using a new proprietary connector and then only selectively licensing it and not giving it to peripheral manufacturers before its unveiling, those looking for a convenient external battery are forced to turn to less-than-ideal options. Have an iPhone 4S or earlier? This seems like a perfectly fine solution. iPhone 5? Be prepared to deal with the imperfections thanks to Apple.

Skylanders Bluetooth Portal of Power Hardware Review

The Bluetooth Portal of Power makes the iOS Skylanders games more like the console ones, but is it really worth it?

Read The Full Review »

This Week at 148Apps: November 12-16

This week at 148Apps.com, site editor Rob LeFebvre reviewed some exciting new printer technology for everyone with an iOS device: “The Lantronix xPrintServer is one of those rare bits of networking/printing hardware that just…works. I can’t be more effusive in my praise for this device, having been an IT coordinator for a small office in which printers and the network printing thereof was a weekly headache for my staff and I.

The tiny little plastic xPrintServer comes in a nicely packaged box, which includes a plug with several adapters for various national plug configurations, an ethernet cable, and the device itself: a cute little white plastic rectangle that isn’t much bigger than an iPhone 5. One of the short ends of this device has a port for the ethernet cable, the power adapter and a USB port.”

Want more? Read it all at 148Apps.

Over at GiggleApps.com, reviewer Amy Solomon took a closer look at Toca Tailor, saying, “Toca Tailor is the new, highly anticipated universal app that allows children to create their own clothing from a plethora of options.

Toca Boca is well known for what they call “digital toys,” wonderfully themed apps that children can play with in the same fashion as their other classic toys.

Toca Tailor reminds me of my old toy “Fashion Plates” where one could select from a series of plastic head, top and bottom plates, be it skirt or pants choices to create different fashions as one would make a relief, rubbing a crayon on paper placed over these plates with their raised designs. I have very fond memories of this toy, yet I was well aware even as a child that the different outfits one could make were not unlimited.”

Indulge your inner fashionista, and learn more at GiggleApps.

$2.99
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Released: 2012-10-25 :: Category: Education

Finally, Carter Dotson explored a paradox at 148Apps.biz: “Thursdays are all hype. Despite being the big release day for many new apps, there’s actually very little benefit to marketing or downloads in this period, according to ad firm Chartboost, and every other day has different benefits versus Thursday.

First, according to Chartboost, Wednesday is actually the most popular release day, because it’s the day right before Apple updates their featured lists on the iPhone and iPad App Stores. In reality, what’s happening is that developers are scheduling releases for midnight (0:00) on Thursday, and because apps get released at that time worldwide, which winds up being 11pm eastern in North America due to the Atlantic Time Zone, these apps start appearing on Wednesday.

But here’s the thing: that Thursday is actually a lousy day to be promoting apps.”

Intrigued? Read more at 148Apps.biz.

And that brings us one week closer to Thanksgiving here in the US. Be sure to follow us right here, or on Twitter or Facebook for the latest news, reviews and holiday sales. See you next week, smart shoppers!

iRig Keys Review

Developer: IK Multimedia
Price: $99.99
Device Reviewed With: new iPad, iPhone 5

Usability Rating: ★★★★☆
Integration with iPad/iPhone Rating: ★★★★☆
Hardware Design Rating: ★★★★☆
Re-Use Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

IK Multimedia might be trying to take over the music peripheral world. The company has a wide range of apps, instruments, and support items that could, in theory, be used to build a band entirely out of iOS instruments. The latest offering from this prolific manufacturer is titled iRig Keys, a super portable iOS keyboard with 37 velocity-sensitive keys, modulation and pitch wheels, low power consumption, and core MIDI compliance. The iRig is aimed at the portable musician, the composer on the go, the backpack virtuoso, and as such, it succeeds brilliantly.

The manufacturer offers the free version of iGrand Piano or SampleTank, both IK Multimedia, as the apps to use with the iRig Keys, but this unit will work with any MIDI app on the iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. It comes with an included USB cable to plug into a Mac or PC as well, opening up the use of any core MIDI compliant app on a laptop. I was able to make the keyboard work with iGrand, SampleTank, and GarageBand. The setup was as simple as plugging in the keyboard via the 30-pin dock connector and firing up any one of the keyboard apps on my iPad 3. I didn’t notice a significant battery drain while using the iRig Keys unit, either.

The small size of the iRig Keys is the killer feature, of course, as it can easily fit into a backpack or even just carried by hand. It’s small, light, and the controls and keyboard keys all feel well-made. The keys are indeed velocity sensitive, and the handy data send/volume knob feels solidly attached. The octave up/down buttons don’t feel chintzy at all, and the two expression wheels don’t wobble when used. All in all, the iRig Keys shows a superior build quality that should help it hold up over time as it moves from place to place, in and out of backpacks and shoulder bags.

For on-the-go composition, song recording, or piano practice, iRig Keys works well for an attractive price. The unit is powered by the included iOS or USB cables, but does not draw excessive amounts of power to drain the iPad or iPhone attached to it. The keys are easy to play, feel solid enough for mobile use, and will allow musicians at any level to create and record music as inspiration strikes.

iPad Mini Review

Developer: Apple
Price: $329 for 16G WiFi
Device Reviewed: iPad mini 16G Black

Hardware Design Rating: ★★★★★
Usability Rating: ★★★★½
Graphics/Display Rating: ★★★★☆
Battery Life Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

When I first heard of the iPad mini, I was fairly underwhelmed with its technical specifications, of course, with its A5 processor (same as an iPad 2, now two generations “old”) and its non-retina display (163 pixels per inch? Huh?).

I was underwhelmed by the price, as well. $329 for an underpowered, low-resolution mini tablet in a market that supports $199 as the standard point of entry?

Then I got it into my hands. The feel of the thing, the warmth of the design, and the fact that this is an iPad, through and through, has changed my mind about the iPad mini. I love the way it sits in my hand, I love the cute little smart cover, I dig the fact that I can sit and read comics for an hour or so without really remembering that I’m using a piece of technology. I can download any number of apps that I already own to it, and run them in this new size and format. Simply put, the iPad mini fills a (small) spot in my gadget bag that I hadn’t been able to previously.

Let’s put it in perspective. I have a Macbook Air 11-inch laptop, an iPhone 5, and an iPad 3 in between. I use each device quite a bit, depending on the situation. The iPad, specifically, has become my laptop at home, unless I’m working. It’s fantastic to check news via Flipboard, social networks with Facebook and Twitter, and look through email. I play games on it quite a bit, of course, as the iPhone is just on the small side for me when I want to immerse myself into a game like Order and Chaos, thrill to the retina display on something like Infinity Blade II, or see the screen in better detail in Fieldrunners 2 HD. As a device I never thought I needed, the iPad has quickly found a place in my daily life.

And now, so has the iPad mini. In just a few short days, I find myself grabbing it when moving from room to room more often than I do my iPhone. I can do all of the social networking, game playing, streaming music, voice chatting, and email checking that I previously did on the iPhone around the house, only now I use the iPad mini so as to not deplete my iPhone 5’s battery, leaving it free to be available for phone calls and texts from non-iOS using friends.

This is a delicious device. It begs to be touched, used, played with. Here’s why.

Case Design
The design of this thing is pure Apple. The black version of the iPad mini has the look and feel of the iPhone 5 in terms of the slate aluminum chassis on the back case. The smoothly rounded edges feel good in the hand, and the metal feels good to the touch, grippy, even. There’s not a sharp edge on the iPad mini, which invites it into the hand, welcomes human touch.

The shape of the screen itself is luxurious, allowing an immersive experience that I’ve never felt with other smaller tablets. The length to width ratio feels just right in portrait or landscape mode—it makes typing with two thumbs viable in portrait mode and a more cramped touch typing available in landscape. Games look and feel GOOD on the iPad mini, perhaps due only to the fact that I’m used to them in this ratio.

The weight, or lack thereof, of the iPad mini is mind boggling. I’m hard pressed to tell whether it’s any heavier than my iPhone 5 when holding one in each hand and doing the “pretend scales” thing. It’s light and airy, yet satisfyingly tactile. This is a device that I can hold in my hands for the hours that a good novel or immersive gaming experience calls for. My only nitpick here is the smaller matte area on the sides of the screen when holding the iPad mini in portrait view. Adding a smart case helps, but it’s still awkward to hold on the side of the screen without activating something on the screen at the same time. Rotating the iPad mini to landscape is a decent stopgap, as the matte area on the “top” and “bottom” of the iPad is thick enough to keep my fat thumbs off of the touch screen.

Camera Performance
The camera is pretty good. It takes great photos in good lighting conditions, and decent ones in low light. Facetime and Skype video chats are well served by the front facing camera, though still images and videos suffer a bit in quality when viewed on other, higher resolution devices. For quick snapshots that can be connected to your Photostream, then, the iPad mini’s camera is great. Though, please, don’t take too many photos in public with your iPad mini. It’s only marginally cooler than taking them with a full sized iPad tablet. If you need high-quality, high-resolution pictures, use a real camera, ok?


Continue reading iPad Mini Review »

Mophie Juice Pack Pro Review

Developer: mophie
Price: $129.95
Device Reviewed With: iPhone 4

Usability Rating: ★★★☆☆
Integration with iPad/iPhone Rating: ★★★½☆
Hardware Design Rating: ★★★½☆
Re-Use Value Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

The Mophie Juice Pack PRO is a big, rubberized, super protective case that provides military-grade sand and dust protection, light splash and rain protection, and impact protection in a huge, can-barely-fit-in-a-pocket case that includes its own belt clip.

I’ve long been a fan of the Mophie line of products, enjoying their minimalist design and higher-end battery charge capabilities in an integrated case. The Juice Pack Pro also promises 150 percent extra battery charge, but what that number refers to is not clear, as I got about as much extra charge from the Juice Pack PRO during my testing as I do from my original Juice Pack Plus. Both need to be recharged after about one to one and a half full iPhone 4 battery charges with regular usage.

The Juice Pack Pro does seem pretty sturdy, though. The ports are covered with heavy duty rubber, which also acts as a shock or drop protector. The included belt clip is sturdy, and the encased iPhone snaps into it solidly, without a worry that it’ll drop out in the out of doors. The entire case snaps around the iPhone 4 or 4S like an Otterbox, a competing rugged case that does not include a battery pack. With a case this rugged, though, I kind of expect much more water-proofing, a lack that mophie actually has to point out in the included manual. If they have to point it out, it’s an obvious lack.

I took the case camping with me and it did very well, though I would love to have had an extra iPhone charge for my last day. Some lint and dirt did get under the top screen protector plastic, therefore getting stuck between it and the iPhone screen proper. In addition, the extra plastic film takes some getting used to and did hamper easy selection of icons at times.

Ultimately, whether a purchase is warranted will come down to preference. If there’s a need for a rugged, solidly built iPhone case that includes a battery pack, the Mophie Juice Pack Pro is the way to go. The case is too big for everyday use, however, and the battery pack doesn’t provide any more life than the $30 less expensive Juice Pack Plus (these names are confusing!). The case is extremely difficult to take off and on, so once the iPhone is in, it’s staying there.

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