Review: iHome’s iBN10 sheds the dock and alarms for a minimalist new four-speaker design

ibn10-1

I’ve reviewed a lot of iHome clock radios over the past nine years. They weren’t all formulaic, but there was a very clear evolutionary line from the original 2005-vintage, iPod-only iH5 to the iPad-ready iDL95 released last year: take two speakers, stick a clock in the middle, center a dock on the top, then make the enclosure sort of flat but pleasantly curvy. iHome had a winning general concept and look, which it updated annually with small feature, color, and shape tweaks. But its new $120 model iBN10 breaks the mold in several ways.

The dock’s gone, the clock has been glammed up and shifted to the right, and there are four speakers inside, rather than the standard two. iBN10 is also atypically handsome, built and billed as an “executive music system” by discarding the faux metals that iHome’s midrange speakers have become known for, and adding speakerphone functionality. This isn’t iHome’s first Kleenex box-sized speaker, but it’s definitely the most sophisticated.

Read more

Review: MOTA’s new Battery Case for iPhone 6 Plus shows what 4000mAh can – and can’t – do for Apple’s big iPhone

mota-battery-case-iphone-6-plus-1

I have to give MOTA a pat on the back for what it has achieved with the Battery Case for iPhone 6 Plus, the first such accessory we’ve tested for Apple’s largest iPhone. Despite its generic name, the Battery Case is handsome, well-built, and at $90, a steal relative to the lower-capacity $100 and up versions we’ve seen for the iPhone 5 and 5s. Critically, despite a 4000mAh rechargeable cell inside, it’s also surprisingly easy to hold and pocket, even though it adds thickness to the already-too-large iPhone 6 Plus.

But there are a couple of caveats, too. The case isn’t Apple-licensed, so there’s always the risk that it might have some iOS compatibility issues down the line — this would be a bigger issue if there weren’t also problems with cases Apple formally approved. And you’ll probably need the headphone port adapter MOTA includes in the package. More on that, below.

Read more

9to5 Guide: The best iPad stands, docks, and cases with built-in stands

 

standscoverx

iPads need stands. Whether you’re watching videos, long-form typing, or making FaceTime calls, it’s a chore to hold the iPad upright for extended blocks of time. To address that need, Apple launched the first iPad with regular and keyboard docks, but quickly gave up on them in favor of simpler folding lids called Smart Covers.

standscover2

If you’re looking for an iPad stand or dock, you can do better than that. We know because we’ve tested lots of options for Apple’s tablets. Following up on our guide to iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus docks, we’re looking today at the very best of what’s out there for every iPad, covering four broad categories: simple portable stands, simple desktop stands, cases with integrated stands, and charging docks. Read more

Review: Twelve South’s BookBook is the best iPhone 6 / Plus flip case, while Tech21’s Classic Frame and Shells absorb shocks

bookbook-1

Personal preferences differ enough that there’s no single style of iPhone case that’s “right” for every person. Some people prefer “playthrough” cases that always expose the iPhone’s screen; others like flip-style cases with lids that open like books. Today, we’re looking at two cases of each type for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: Twelve South’s latest BookBook and Tech21’s Classic Shell with Cover are flip-style designs, while Tech21’s Classic Frame and Classic Shell are playthrough cases.

tech21-1

One of these is the best case of its type that we’ve ever seen, while the others are all good.

Read more

Review: Mad Catz’ C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i bring overdue competence, fair pricing to iOS game controllers

ctrli-8

Apple’s iOS game controller design guidelines were clearly inspired by Microsoft’s Xbox controllers, but Mad Catz has taken the concept a step further: its new C.T.R.L.i ($60) and Micro C.T.R.L.i ($50, available for $46) for iOS look so much like Xbox One game controllers that you might struggle to tell them apart in a dark room. While the full-sized C.T.R.L.i is very close to the Xbox One controller in footprint and weight, Micro C.T.R.L.i squeezes all of the same functionality into a smaller but nearly identical shape.

Best of all, since they’re more reasonably priced than earlier iOS controllers, both are good enough to recommend to any iOS gamer… assuming you own or want some iOS games with controller support.

Read more

Review: Drop Scale makes baking foolproof w/ Bluetooth scales & companion iPad app

main

As a dedicated fan of kitchen gadgets, a Bluetooth scale linked to a companion iPad app that walks you through recipes step-by-step was too much to resist. Besides, it was a chance to bake some cookies and call it work (though I’m not entirely convinced the taxman is going to allow me to deduct the cost of the ingredients).

The scale is very compact – a little under 6.5 inches across with the front lip, and around 5.5 inches wide. There are no visible controls or display, but the lip contains a button and a hidden LED which lights up briefly when the scale connects to the app. Otherwise, it’s entirely featureless …  Read more

Review: Elgato’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is a faster, one-cable hub for all your Mac peripherals

thunderbolt2dock-1

As “really good Mac accessory ideas” go, Thunderbolt docks are high on the list. It’s hard to overstate the sheer convenience of connecting a bunch of peripherals to a central hub, then running one Thunderbolt cable from the hub to your Mac — a huge time-saver if you’re frequently bringing any Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook in and out of an office full of hardware.

thunderbolt2dock-2

Earlier this year, Elgato’s original Thunderbolt Dock brought that convenience to Macs with first-generation Thunderbolt Ports. For the same $230 price, the just-released Thunderbolt 2 Dock ramps up the speed using twin Thunderbolt 2 connectors, and also boosts the performance of integrated USB 3.0, HDMI video, and analog audio-out ports. The under-the-hood changes make it a solid pick regardless of whether you have a newer Mac with Thunderbolt 2, and even if you’re using an older Mac with Thunderbolt.

Read more

LifeProof Fre case for iPhone 6 — Waterproof, strong, and thinner than ever

Lifeproof-iphone-6

LifeProof pioneered the waterproof, shockproof iPhone case in 2011 when the original LifeProof protected the iPhone 4/s from dropping it on the ground, smothering it in ketchup, mustard, and dirt only to successfully rinse it off in a fish tank. We were had then and watched as the company grew into an iPhone case powerhouse which drew copycats and eventually an acquisition by OtterBox last year.

I’ve had LifeProof’s new Fre iPhone 6 case since it debuted last month and have put it through all kinds of torture tests, most notably my three-year-old who likes to watch Ben and Holly in the bath tub and six-year-old who sees no problem sled riding and skiing with a smartphone (Read: GPS tracking device).

The bottom line?  It continues to protect from everything. Lots of drops, dirt, water, snow. Pretty much anything… Read more

Review: ScreenGuardz Pure protects the iPad Air / 2 with beautiful glass, but is it worth $60?

IMG_5692

If your iPad isn’t inside a case, one accidental drop is enough to shatter its screen or dent its body. That’s why roughly 80% of iPhone users use cases, and one of two good reasons (besides adding a stand) that many iPad users do the same. But the iPad Air 2 is changing things — it’s so thin that even Apple’s own Smart Case feels overly bulky, making more minimalist protective solutions highly appealing. If you could shave millimeters off of your encased iPad’s thickness, would you pay $60 just for a screen protector? That’s the question presented by BodyGuardz’ ScreenGuardz Pure, which invisibly covers the iPad Air or iPad Air 2 screen with a thin but strong layer of glass. Carrying a $60 MSRP through BodyGuardz, it’s currently on sale for only $50 through Amazon. Read more

9to5 Guide: The best iPad, iPhone + MacBook battery cases/packs

8

Earlier this week, I walked through a great collection of iPad, iPhone, and Mac products that I’d strongly recommend. Today, I’m here to help you choose an excellent spare battery for any portable Apple device. You can trust me because I’ve been testing Apple batteries for over a decade, conducting hours-long tests to learn how each new Apple device consumes power, and how quickly each battery replenishes a given device. If you want to learn more about why I’m recommending the specific batteries below, I discuss key factors worth considering at the bottom of this guide.

Read more

Review: Seek Thermal Camera for iOS gives your iPhone Predator vision

1

The evolution of Apple’s iOS cameras has been fairly linear: Apple improved their image quality, added video recording capabilities, and dropped in a small collection of filters, but otherwise hasn’t radically changed their features.

Just in time for the holidays, Seek Thermal Inc.’s new Seek Thermal Camera for iOS ($199) is offering a fundamentally different type of camera for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Using a Lightning connector, the Seek Thermal Camera adds affordable thermal photography and videography features to any late-2012 or newer iOS device – the heat-sensitive sort of vision best-known from the Predator movies. While it’s not case-compatible, this accessory is otherwise the most practical thermal camera currently available for iOS devices. (An Android version is also available.)

Read more