Review: Dotti & Notti, fun (if pointless) ways to receive notifications

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My conclusion in my Skeptic’s Apple Watch diary series was that the device didn’t really have a unique selling-point to me, but was a slightly more convenient way to receive notifications. Ultimately, though, I kept it because it was a cool gadget.

The same argument, I think, would have to be deployed to justify what are really a couple of fun toys that happen to alert you to notifications: Dotti and Notti …  Read more

Tylt’s Energi Sliding Power Case for iPhone 6 Plus, RIBBN charger satisfy larger devices’ battery needs

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While two dozen battery cases have been released for the iPhone 6, only a handful have become available for the larger iPhone 6 Plus, which can run longer without assistance. But there are definitely situations where even the iPhone 6 Plus can benefit from extra battery life, including international travel and occasional emergencies. And that’s why Tylt has released the Energi Sliding Power Case for iPhone 6 Plus ($100). It’s a true rarity due to its Made for iPhone certification, some unique features, and much better performance for the same price as Mophie’s Juice Pack for iPhone 6 Plus.

In what may well be a first for iPhone battery cases, Energi is actually being offered in two different widths, one billed as “2.9-inch” and the other as “3.3-inch.” They’re both sold for the same $100 price, but the 2.9-inch version has a 3,200mAh battery and the 3.3-inch model has a 3,500mAh battery. Another surprise: the model I tested with the 3,500mAh battery unusually boasts 2.1-Amp power output, which means the iPhone 6 Plus will recharge at its top possible speed. There’s more, too…

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Review: Apple Watch as a watch, a gadget, and platform (Video)

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Apple Watch has been out for over three weeks and I’ve been using mine now for most of that time, from the moment I wake up to just before bed each night. While my colleague Ben Lovejoy previously journaled his experience in his excellent “A skeptic’s Apple Watch diary” series, I’ve been sold on the appeal of Apple Watch since the first day I paired a Pebble smartwatch with my iPhone and discovered its potential…and potential pitfalls.

Apple Watch faces new limitations different than Pebble or traditional watches, digital or analog, but it’s arguably the best smartwatch for iPhone owners with the coin to drop. It’s usefulness depends largely on your own needs — in some cases that’s the need to tinker with a new gadget — just as its drawbacks depend on your priorities. Below I walk through my Apple Watch evaluation including what I think Apple gets right and where I feel Apple Watch can grow going forward, and don’t miss Dom’s own hands-on video review just below the fold as well.
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Review: Spigen Apple Watch Stand is a minimalistic charging dock at an affordable price

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Apple Watch charging stands are sure to be a popular item as the device needs charging nightly. Not everyone, however, needs a dock that costs more than the charging cable that’s sold separately, and accessory maker Spigen has an affordable alternative for them.

The $24.99 Spigen Apple Watch Stand S330 combines attractive aluminum and rubberized TPU to produce a minimal Apple Watch charging stand. It resembles the base of an iMac with a smaller footprint than other options and a price that won’t break the bank. Read on for my first impressions and hands-on photos with the Spigen Apple Watch Stand below.

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12-inch MacBook month review: A great new Mac if you manage your expectations (Video)

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For the last month, I’ve been using Apple’s new 12-inch Retina MacBook almost exclusively. There’s no denying that’s it’s underpowered when compared to other models on the market, but is its portability worth the performance sacrifice? Can you really get anything done with a relatively small display, an Intel Core M processor, and more importantly, zero traditional USB ports?

This won’t be an in-depth review of features and performance (check out Zac’s take on the MacBook for an in-depth look), but instead, I’ve mainly focused on my personal experiences over the month I’ve been using it. Does the Retina MacBook live up to the hype? Let’s go ahead and find out…

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Review: Twelve South HiRise for Apple Watch, a sturdy charging stand to showcase your timepiece

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With the Apple Watch released a few weeks ago and still making its way to customers around the world, Twelve South has started shipping its signature HiRise dock designed for any Apple Watch model. While the Apple Watch Magnetic Charging Cable offers a simple and convenient way of juicing the device even in the dark, the issues with Apple’s MagSafe technology still remain including an overly easy way to accidentally remove the charging magnet from the Apple Watch.

While HiRise still uses the same charging cable, its form factor helps alleviate the issue of your watch separating from the power source while offering a more attractive presentation of your Apple Watch. With its $50 asking price, though, how does Twelve South HiRise for Apple Watch stack up as one of the first charging stands? Read on for the details and more photos… Read more

Review: Mobee’s Magic Hub hijacks your iMac’s stand to add 3 hidden USB 3.0 ports, 2.1-Amp charging

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USB hubs are often hard to tell apart from one another: the Moshi iLynx 3 I reviewed here in February was the rare hub that actually matched the silver metal and black plastic look of the Macs it was designed to be used with. After an extended post-announcement delay, long-time Mac accessory maker Mobee Technology has finally released an alternative that uses two cool tricks to stand apart from all of its rivals: the Magic Hub ($50).

Five inches tall, 2.6″ wide and around 2″ thick, the Magic Hub is the first USB hub designed such that its physical characteristics are all but irrelevant. Mobee’s concept is to completely hide the Hub behind your iMac, filling the hole Apple left in the iMac’s stand using a screw-on clamp and a pass-through wall power port. Rather than requiring its own wall outlet for power, it hijacks the iMac’s power cable and passes power through both itself and your computer, powering four USB 3.0 ports in the process. If that sounds cool, read on…
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Review: Adobe’s Lightroom CC + 6 let photographers transition from Aperture, gain new editing tools

lightroom6-1Until this year, Mac owners had three major options for organizing large digital photo collections: Apple’s mainstream iPhoto, Apple’s “pro” app Aperture, and Adobe’s similarly professional-grade Lightroom. When Apple discontinued iPhoto and Aperture in favor of an even more basic app called Photos, many people —amateur photographers and professionals alike — had to decide whether to downgrade to Photos or switch to Lightroom. Apple understood that it was ceding at least the professional market to Lightroom, and even helped Adobe to develop Aperture and iPhoto to Lightroom importers. With the writing on the wall, some people switched to Lightroom 5 well before Photos officially debuted last month.

I didn’t; since Lightroom 5 was almost three years old, I wanted to see what Adobe would deliver in its much-anticipated sequel. On April 21, Adobe released Lightroom 6 and Lightroom CC (2015) as standalone and cloud-linked versions of the same app. Both promise major speed improvements over Lightroom 5, new tools and brushes, a new facial recognition feature, automatic HDR and panoramic photo creation, and new slideshow options. As part of Adobe’s “Creative Cloud,” Lightroom CC comes bundled with Adobe’s latest version of Photoshop, plus cloud photo synchronization services, for $9.99 per month. Alternately, Lightroom 6 can be purchased by itself for $149 as a standalone download, minus Photoshop and cloud functionality.

Below, I’m going to focus on the key questions Aperture users have been asking: what it’s like to transition from Aperture to Lightroom — including new details added after initial publication of this article — plus which version of Lightroom to buy, and whether transitioning is a good (and safe) idea. The answers may surprise you…

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Review: Urban Armor Gear, the military-spec iPhone & iPad cases dropped from space (Video)

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Scuff marks created during my own drop-tests …

The problem with buying a protective case for an iPhone or iPad is that you never know for sure just how protective it really is until it is needed to do its job. Even a drop-test video only shows you how well the case worked with that one drop on that one occasion.

The Urban Armor Gear (UAG from now on) iPhone and iPad cases are a little different. They are certified to a military standard known as MIL-STD-810G 516.6. In this test, a device is dropped from a height of four feet – the typical fall for a device dropped while using it – a total of 26 times. The tests cover falls into each corner, the face and back. To pass, the device must remain fully functional afterwards, with no damage at all to the screen.

This isn’t the same as no damage at all, of course, but it certainly lends confidence. And if that weren’t enough, UAG decided to demonstrate its confidence in the case by dropping an iPhone from space – video below …  Read more

Review: Apple Watch as a design piece

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Precision. That’s the word that immediately came to mind the minute I picked up my Apple Watch for the first time. Something about this device felt different, on an almost subconscious level, from any other Apple product I’ve used before. Perhaps I was just caught up in the moment. After all, the Watch is the first totally new product to come out of Apple since the introduction of the iPad, which feels like so many years ago. On the other hand, I knew from the onset that I planned on buying the Apple Watch mostly for its design. I wasn’t so much interested in all of the software features it could offer me, I just couldn’t imagine not having this shiny little box on my wrist. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the Apple Watch strictly as a design piece.

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Review: AAXA’s ST200 LED Pico Projector beams bright, color-accurate HD video from an Apple TV-sized box

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Even though I’ve had a fair bit of experience with video projectors, I took Celluon’s PicoPro somewhat for granted when I reviewed it this January. I praised the pocket-sized projector, which squeezed a 720p laser video display and speaker into the footprint of an iPhone 6 Plus, but I didn’t triple-underscore how much easier it was to use than most of its rivals. PicoPro worked so well and so quietly with such little effort that I hardly thought about it.

AAXA’s ST200 Short Throw LED Pico Projector ($299) is the newest of the traditional projectors PicoPro is challenging. It has roughly the same footprint and 1280×720 resolution as PicoPro, but it’s around 2.5 times thicker, since it uses a lightbulb-illuminated LED projection engine — just like almost every other projector on the market. There’s an audible fan inside, and because ST200 needs to power that fan and the lightbulb, it can’t match PicoPro in battery life. It also requires more manual user adjustment when you’re setting it up.

But ST200 is a markedly better video projector and audio device when judged on raw output quality, and less expensive, besides. If you’re looking for a compact way to display 720p video from an Apple TV, Mac, or iOS device at up to a 100″ diagonal size, ST200 delivers brighter, more color-accurate video output than PicoPro, more powerful speaker output, and — if you appreciate this — many more settings to play with. Read on for the details…

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Review: OWC’s Envoy Pro mini hides a MacBook-like SSD inside a USB 3.0 flash drive

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Across the How-To guides I’ve written for adding solid state drives (SSDs) to iMacs, Mac Pros, Mac minis and MacBooks, there was one option I left out: thumb drives. While external SSDs such as Elgato’s Thunderbolt Drives and Samsung’s T1 can do two things — dramatically speed up Macs and add storage space — thumb drives tend to be much slower, lower in capacity, and made from inexpensive materials to achieve smaller sizes and price points.

Other World Computing’s new Envoy Pro mini (120GB/$119, 240GB/$199) sits directly between thumb drives and SSDs in both features and performance. “It’s nearly twice as fast as the average thumb drive,” OWC says, and roughly the size of an actual adult thumb — larger than most USB flash drives, but a lot smaller than traditional external hard drives, while promising “desktop-class” SSD speeds, capacities, and build quality. Unlike common plastic thumb drives, it’s made from aluminum and uses a USB 3.0 connector, yet matches desktop SSD 120GB or 240GB storage capacities. It’s affordable, but clearly designed to be a professional option.

How does it actually stack up? Read on…

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