Ultimate Ears Roll is a tough, wearable speaker that hangs, swims and sounds great

 

UE-Roll
Over the weekend I got my hands on the new $99 Ultimate Ears Roll Bluetooth speaker — a durable and waterproof frisbee of a device that pumps the beats like the UE Mini Boom cousin it is replacing. The form factor is totally new however.

First up: The UE Roll sounds really good with significant bass emerging from that thin profile. Not quite as good as $200+ portable speakers like the Bose Soundlink Mini or even the full-sized UE MegaBoom but plenty good to fill up a room or for a few people to rock out with some background music on the beach for a volleyball game. If you find yourself in a quiet, still spot the sound really comes through clean even though the device with its bungee cord off the back lends itself to the great outdoors and physical activity.

UE-Roll

The Roll connects to Apple and other Bluetooth devices – even the Apple Watch – through a typical Bluetooth 4 connection, but Logitech offers some very premium features via the iOS or Android app that debuted with the Megaboom. With the app, you can set an alarm, “equalize” the sound, pair two or more speakers for stereo or do Sonos-like arrays in every room, check battery status and more with updates promised for the future… Read more

Review: blueLounge’s Portiko + Pixi bring elegance to Mac / iOS / Apple Watch charging + cable management

portiko-4

blueLounge isn’t a typical Apple accessory maker. If you look through its 15-year backcatalog of releases, you’ll notice that its products are markedly different from somewhat overlapping alternatives produced by rivals — intensely practical and cleanly-designed, yet sometimes so conceptually minor that they’re hard to review. Take CableDrop and CableDrop Mini, for instance, circular adhesive pads that each do nothing more than hold one cord in a fixed position wherever you want it. I use CableDrop Mini every day with my MacBook Pro’s power cable, but can’t justify a full review of something so utterly basic.

The simultaneous release of two new blueLounge accessories — Portiko ($25) and Pixi ($10) — gives me the rare opportunity to cover one of the company’s minor but practical items alongside one that’s more gadget-like. Portiko (shown above) is a wall- or table-mountable power source attractive enough to put on display between the four devices it can charge at once. It has enough USB and AC power outlets to handle a MacBook, iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch at the same time, or other combinations of devices. Pixi is blueLounge’s latest cable management solution, a set of elegantly-built elastic and plastic bands that wrap around bunches of cables, tidying up your desk. Read on for more details and pictures…

Read more

Review: Drift Stealth 2 iPhone-controlled action cam

drift-stealth2-3

Action cams are a great way to relive fun experiences, and also provide the reassurance of video evidence should anything untoward happen while cycling. I’ve run a camera on my bikes for a few years now, my current one being the Garmin Virb Elite. The Drift Stealth 2 has a similar form-factor to the Garmin, but is about half the size, so I thought I’d see how well it stacks up.

If I lived in California, I might be able to entertain you with some surfing footage from the morning, skiing from the afternoon. As I live in London, however, the best I can offer is a cycle commute across central London. While lacking the big scenery, there are days when it can feel like an adrenaline sport …  Read more

Review: Pad & Quill Timber Catchall and Luxury Pocket Stand raise the bar on Apple Watch charging stands

PQ 1

Pad & Quill is precisely the type of company qualified to make accessories for the Apple Watch. The Minneapolis company has been producing fine iPhone, iPad, and Mac accessories for years now, and the first handmade Pad & Quill Apple Watch accessories continue that level of quality. Today we’re checking out two wooden charging stands and two leather travel cases: the Timber Catchall, Luxury Pocket Stand, Roll Up Kit, and Luxury Travel Pouch for Apple Watch. Both charging stands have a distinct and rich look with features that differ from previous charging stands we’ve seen…

Read more

Review: Griffin iTrip AUX is the 3-in-1 car audio, power, and remote control for Lightning devices

itripaux-1

Given the widespread adoption of Bluetooth wireless for in-car telephone calling and music streaming, it would be easy to write off Lightning connector-equipped car accessories as… decreasingly important. Any recent car with Bluetooth audio probably also has a USB port built in for Apple device charging and audio output, letting many people integrate iPhones, iPods, or iPads with cars using nothing more than a budget Lightning-to-USB cable.

But that’s not true for everyone. At CES in January, Griffin showed two new car accessories designed to help Apple users whose cars lack USB ports and Bluetooth. iTrip Bluetooth (aka iTrip Bluetooth Aux) hit stores a couple of months ago, turning any aux-only car stereo into a Bluetooth music receiver. This week, it was joined by iTrip AUX ($50, aka iTrip AUX with AutoPilot), which provides a one-connection charging, audio, and remote control solution for any Lightning-connector iPad, iPhone, or iPod. It has 2.4-Amp power output, capable of refueling any of these devices at peak speed, plus a line-out audio port, and an integrated three-button remote control. If Bluetooth sound quality isn’t good enough for you, or you value a single-connection charging and audio solution, this could be a viable car accessory…

Read more

Review: Incase’s DSLR Sling and Pro Packs are durable, versatile MacBook/camera bags

incasecamera-1

Eventually, pocket-sized cameras will compare in low-light performance to today’s large and expensive DSLRs. Although pro photographers will have moved on by then to even more powerful large cameras, the vast majority of people will see no need to carry big, heavy lenses and camera bodies around. The iPhone’s ascendance demonstrates that “eventually” is at least foreseeable, even though it’s not happening in the near term.

Serious photographers won’t be giving up their DSLRs any time soon, and in fact will be toting plenty of camera hardware — many times, along with a laptop — to any event or destination important enough to photograph properly. Over the years, I’ve learned that the “ideal bag” for my personal needs is one that can hold my camera, several lenses, and whichever MacBook I’m using. Having hunted for the ultimate carrying solution for both computer and photo gear, the best solutions I’ve found are made by Incase.

The bag I’ve used actively for the last three years is Incase’s DSLR Sling Pack ($90, above left), and incredibly, it looks virtually identical today to when I first started using it. The DSLR Sling Pack is perfect for 11″ MacBook Airs and 12″ MacBooks, plus a big camera body with three lenses. But since my 13″ MacBook Pro barely fits inside its zippered compartment, I’ve been struggling with whether to replace the bag. That’s why I’m checking out two larger models today: the DSLR Pro Sling Pack ($170, middle), and traditional DSLR Pro Pack ($150, right). They’re large enough for up to 15″ MacBook Pros and have more room for DSLR gear, as well. Which is right for you?…

Read more

How-To: Build a $150-$300 iTunes video + music server for your home

iview-11

In May 2005, iTunes evolved from a music player into a video library manager, paving the way for video iPods (October 2005), Apple TV (March 2007), and AirPlay video streaming (September 2010). Since then, iTunes libraries have become bigger and more central in homes, as users now stream content stored in iTunes — sometimes called a media “server” — to “clients” including Apple TVs, iPads, iPhones, and iPod touches. Unless you stream all of your content from the iTunes Store, you probably have some space-consuming videos sitting in your computer’s iTunes library, where they can be accessed by client devices so long as both the server computer and iTunes are turned on.

Apple has resisted calls to release a standalone, inexpensive iTunes home media server for years: 2008’s release of Time Capsule came tantalizingly close, but couldn’t act as a standalone streamer. So when my video library became too large to keep on my iMac, I bit the bullet and bought a used Mac mini to serve as an iTunes server. It works well, and consumes a lot less power than keeping my iMac on all the time, but it’s still a full-fledged $700 computer — overkill for streaming videos to the Apple devices in my home.

Today, I’m going to help you build a small, inexpensive, and ultra energy-efficient iTunes media server. Depending on the size of your iTunes library, it could cost as little as $150, or as much as $300, in either case much less expensive than a Mac mini. The key component is Intel’s new Compute Stick, a tiny basic Windows PC that can plug directly into an HDTV, run iTunes, and stream videos across your network. For around $130, you can now get an iView-branded Compute Stick with a CPU similar to the 12″ Retina MacBook, bundled with a wireless keyboard and trackpad. Although there are some important caveats you should understand up front, the Compute Stick can become a ~3-Watt video server using a $20+ microSD card, radically reducing the energy required to stream iTunes content in your home. If you need more storage and power, you can easily add a near-silent $90+ hard drive with 2TB-5TB of capacity

Read more

New 15-inch 2.5 GHz MacBook Pro unboxed and compared to other 2015 configurations (Video)

lea

Apple’s new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display is here and available in a few different configurations. We’re take a closer look at the 2.5 GHz model with 16GB of RAM, and 512 GB of internal storage today, but also comparing some benchmarks to Apple’s two other 15-inch configurations for this year.

This MacBook features slight improvements in the battery department, makes the switch from NVIDIA to AMD for discrete graphics, faster internal storage, and also includes Apple’s new Force Touch trackpad as we’ve seen with other MacBook releases this year….

Read more

Review: Incase’s Reform Sling Pack is a perfect fit for the 12-inch MacBook

Incase Sling 13

For the right task, Apple’s new 12-inch MacBook is both an ultra thin notebook and a powerful machine considering its size. Following my initial evaluation in April, I’ve been using it for work almost exclusively (aside from my podcasting setup for Happy Hour, which doesn’t benefit from being portable).

Similarly, the newly released Incase Reform Collection Sling Pack hides a surprising amount of use in a small and ergonomic profile. Typical of Incase’s bags and carrying cases, Sling Pack sports a trendy design fit for your Apple gear and accessories with cleverly placed stash pockets found throughout. Unlike previous products from Incase (and anyone else for that matter), Sling Pack is made of a new eco-friendly material…

Read more

MooVee for iPhone aims to help you manage your growing movie watchlist

1

Following up on the success of the series tracking app TeeVee, developer CrazyApps has released a new piece of software aimed at moviegoers. The app, appropriately titled MooVee, allows you to keep track of movies you’ve seen and what you want to see.

The app’s UI is similar in some aspects to TeeVee, but most of it has been designed from scratch to better accommodate the ways movies and TV differ. For example, in the image above you can see the watchlist view, which resembles the main list view in TeeVee. However, other features are unique to MooVee.

Read more

Pixelmator for the iPhone launching tomorrow, we go hands on (update: now available!)

06. iCloud

Update: Pixelmator for iPhone is now available. Download it here.

Pixelmator is releasing an update to its iOS app tomorrow, making the app available on the iPhone for the first time ($4.99). The universal app means you can buy once and download Pixelmator on both iPad and iPhone. Existing iOS users of the app naturally get the iPhone version for free as an update. The new version also brings the Distort tools, like warp brushes, to the iOS app for the first time.

Pixelmator for iPhone works very similarly to the iPad version but scaled down for the smaller canvas. You can read our full review of the iPad app from last year. Rather than popover panels, selecting an action opens full-width menus encapsulating options. This is a necessary concession for the size of the display.

Read more

The Best Mac Accessories and Upgrades

Over the past six months, I’ve published quite a few tutorials to help Mac users improve the performance of older computers, as well as some great guides to the best Mac accessories across a variety of categories. Today, I’m tying them all together in this handy, one-stop roundup of the best Mac accessories and upgrades.

This guide walks you through everything: in one place, you can learn about the best Mac hard drives, RAM upgrades, docks, keyboards, trackpads, stands, bags, and travel accessories out there. And you can also get free apps to improve your Mac’s storage and responsiveness, find plain English explanations of your Mac’s technical specs, and learn about the little security screws Apple uses to tamper-proof its machines. There’s a lot inside, so you may want to bookmark this piece for future reference!…

Read more