Review: LaCie’s 4TB Rugged Thunderbolt/USB 3 portable hard drive delivers SSD-like speed at HDD cost

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LaCie announced its new 4TB Thunderbolt/USB 3 Rugged RAID portable hard drive ($420 list, $399 Amazon) today, and I’ve had some time to take it for a little ‘spin.’ There are two speedy 7200RPM 2TB portable hard drives RAID-ed together inside to give the device very impressive, almost SSD-like speeds but with the cost savings and huge storage of portable hard drives. At the same time, the package isn’t much bigger than a regular portable hard drive and better yet, it can take a serious beating…

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How-To: Choose the best stand or desktop mount for Apple’s iPads and Macs

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Apple currently sells more “laptop” than “desktop” Macs, but in reality, most Macs will be used substantially on flat surfaces — desks, tables, and sometimes nightstands. iPads are more lap-friendly, but also tend to get used upright, particularly for watching videos and access in the kitchen. Since I’ve spent a lot of time testing Apple device stands and mounts, I wanted to share what I’ve learned with you, so you can choose the solution that best suits your Mac, iPad, or both at the same time.

Below, I’ve hand-picked options for different types of users, starting with passive MacBook stands such as Twelve South’s BookArc for MacBook Pro ($50). Made from Mac-matching aluminum with gray rubber inserts, BookArc is designed to safely hold a MacBook Pro upright so that its ports and SD card reader are easily accessible. Twelve South also sells a smaller version of BookArc for the MacBook Air, a bigger BookArc for the Mac Pro, and an earthy version called BookArc mod for fans of wood. That’s a rarity, as most Mac and iPad stands are designed to match Apple’s products, as you’ll see inside…

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Review: Adonit’s Jot Script 2 adds iPad Air 2 support and recharging to a top Bluetooth stylus

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Up until last year, digital styluses — ones with electronic parts inside — worked pretty well across multiple iPad models. Developers including Adonit took over two years to develop electronic iPad writing tools that were thinner-tipped than fingers and rubber-domed styluses, but they succeeded, enabling iPads to serve as notepads and sophisticated canvases for artwork. Then the iPad Air 2 came out, subtly changing the touch-sensing technology that digital styluses relied upon, breaking some and reducing the accuracy of others. Stylus developers quietly acknowledged that new hardware would be needed.

Adonit’s new Jot Script 2 ($75, aka Jot Script 2 Evernote Edition) is the first digital stylus I’ve tested with full iPad Air 2 compatibility. As the sequel to Adonit’s 2013-vintage Jot Script Evernote Edition, it borrows a lot of its predecessor’s design and functionality, but also improves upon it in several ways. Beyond adding iPad Air 2 support, it has a thinner body, and a rechargeable battery rather than a disposable one, all at the same price as last year’s model…

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Review: Anker’s Jump Starter Portable Charger brings cars and iPhones back to life in emergencies

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Anker specializes in accessories that deliver uncommon value. Like gigantic batteries that cost as little as small ones. Six-port USB chargers that are less expensive than two Apple one-port chargers. And iPhone battery cases that outperform rivals sold for twice the price. So it’s only natural that the company would leverage its power expertise to go beyond resuscitating little Apple devices and assist with real emergencies. With roughly the same footprint as its Astro E7 — a battery capable of fully recharging any iPad Air twice — the same-priced Jump Starter Portable Charger ($80) goes in a slightly different direction. You still get a pretty big 10,000mAh battery that can charge two Apple devices at once, but instead of E7’s third USB port, Anker includes jumper cables that can bring dead cars back to life.

Like all of the Anker products I’ve covered, Jump Starter is thoughtfully designed, efficiently packaged, and aggressively priced relative to competing products. Moreover, unlike some of the cobbled-together 3-in-1 accessories I’ve tested, its feature set actually addresses a related collection of problems a driver may have. But it’s not as much of an iPad-charging powerhouse as Astro E7; it’s best-suited to iPhone users. So is it the right battery pack for you? Read on…

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Review: Incipio’s offGRID Shine expands iPhone 6 battery cases with an optional Dock for charging

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Apple’s lack of interest in releasing official iPhone 6 docks has created an opportunity for third-party product developers, notably including HiRise maker Twelve South and battery case maker Mophie, which is rolling out iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus versions of its Juice Pack Dock. Incipio has decided to join the pack with its own options: the offGRID Dock ($40) and several new offGRID battery cases, starting with offGRID Shine ($90, available online for $81). The pitch: pay a little more than the excellent offGRID Express (review) and you get a fancier case with support for dockable recharging. Later, you can purchase the dock separately if you want it.

Is the premium worth it? That depends on your personal needs, but if you want an iPhone 6 dock, you’ll find that the offGRID system is more aggressively priced than Mophie’s alternatives. Read on for the details.

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Review: Griffin’s iTrip Bluetooth adds wireless iPhone music streaming to your car’s stereo

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Twelve years have passed since Griffin released its first iTrip, a breakthrough FM transmitter that enabled iPods to send music wirelessly to car and home stereos. The original model, a glossy white housing that sat atop early iPods like a tube of Chapstick, effectively defined iPod accessories for an entire generation of early adopters. And it was fun, too: using an radio antenna and brilliant software, iTrip could flood an empty FM radio channel with iPod music, acting like a pocket-sized pirate radio station.

Everything changed when the FCC cracked down on FM transmitters, forcing reductions in broadcasting power that made iTrips (and numerous competitors) sound staticky, reducing their appeal. Around the same time, Apple and car companies transitioned to better-sounding solutions — Bluetooth and aux-in audio ports, respectively — leaving FM transmitters with fewer customers. But Griffin is rejuvenating the iTrip family with iTrip Bluetooth, aka iTrip Aux Bluetooth, which provides a different type of dead-simple wireless solution for cars. Priced at $50 but available online for $38, it has one purpose: to receive Bluetooth audio sent by your iPhone, iPad, or iPod, conveying it through an included 3.5mm audio cable to your car’s aux-in port…

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Review: Pad & Quill’s Attaché is timeless, will stand the test of time (Discount+Giveaway)

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[Ed. Note: My wife liked this one so much she insisted she review it]

In many ways, my work is old school: unlike my other half, I work in an archive and write about the past. You might call my professional aesthetic “19th century schoolhouse.” Or at most “1920s Paris bookshop.” In other words, Pad&Quill. So when the Minnesota-based makers of the luxurious, leather notebook-style iPhone wallet case sent a new top-shelf work bag to our house, I claimed it. Over the past month I’ve been filling it with my MacBook, iPad, iPhone, papers, pens and books. Voilà the Attaché

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Review: Kanex’s Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock is a handy MacBook hub with middle-of-pack features, pricing

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As I’ve said before, Thunderbolt 2 docks are a really great idea for MacBook users. Before now, there were three major options: Belkin’s $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express HD DockElgato’s $220 Thunderbolt 2 Dock (review), and CalDigit’s $226 Thunderbolt Station 2 (review). All three are designed for the same purpose — to connect a bunch of peripherals (including hard drives, a monitor, and audio cables) to your Mac with one Thunderbolt 2 cable — and they all have the same core peripheral ports, with small differences to set them apart from one another.

This month, Kanex is entering the fray with the Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock ($250), which looks a lot like Belkin’s dock but is closer in price to Elgato’s and CalDigit’s. Aluminum on the top and bottom with a black plastic core, it has a front-mounted USB 3.0 port with two more on the back, and comes bundled with a power adapter and 3.3-foot Thunderbolt cable. While it doesn’t stand out in any major way from its earlier rivals, it’s competently executed and attractively designed, with some modest feature tweaks that prospective buyers should know about…

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Review: PowerSkin’s PoP’n 3 sticks a 4000mAh Lightning battery on your iPhone 6 / Plus as needed

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Yesterday, I reviewed PowerSkin’s Spare, a semi-protective battery case designed specifically for the iPhone 6. While Spare didn’t strike me as a great value for its asking price, PowerSkin also sells a more powerful alternative called PoP’n 3 that can work with multiple iPhones, including the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and earlier iPhone 5 models. And despite having nearly twice as much power as Spare — enough power to fully recharge any iPhone — it sells for only $50-$55, depending on the color you prefer.

PoP’n 3 isn’t a typical USB battery pack, even though it looks like one. Made mostly from metallic plastic that matches the space gray, silver, or gold colors of recent iPhones, it has a Lightning cable built into the bottom for easy connection to bare or encased devices. Suction cups on one side let it attach or detach from your iPhone on an as-desired basis, and unlike iPhone-specific battery cases, enable it to function as a just-in-case power source for iPads, too…

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Review: PowerSkin’s Spare gives iPhone 6 users a modest 2200mAh of extra battery case juice

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Since late last year, the best iPhone 6 battery cases have generally included two things that iPhone 6 users now take for granted: enough spare power for at least one complete recharge, plus adequate coverage for the iPhone’s top, bottom, and back, if not its sides. PowerSkin has gone in a somewhat different direction with Spare for iPhone 6 ($80), a battery sled that caters to iPhone users who want less of everything. With a small 2200mAh cell inside, it’s the lowest-capacity battery case I’ve seen for the iPhone 6, and also offers the least body coverage, but sells for about the same price as more capacious and protective rivals.

Lightweight and marginally easier to pack in some bags than some rival battery cases, Spare is here for users who want a partial iPhone 6 recharge and anti-drop protection, but no anti-scratch safety. It’s offered in silver, gold, or space gray, currently ranging from $70-$72 based on your color preference. PowerSkin claims that it will deliver a 100% iPhone 6 recharge, but our testing found otherwise…
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Review: Swapping MagSafe for SnapFit, BatteryBox adds 60Wh of portable power to MacBook Airs, Pros

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Thanks to Apple’s patent on the MagSafe connectors used in MacBook Airs and Pros, the list of third-party external batteries for MacBooks previously began with Hyper’s HyperJuice/HyperJuice 2 and ended with Lenmar’s ChugPlug — not much of a variety. Apple’s legal department chased Hyper for attaching harvested MagSafe connectors to its batteries, and Lenmar chose a workaround, sending ChugPlug’s power indirectly though an Apple wall adapter. Neither solution was ideal. It took until now for a completely different third solution to appear: BatteryBox ($220) from Gbatteries Energy.

BatteryBox is the first MacBook power option I’ve tested that doesn’t require either MagSafe or an Apple wall adapter to function. Since the developers went out of their way to create something that won’t run afoul of Apple’s legal team, there’s absolutely nothing Mac-like about its brick-like rectangular design. And it’s not cheap, priced between the two HyperJuices and higher than ChugPlug, which can now be had for only $100. But it works, adding a 60-watt-hour additional battery to the 38-95-watt-hour cells already inside MacBook Airs and Pros. So if you’re on the road without access to a power outlet and need to add hours of additional runtime to your Apple laptop, this is a viable alternative….

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