Review: Tylt’s Energi Sliding Power Case doubles iPhone 6 run time, plus 20%

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Last week, we reviewed the first iPhone 6 Plus battery pack we’ve tested, MOTA’s unauthorized but value-laden Battery Case for iPhone 6 Plus. Now a maker of stylish charging accessories called Tylt has debuted what it says is the first Apple-authorized battery case for the iPhone 6, the Energi Sliding Power Case ($100). Officially shipping in mid-January, Energi continues the sled-style battery case design we first saw years ago in Mophie’s original Juice Pack (below), though with two critical differences: for the same price, it includes a 3200mAh rechargeable cell, and a detachable case that can be used alone when you don’t need spare power.

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While it’s not the perfect battery case for iPhone 6 due to some small issues, Energi comes very close. Read on for all the details.

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Review: Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens for iPhone 6/6 Plus hangs wide-angle + macro lenses from your neck

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Olloclip isn’t the only maker of lenses for iPhone cameras, but after testing options from a dozen vendors, it’s the one I’d call the best at delivering reliably good combinations of quality and practicality. Its latest accessory is the 4-in-1 Lens for iPhone 6/6 Plus ($80), an updated continuation of its longest-running and most popular series of iPhone lenses. Bundled with everything from a lanyard to a set of three colored plastic clips, this version of 4-in-1 now works with two different iPhone 6 sizes, as well as both front FaceTime and rear iSight cameras.

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This cross-model, twin-camera versatility comes at the cost of some added complexity, however, and an issue from earlier Olloclip lenses — the lack of broad case compatibility — is still a factor here. But if you’ve been looking for a way to add wide angle and macro capabilities to your iPhone, the 4-in-1 is worth considering. There are plenty of details and illustrative photographs below.

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Review: Just Mobile’s TopGum adds glam + a magnetic charging base to a 6,000mAh battery

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The secret to understanding USB battery pricing is that you tend to get what you pay for: cheap batteries lose their charges faster and can bulge and leak over time. Other companies specialize in selling atypically nice batteries that last longer and work better. Just Mobile is a leader in quality batteries: for the past six years, its Gum series (shown below) has spanned every Apple device type, size, and speed, but it has never built a Lightning cable into a battery before. That changes with the January release of TopGum ($80), which advances the company’s prior state-of-the-art Gum++ model in two ways: an authentic Lightning cable’s integrated into the battery’s left edge, and a matching magnetic battery charging dock is included.

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Of course, these features – and a choice of gold or gray metal exteriors – come at a premium over typical all-plastic batteries, so if you don’t need the cable or dock, you’ll be equally well-served with the company’s earlier batteries. Read on for the full story.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

 

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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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