Reviews November 3

AAPL: 122.57

Stock Chart

While iOS and Android have for the most part caught up to one another from a software feature perspective, lack of a handy back button is still one of the biggest sources of embarrassment for iOS devices. BoxWave’s new glass “ClearTouch SmartButtons” screen protector has built-in buttons that aim to solve some of the back button issue on iPhones, so I took it for a test drive… expand full story

I don’t envy any vendor of legitimately premium audio accessories made for Apple’s devices. After established audio companies including Bose, Klipsch, and Bowers & Wilkins demonstrated that Apple device owners were willing to pay $300, then $400, then $600 for all-in-one speaker systems with increasingly better sound quality, Beats by Dre materialized, hooking people on expensive, stylish, and sonically underwhelming alternatives. Between Beats and the Bluetooth revolution, it seems clear that the speaker market is all about flash and convenience rather than audio quality… right?

Of course not. There have always been low-end, mid-range, high-end, and ultra-premium audio options; Beats has succeeded at capturing (a lot of) low- to mid-priced customers. By comparison, the respected British speaker maker Bowers & Wilkins focuses on the upper end of the scale. It literally established the high-end Apple speaker category with its original Zeppelin back in 2007, then refreshed it with AirPlay support as Zeppelin Air in 2011.

Now that another four years have passed, B&W has returned with another “even better” sequel: Zeppelin Wireless ($700). Having spent years touting its atypically upscale design and components as alternatives to low-fidelity speakers, the company is offering a compromise to broaden the new Zeppelin’s appeal. Despite packing speaker and amplifier hardware that’s in the same league as B&W’s $800 A7, Zeppelin Wireless includes a key feature — Bluetooth — only found in its entry-level $350 model T7. But the new Zeppelin still has AirPlay, for those who care, as well as Spotify Connect. So while the price tag may limit the number of people who can afford this new all-in-one speaker, its feature set has broad appeal…

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Reviews November 2

AAPL: 121.18

Stock Chart

It’s the very definition of a first world problem: you’re lazing on the couch watching Netflix on your iPad, your arms get tired from holding it and your attempts to balance it on your knees have not been overly successful. It’s this issue that led industrial designer Sean Kieley to develop the TStand.

It’s a Kickstarter project, but has already tripled the modest $10k goal needed to hit bulk order requirements, so you should be able to be confident of receiving one if you back the project …

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Apple gave up on optical drives several years ago. Citing Blu-ray Disc licensing issues and the growing popularity of Internet streaming, the company was able to leave CD, DVD and Blu-ray drives out of new Macs without suffering any drop in sales. Today, except for a single MacBook Pro model that hasn’t been updated since 2012, Macs are physically too thin to accommodate optical drives, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

But optical disc technology has soldiered on, adding new features to hook serious video and photo fans. “BDXL” Blu-ray Discs can now store up to 128GB of data, and Ultra HD Blu-ray Discs can hold full-length movies for 4K Ultra HDTVs. Separately, Millenniata debuted M-DISC, an archival disc technology that lets anyone burn DVDs or Blu-ray Discs guaranteed to last “centuries.” While M-DISCs must be written using new burners, they can be read by traditional DVD and Blu-ray players, ensuring broad compatibility.

OWC’s new Mercury Pro ($78/$135) external drives are designed to help Mac owners burn M-DISCs. The basic $78 model burns less expensive, lower-capacity M-DISC DVDs, while the superior $135 version can also burn higher-capacity M-DISC Blu-rays, as well as burning and playing regular Blu-ray Discs. Each version of Mercury Pro comes bundled with a heavy-duty Mac-matching external enclosure, cables, and software, while the Blu-ray model also includes two blank BD-R discs to get you started…

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Reviews November 1

AAPL: 119.50

Stock Chart

It’s certainly not the only connected-security camera, but following Google’s acquisition of popular security cam maker Dropcam last year, the company has just launched a second-generation product with new features. The new product was re-envisioned by Google’s Nest team— the people building smart home accessories like the Nest thermostat and fire alarm— and in the process dropped the Dropcam branding and gained a few notable enhancements.

But is the new Nest Cam worth an upgrade from your current Dropcam setup? And how does the product compare to the other connected home security-cam and all-in-one security devices on the market? We’ve been testing out Nest Cam since its release a few weeks back to find out. expand full story

Reviews October 29

AAPL: 120.53

Stock Chart

Other World Computing doesn’t just dabble in Mac accessories — it’s one of the most popular third-party Apple RAM and SSD vendors, and sells some of the only Blu-Ray drives marketed at Mac users. So it wasn’t a surprise to learn that OWC had developed its own Thunderbolt 2 Dock ($228), entering an accessory category that was simultaneously worthwhile and fairly stagnant. Almost all of the best Thunderbolt 2 docks have the same core features and design elements, mixing silver aluminum, black plastic, an external power supply and a bunch of ports together to make one-point connectivity hubs for Macs. OWC’s design is similar, but it’s functionally unique.

Measuring 9″ wide by 3.5″ deep by 1.1″ tall, OWC’s Thunderbolt 2 Dock is the largest such accessory I’ve seen, looking like an elongated Mac mini with a glossy black top. The right side has two always-powered USB ports, while the back includes a collection of 10 additional audio, video, and data ports, plus wall power. That means OWC’s design is both the biggest and most capable Thunderbolt 2 dock out there, but does that also make it the best? From my perspective, that depends on your Mac’s needs…

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