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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Solutions to the 12-inch MacBook’s single port begin hitting Kickstarter

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The radical approach taken by Apple in equipping the new 12-inch MacBook with just a single port for both power and connectivity makes the machine extremely sleek, but somewhat problematic to use when you want to connect multiple devices. Two Kickstarter projects aim to solve that.

First, InfiniteUSB, which already provides stackable cables for standard USB ports, has launched a USB-C version called, unsurprisingly, InfiniteUSB-C. Each cable has a combined USB-C plug and socket at one end, enabling you to piggy-back as many as you need, and either a Lightning, Micro USB or USB socket on the other end …  Read more

CalDigit unveils durable USB-C Tuff drive for the 12-inch MacBook, T4 nano RAID drive w/ HDMI & Thunderbolt 2

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USB-C is the sole port on Apple’s new 12-inch MacBook, and CalDigit today announced a version of its durable external drive that takes advantage of the new reversible USB 3.1 port. CalDigit Tuff features a USB-C port and cable for connecting the portable drive to the Apple’s ultra-thin notebook, and an included adapter cable ensures compatibility with the USB port that you’re used to seeing on your hardware as well. Since the new MacBook’s thin and light profile intends for it to venture out of your office and into the wild, CalDigit Tuff is ruggedized to endure drops, splashes, dust and other extreme environments.

CalDigit Tuff starts at $139.99 for 1TB HDD with availability starting in July (new MacBook orders currently deliver in 4-6 weeks). A solid state drive version with up to 1TB of storage will also be available while a higher capacity 2TB HDD option will be offered. Read more

Microsoft unveils iPad-priced $499 Surface 3 as Google shows sub $100 Chromebit HDMI stick, $149 Chromebooks

Microsoft shifted its focus when it introduced the Surface Pro 3 last year to target both the iPad and the MacBook, but today the company announced a more consumer level iPad-like version of its tablet simply called the Surface 3 with the same $499 starting price as the iPad Air 2.

Google also unveiled a collection of new competitively priced hardware including new Chromebooks and a Chromebit HDMI running Chrome OS for under $100 … Read more

How-To: Decode Apple’s Tech Specs pages before buying a new Mac, Part 2

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As I noted in Part 1 of How-To: Decode Apple’s Tech Specs pages before buying a new Mac, Apple has designed the Mac purchasing process to be easy: pick a model, pick the good, better, or best configuration, hand over your cash, and enjoy your computer. Since most people get confused by tech specs — bullet points filled with numbers and acronyms — Apple downplays them in its marketing materials, leaving customers to sort through the details and figure out what most of them mean.

But these specs are really important when you’re shopping for the right Mac for your current and future needs. So I’ve created this How-To guide to walk you through each of Apple’s Tech Specs pages using clear explanations, hopefully enabling you to properly understand what you’re about to buy. Part 1 focused on the “big 5″ Mac specs you really need to know about, and this Part 2 looks at the rest — generally things that remain the same in a given model, regardless of the configuration you choose…

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Review: Cellulon’s PicoPro is an iPhone 6 Plus-sized, battery-powered HD projector

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I grew up with a front-projector TV the size of a coffee table, later owned a rear-projection TV that was somewhat larger than an adult bicycle, and have since tested projectors shaped like DVD players, Mac minis, and iPhone cases. Pico projectors — generally small enough to fit in pockets — typically struggle the most to prove their practicality. Projectors generally need big, powerful lightbulbs to be seen in anything but the dimmest of rooms, and the smaller they are, the worse they tend to be, particularly as they move further from the surfaces they’re protecting on.

Korean developer Celluon — the company behind breakthrough laser keyboards that can create typing surfaces anywhere — is now trying its hand at pico projectors, and I have to admit that I’m far more impressed than I thought I’d be. PicoPro ($349) packs a high-definition video projector, a battery pack, and wireless capabilities into a 0.55″ thick enclosure with the same footprint as an iPhone 6 Plus. Overall, it’s the best small projector I’ve tested: much easier to use, quiet, and capable of delivering a better complete viewing experience. But like competing pico projectors, it also has some noteworthy limitations that you’ll want to be aware of before jumping in.

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Review: CalDigit’s Mac hub Thunderbolt Station 2 competes on pricing, size, and build quality

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Despite USB 3.0’s growing popularity with consumers, Thunderbolt remains a viable alternative for professional users, particularly video makers willing to pay a premium for guaranteed high speeds. Over the past year, several Thunderbolt 2 hubs have come to market — boxes with one Thunderbolt 2 connection to a computer, one for a Thunderbolt accessory, and multiple ports to connect USB, audio, video, and Ethernet accessories. The idea: keep all of your gear hooked up to the hub, then use a single cable to connect it all to your Mac.

Known for large, heavy, professional-grade Mac accessories, CalDigit has just released Thunderbolt Station 2 ($199), which squeezes the same functionality offered by Belkin’s $300 Thunderbolt 2 Express Dock HD and Elgato’s $230 Thunderbolt 2 Dock (review) into a smaller, denser-feeling enclosure, at a lower MSRP — sort of. In reality, Thunderbolt Station 2 has some very specific benefits and one limitation that place it on par with its competitors, making the choice between them a more personal decision…

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Mini review: Elgato Thunderbolt Dock

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There are Mac accessories that are exciting or fun, and others that are boring but useful. The Elgato Thunderbolt Dock most definitely falls into the latter category.

As regular readers will know, I’m of the view that wires are evil. Anything that can be wireless should be wireless, and any wires that are unavoidable should be hidden from sight. This is particularly easy if you have an Apple Thunderbolt Display, of course, since all you need in the way of wires from a MacBook is power and Thunderbolt: everything else can be plugged into the back of the monitor.

But if you share my aversion to visible wires and don’t have a Thunderbolt display, or you are frequently connecting and disconnecting your MacBook from a bunch of devices on your desk, the Elgato Thunderbolt Dock may be the answer …

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Amazon announces $99 Fire TV set-top box shipping today: automatic recommendations, voice search, games and more

Amazon has just announced its Apple TV competitor, dubbed ‘Fire TV’. You can buy it now from Amazon.com for $99. The product roughly resembles an Apple TV in size and shape, but is thinner by a few millimetres and has square (rather than rounded) edges. Spec-wise, Amazon claims it is three times as powerful as Apple TV or Roku. It runs on a quad-core processor with 2GB RAM. The fireTV can stream video at 1080p over HDMI, alongside Dolby Digital surround sound.

Input comes via a Bluetooth remote that features a five-way directional pad and some ancillary buttons. The remote has an inbuilt microphone, so you can speak show titles to have it automatically search for them.

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Final Cut Pro updated to version 10.1, 4K monitoring, Mac Pro optimisations and more

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Alongside the release of the new Mac Pro, Apple has updated Final Cut Pro in the Mac App Store to take advantage of the machine’s immense raw processing power. Specifically, Apple says that playback and rendering has been optimised for the Mac Pro’s dual GPUs.

Final Cut 10.1 also adds 4K support, including monitoring across Thunderbolt 2 and HDMI displays as well as 4K titles, transition and generators. The update also adds a whole slew of other minor features and changes to the modern (if controversial) video editing suite.

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