Welcome Upgrades: Gifts and Gear

25 September, 2013 Life No comments
Welcome Upgrades: Gifts and Gear

In the world of technology and consumer electronics, greater power and performance seem to be all the rage. That’s definitively a positive for end-users: We like better, brawnier and shinier new devices as much as any enthusiast. But an even more important trend to keep in mind as you go about shopping this year is the push towards broader functionality – in other words, single devices that can double in the place of many, allowing you to purchase them once and use them as a substitute for other gadgets, and in a variety of helpful everyday contexts.

Case in point: Microsoft’s promising new entertainment and gaming system, the Xbox One. This all-in-one games and entertainment system makes an engaging holiday option to keep in mind. Besides its ability to play a ton of great games including Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome, you can actually plug the device into your cable box and use your voice to find your favorite shows. Plus, Apps like Skype allow you to use the Kinect camera to video chat on your TV, and its motion-sensing camera offers a ready way to physically interact with on-screen action. Happily, the device launches November 22nd, so you won’t have long to wait to check it out.

Fans of DIY projects might also want to have a close look at the Craftsman Bolt-On system, which can help out with all those household projects you’ve been putting off this holiday as well. Essentially, it’s America’s largest modular power tool attachment system, offering 10 interchangeable attachments so you can take a Drill/Driver starter kit as a base, then transform it into a router, reciprocating saw and more in just seconds – naturally, this makes it a handy all-purpose performer. Normally $120, the set’s on sale for $80 this holiday season, as are the attachments. For more info, you can go sign up online for the Craftsman Club featuring Shop Your Way Rewards which offers a variety of useful deals too.  

If you’re like us, you’re probably using a PC that’s 4 or 5 (or more!) years old too – and probably know all about the waiting game, as you sit there in bored frustration waiting for programs to load. So you might want to consider buying a new system, in which case, it’s definitely a good idea to think about balancing both power and versatility in any machine you consider. Worth noting: Intel’s 4th generation Core processors power a new “2 in 1” category of devices such as the Sony VAIO Duo 13, which you may want to scope out because they not only transition from laptop to tablet, but also offer considerable horsepower, impressive graphics capabilities, and upwards of 9 hours of battery life – always useful on those long holiday trips.

Music lovers also have a variety of welcome all-purpose options available, as we’re pleased to note. We’ve been playing around with and enjoying the Ultimate Ears (UE) Boom wireless speaker, just one example, which connects to your device through Bluetooth, letting you switch songs and adjust volume from up to 50 feet away. Most impressively, the speaker’s 360-degree design blasts crisp, powerful sound in every direction, so you basically get room-filling audio from a small, highly-portable device. As an added bonus, it features a 15-hour rechargeable battery and is water- and stain-resistant so it also travels nicely.

Worth noting as an aside: If you’re looking to beat the holiday crowds, and save the trouble of fighting your way through crowded parking lots and lengthy lines, it may be worth doing much of your gift shopping online. One useful option to consider here would be picking up an Amazon.com Prime membership (just $79 – don’t worry, you can always sign up now for a free 30-day trial), because it offers unlimited free two-day shipping on something ridiculous like 15 million items. (As in literally click to delivery in two days – always handy if you wait until the last-minute like we do.) Needless to say, it can save you time and trouble.

As we pointed out above, whichever fancy new upgrades you choose, it’s not always about buying the biggest and brightest gadgets: Sometimes, it’s also about picking up those that can offer a Swiss Army knife’s worth of capabilities, helping you save time and money in the long run.

Top 10 Home Gadgets for 2013

26 February, 2013 Life No comments
Top 10 Home Gadgets for 2013

Technology is playing a constantly-growing role in our lives. We can adjust our house’s temperature from miles away. We can charge our electronics with the aid of the sun. Rooms can even sense when people are absent, and dim the lights accordingly. What comes next? Possibly state-of-the-art playrooms that project a virtual veldt complete with parent-eating lions. No need to worry about that just yet, though. In fact, you should relax and enjoy the savings and convenience that modern household tech can offer you. 

Here are the 10 best home gadgets for 2013. 

MakerBot Replicator 2 3D Printer – 3D printers generate perfect replicas of objects. Sounds like something out of science fiction, but it’s completely real—and the technology is coming home at a rapid pace. The MakerBot Replicator 2 3D Printer can “print” copies of objects utilizing a sturdy bioplastic. 

Voltaic Solar Charger Kits – Voltaic’s solar charging kits are available as portable adapters, panels, and even as backpacks. Each one utilizes the sun to charge up a multitude of electronic devices. 

Maestro Occupancy Sensing Switch – Remember The Clapper, the device that turned lights on and off with audio cues? This works in much the same way, sans clap. Maestro’s Occupancy Sensing Switch uses sensors to turn on and dim the lights according to whether or not people are in the room. 

Fujitsu Lifebook 2013 – All-in-one devices are convenient, but the Lifebook 2013 goes above and beyond the call of duty. It’s a laptop, a camera, a phone, and a tablet. All of its parts buddy-up together for easy travel and storage. 

Raspberry Pi – Computers are vital components of our lives, and the Raspberry Pi ensures that everyone gets access to one regardless of income level. This simple credit card-sized board plugs into a TV and a keyboard and is capable of performing many of the same tasks as a full-sized PC. 

Google Glasses / Project Glass – Project Glass admittedly looks silly on the face of a human being, but these glasses allow you to surf the Internet hands-free via voice commands.    

Basis Band – The Basis Band is a must-have for fitness enthusiasts, or anyone who just wants to know their fitness problem areas. The band reads heart rate, blood flow, heat dissipation and sleep cycles, and then pushes you go beyond your previous limits. 

iPhone 5S – We’re almost certain to see the iPhone 5S before 2013 is done. Summer or Fall are popular estimates, and rumored features include improved durability and wireless charging. 

Lockitron – Lockitron should see release in 2013 thanks to a successful Kickstarter. This handy device lets you lock and secure your home from anywhere with a simple application. No more driving backwards back up your street to ensure that you locked the door before you left the house. 

SmartThings – SmartThings lets you monitor, secure, and control your house through your smartphone. You can also keep tabs on the comings and goings of your family. The device’s first pre-orders will ship in Spring 2013, so if you haven’t pre-ordered, do so.

Top 5 PCs for 2013

19 February, 2013 Play No comments
Top 5 PCs for 2013

With the rising popularity of tablets and the increasing versatility of smartphones, you might wonder if there’s still any room for the desktop PC. Absolutely. Desktop computers are bulky compared to sleek tablets and laptops, but they’re still the powerhouses of the computing world—and many of them are surprisingly affordable. PCs are still the best option for parents that want to exercise full control over their younger kids’ computing habits, and most game enthusiasts swear by their desktop rigs. 

Simply put, a day may come when the desktop PC is irrelevant, but that day is still a long way off. And if you’re looking to buy, there’s no shortage of great options. Here are 2013’s top 5 PCs. 

Dell Inspiron 660’s – These lightweight and affordable computers are packed with features, but start at a sensible $349.99 USD (monitor not included). Each model is equipped with Windows 8 and has more than enough power to run games and social networks. Perfect for families. 

Apple iMac 27 Inch – The all-in-one iMac is as sleek and professional as ever. The 27-inch model, released late 2012, is remarkably thin. It also features more processing muscle and storage than previous iterations. 

Acer Predator G3 – It sounds intimidating, but this sleek black computer from Acer is perfect for a household. It comes installed with a wireless adapter, and it boasts plenty of RAM for getting tasks done. It has a DVD player rather than a Blu-ray player, but given the falling costs of Blu-ray players, remedying that shouldn’t be a problem. 

Cyberpower Black Pearl – If you’re big into heavy-duty PC gaming, you need all the power you can get—but if money’s a problem, you may have to compromise a little. The CyberPower Black Pearl isn’t a top-of-the-line gaming PC, but it packs an impressive processing punch for the asking price.  

MicroExpress MicroFLEX 37B – The MicroFLEX 37B is another affordable desktop PC that’s engineered for hardcore gaming. Its liquid cooling system and hot-swap drive bay keeps things cool while its innards heat up, keeping you in the game.