In Your Face mobile iPhone holder – Review

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On September 23, 2010

In Your Face mobile iPhone holder - Review Image 1

When you are always on the go the mobility of the iPhone is great for getting things done. In the case of blogging, the iPhone can offer a decent solution for an ultra mobile work environment. In my article "Mobile Blogging" I talk about using the iPhone with a Bluetooth keyboard to flesh out reviews and articles. The only down side to using a keyboard is that you have to find somewhere to put your iPhone that will still position it where you can see the screen. There are many DIY solutions for this, but they are far from perfect. Today we will look at an interesting product from In Your Face LLC called In Your Face flexible holder and see if it has what it takes to earn a precious spot in my bag.

At its essence, the In Your Face is a fairly simple iPhone stand with a clamp at the end to attach the device to any flat surface edge. The Neck of the stand is a flexible gooseneck tube that comes to an end with a padded clamp that securely holds any of the iPhones, even with a case on them. The design of this clamp is generic enough that virtually any phone or mobile device that is less that 2.99" and larger than 2.25" will fit in the clamp. The spring is fairly tight and when you want to remove the iPhone from the device I generally having to use the iPhone itself for leverage. While I am glad the spring on the clamp is firm, since I would be more upset if the iPhone were to slip out, I do find myself wishing there were tabs on the back to help lift the moving end of the clamp when releasing the iPhone.

The clamps attachment to the neck allows for full rotation and a bit of tilt. The head of the stand can be removed with a single nut securing it so it could be possible to attach a different head for another device thought In Your Face does not offer any attachments. I have seen similar things done by owners of gamin GPS devices to create custom iPhone suction cup stands.

On the other end of the In Your Face, you find a clamp that attaches to virtually any flat edge. I have found it easy to attach to the edge of desks, the top lip of my dash, I was even able to attach it to the hand hold of my ambulance.

One feature that contributes to the clamps versatility is the swiveling "lower lip" of the clamp. This allows the clamp to attach more firmly than with a traditional straight style. The soft rubber pads also help to hold the device steady even when the relatively heavy iPhone is attached to the other end.

This combination is great for watching movies and displaying GPS without having to hold the device. In the case of typing, the ability to raise the device up to eye level helps to reduce fatigue. The In Your Face is secure enough to hold the iPhone while driving, though there is a bit of vibration which is expected trade off with the flexibility and portability this device brings.

The In Your face does not offer any power connection like other docks of similar design. They instead focused on a more open docking solution which allows the user to bring their own power device. Whether a power cord, or a battery case, the In Your Face will accommodate. This is one aspect that has made me shy away from the classic powered docks. They generally would attach themselves using the tension of the cigarette lighter plug which apart from wear and tear it caused the socket, also precluded you from using the dock anywhere there was not a socket to plug into. With the In Your Face you can mount your iPhone to a tree branch, pole, or even a backpack.

The versatility of this device is where it really shines. The construction is solid and I see this device being able to stand up to most abuse it would encounter. The In your Face is available now for $29.99 and can be purchased at your usual online retailers like Amazon as well as from In Your Face’s website. If you are looking for a stand to hold your iPhone at your desk, in the car, or just about anywhere, then its time to get In Your Face.


 

Otter Box Defender iPad Case Review

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On September 9, 2010

Otter Box Defender iPad Case Review Image 1

Recently, we got our hands on a few Otterbox cases for our iPads, the Defender and Commuter cases.  The first of our tests were done on the Otterbox Defender case for the iPad.

Otterbox is known for building some of the worlds most protective cases, and the Defender case is no exception.  What makes the Otterbox design unique from others is that their cases almost always involve having 2 different ‘skins’ wrapping around your device, and this is how the Defender case is designed.

The first thing we noticed was that the hardshell case (the one fitting around the iPad first) had a nice snug fit.  It took us a minute or so to get it on completely, but once it was on, we had no doubt this case would not be moving around at all.  The hardshell case comes with a detachable bottom plate which can be removed to dock the iPad with the Apple dock.  This feature makes it very easy to charge and stand the iPad upright without having to remove it from the case.  A definite feature that we miss in a lot of other competitive cases.  The other thing we noticed right away was the hardshell snap on screen protector which covers the entire front of the iPads screen and provides protection in case you drop the iPad screen first.

The second skin made from a silicon material is then stretched over the hardshell case providing a "cushion" protection to the iPad, and adds a nice grip and ease of holding the iPad without worrying it will slip out of your hands.  The added texture to the skin makes it that much easier to get an easy grip around the bottom and edges, and makes the exterior look good.

We also liked the plastic ‘window’ on the back of the case so that you could not scratch that part of your iPad but still see Apple’s logo.

At first, we thought that the large silicon skin would get in the way of pressing all of the buttons easily on the iPad, and at first we had to get used to pressing a little harder than usual.  After a while though, we got used to the required pressure and using all of the button controls became easier and never required a second thought.

The case travelled with us over 2 weeks on planes, in cars, and one time on a boat (we took a vacation with it), and even though it was handled by 2 young kids a few times, its extra bulk never really got in the way and made us feel a lot better about being "rough" with the iPad.  The one thing we did notice though was that the case adds some weight to the iPad, not enough to make it less portable, but enough to notice the difference and want us to put the iPad down more often.

The other thing we tried a few times was the built in stand that is attached to the front screen protector.  This stand allows you to prop up the iPad so that you could use it horizontally.  Although it worked well for watching video on the plane and surfing the web at the hotel, it didn’t feel as comfortable typing as the built in incline that Apple builds into their slip in folio case.

We thought that was a small price to pay for such great protection and if your looking for the case to protect your iPad when your taking it out on the road, letting the kids play on it, or rough housing with it, the Otterbox Defender is the only choice for such serious protection.

Arctic C1 Mobile – Review

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On August 21, 2010

Arctic C1 Mobile - Review Image 1

Every so often, we do a few hardware reviews.  This is one of a series of reviews for the Arctic brand of products.  For more information about the company or its products, go to Arctic-Cooling.com.

If Tom Hanks had through to pack the Arctic C1 Mobile solar charger with him before getting on that plane, the movie ‘Cast Away’ would have been over much more quickly.  Of course, he’d also have needed a cell phone and a clear signal to use it.

It’s a terrific solar charger that can recharge your iPhone battery as quickly as a USB port or an electrical outlet.  It should be noted that the Arctic C1 Mobile comes with an input for USB but also with a set of dongles for multiple other types of portable devices in case you don’t have an iPhone (heretic!).

The product comes in one of those pieces of plastic that are impossible to open without some sort of sharp instrument.  This is a good thing because it insures the charger will arrive safely and undamaged.

The charger itself is very portable and just slightly smaller in dimensions as the iPhone or iPod touch.  It’s also extremely lightweight to the point where you have to remember where you put it or you’ll forget all about it.  

I did have some issues trying to charge it using interior lighting and in the end I would recommend having a direct path to the sun if you try to charge anything with the solar screen. Once the sun is available, the device works pretty much as advertised.  In the event that solar power is unavailable, the device’s lithium battery can be charged via any standard USB (a dongle for charging is provided with all the others).

For $24.60, the Arctic C1 Mobile is favorably priced compared to most of the portable solar chargers on the market.  You can even use it in conjunction with your iPhone and Arctic Sound S111 speakers for music at the beach.

Arctic Sound S111 – Review

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On

Arctic Sound S111 - Review Image 1

Every so often, we do a few hardware reviews.  This is one of a series of reviews for the Arctic brand of products.  For more information about the company or its products, go to Arctic-Cooling.com.

Ever have one of those days where you want to go to the beach and just listen to music while sunning?  Well, now you can leave your boombox at home.  With the Arctic Sound S111 speakers, all you need is your iPhone (plus one other Arctic product).

For a set of speakers of such a small size, the sound is unsurpassed by any other.  It comes through with a clarity and crispness that I would expect from a speaker set that is much larger and for a bigger stereo system.

When the speakers arrived, they were in an attractive box.  They unpacked easily and all the necessary wires for use of the speakers are attached to them.

It should be noted that the speakers do not have an adjustment for bass and treble if you prefer one over the other.  The sound comes through very well balanced, so it depends how picky you are.  If you need to adjust either of those, it is best to do it directly on the iPhone or iPod touch.  These speakers are intended for portability and as such the features on them are scarce.

The speakers themselves are quite attractive.  They are sleek squares with rounded corners and only the arctic logo on the side and a cycloptic single circular speaker in the center.  The color scheme still fits in with the "tundra" theme that Arctic products tend to have.

To have such a great sound in such a small space, the speakers require a power source which is why they come with a USB dongle attached.  One would argue that this would make it problematic for beach travel since USB ports are in short supply at that location, but used in conjunction with the Arctic C1 Mobile solar charger, the issue becomes moot.

The speakers could also be used with other Apple products such as the Mac Mini (which has its own set of USB ports for power) as a set of external stereo speakers.  It’s nice to own some technology with multiple functionality.

For portable sound, you’d be hard-pressed to find a set of speakers that offered such excellent sound quality.  Did I mention that the speakers only cost $15.45?  For such a fantastic sound at such a fantastic price, I would recommend picking up a pair as soon as they become publicly available.

Arctic Sound P311 Bluetooth Stereo Headset

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On July 28, 2010

Arctic Sound P311 Bluetooth Stereo Headset Image 1

As you know, its not often that we do hardware reviews, and usual we reserve those for the hardware we really like.  This is one of those cases.  Arctic Sound released their new Bluetooth P311 headset last week, and we got our hands on a unit.  

At first when we got the information about the price ($37.95), we were a little concerned.  At under $40, how much quality can you really pack into a pair of headphones?  Turns out, a lot.

First the good.  Syncing these to our iPhone was super easy.  The headset was immediately picked up and over a week of real use (1-2 hours a day), the connection never needed to be reset.  Other headsets have required reconnecting, but not these.

The sound quality is decent at low and mid volume levels, the higher volume levels start to distort, but I’m never a fan of listening to music that loud in a headset since i don’t want to end up with hearing aids later in life.  On a scale of 1-10 for volume, the headset maintains a decent quality sound up to 8.

The other thing we really like about these is that the ear pieces have a faux leather cushion on them (much like our much more expensive non-bluetooth Bose set).  This makes them easy to wear on your head for over an hour and the fact that they wrap behind your head instead of over your head ensures that they stay on and not shift around much.

If a call comes in during a song, the headset lets you know and the large phone button on the Arctic Sounds quickly switches from the music to the call.  The fact that you can use the headset to take a call (due to the built in mic) is a huge bonus.  Did I mention these are only $37.95???

In addition, Arctic Sound made storing this headset really easy.  You can simply fold the earbuds towards the middle and they neatly fall into place inside a hard carrying case (much like the one that comes with our Bose set).

The controls for the headset are found on one of the speakers and allow you to do a bunch of different functions.  The center button acts as the main control.  It allows you to turn the unit on and off, sync the first time with your device, and answer and disconnect calls.  There are also 4 other buttons that surround that button which control volume and skipping ahead and back when listening to your iPod.  There are also 2 different colored LEDS which provide status on the headset.  The blue color when your connected and ready to receive sound, and the red when your turning off the device.

The only complaint that we have is that the volume and forward / back buttons are oddly placed.  Instead of being across from each other, they are right next to each other and we had to use these a few times before we stopped hitting the advance song button across from the volume control when we wanted to adjust the volume level.  But this is a minor issue that quickly evaporates after you use these for a while.

Overall, we give the Arctic Sound P311’s a 9.5 out of 10.  This is a LOT of headphones for $37.95.  If you want decent sound, the ability to take calls, easy storage with a hardshell case, and spend under $40, don’t waste time looking at anything else.  We highly recommend the Arctic Sound P311’s.

Arctic C2 – Review

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On April 1, 2010

Arctic C2 - Review Image 1

Every so often, we do a few hardware reviews.  This is one of a series of reviews for the Arctic Cooling brand of products.  For more information about the company or its products, go to Arctic-Cooling.com.

The Arctic C2 is a great charger for any frequent traveller who uses an iPhone, iPod touch, PDA or smartphone.  The best part is that if the person owned one of each, he or she could charge all four at the same time.

The adapter automatically compensates for whichever country it is being used.  There is no need to flick an extra switch to change the voltage as the unit knows based on whichever AC adapter is connected.  The list of possible countries of use include North and South America, Europe, UK, Middle East, Africa, China, Japan and Australia.

The charger comes in a vacuum-sealed package (unlike the Arctic Sound earphones) and was very frustrating to open.  However, at least one can comfort themselves in knowing that if they order an Arctic C2, it’s not likely to get damaged in shipping.  It’s sealed up tight!

When items are plugged into the charger, a blue light appears on the side to let the person using it know that devices are charging.  It’s not an overwhelming feature but it’s nice to know that it is there.  As someone who owns many devices that charge via a USB port (and the feature is becoming so common nowadays there should be USB ports in the walls of new construction), this device is a big timesaver and well worth the $26.55 price (17 euros).

The unit is surprisingly lightweight to the point where it’s a concern that the charger might be stolen while in transit and go unnoticed for a time.  However, for most, lightness of weight is a good feature.  The different types of country adapters snap on to the back easily and is very intuitive to figure out.  The entire charger is well-designed and intuitve.

The only downside to the set is the lack of case to contain all the pieces.  Speaking for myself, it’s easy to lose one of the adapters when they’re shipped loose as they are.  On the other hand, buying a separate carry bag isn’t that expensive.

I would recommend the Arctic C2 to anybody who needs a durable and lightweight USB AC adapter for travel, or just as a place to charge all those USB devices.

Arctic Sound E352

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On March 27, 2010

Arctic Sound E352 Image 1

This is one of a series of reviews for the Arctic Cooling brand of products.  For more information about the company or its products, go to Arctic-Cooling.com

At $69.95. the Arctic Sound E352 is the most expensive of Arctic Cooling’s "300" line of high-end earbuds.  It even rivals the $79.99 cost of the Apple in-ear buds available at the Apple Store.  Even worse, unlike the E351 or the E361, this pair doesn’t even come with a microphone or computer adapter.  Plus, it only comes in one color.  So why buy it?

Simply put, for this particular set of earphones, sound quality is everything.  If you are a music aficiando and spend your day listening to music on your iPod touch or iPhone where you can hear every subtle rhythm, beat and hum of the music, then Apple pre-packaged set of earbuds may be inadequate.

What likely drives up the price of this set is the use of wooden paneling at the back of the ear buds.  This allows for the sound to have a unique reverberation within the ear. 

As an example of this, when I tested them against music with a complicated score (such as classical music which contains woods, strings, percussion, etc), I found that I was able to hear certain aspects of the song that didn’t come across when I used the standard Apple headphones, either a hidden bit of percussion or a background harmony.  Music definitely sounds better with these headphones.

As with other earbuds in the line, the E352 comes with three sets of ear caps sized small, medium and large.  I had to use the large earcaps but when I lent them to my significant other, she was able to use the small ones.  An documented bonus of the Arctic Cooling earbud line is that they’re good for sharing.

They also come with the same attractive and compact carrying case that every other high-end headphone set in the Arctic Sound line comes with.  Simply place the ear buds in the center and wrap the cord around the perimeter.

If sound quality is king in terms of how you judge your earphones, then the E352 is the best choice for you.  While it doesn’t come with extras such as a microphone or volume control on the unit, it is better designed and possesses far superior sound quality than the Apple in-ear buds and is just slightly more affordable.

Arctic Sound E351-WM – Review

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On March 21, 2010

Arctic Sound E351-WM - Review Image 1

Every so often, we do a few hardware reviews.  This is one of a series of reviews for the Arctic Cooling brand of products.  For more information about the company or its products, go to Arctic-Cooling.com.

The Arctic Sound E351-WM series of earbuds gives you a lot of bang for the buck.  Priced at $42.20, these headphones deliver great sound and are marvellous at blocking out background noises and delivering music or audio that is clear and crisp.

The headphones come in black or white trim, which is differentiated by simply the "WM" or "BM" after the E351.  The "M" at the end means that the headphones also come with a microphone built-in.  Accessories include 3 sets of silicon caps to fit in ears of different sizes (one of which is already on the headphones), an adapter to use the headphones with a computer and a carrying case.

Starting with the headphones themselves:  as mentioned, the sound is fantastic. The bass is deep and provides a nice clean tone.  The mids and highs are both clean and pronounced and sound like what you might expect from an in ear headset like these at a much higher price point.

Unlike the Apple-branded headphones that come with the iPod touch, these in-ear phones fit snugly in the ear without falling out.  I had to use the largest size of caps for my huge ears.

This model comes with a microphone that worked very well when I tested it using Skype on my device.  It picked up my voice clearly and allowed me to hear the other party without any real background noises.  I also tested using the computer adapter that comes with the earbuds and the results worked similarly well.  On a side note, the same dongle containing the microphone also has a button on the other side to pause and resume any audio that might be playing.

The attractive carrying case that comes with the headphones is compact and well-designed (the same case comes with all of the high-end Arctic Cooling headphones).  You simply place the buds in the center and wrap the cord around the circumference.  It makes it easy to carry the headphones around without getting the cord tangled or stuck somewhere.
I suppose if I had any minor complaints about the set, it would be the lack of volume controls on the dongle.  The Apple earphones do come with such a volume control and it is convenient to have particularly if the iPod touch or iPhone is in a pocket.  However, there are still volume controls on the side of the device and the capability is more of a nice-to-have than a need-to-have.

At approximately half the price of comparable Apple earbuds, the high-quality sound of the Arctic Sound E351-WM headphones makes it an absolute bargain.

Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin – Review

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On January 18, 2010

Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin - Review Image 1

There are many ways to enjoy the music on your iPhone. You can listen to it privately with earbuds or headphones and you can play it through your car’s audio system. But, the best way to enjoy all the great music on your iPhone is at home using a high quality speaker dock.

There are many docks and systems from which you can choose. They can be as simple as a table clock model or as exotic as one of the many higher end models. Most of them sound good but for my listening pleasure, I chose a slightly different route – the Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin. B&W is known for high-end home audio speakers and their studio monitors are used in some of the best recording studios in the world. B&W has taken their knowledge of home audio and transformed the iPhone into a high-end music device. When docked in the Zeppelin’s handsome chrome cradle, the iPhone becomes a part of the Zeppelin’s artful look and creates sonic bliss.

Having been involved with home and car audio for years professionally, it takes a lot for me to talk about a specific product. The iPhone is very capable of high-end sound when given the right material. There have been many reviews on the Zeppelin since its introduction in 2008, so I won’t rehash the specs in detail here (check out the B&W website for all the information). Instead, I’ll focus on the sound quality.

I purchased the B&W Zeppelin for Christmas (as a gift to myself) and have been enjoying it every day since. It plays at room-filling sound or background dinner music levels without missing a beat. The detail of the sound is amazing. Several guests not used to high-end sound, remarked that it seemed like the musicians were right in the room. The base response was very good and blended well with the midrange and highs. You can also hook up other sources to the Zeppelin such as TVs (you can use it as a great center channel for a home theater system) and computers.

The remote is intuitive and fits great in the palm of your hand.  All the basic functions are available on it and it matches perfectly in design with the Zeppelin.

The Zeppelin is priced at $599 which is not inexpensive but certainly not the most expensive dock system that is available today. Also, it is a stunning piece of musical art to look at even when it’s not playing. On a side note, B&W has come out with a smaller version called the mini for $399 – .great sound and looks in a smaller design. In closing, being an iPhone enthusiast and a music lover it’s great to see home audio companies raising the bar for excellent sound.

If you are in the market, this is absolutely one of the top iPhone docs to consider.

Movie Wedge Review

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On October 9, 2009

Movie Wedge Review Image 1

Every once in a while, a product comes along that you see and say to yourself "why didn’t I think of that".  That is what happened to me when I got my hands on the Movie Wedge.

Basically, the Movie Wedge is a minature bean bag with a triangular shape and a thick bottom lip.  After placing the Wedge on your desk, lap, dashboard, whatever, you can place your iphone on it and it will hold it at a 45 degree angle for easy viewing.  The iPhone/Touch can be placed either vertically or horizonatally so it works well for both movies and / or GPS.

I thought I would test the Movie Wedge in my car using one of the GPS applications recently released to see how well it held up on my dashboard.  After doing some pretty serious turns (don’t ask how fast, but my small, light Turbo engine can really push some torque around those u-turns), I was very surprised to see that the Movie Wedge didn’t move, or let go of my iPhone.

After picking up some other items that had fallen off during my turns, I decided to put the Movie Wedge on my center panel and realized what I liked most about this iPhone accessory.  The fact that its a bean bag type of design means that it will "mold" its shape to all of the curves and awkward spaces of my cars interior.  This makes it hold its place pretty well.  Of course after testing it in the car, all the other places (table, desk, lap), easily keep the Movie Wedge stable.

The other thing I liked about the design is the material that is used.  Is a very soft microfiber type of material, which cleans the screen pretty well.

Its definately worth the $9.95 retail price, and if your like me and like to prop up your phone in the car or when your watching something on YouTube, the MovieWedge is a must!

If you want to pick one up, you can do that online at www.MovieWedge.com.