Stevenator65’s Weblog

Technology, Commentary, Opinions, Reviews and Fun Happenings.

Xpad Slim Review

Xpad_Slim_4images

In January of 2008 I had the pleasure to review the Xpad for Laptop, a nonslip laptop cooler and heatshield, and I have used it ever since.  As you know, laptops get mighty hot – up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit –  and uncomfortable sitting on your lap.  The Xpad for Laptop, as I said in my previous review, works like this: “The legs of the “X” shape are raised slightly above the base of the unit, allowing airflow and cooling.  Inside is a strong platform with insulative air pockets, and EVA insulation material at the bottom provides a third layer of insulation and acts as the non-skid surface.” 

There are no mechanical parts.  The design itself provides the cooling using passive technology.  No assembly required.  Just take it out of the box, put it on your lap or a desk, put your laptop over it and you are ready to roll.  It’s light and strong, and provides a great base for computing.  So does the new, slimmer version, improve upon the old design?

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June 6, 2009 Posted by | Accessories, Laptops, Opinions, Reviews | Leave a comment

The Ultimate iPod Accessory

I’ve been thinking about my drive to work.  It’s one to one and a half hours each way.  My factory car stereo, as most, is mediocre at best, so to make my drive more palatable I upgraded the speakers.  It was pretty easy to do so, and not very expensive.  I also installed a $30 Scosche FM modulator so I can listen to my iPod.

scoshe

To install this I had to remove the receiver, plug the car’s antenna into the modulator, then plug the modulator’s antenna into the back of the receiver.  I then tapped into the power cord of my cigarette lighter for a power source.  It took about 1 hour and was fairly simple.  The FM modulator, like wireless FM modulators, converts the sound of the iPod into an FM signal.  There is a plug that connects into the iPod’s headphone jack to provide music.  This was fine for a few months, but the problem is that the FM sound band is far less broad than a cd player’s sound.  According to Crutchfield,

Answering this question relies upon two technical specifications: signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and frequency response (FR). SNR is a measure of signal strength compared to background noise in the signal or equipment. A higher number, in decibels, is better. FR is a measure of how much of the audio spectrum, from bass to treble, gets reproduced. It’s measured as a range in Hertz, and the wider the range, the better.

The FM radio, cassette player, and CD player all have different measurements for these specs. The CD player has an SNR of 90 or 100 dB, while a cassette player has an SNR of 50-70 dB. The frequency response of a CD player tends to be better too, often in the neighborhood of 10-20k Hz. Cassette players don’t deliver as much detail on the extreme ends of the spectrum and tend to have an FR around 30-18k Hz. Even so, that difference isn’t nearly as significant as the disparity in signal-to-noise ratios between the two. That’s why it is a cut-and-dry situation that the CD player sounds better than the tape player.

FM radio is restricted (by FCC regulation) to a frequency response of 30-15k Hz. Pretty similar to your typical cassette player. Likewise, the SNR of the FM tuner in a typical aftermarket stereo is similar to a good tape player: around 70 dB. When you use an FM adapter to pipe in your tunes, the music is fed into your radio over an FM frequency — the radio thinks it’s just another radio station. So theoretically, we can expect the music from our portable to sound about as good as a typical FM station.

The best sound I could hope to get out of an FM Modulator is no better than FM radio.  Though the performance is better than a wireless FM modulator, the sound is lacking in not only detail, but also is delivered with far less volume.  I often cranked my volume up to the highest level my radio offered but was not satisfied.  So I started doing some research and realized I had to upgrade my radio.

 

I looked at several receivers and settled on the Alpine CDA-9884, which was on sale at Best Buy for $180. 

Alpine

Some receivers have accessory jacks in the front, making it easy to connect mp3 players.  These provide top notch sound reproduction.  But I chose this unit because it specifically works with iPods and allows complete control of the iPod through its menu system.  I leave my iPod connected and in the glove box and can control virtually all the functions through the receiver.  It even charges the iPod.  It lets me choose genres, playlists, songs, albums and artists.  It has 18 watts per channel, which is so loud its scary.  It has many other features, such as being Satellite and Bluetooth ready, but all I care about is good, loud sound and iPod control.  This really is the ultimate iPod accessory.  My drive to work is much more fun now. 

January 3, 2009 Posted by | Accessories, Automobiles, Mp3, Technology | Leave a comment

Freedom Slim KeyPad Almost Here

slim

Freedom Input just emailed me and told me that the oft-delayed and long awaited Slim KeyPad is available for pre-order and they will be receiving the first ones in mid December.  Here are some details:

The slimmest lightest keyboard available in the market.
This light ultra slim metallic keypad is lightweight and slips easily into the pocket.

The new Freedom Slim Keypad. Sleek, sexy, small yet fully functional. Not just cool in looks and feel, it will be using both HID and SPP profiles, thus offering a wide range of compatibility with most Smartphones and PDA’s including BlackBerry devices.

The keypad is only 10mm or just over a quarter if an inch thick, and features the popular Motorola RAZR style metal keys with an switched option to back illuminate.

This looks to be a very exciting product.  Pricing is SRP: $69.95. €59.99(inc tax). £39.99(inc tax).

Read more at the Freedom website

November 25, 2008 Posted by | Accessories, Technology | Leave a comment

USB 3.0 Finally on the Way

usbport

8 years ago the USB 2.0 specification was released.  It was a huge improvement over the USB 1.0 spec, speeding transfer of data by a factor of 40 times, enabling downloads of 60 MB per second.  USB 3.0 will bring a tenfold increase to that speed, or 600 MB per second.  What does this mean to you?  Look at the speed differences between the three specs:

Transfer of a 25GB HD movie:

  • USB 1.0: 9.3 hours
  • USB 2.0: 13.9 minutes
  • USB 3.0: 70 seconds

That’s a significant improvement.  Unfortunately you may not see USB 3.0 until 2010.  Microsoft is trying to work it into Windows 7, and is deciding whether to add support for it in Vista.

Read more about it at CNET

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Accessories, Opinions, Utilities, Windows | Leave a comment

InvisibleSheild Review

BeforeInvis

The HTC Advantage without invisibleSHIELD applied

I recently had the opportunity to test drive the invisibleSHIELD by Zagg.  It comes in full body protection or just screen protection.  I was intrigued by it because of Zagg’s description:  “The invisibleSHIELD is the toughest, most durable gadget scratch protection film available on planet Earth. The film has its origins in the U.S. military, where it was used to protect the leading edges of helicopter blades from wear and tear while traveling hundreds of miles per hour. Our proprietary film is a clear, urethane plastic (invisible, invincible) with unique properties that allow it to provide self-healing qualities and unparalleled abrasion resistance.”

 

Read more to find out how it works.

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August 10, 2008 Posted by | Accessories, Cases and Protection, Reviews | Leave a comment

XPad4Laptop Review

arc_pic_index

Hot!

Holy cow, my laptop gets mighty hot.  Laptops don’t employ such effective cooling methods as desktops, thus the whole bottom acts as sort of a radiator, dissipating heat.  According to their website, laptops can give off 130 degrees Fahrenheit of heat and more.  That is hot.  I’ve tried many solutions to block the heat, but none so effective as the Xpad4Laptop. 

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June 17, 2008 Posted by | Accessories, Laptops | Leave a comment

CMoy Pocket Amplifier

cmoy

A few days ago I asked how this mystery item could improve the sound of your mp3 players and headphones.  I will now reveal the mystery.

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February 24, 2008 Posted by | Accessories, Reviews | Leave a comment

Tivo is Low Tech?

Tivo

We have two Tivos in our home.  Actually, the one attached to our big screen TV is an actual Tivo.  The other one is a Direct TV DVR.  The Tivo only has one cable going into it, so I can’t record one show while watching another. 

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January 5, 2008 Posted by | Accessories, Televsion/Cable/Satellite | Leave a comment

10 Great Tech Ideas that Fell Short

The world would be a different place if…the many incredible inventions that came from brilliant minds actually actually made it through the tough and demanding rigors of the free marketplace.  Let’s go back and look at what is and what could never be…

10. After the mouse, a brilliant inventor came up with a great, yet diffent idea.  This was in the days before we had wireless connections, mind you. 

The Hamster! was, conceptually, ahead of it’s time.  It was comfortable to hold, soft and cute.  The inventor, who’s name is not even a footnote in history anymore, aimed to strap on the mechanicals on the bottom of the hamster.  The problems were twofold;  the hamster kept moving, and it kept, uh, shall we say, making poopees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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July 31, 2007 Posted by | Accessories, Opinions, Windows, Windows Mobile | Leave a comment