Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hardware Review: Miccus Chargeblock for iPad

When you want true power, power to dominate your iDevices, look no further than the ChargeBlock for iPad. Not only will it charge your iPad (1 or 2) or iPhone but practically any USB devices and does so with a size and dimension not much different than previous generations of iPhones. This is simply a must-have device for power on the road.

With its 8200 mAh capacity, Miccus claims it can provide 13 hours of use and for the iPhone 4 it can provide 61 hours of talk time. Wow. The amazing part is this power fits into a stylish eight ounce package. Included with the ChargeBlock is a USB cable and interchangeable tips for USB powered devices: Mini & Micro USB, Nokia, LG, Motorola, iPod, and iPad. It also includes a 12VDC cable with changeable tips for PSP, DVD, smd GPS. It includes a wall charger as it cannot generally charge via a standard USB port.

Style and aesthetics were clearly at play here because not only is it powerful, but simply gorgeous. Capacity is indicated by three neon blue lights so you have a good idea how much of charge you have left. It can pass through charge any devices connected via USB making it an ideal travel charger. When not charging, a rocker switch turns off the battery. The black mirror finish and silver accents match your iPhone or iPad’s design perfectly.

At $99 retail, the device isn’t cheap but gives great value with its high capacity and ergonomic design. Why pay a little bit less for half the capacity?

The ChargeBlock for iPad is the perfect mix of power, style, and function for effective charging of any USB device on the road, but especially an iPad.

Pros: High capacity, well designed
Cons: None I can find

10 out of 10

Sunday, August 28, 2011

GigaOM: An Extreme Case: iPhone 4 Rugged Protection Roundup

In this article for GigaOM, I review a variety of "extreme" style case for the iPhone 4, ultimately deciding the best case scenario for ultimate protection

Friday, August 26, 2011

Three ways to keep running your Rosetta apps with Lion installed

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I cover ways to run Lion and Snow Leopard applications such as Quicken 2007 or Office 2004 on a computer with Lion installed

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hardware Review: Mophie Juice Pack Reserve

Mophie’s Juice Pack Reserve gives you a few extra ounces of courage, or in this case battery, to top off your day, but lacks the power and flexibility to be a reliable external battery charger.

Although it’s the size is somewhat large at 1.60 in x 3.15 in x 0.63 in it only contains 1000mAh of battery power. That’s inconsistent with its size. Batteries with higher capacity come in a smaller size and I really expect more from such a large device.

This external charger has a unique feature I found quite annoying. It has a retractable dock connector which makes for easy travel but for difficult use. The connector wouldn’t stay in place. It would come out while carrying and would fall out of the iPhone during use. This is simply poor design that lacks the real world testing that would have shown what a terrible idea this was. A locking mechanism (most retractable pens have this) would have gone a long way to improve this product.

It does have two interesting pluses. First it has a carabiner keychain to attach to a purse or laptop bag. Additionally it has a handy-dandy flashlight, but its power was meager at best. Good for finding a lock in the dark and not much more.

Most users of external battery chargers would be best off with another product, but if you don’t mind the retractable connector and need a small boost of power you can carry on a keychain or attach to a bag then this product might be a good choice. Otherwise move on to either another Mophie product or a external charger from someone else.

Pros: flashlight and carabiner keychain
Cons: meager capacity and flashlight, awkward connector

2 out of 10

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hardware Review: Super-Juice Power case

The Super-Juice Power case by Dexim is an external iPhone 4 case combined with a 2000 mAh battery. Unlike other cases I’ve seen in this style, Dexim has thought of everything and this is the battery case I’d recommend above all others currently on the market.

The battery power is similar to that of the Mophie Juice Pack Plus and claims to supply an extra 2000 mAh to your device to allow for 6 hours of talk time, 10 hours of video, or 40 hours of music. It uses a micro-usb cable to charge itself and to provide pass-through charging to the iPhone. Three blue LED’s in the back indicate the level of charge the device is providing and a small button in the back can turn off the battery boost when not in use.

The Super-Juice’s strength is in its design particulars. Unlike most other cases I’ve seen in this category, the iPhone 4 is easily removed from the Super-Juice. Release the top hood and the iPhone slides out. However, the hood stays attached to the case so you can’t lose it. Why other manufactures haven’t taken this step really surprises me. More than one external battery case I’ve had in the past was rendered useless by losing a critical part.

The back of the Super-Juice has a little “kickstand” that can keep the iPhone in landscape mode on a table or another flat surface. This is perfect for watching video on a plane and is a simple little extra that makes all the difference.

My only major complaint is the fact that the plastic of the case has a glossy finish which can become slippery in sweaty hands. I intend to attach a few grip slips to prevent the case from slipping. Since it comes only in white, I might use the grip strips to jazz the color up a bit.

Overall, the Super-Juice Power Case by Dexim is a high capacity external battery and case that keeps you going all day with your iPhone 4 and has subtle design features and extras that make it best of class.

Pros: 2000vmAh battery, kickstand, integrated design so nothing gets lost
Cons: Only comes in white, glossy finish to the plastic.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Hardware Review: Ballistic HC iPhone 4 case

With a name like Ballistic, you’d think this iPhone 4 case is bulletproof. It isn’t, but it’s darn close. Its 3 layers of protection combined with a great belt clip could make the user feel 10 feet tall and bulletproof. The Ballistic HC (Hard Core) Series is great protection without adding bulk.

Similar to other cases in its class, this provides multiple levels of protection. A hard plastic shell is protected with integrated silicone bumpers and a screen overlay. An optional extra wrap around bumper is included that provides another layer of protection as well as covers the headphone, mute/rotation lock, and the dock port.

The port protection had some minor problems. The mute/rotation lock would often fail to stay closed and I had a rough time getting any connectors to fit into the dock port. To get the sync cable from Apple to fit I had to use more force than I’d feel comfortable and it made a loud snap when put in place. I got used to this, but it still made me nervous I’d break a cable. The only part of the phone that remains unprotected are the speaker ports at the bottom and the rear facing camera. Not a big deal, but it’s not full and complete protection for your iPhone. Of all the extreme-style cases I tested, this was most compatible with dock style devices such as the iHome.

This Ballistic HC provides multi-layer protection without the bulk of some other cases and is an excellent value for someone wanting a higher level of protection without sacrificing the size of their iPhone

Pros: Svelte design, multi-layer protection
Cons: Port didn’t always stay closed, tight dock connector

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hardware Review: ZAGGMate iPad Case

The ZAGGMate iPad Case and keyboard combo upon first glance is a brilliant idea: a combination bluetooth keyboard and iPad protective case. Unfortunately, the implementation of the design is flawed and for many this product simply won’t be a good fit.

The first serious flaw in this product is the way the iPad fits into the case. The fit is extremely tight with padding on the edges in order to make sure the iPad doesn’t separate from its keyboard case. This tight fit makes it difficult to remove. You need to use both hands as well as your fingernail. Be careful though, that brushed aluminum can have sharp edges and if you apply too much pressure, you find your iPad flying across the table. I was constantly afraid of injuring myself or the iPad.

Using the keyboard was quite difficult. In order to accommodate the physical size of the iPad, the keyboard was significantly smaller than the typical keyboard and was almost exactly the same size as the iPad virtual keyboard (which is logical if it’s the same size as the iPad). The ZAGGMate metal edges did not allow me to put my hands in a natural position: I had to type at an angle since the edges of the keyboard had a ridge that prevented you from laying your palms on a flat surface. The only way to type was to keep your palms raised in an awkward and painful position. I could only type a few minutes at a time before my wrists got tired or the pressure from the case edges cut into my wrists. Ouch.

The iPad was held in the case while typing with a small valley and a plastic stand. The stand didn’t always fit into the grove properly and my iPad would fall down. If you purchase this, make absolutely sure to put some pressure on the stand to confirm it’s aligned properly. Even while properly put in its stand, any movement of the surface would knock the iPad out of alignment. I was in constant fear of it dropping yet again out of the ZAGGMate.

The actual case did nothing to protect the sensitive back of the iPad which was yet another disappointment with this product. The padding around the sides is minimal and I actually scratched the front of my iPad while putting it in the case (ironically, I had a screen protector so it was fine).

The only positives I could find about this keyboard case combo was that it is extremely light and adds little weight to your iPad. It also allows for charging the iPad while in the case. Charging the internal battery of the keyboard is done by the less popular Micro USB cable.

Pros: Minimalist keyboard that integrates a case
Cons: Case very difficult to use, provides minimal protection, keyboard small and awkward to use

2 out of 10

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Hardware Review: Mophie Juice Pack™ Powerstation

The Mophie Juice Pack™ Powerstation is the same size as an iPhone, but provides an iPhone, iPad or any USB device with hours of power. It’s impressive 3600 mAh should provide at least 10 hours of talk time for most iPhones: enough to keep you going an extra day and then some. At only ounces, it’s light enough to carry around with you most places.

The JuicePack comes with a USB charging cable in order to charge the battery, but requires the user to bring their own charge cable for their devices. This is a bonus in my book since I have a plethora of iPhone charge cables. The JuicePack will also provide a passthrough charge to any device connected to it.

For portability, I use the Scoche flip-sync cable which fits nicely on my keychain so I’ve always got an iPhone cable handy. The fact you can use the Powerstation for a variety of devices is a great feature. I was able to provide top-off charges to my iPhone, iPad, and my MiFi all from this device and still had some power left over

Unlike other external batteries, the Powerstation will provide a 2.1A charge for the iPad, though it won’t fully charge the iPad. To track how much charge is left it uses a series of six white lights. A status button is located on the top of the battery to quickly check how much is left. An additional switch allows you to turn off the battery’s output once you’ve got enough charge.

At $99 retail, this is a bit pricey, but will be of great value if you have multiple devices needing a charge. Lightweight, powerful and ergonomic is a win in my book

Pros: Lightweight with substantial capacity
Cons: A bit expensive

8 out of 10

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Hardware Review: Dexim BluePack™ S8

The Dexim BluePack™ S8 is an absolutely outstanding all purpose external battery charger, not just for iPhone and the iPad, but any device that charges via a USB port. In particular this device is great for anyone who travels.

The capacity is rated at 3000 mAh, which claims to add 11 hours of talk time for your iPhone. While I could not fully test that, I was able to take a almost dead iPhone 4 to a full charge.

The most surprising feature of the BluePack was its weight. Even though it is high capacity, the device only weights 3.2 ounces and is similar shape and size to the iPhone 4.

Another feature of the BluePack S8 is a built-in flashlight. At first I thought that was a silly feature, until I travelled with it (which would be a common use of an external battery pack), and needed a flashlight in the middle of the night. Then I saw the light, literally

The accessories the BluePack comes with are also quite handy. For one, it does a fast charge with a dual USB AC adapter. While you can use this for the S8, it works well for other devices. Additionally it has a USB to 30-pin iOS adapter, a USB Mini and a USB Micro cable. Since the charger provides a standard USB port, you can use either the included USB adapter or bring your own if you have a speciality one.

A great feature not always found in external batteries is the ability to charge your USB device while the S8 is charging. Plug the S8 into the wall and then your iPad or iPhone into the S8. Both devices get the necessary charge.

Overall, the BluePack S8 is a perfect balance of price, performance and features and I strongly recommend it as an external battery charger.

Pros: Great capacity, very portable, flashlight and adapters
Cons: Carrying case, cable length

10 out of 10

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

GigaOM: Controversy: There’s an App for That

In this article for GigaOM/TheAppleBlog, I examine apps that have caused controversy and how these are great exposure for these apps and the App store