Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hardware Review: Kesington PowerGuard for iPhone 4



Kensington’s PowerGuard case with integrated external battery has great potential but fails to deliver in critical areas. However, it is one of the least expensive out there, so it might be a good option for those who are price conscious.

While priced similar to other integrated battery cases, the case weighs more ,yet has the least capacity of the cases I reviewed: 1200 mAh. Kensington reports for an iPhone 4 use this adds 4 hours of extra talk, 5 hours of video, or 22 hours of music. My experience is consistent with that claim.

One of the key flaws of the PowerGuard case will be encountered immediately: opening the darn thing. Unlike other cases that have easy hinges, the PowerGuard requires a coin or flat-head screwdriver to separate the bumper from the battery. Apply too much pressure and you’ll crack the plastic tabs like I did! If you are out in the field and need to change to another case--good luck.

Another flaw is lack of a capacity indicator. Most external battery chargers include LEDs or other indicators to know how much capacity is left in the battery. The PowerGuard has one light that indicates whether or not you have a charge.

One nice feature is the fact it has a slot in the back that you can use the supplied credit-card like plastic card to create a horizontal stand. I doubt if anyone will actually use the supplied card; I already carry enough of those in my wallet. Finally, my loyalty card for the grocery store has some use!

If price is the critical factor, the Kensington PowerGuard might be a good option for you if you don’t need to remove your iPhone from the case that often. Otherwise spending a bit more on another case will get you a better value with less frustration.

Pros: Inexpensive, kickstand slot
Cons: Difficult to separate the case, lack of capacity and capacity indicator


2 out of Five Dogcows

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

GigaOM: A Paperless Mobile Office: Just a Dream?

In this article for GigaOM that ran on a variety of the channels on that network, I covered sheet fed portable scanners for the Mac

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hardware Review: Griffin Survivor Case for iPhone 4

The Griffin Survivor case is a welcome addition to the line of highly-protective cases for the iPhone 4. This case was literally designed for war as it meets US Department of Defense MIL-STD-810 and UK Department of Defense Def-Stan 00-35. For civilians it means extreme protection at a great price. This has replaced my Otterbox Defender and is the case I use to protect my own iPhone.

Similar to the Defender, this Survivor provides 3 layers of protection. The first layer is a shatter-resistant polycarbonate frame interior that wraps around most of the phone. The second layer is a clear plastic overlay that protects the screen without impeding audio or the camera. Finally, a thick silicone overlay protects every aspect of your iPhone including the dock and speaker jack (where the water sensors are located).

The silicone overlay is truly unique and reminds me of the earlier Otterbox Defender 3G cases. On each of the four corners (where impact is likely) the silicone is up to a quarter-inch thick and when dropped on this corner my iPhone literally bounced (the test was an accident, but I was nonetheless impressed). The flaps protecting the dock and headphone jack actually include a plug to form a tight seal when closed. According to Griffin, the ports block blown sand/dust (up to 18 m/sec for 1 hour). Water resistance isn’t claimed, but can be inferred given this sealed design. In a video shown on their website, the iPhone is dropped in a snow pack and still continues to work.

The belt clip is a great design with a minimal clip that attaches to the bottom of the case. It can be used in a vertical and horizontal position. You need to make sure it clips properly. I didn’t one time and learned the hard way how well the silicone bounces the iPhone when dropped.

An annoying flaw exists that may be a deal killer for some users. The flap protecting the rear facing camera is normally closed, is not removable and won’t stay open by itself. If you want to quickly snap a picture you need to manually hold the flap open. More than once I got a blank picture because I forgot to open the flap before taking a picture. I got used to it, but if you rely on being able to take a quick picture with your iPhone, this may not be the case for you. I didn’t mind, but other testers got quite frustrated and said they’d simply remove the flap if they used the case long term.

Despite the camera flap, I simply loved this case. Sure it adds heft and bulk to your svelte iPhone, but this isn’t about fashion, it’s about protection. Hands down, the Griffin Survivor is the best case to protect your iPhone 4. Its three layer protection, sealed flaps, and excellent belt clip make it an ideal choice for iPhone users needing ultimate protection.

Pros: Great protection for your iPhone 4 from practically any mishap
Cons: Annoying camera flap gets in the way, belt clip can be confusing, bulky

Five out of Five Dogcows

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Hardware Review: iCapsule Keyboard Case combo for iPad

For many new iPad users, Apple's magical and revolutionary device acts as a laptop and sometimes even a desktop replacement. Many iPad users just need to check email and surf the net and a traditional laptop or desktop is overkill. For these users, the key features of the iPad are its long battery life and its simplicity, rather than its portability. These people are most likely the target market of the iCapsule.

This integrated Bluetooth keyboard and case copies the original design of the first iBook so much that more than one person asked why I was carrying a black iBook. If they ever make this in blue or orange, there will be many confused people out there.

When the iPad is placed in this case, it looks like the typical laptop: screen on top and keyboard on the bottom. Close the iCapsule just like you would a clamshell style laptop (though the iPad won't go to sleep when you close it) You'll notice there isn't a pointing device or trackpad on this "laptop", which got annoying after a while. I was so used to typing on it like a laptop I'd instinctively move my thumbs towards the trackpad rather than the screen. That's a testament to how seamless the transition from the iPad experience was.

The actual case provides no padding, but has a handle and is made of hard plastic so mishaps are less likely. The screen is somewhat protected from impact when closed because it is flush with the keyboard. Occasionally debris from the keyboard was transferred to the iPad screen when the case was closed (incidentally, this is a common problem with traditional laptops).

While the iCapsule had your typical keys including control, option and escape, it replaced the typical function keys with a variety of handy quick keys such as full volume and music controls (pause, play etc) as well as selection, copy, spotlight and keyboard toggling. This is very handy for someone doing serious work on an iPad.

iPad purists will balk at the amount of bulk this adds to the iPad and that it somehow defeats its purpose. Partially they are right. Many people replace their laptop with an iPad because they want a lightweight powerful alternative with incredible battery life. Of course, serious typing is near impossible on the iPad. Typing on the iCapsule was quick and responsive. The device takes two AA batteries, but the keyboard goes to sleep after non-use.

Unfortunately the iCapsule suffers a near fatal flaw that I hope gets fixed in later releases. While the designers left space to plug in headphones on the side, they failed to include a port for the 30 pin connector. The only way to charge your iPad is to remove it from the iCapsule. Over time it becomes a pain to constantly remove your iPad in order to charge it. Because the keyboard is bluetooth, you'll be reducing your battery life significantly and thus charging is more important. Moreover, the sleep button was difficult to access while in this case. The designers left little room for it. If you put the iPad in backwards (which you can do), the iPad will constantly go to sleep due to the pressure. Accommodations should have been made to make sure that all ports were available and you couldn't put the iPad in its case backwards.

Serious typists and those making the transition from a laptop will really enjoy how easy and natural the iCapsule case and keyboard is to use. Be prepared for the constant removal each time you want to charge the iPad though

Pros: Ideal laptop replacement with responsive and spacious keyboard
Cons: Lack of support for charging while in the case or guides to prevent the iPad from being put in backwards

Four out of Five Dogcows



This article used with permission by the Lawrence Apple Users' Group. The original article written by David Greenbaum aka DoctorDave™ or incorrectly Dr. Dave can be found here.
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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Hardware Review: Kensington Travel Battery Pack and Charger




The Kensington Travel Battery Pack and Charger provides a nice jolt of battery power while you are on the road and gives you a handy horizontal viewing stand as well. However at its retail of $70 and street price of around $40, other chargers provide a greater value.

I was generally disappointed in the design of this device. The Travel Battery Pack and Charger has an integrated USB connector, but beware, it’s quite short and I had trouble charging the pack with my USB hub and other USB charging devices. Kensington claims the integrated USB tip is a feature since it’s all you need to carry, but I found it an annoyance as its weight made it fall out of my Apple-supplied iPhone charger. The device was an awkward size of 1.50" x 2.75" x 6.00" making it difficult to carry in my jeans pocket or in my laptop bag.

As a charger it delivered 1500 mAH of power which Kensington claims amounts to 23 hours music, up to 7 hours of video and up to 5 hours of talk time. The ergonomics of the device made it near impossible to hold the iPhone and keep the battery connected: this device was simply not designed with talking in mind.

Using the Travel Battery pack while on a flat surface was completely acceptable. The dock protector was an integrated horizontal viewing stand for the iPhone which made it easy to use on the plane to catch up on my TV viewing. I also liked the 6 blue LEDs indicating exactly how much of a charge was left.

While better values exist in external battery chargers, some users might find the “kickstand” cap a neat feature for their extended video viewing needs on the iPhone and others might value the integrated USB port that eliminates the need for a cable. I certainly didn’t and after testing, this devicehas been sitting on the shelf unused. It’s a design that just didn’t work for me.

Pros: A sizable 1500 mAH of power, integrated USB port and horizontal kickstand
Cons: Bulky, difficult to use the short USB connector, difficultly using the phone while charging.

5 out of 10