Archives For Accessories

Hands On with Griffin RoadTrip

Dave Zatz —  December 9, 2008


Over the years, I’ve owned several iPods. And along with them, several car charging solutions and/or car mounts. They’ve run the gamut from a low-tech cup holder to higher end solutions from Monster and Belkin. But my new favorite, by a long shot, is the latest iteration of the Griffin RoadTrip.

My recent search for an iPhone mount began when rumors of a GPS-enabled iPhone first surfaced. Other than a few clunky-looking generic device holders, I wasn’t seeing much until I stumbled upon the Griffin WindowSeat. Unfortunately, right about when I discovered the unit they either delayed the release or temporarily pulled it while adding an adapter to support the iPhone 3G. I also took a look at the highly regarded ProClip solutions, but the price ($65) and single car installation kept me away.

Enter Griffin RoadTrip. The newest version (MSRP $99, $68 @ Amazon) includes adapters for a wide variety of iPod devices, including both the iPhone and the iPhone 3G, charges the unit, looks great, and beams all audio over FM to your car stereo. The RoadTrip also nearly instantaneously identifies open frequencies to broadcast on. Which comes in handy given the radio pollution in metro areas like mine. (However, you can expect some GSM interference if using an iPhone with cellular connectivity – easily masked while music is playing. And this isn’t necessarily Griffin’s fault… I get similar interference without the mount in play when my phone pulls email, etc.)

As I’m still toting a first gen non-3G iPhone, I had assumed I’d have to load it up with my own tracks for in-car entertainment. However, Pandora over EDGE with the RoadTrip broadcasting in mono (less interference) works surprisingly well and is a decent solution since dumping XM. It’s also been nice to be able to see incoming callers without fumbling for the phone, and if the font is maxed out, I can read email – while the car is stopped, of course. I snapped a pic of Google Maps (below) to represent what I hope is some sort of future turn-by-turn GPS application… at which point I’ll upgrade my iPhone (or when Apple adds a respectable camera). And given my in-car success with Anderson Cooper’s 360 video podcast, I wouldn’t mind seeing some mobile Slingbox software.

Voltaic Systems has just announced a new computer bag – the Generator – designed to charge a laptop computer solely with stored energy from the sun’s rays. The bag comes in five colors and is available at the company’s website now.

Since energy waste and the CE industry go hand-in-hand, I’m in favor of anything that makes our shiny gadgets a little greener. Unfortunately, there are a few sticking points with the solar-powered Generator bag. On the one hand it represents an important milestone, and Voltaic Systems should be commended. On the other hand, it’s hardly practical in its current form.

First of all, it takes an hour of sun time to extend laptop battery time by 20 to 45 minutes. If it took an hour to download 20 to 45 minutes of a movie, there would be no Rokus or Vudus or any of the other movie download boxes around. Second, the bag costs $499. That’s more than a lot of netbooks today, and certainly too hefty a price tag for most of the gadget-toters I know.

Since Voltaic Systems is first to market, it deserves a hearty congratulations for the noteworthy achievement. Personally, I’ll be waiting a few more years for my first solar-powered laptop bag. Maybe Christmas 2012.

AT&T HomeManager Launches

Mari Silbey —  September 23, 2008

AT&T, the company that brings you everything IP, has just launched HomeManager, a home communication system (er, phone) with a touchscreen display that combines news and weather feeds with telephony features.

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Like what you’re listening to? Share it wirelessly with a friend. That’s the premise of the new i2i Stream from Aerielle, which lets you stream music from one music player to a second set of unattached headphones. One device in the i2i Stream package plugs in to your music player and allows it to broadcast. The second (they’re interchangeable) plugs in to a regular set of headphones and acts as a receiver.

I received the i2i Stream review unit a couple weeks ago, and since then I’ve had great fun sharing music from my Slacker portable and from several different generations of household iPods. Once you get past the initial charging session, which is painfully slow with a USB-PC connection, the i2i Stream is simple, small and convenient. I haven’t had a single problem connecting the devices to my various music players or making them stream music to remote headphones. Add to that the appealing colored lights that indicate broadcasting frequency, and the i2i Stream makes for a fun if kitschy gadget. Even the audio quality broadcast over the 2.4Ghz frequency, which other reviewers have complained about, struck me as reasonable. Certainly good enough for casual listening.

Unfortunately, I’m still trying to come up with a good reason to buy the i2i Stream. Sure it’s fun, but when do you really need to stream your music to someone else? Most people have their own players and want to listen to their own music. There’s also no shortage of speakers and adapters for plugging in portable players when you do want to share, albeit in a more public fashion. Continue Reading…

Jabra BT8040 on

There’s no question the Jawbone offers the best Bluetooth headset noise cancellation technology. But it’s also uncomfortable and pricey. I picked up a Jabra BT8040 for $50 at Best Buy last week for the smaller form factor and multipoint pairing. Thus far, both incoming and outgoing sound quality have been good – including a successful phone conversation in the midst of Times Square. Like most BT headsets, it could use a little more volume but overall I’m very pleased with the function and comfort… Though I’ve yet to successfully simultaniously pair my laptop and iPhone. Folks who enjoy listening to music through one earpiece can also stream music via A2DP. The BT8040 is packaged with three ear gel sizes (two of each), an AC charger, and a USB charger.

MobileScrobbler was possibly the most polished jailbreak app. So, it’s comes as no surprise that Last.FM’s ready with a blessed iPhone client shortly after the iTunes App Store launch. Though, like all “official” apps, this one isn’t permitted to run in the background – meaning no music playback while checking email or browsing the web. Despite that limitation, I’m still digging my suddenly-much-more-capable audio device and I highly recommend both Pandora and AOL Radio.

In fact, my hunt for two speaker docks has been reduced by one. I recently unloaded a portable XM Helix, though hadn’t yet recycled the Altec Lansing iM4… In conjunction with the iPhone cradle lineout, I’ve found a decent solution for at least one room. (I’ll ultimately find a better home for it, rather than leave it perched on the edge of my AnthroCart as pictured above.) With the expert guidance of iLounge’s Jeremy Horwitz, I’ve possibly identified my second dock – the (much sleeker and with remote) next generation Logitech Pure-Fi Anywhere ($130).

The 3G iPhone wasn’t the only new release last week… The D-Link DivX media extender (DSM-300) has started shipping in the US. Though it lists for $300, online retailers are offering it for $230 minus an additional $30 rebate. $200 for this handsome wireless-capable, 720p extender is a decent deal if your digital video collection is primarily Xvid- or Divx-encoded. Plus, the community developed plugins and theme offerings continue to expand. Both Brent and I have review samples, though I suspect he’ll get something written up sooner. In fact, I may just let him cover it for the both of us while I continue my gadget purge and realignment (1, 2, 3, 4).

Kindle beach

An interview with The Washington Post’s Rob Pegoraro aired this morning on NPR. The topic? Whether the Kindle makes for good beach and poolside reading. The verdict was mixed.

On the pro side: a few drops of water aren’t going to kill the Kindle, and the fact that the screen’s not backlit makes it easy to read even in the sun.

On the con side: the Kindle isn’t going to survive getting buried in the sand, and you’re going to be a lot more worried about it getting stolen than a dog-eared paperback.

All in all, I think even if I owned a Kindle I’d fork over ten bucks for a paperback at the beach… just for the peace of mind of being able to leave my book thoughtlessly behind for a dip in the ocean.