Archives For Accessories

Fabulous parties and celebrity appearances aside, the Powermat booth tour may have been my best blogger experience at CES this year. And while I won’t make it out to Mobile World Congress later this month, I do have a few educated guesses on what the wireless-power company will be launching there.

The Powermat folks graciously guided me on a back-room tour at CES to show off several upcoming product lines. In the queue are new single- and dual-position charging mats (charge one, two, or three products at once), higher-powered mats to support netbooks (!), and sleeker mobile device cases. All of these products are officially due out in the spring, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Powermat jump the gun on that projection. The company recently sent out MWC emails inviting media to visit its booth at the show for the introduction of “its next line in wireless charging.” Hmm…

Just as important as Powermat’s near-term product launches, however, are the price reductions on the way (expense being one of my pet peeves), and the innovations planned for later this year and next. Currently Powermat offers a full-size charging mat for $99. That will drop to $79 for a three-position mat, $59 for the dual-position, and $39 for the single-position version.

On the innovation front, Powermat will soon start offering mobile device batteries that do away with the need for a custom case or Powermat charging tip. This is where wireless charging gets good. Imagine replacing the battery in your new Nexus One with a premium Powermat version. Then all you need to do when you get home is drop the phone on your charging mat, and you’re good to go. Best of all, Powermat is working with a programmable chip that lets it take standard silicon and adapt it for new mobile devices as they’re introduced. According to the company, it will be able to bring new Powermat batteries to market in a short four to six weeks – fast enough to keep up with the most popular new phone launches.

Oh yeah, and Powermat isn’t stopping with phones. Camera batteries are in the works for 2011. And I just gotta believe Powermat’s put in a few calls to Apple about that iPad. I can just hear the Power Pad jokes now.

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Case-Mate Hug Hero Fulton eCoupled wireless power

Wireless power options continue to improve, but I’m still not wild about spending money for a charging mat and a gadget case. It helps that prices are coming down, but even the latest entrant from Case-Mate – an iPhone/iPod solution called the Hug – still costs $89.99. And money is only part of the problem as far as I’m concerned. I don’t love the idea of having to use a mat at all, which is why I’m excited about the latest tech from Texas Instruments and Fulton Innovation.

TI and Fulton are working on a contactless charging system. It involves a transmitter, receiver, and “associated magnetics,” and the companies are offering a development kit to gadget designers that want to test it out. The bqTESLA Contactless Charging Evaluation Kit will cost $250 and will be available “by the end of Q1.” TI and Fulton will also have a demo on hand at CES, and I will definitely check it out if I can make the schedule work. The solution is based on Fulton’s existing eCoupled technology, which I took a look at during last year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

UPDATE: I made the mistake of assuming that contactless meant the gadget and charging station would not need to make contact. Sadly, that’s not the case. Fulton and TI are referring to metal contacts, which are not required. The gadget and charging mat here still need to touch. More to come on this front  later.

Clickfree C2 data back-up

Since we all know by now that I don’t have the best track record in personal data recovery, I’ve decided to kick myself into gear in 2010 and test out a few different backup technologies. First in line, the Clickfree C2.

I acquired a Clickfree Transformer Cable last year at CES, and true to its word, the pretty purple cable automated everything after I plugged it in to my computer and my external hard drive.  I’ve decided, however, that I prefer an all-in-one solution like the Seagate Replica, and so I’ve now moved on to the Clickfree C2. Determined to have all my data backed up before heading to Vegas, I hooked up the Clickfree C2 a few days ago and ran it through its paces.

Getting started was a little rocky. Windows made me reboot after “installing” the new hardware, and powering on again with the Clickfree C2 still plugged in brought up an error message. Once I unplugged, restarted, and plugged back in again, though, everything went swimmingly. Full-backup (only about 7 GB) took a scant few minutes, and I didn’t have to touch a thing. More importantly, the restore options turned out to be both simple and highly flexible. Under the advanced restore menu, you can restore everything back to its original location, or select individual files and manually set their destinations. Very useful.

Meanwhile, the Clickfree C2 hardware itself is a cute little box with a bendy USB connector attached. It’s available at retail for $139.99 or $189.99 for the 250 GB and 500 GB versions respectively. Or you can pick one up for free from ZNF when we give away the review unit in a few weeks. Sorry, my data not included. I’ll be wiping the drive once I return from Vegas.

Stop Paying Too Much For Cables

Dave Zatz —  December 8, 2009


With the holidays upon us, I’m reposting this PSA – which was originally published way back in July, 2006. (RIP Tweeter and Circuit City.)

Stop it! Seriously. It sickens me when friends and family tell me how much they’re paying for cables at retail. Best Buy, Circuit City, and even Radio Shack are sticking it to consumers with profit margins that must exceed 80%.

Obviously we can’t stop buying cables, but we can be more choosy in who we patronize. If you have the patience to wait a few days for delivery, the best deals are (not-surprisingly) online. The other benefit of buying online is there are far more options in terms of connections and cable length. For example, I couldn’t just drive down to my local Tweeter for the 35′ HD15 -> Component cable I needed to feed my recently retired (sniff sniff) projector. Retailers like Amazon and are much cheaper than the brick & mortars, but for the best deals look to specialized businesses.

In my experience, MonoPrice is currently the best of the bunch among lesser known vendors. Their prices are awesome and delivery is efficient. I recently purchased BOTH a 3′ HDMI cable and a 3′ DVI -> HDMI cable for UNDER $10. How can you beat that?


Skooba, venerable maker of Checkpoint-friendly laptop bags and other sturdy computer cases (and CES CtrStg sponsor), has started selling Proporta-brand cases for portable gear as of today. Normally I wouldn’t bother reporting on reseller news, even a US exclusive, but 1. I like Skooba, and 2. Proporta has some nice-looking stuff. I’ve found it oddly difficult to find nice cases for some of my gadgets, so any new supplier is welcome.

The full Proporta line-up includes everything from drawstring, to leather, to neoprene, and outfits itsy bitsy devices like the iPod Shuffle (all versions) all the way up to 10″ netbooks and full-size laptops. I had hoped the netbook cases would include include handles (I’m ready to replace my fashionable-but-rapidly-soiled Golla bag freebie), but like most on the market, they’re only netbook sleeves with no easy carrying attachment. On the other hand, the Proporta selection of iPod and other MP3 player cases is quite impressive. Fashion and function are both well represented.

No word on how wide a range of products Skooba will sell from the Proporta line (iPod cases now, but more products coming soon), but Skooba did send us a coupon for our readers if you want to do some shopping. You can get 15% off any Proporta items through the end of May. Use discount code PROPORTA.


Not everyone is a Slacker fan. Analyst Michael Gartenberg blogged recently that the application crashed his Blackberry, and he subsequently dropped it from both the Bold and his iPhone. However, I’ve had good luck with the online app and certainly with the Slacker hardware, and as a result I’m interested when the company tosses out something new. Last week Slacker sent me some accessories to try including a G2 dock, car charger, and arm band. They’re all available online for under $30 along with an FM transmitter (for the car) priced at $39.99.

The G2 dock is a very simple device, and will not be unfamiliar to anyone who’s ever owned an iPod. It can be used to charge the G2, connect to a PC, and hook up a set of speakers. You can do any of these things without a dock, but in theory plugging into one dock for multiple purposes is easier than fooling around with several cables. I tried it out in my living room by unplugging my Squeezebox and hooking the dock into a set of Dell speakers connected to a subwoofer. Simple process and my Slacker tunes were immediately audible. The dock is also unobtrusively black, unlike its iPod counterparts, and faded right into the background of my media center.

Given my Squeezebox + speakers set-up, I have no real need for the dock and will be shipping it back shortly with the car charger and arm band. However, it’s worth noting that I am now paying for Slacker Premium service on a monthly basis after getting the free trial to review some months back. Turns out the unlimited skipping and, more importantly, the ability to keep songs I like for playback any time is addicting. Slacker’s now promoting its cheaper Radio Plus service over Slacker Premium, but despite the difference in price ($3.99/mo vs $7.50/mo), I decided to stick with Premium for the song-saving feature. It’s worth the money.

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The TiVo Fanboy Giveaway

Dave Zatz —  February 19, 2009


Another week, another fun giveaway here on ZNF! The current prize package consists of the fine TiVo Glo remote ($50) that I acquired from the now-defunct Rewards program, a TiVo cookie cutter (resembling an armless Noid) that was a freebie, and a TiVo-emblazoned Cross pen that I might have picked up during a TiVo HQ visit. Entering the contest is as easy as it gets, simply leave a comment. (US residents in the lower 48 only, please.) We’ll choose the winner at random in a few days.

Tech in Style

Mari Silbey —  January 26, 2009

I’ve been known to succumb to my girly side before – see ultra pink Flip Ultra case – and lately I’ve noticed more and more opportunities to girl up my gadgets. At CES, the the most stylish booth by far was the one for Golla Bags. Housed deep in the South Hall, the Golla stand certainly stood out from its geekier surroundings. Across the walls of the spacious booth were rows upon rows of cases from the 2009 collection for laptops, netbooks, and mobile devices. They weren’t all of the pink and purple variety, but given the preponderance of black bags on the market, the pink and purple (and green and white…) made the biggest impression.

Because of my rarefied blogger status, I walked away from CES with a free, lemony green netbook bag (technically a netbook sleeve) called the GAIA mini. It’s well-padded and perfectly snug around my Asus Eee. It includes a pull-out handle and outside pocket,and it’s way more attractive than my beat-up black leather bag. I highly recommend it for the tech girl on your list, especially if she’s got a new netbook. There aren’t many right-sized cases available.

On the down side, I will admit that I’m a little concerned with how well the Golla case is going to wear. The light colors seem to soil fairly easily, and I’ve already clipped one string from the outside of my bag. But practicality is only one part of buying a new gadget bag. And at $34.95 for a Golla laptop sleeve, these cases aren’t going to break the bank.

The photo (above, left) features my Golla bag topped with a purple ClickFree Transformer (more on that backup device later). It seems the tech accessory market has upped its marketing game with les femmes. I’m in favor.