Archives For Accessories

Stop Paying Too Much For Cables

Dave Zatz —  December 8, 2009

monoprice-hdmi

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 Buy.com 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?

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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.

slacker-g2-accessories-dock-car-charger-arm-band

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

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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.

Evolution of the Verizon Hub

Mari Silbey —  January 23, 2009

Tech specs are still fuzzy, but what we do know is that this is a POTS-based cordless phone system with a touchscreen for Internet access and integration with Verizon wireless phone services. It’s meant to act as a digital photo frame, note board, family calendar, and widget station all at once.

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Photo courtesy of the Kodak PluggedIn Blog

While gaming consoles are still attempting to make good on their role as Trojan Horse in the living room , I have a new candidate for the job: Wi-Fi photo frames. As ridiculous as that sounds, a WI-Fi photo frame is really nothing more than an IP-based display, capable of receiving IP-based content. This year at CES I saw at least two digital frames (Kodak and GiiNii) drawing content from Web sources. Once Mom buys one of these frames to show off photos of little Jimmy, it’s only a short, logical step to using it for convenient weather updates, tips, horoscopes, sports scores, and more. Yes, we’re back to my favorite topic: the widget station.

Many companies are attempting to break open the widget-station market, from the Chumby makers, to Verizon and AT&T, to Logitech with its Harmony remotes (sort of) and even the Squeezebox. However, two things are clear to me. First, widget stations are only going to be successful if they are first embedded in households for another purpose. And second, the best widget station will be one that is already designed to act as a visual display.

TVs/set-tops have already pushed their way into the widget market, and we’ll see more from that direction in the near future, but I believe there’s room for another device in the home that gives access to quick, visual, Web-based information. The question is, how far will Wi-Fi photo frames go? Will they become a regular source of video in addition to static content? Will they eventually act as touch-screen, home controllers? I don’t know, but I bet we’ll see the next iteration by CES 2010.