Archives For Gadgets


Earlier than expected and for a sum that cannot be calculated rationally, Google has entered into an arrangement to purchase Nest for 3.2 billion in cash. Which totals more than two Instagrams and two Flips… combined. While Nest has grown rapidly, now exceeding 200 employees with healthy buzz and presumably solid sales (which the company does not disclose), the acquisition strikes me as a move to lock up the Nest team and product/service pipeline – before someone else does. Of course, this isn’t Google’s first foray into home monitoring and control. But unlike the short-lived Google powermeter the upside, via retail sales and Google service tie-ins, will be much higher. And, with the connected home as the next frontier, this gives Google one of the hottest players in the game ahead of whatever the likes of Sony or Apple might be working on. (Related, we can’t help but wonder if Apple will keep Nest on store shelves.) Continue Reading…

Hands On Asus Padfone Mini

Dave Zatz —  January 12, 2014


From CES, Asus continues to introduce hybrid devices to accommodate a variety of use cases – from dual OS laptops to “convergent” smartphone-tablet devices as seen from the new Padfone Mini, which mates a 4″ Android smartphone to a 7″ screen. Despite a modest 800×480 resolution, the phone itself looks and feels quite nice — it’s what I imagine a better constructed second generation Moto X could be. Beyond the handsome hardware, the Padfone Mini runs Asus’ ZenUI experience on top of Android – bringing flat, soft visuals, more akin to iOS7 than the Samsung’s garish TouchWiz presentation. In addition to interface customizations, there are plenty of software enhancements – including an superfluous selfie feature and the more practical “What’s Next” that mashes up your calendar, tasks, and location, viewed within a dedicated app or integrated into live wallpaper.


Of course, the main feature and selling point here is being able to transform a smartphone into a tablet and waiting about 2 seconds after  simply sliding the handset into the back of the “station” is all it takes. It’s not the most sleek tablet you’ll encounter, but in theory you’ll save a few bucks by only funding a single processor, 8 megapixel camera, 4G plan, and such. Also, there’s some benefit to managing a single device when it comes to apps and customization. Lastly, both phone and the tablet sled contain their own batteries… which can be charged simultaneously when docked. It’s a clever solution, which may or may not make it to American shores. And I’m still pining more for a next gen Motorola Atrix smartphone/netbook sort of hybrid.

Initial partners, pricing, and timing will be revealed next month at Mobile World Congress.

The Videos of CES

Dave Zatz —  January 11, 2014

A roundup of the videos we shot while experiencing CES…

Alticast HDMI Media Express Stick with Cox guide and apps

HDMI streaming sticks are everywhere now, but a new one powered by Alticast, and shown for the first time at CES, comes with an interesting twist. The HDMI Media Express Stick includes both the Reference Design Kit (RDK) software bundle developed by Comcast (and now jointly managed with Time Warner), and Android support. That means it can be used as a set-top alternative by cable companies while also including access to Android apps.

Alticast CTO John Carlucci ran through a demo that showed multiple cable UIs running on the streaming stick. One was Korean (Alticast is headquartered in Korea), but one was the Cox Trio guide. Continue Reading…


In the category of products that may never come to market, but nonetheless inspired us at CES, are the Vizio Smart Audio Android boomboxes. Beyond Vizio’s sharp industrial design and decent sound (which did seem to distort at max volume), wouldn’t you prefer your Jambox-esque device ship with a display? Better, yet, how about directly powering the gadget with full fledged KitKat… allowing music (and video!) options to dwell within the speaker itself. Given Vizio’s portable design and rechargeable battery, perhaps this is a better way to approach the Audrey and Sony Dash widget stations.


Vizio Smart Audio was shown in various colors and two sizes, one featuring a 4.7″ display and the other with 7″ screen (and carrying handle). The touchscreens probably can’t match your high-end smartphone’s responsiveness and resolution, but I could see these Bluetooth speakers serving as a nice kitchen television (via FiOS TV app) or Netflix station for the kids. Frankly, just jamming out to tunes with some killer visualizations (should Vizio choose to provide them) would be pretty sweet. No details on pricing or timing, and given Vizio’s LED story arc, we’re keeping our hopes in check.

CES 2014: That's A Wrap!

Dave Zatz —  January 9, 2014
Dave at the DISH booth with the Boston Guys and some Joeys

Dave at the DISH booth with the Boston Guys and some Joeys

Between insane weather on the way out and animals gone wild upon return, it was “Man Against Nature” for CES 2014. Despite claims of 2013 being a lost year in tech and others suggesting CES was quiet, the trend is quite clear — what we’re seeing is a fragmented state of massive transition, and we’re collectively getting wired up with a variety of experimentation here in the eye of the storm. And when we work our way through to the other side EVERYTHING will be connected. And, no, we’re not calling it The Internet of Things.

There will always be larger, better, televisions out of CES… with new features to temp us to upgrade at faster frequency than industry experienced for decades leading leading up to the HD (and digital) transition. But the real news is the the scope of connected devices along with those attempting to wrangle them.

Get ready to say hello to your virtually sentient home, auto, and wristwear.

Going to ShowStoppers at CES is a bit like attending a carnival. The press event has gadget makers hawking their wares alongside display after display of brightly colored signage and geeky gear. It’s always tough to pick out the useful demos from the ones that only attract your eye because they’re shiny (more on that in a different post), but I did find two gadget accessories that are now on my must-have list.

Anker Astro 2

First up is the new Anker Astro external battery. I got an earlier version of the product for Christmas 2012, and it sustained me through my CES travels of last year. Since then, however, Anker has seriously stepped up its game on the style front. While I adore my original Anker for its functionality, the new models are smooth, soft, and much smaller in the hand. And even the smallest model still holds enough charging capacity to power up an iPhone three times over. I’m definitely upgrading soon. Continue Reading…