Level Up! Summer Gadget Special (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Date: Monday, July 08, 2013
Source: Mania.com

A Few times a year Level Up likes to take a look at some cool new gadgets.  Some of these are geared towards games, some not, but all of them are interesting, even the bad ones!

Brinno Peep Hole Viewer
Made By: Brinno
Grade: B
Ok so this is one item that is definitely a bit of an extravagance but it is pretty cool.  The Peephole viewer turns your regular peep hole into basically a security camera.  The viewer gives you a 3” LCD screen so you can see who is standing on your porch and knocking on your door much more clearly than with a standard peephole.
Installation is simple.  Simply remove your old peep hole, insert the new one into your door, and then attach the viewer to the small assembly bracket on the back of your door and you are in business.  The unit is powered by two AA batteries.  When someone knocks on your door you just push the button the unit to get a clear, large view of the person.  The screen will stay on for 10 seconds before shutting off to conserve battery life.  Pushing the button twice zooms in on the center of the image viewing area.  he viewer compensates for low-light images and eliminates "fish eye" distortion.  
The benefits of the unit are that children who are too short to see through a normal peep hole will have no trouble with this unit.  Plus, unlike a standard peep hole this unit doesn’t get dark when you look through it from the outside so your security is protected much better.  The unit includes a slot for a micro SD memory card that can be used to record images so even if you are not home you will be able to see who came to your house.
In addition, you can install an optional motion sensor outside of your front door.  The sensor can pick-up movement at least up to 20’ to 25’ away depending upon how you angle it and kicks on the viewer so you can see someone approach your door even before they knock.  You have to play with the angle so as not to detect every car driving down your street or person on the sidewalk.  The sensor can be a little on the finicky side, sometimes overly sensitive and other times not sensitive enough but all in all it works pretty well.  The Peephole Viewer is around $100 and the motion sensor normally in the $50 range.
Braven 570 Bluetooth Speaker, Speakerphone, and Charger
Made by: Braven
Grade: A-
If you’ve read my other gadget columns you know there’s nothing more I like better than a good speaker and the Braven 570 packs a lot of punch in its 6 watt, 6.5” by 3” compact size.  This amazingly powerful little speaker functions in three ways:  First it’s a Bluetooth capable speaker that can pair up with your laptop, iPhone, iPad, MP3 players, etc…for lush, deep sound.  You can even link together several speakers if you want for even bigger sound.  The unit comes with an audio cable that you can use to hook it up to non-Bluetooth devices.  
The Braven 570 comes with a USB port which allows you to hook up your device to it to charge it giving it a unique function from other similar speakers.  You can use the speaker itself to control the volume and even use the volume controls to skip a song forward or back when playing music from your device.  The 1200 mAh battery provides up to 10 hours of audio playback.  6 Watt speaker output with dual HD drivers provides surprisingly robust power and sound and the speakers are amplified with passive subwoofers.  
You can use your Bluetooth phone to place hands free speaker phone calls with the unit although I have not actually tried it out in this capacity.  The Braven 570 comes in several different colors including blue, green, red, and purple.  Perhaps the only downside is that it seems at $100 to be a little on the pricey side.  It’s a great item to be sure but It would grade at an “A” if it were more in the $75 range.
Bem Wireless HL2022 Bluetooth Speaker
Made by: Bem Wireless
Grade: B
Ok so here is another great and even smaller Bluetooth capable wireless speaker.  Bluetooth pairing is extremely fast and easy with this speaker that is about the size of a tennis ball, making it wonderfully portable.  The paired speakers feature 1.5 Watts of power and despite that small output the sound is surprisingly good.  It’s definitely not as rich as the Braven but considering its moderate size it’s really hard to complain about the sound.
In addition to Bluetooth connectivity you can also connect the unit to devices with a standard 3.5mm audio cable.  It’s backed with a 600 mAh battery that provides up to 6 hours of playback time.  The Bem comes in a rainbow of colors that is sure to suit anyone’s preference.  The Bem also comes with a USB plug-in power adaptor for charging should you need to use a standard A/C power outlet.
The Bem does not come with speakerphone capability which, while I don’t really use it, does seem to be a standard option on a lot of other such Bluetooth speakers.  It also does not provide the ability to skip back or forward when playing music like the Braven does.  It does come with a mini USB charging port, however.  While not as powerful or as full-featured as some other speakers, it does have a more moderate price point at only around $70.

Ultra Etorque X4 Mid-Tower Gaming Case
Made by: Ultra
Grade A-
I learned most of what I know about computers by working for a company that assembled and sold its own PCs via mail-order in the early 1990s.  Back then, a 386 processor was top of the line and a 20 MEGABYTE hard drive was about the size of a cinder block.  We now walks around with devices in our pockets that are far more powerful than those early PCs but in you want true performance power, especially for gaming, you almost have to build your own system as stock gaming systems are expensive and don’t always give you what YOU want.
Almost everyone who started work at this company spent a couple of weeks in the assembly and QC departments, learning the ins and outs of PCs.  And although a lot has changed in 20 years a good PC always starts with a good case.  The Ultra Etorque X4 Mid-Tower case is a mid-level gaming case but it is loaded with features to help you build the gaming rig you’ve always wanted.  This beast comes with the kind of ports and slots you need for the most demanding games.  
The case features three 5.25” drive bays and five 3.5” bays with assembly brackets. There are also two 2.5” front Hot swappable bays for even further expansion and convenience.  There’s also an HD Audio port so as you can see, there is a ton of room for customization.  The case also comes with one USB 2.0 and one USB 3.0 slot.  The back of the case has seven PCI slots.
Cooling and ventilation is always an issue with high performance rigs and the Ultra Etorque X4 truly shines in this area.  The case comes with two 120mm fans, one located in the front and one in the back.  There are ports for four additional fans.  The unit has a front mesh panel for optimal ventilation and there is the capability to add a liquid cooling system if you should desire.
This case looks fantastic in its design.  It exudes power with its front mesh panels that make it look like the muscle car of PC cases.  Best of all, at $60 the case is a heck of a bargain!
Connection Kit
Made by: ???
Grade: F
I’ve love to tell you who makes this piece of junk but it came to me with no name on the packaging, instructions, or the unit itself.  Despite the company who sent it to me proving a link to the product page, I don’t believe it.  THAT product was pictured with a clear stamp on the unit with the manufacturer.  This appears to be nothing more than a cheap knockoff.

The unit is a 5-in-1 reader that touts the ability to quickly upload photos from your digital camera to your iPad.  Notice I say iPad because despite the package clearly picturing that it can be used with iPods and MP3 players, it did not work on my iPod, giving me the message that “this device is not supported by the iPod.”  

Clearly whoever made this product did not have a very good grasp of the English language as the instructions feature the following befuddling sentence: If photos or video can not see please check the photos and video formula if iPad support.

The box also has this grammatical gem: Your iPad automatically opens the photos after you making a connection, which lets you choose the pictures you wanted to import.

Look, there are a number of these products for sale so buyer be warned.  Don’t buy anything that doesn’t even have the name of the company who made it on the package.


Sendy Power Bank 
Made by: Sendy
Grade: A

Now HERE is a great little product!  The Sendy Power Bank is a neat little battery pack that can be used to charge various devices including iPhones, iPads, iPods, MP3 players, PlayStation portable, Kindle, Google Nexus, GPS devices, Android smartphones, Blackberry smartphones, or any other USB powered device.  

The unit itself looks great.  It measures 3 ¾” long 1 2/3” wide, and nearly 1” in depth.  It is a glossy black in color with silver wrap around.  It has some heft to it so even in appearances and feel it has the look of a quality item.  The battery capacity is a powerful 5200 mAh.  The face of the unit has a button featuring tiny blue Led lights which indicate the unit’s current charge. Four lights indicate 75 – 100%. Three lights is 50 – 75%, two lights is 25 – 50%, and one light means less than 25%.  It takes about 5 – 6 hours to fully charge the Power Bank.

The side of the unit has a micro USB port to allow you to charge the unit with any USB capable charger although the inclusion of an actual AC plug would have been the icing on the cake.  The top of the unit has a standard USB port.  This is essentially your charging station.  The device comes with a single cable with a USB connector on one end.  The other end allows you to exchange various connector tips: Micro USB, Mini USB, Apple 30 Pin, and PSP.  Simply insert the top you need for whatever device you are going to charge.  

It charged my full depleted iPod Touch 4 in about 45 minutes and the power indicator STILL showed four lights meaning it had at least 75% charging capacity left.  I’ve used other such battery pack chargers that have used at least half of its capacity to charge an iPod and more for an iPhone.

The Power Bank has a built-in protection board to keep it safe against overcharging.  If it draws too much current, the protection will activate and shut the unit down.  Other features include an LED flashlight that is activated by pressing the power button twice quickly, and a drawstring carrying pouch to hold the unit and all of the tips.  Definitely a must have item for the person on the go!