Level Up! Spring Gadget Guide Part 2 (Mania.com)

By:Tim Janson
Date: Tuesday, May 06, 2014
Source: Mania.com

It’s time once again for Level Up’s quarterly look at new gadgets for all you tech hounds.  And our bounty is so large this time that we are bringing this two you in two parts!  Today we have part two look at cool new gadgets on the market.
 
 
 
 
 
FlatWave Amped Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna
Made By: Winegard
Grade: A
Price: $59 - $79
 
We only have one TV in our house not connected to cable and that one is in the basement.  We don’t use it all that often so when the changeover to digital took place a few years back that is where we placed the free digital box.  I bought a powered antenna but even it hooked up and pointed in a window there were certain stations that just did not come in or came in poorly like the local FOX and NBC stations.
 
So I was rather skeptical of the claims on the Winegard FlatWave antenna.  The first thing I love about this antenna is that it is thin and pliable, almost like a vinyl tile.  The design is reversible, one side black and the other white.  Setup is a snap!  Just plug in the power adaptor, plug in the antenna into your digital box and then place the antenna in a window.  It comes with two 3M Command strips that you can use to affix to a window and are removable.  You will need to experiment for the best location.  Do a channel scan on your box and you are off and running.
 
First thing I noticed was that those stations that previously came in poorly now came in crystal clear with no pixilation.  The second thing I noticed is that the FlatWave found far more channels than the old antenna did.  I think my old one found 10 or 12.  The Flatwave found twice that many.  The antenna comes with 18.5’ of coaxial cable giving you a pretty good range in which to fine the best location for the unit.  While I have not quite made that jump yet, this antenna combined with steaming TV like a ROKU unit makes for a great alternative to paying for cable.

Jelly Box Bluetooth Speaker
Made By: OrigAudio
Grade: B
Price: $34.99
 
The Jelly Box is a nice little Bluetooth speaker that is perfect for taking on the go, using in the car or the office to play your music.  It offers a good number of speakers for such a small size.  The unit measures 4” X 2” X 1.5” and comes in nine vibrant colors.  It can fit in the purse, laptop bag, even your pocket.  Pairing the speaker to your device is easy.  Just turn the unit on and check your smartphone for device and choose “JELLYBOX” and you are all set.  You can also connect directly with headphones or a 3.5mm audio cable which is included.
 
The top of the speakers features buttons to control the volume, play/pause music, or change songs.  It has a one tough button to answer calls and has a built-in microphone.  The Jelly Box charges with a standard USB charging cable (also included) and takes about 2 ½ to 3 hours for a full charge, giving you up to 10 hours of playback.  It also comes with a TF Card slot to allow you to play stored music.  The speaker has a 3 watt output which is fine for personal use but a party in a box it isn’t.  The sound is only average.  It’s a little on the tinny side and lacking quality bass sound.    It’s a decent quality speaker but I’ve heard better sound in similarly priced speakers that were of an approximate size
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New Trent Powerpak Ultra
Made By: New Trent
Grade: A
Price : $69.99 - $79.99
 
The New Trent Powerpak Ultra as quickly become my battery pack of choice to charge my smartphone and tablet.  This powerful behemoth provides 14,000mAh of power with the capability to charge two devices simultaneously.  The unit comes charged right out of the box.  I was able to charge my Samsung Galaxy S4 which was at 25% charge and my son’s iPod Touch which was almost completely depleted.  The Powerak Ultra was still at over 75% capacity!  Now that is some serious power.
 
As mentioned you can charge two devices at one time.  The top of the unit has two USB ports, a 1 amp and a 2.1 amp.  The ports have hinged caps labeled Output 1 an Output 2.  Output 1 is the 1 amp and Output 2 is the 2.1 Amp.  It would have been nice if NewTrent had put the amperage on the cap as well or instead of the Output label.  A Micro USB cable is provided to charge the unit or one device.  I my tests I found that is charged as fast, or at least nearly as fast as a conventional wall charger.  Taking that kind of charging power on the go with you is simply invaluable.  This unit can be a life changer or at the very least a game changer if you find yourself stuck without power.  The Powerpak Ultra could power you for several days if needed.  
 
Physically this is also one rugged charger.  This is perfect for outdoors enthusiasts.  The unit features a rugged and shock resistant outer cover to help absorb any drops or bumps it might suffer.  The outer edge is molded in a highly graspable covering.  New Trent also boasts that the PowerPak Ultra can be completely submerged in 3 feet of water for up to an hour.  I have not personally tested this claim but if true this only serves to forward its value to those who are using it out-of-doors.  At roughly one pound and dimensions of 5.5” X 3” X 1.1” thick it’s going to be somewhat bulky to carry in your pocket yet on the other hand to get  14,000 mAh out of a unit this size is quite good.  Yes you can get units that will fit more comfortably on your person or in a purse but their capacity is going to be half or less than half of this one.
 
The face of the unit has a power button which you hold to turn on when charging a device.  A bank of 4 LED lights gives you the unit’s capacity with each light representing 25%.  I just cannot say enough about this charger.  It’s the best I have used at this size and price range.
Juicebox Battery Pack
Made By: OrigAudio
Grade: B+
Price: $24.99
 
If you are looking for a portable battery pack that is less bulky than the New Trent PowerPak Ultra but still packs some pop then have a look at OrigAudio’s Juicebox.  So named because it’s packaging exactly resembles tha of a kid’s juicebox drink, even down to coming with a small straw affixed to the back of it.  The Juicebox’s small profile of 3.5” X 1.7” X 1” and weighing just a little over a ¼ pound makes it ideal to carry in your pocket or purse.  The Juicebox comes with a multi-cord that features connections for the iPhone 5, iPhone 4, and Micro USB for the various android phones.  
 
The Juicebox takes just over 3 hours to fully charge and I found I could get a couple of charges to my Samsung S4 (was at about 10 – 10% when I charged it) before the Juicebox needed to be recharged again.  No bad for a 3600mAh charger.  A bank of 4 LED Lights shows you the current charge level of the battery pack.  This is one that is really a complementary charger to larger, more powerful chargers like the PowerPak Ultra.  You can carry this on you and not really know it’s there because it is so small and light.
Long Range Bluetooth Speaker Adapter
Made By: Amped Wireless
Grade: A-
Price: $69.99
 
Everyone knows that the biggest problem with Bluetooth speaker systems is that the range is often too short.  Go to another room with your device and often you find you lose your connection and are forced to re-pair your device.  The Amped Wireless Speaker Adaptor looks to solve that dilemma by proving you with an antenna that will amplify the Bluetooth signal to double your range.  It’s quite simple to use; just plug in the adaptor to your stereo system or speaker with the included cable and pair up your device.  The unit includes both 3.5mm audio and RCA outputs which is very convenient.  I had it up and running and playing music in just a couple of minutes.  It really is that easy!
 
I had no problem taking my phone into another room, down in the basement, and even out on the back patio without dropping my connection. Granted all of those ranges have been within 40 – 50 feet but it’s still nice as I have had many Bluetooth speakers that will drop when in the same room.  Did I have the occasional drop?  Yes but very rarely and it didn’t seem to be an excessive range thing more I think just a hiccup.  One thing I noticed from other consumer reviews at Amazons is that when customers did have issues someone from Amped Wireless immediately followed up with a comment to apologize for the issue and solve it or provide the tech support # to call.  While I did not have any need to call from the comments I read the Tech Support group seems to be extremely helpful and responsive.  There appears to have been some issues with drivers on certain smart phones but these have been easily fixed.  My only qualm might be at $70 it seems a little pricey.  At $50 - $60 I’d be more comfortable.
Check out Part 1 here on Mania.com!

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