Level Up Spring Gadget Guide Part 1 - Mania.com



2014

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Level Up Spring Gadget Guide Part 1

Our bounty is so large

By Tim Janson     April 21, 2014
Source: Mania.com


Level Up Spring Gadget GuideSpring 2014
© 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!  Look for the second part of our Gadget roundup next week!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bem Wireless Outlet Speaker
Made By: Bem
Grade: B-
Price: $60 - $70
 
The Bem Wireless Outlet speaker gives you the Bluetooth connectible speaker without the need for cords or charging.  That’s because the speaker plugs right into any wall outlet, providing constant power.  Just plug it in, pair it to your smart phone or other Bluetooth device and enjoy your favorite music.  The design eliminates the need for cords making it perfect to take on the go.  It also discards the need to take up any counter top or desktop space.  
 
The package comes with the speaker unit with a plug that folds out.  A 3.5mm cable is included as well as the user guide.  For added convenience the speaker has a built-in USB port to allow you to charge your devices giving it dual functionality.  The speaker has both aux in and aux out ports.  The sound of the unit is clear but it’s basically designed for a single room.  It’s not the kind of thing that will rev up your party, that’s for sure.  For an average room like a bedroom, kitchen, or office it is fine.   Can also be used for conference calls.
 
The main issue with the Bem is that its advertised 25’ wireless range just doesn’t live up to the claim.  In reality the range may be 12’ – 15’ at best and frankly the closer the better.  As long as you are using it within the room you are in, the Bem Wireless outlet speaker performs well enough but it doesn’t excel. 

Glow in the Dark USB Cables
Made By: Color Cables
Grade:  A
Price: $15 - $20
 
I am amazed at just how many charging cables I have today between smart phones, wireless speakers, digital cameras, and various other types of electronic devices.  And for the most part, cables are cables, right?  Well here is a cable that thinks outside of the box, a colorful and fun spin on the everyday charging cable.  Color cables not only come in a variety colors, but, after exposed for at least 30 minutes to direct sunlight bright interior lights, they glow-in-the-dark.  The luminescence of the cable as well as the duration depends upon how long they absorb light.  But the soft glow makes them easy to be found in the dark, particularly in the car at night which is often where I am using mine.
 
Color Cables makes these in Micro USB, 30-Pin, and lightning connectors and in three or six feet lengths.  But honestly what I like even more than the colors and the glowing capability is the fact that the cables are flat as opposed to round which prevents them from knotting up or kinking.  They are the most durable cables I have.  The connector ends are sturdier than the average cable and I do not see these cracking near the ends as round cables can do with repeated usage.  Check them out at www.colorcables.com.
Dock It Pro
Made By: Parle Innovation
Grade: A-
Price: $129
 
 
Tablets are becoming more and more popular and now we have the Dock It Pro which address the one major weakness that tablets had when compared to laptops.  The Dock It Pro turns your iPad into a laptop that makes it perfect to take on the go, work in the office, on an airplane, or anywhere else you would normally use your laptop.  Plus let’s face it…when people look at a tablet most still view it as an item used more for entertainment than for productivity.  Plugging your iPad into the Dock It Pro changes all that.

The Dock It Pro is lightweight yet surprisingly durable.  Snapping your iPad in takes mere seconds and you like magic, you now have a laptop where you can send e-mails, work on spreadsheets or presentations, and yes, you can still watch movies or play your favorite games and now you have a means to keep it propped open.  The Dock It Pro features a Bluetooth rechargeable keyboard that provides ergonomic comfort for the user.  The sturdy base still makes it easy to use the touch screen even when docked.  The design makes it easy to slide the unit closed with your iPad attached so it can be transported easily in a laptop bag.  You can even slide the top all the way flat to use it as a tablet while still docked.  When opened as a laptop you can even swivel the tablet 180 degrees within the Dock It Pro frame which is a very cool feature.
 
Your iPad can be charged in any configuration while docked and sensors automatically. The keyboard features a full bank of function keys such as Cut, Copy, Paste, Brightness and volume keys, Lock, etc…there’s even a Siri function when it is enabled and a Take Picture button when the camera is active.  Currently the Dock It Pro is compatible only with iPad 3rd & 4th generation and iPad 2.  Hopefully we will see versions for Android tablets down the road.
Seido Surface Case for Samsung Galaxy S4
Made By: Seido
Grade: B+
Price: $34.95
 
I have been trying out a lot of cases for my S4 as I get them and the Seido Surface is a solid, basic little case.  While the case has a satin, metallic finish it is actually made of plastic which is exceptionally sturdy and yet sleek and stylish.  Mine was silver so it had the metallic look but the case comes in a lot of different colors.  It does not have any protection for the face of the phone so you will need something else like a glass overlay for that.  The case features access to all the ports, camera, speaker, and buttons and the holes are molded perfectly.The case features a spring loaded kickstand that allows the phone to stand nicely when placed horizontally on a flat surface but does not work vertically.  If that’s not a deal breaker for you then the Seido Surface is a nice, inexpensive case for your S4.
Grace Digital Encore Wi-Fi Music System
Made By: Grace Digital
Grade: A
Price: $249.00
 
The Grace Digital Audio Encore system is simply one of the coolest items we’ve ever had the chance to check out at the Level Up Gadget review.  The Encore Wi-Fi Internet radio gives you access to over 18,000 free online radio stations from around the world as well as access to premium content such as Pandora, iHeartRadio, NPR, and BBC, as well as premium pay content for Sirius XM radio and Live 365 if you have accounts for those services.
 
The Encore system is a snap to setup.  Just plug it in, turn it on, and follow the easy steps to connect to your Wi-Fi Network and you are accessing music in just a couple of minutes.  The 3.5” LCD screen on the front gives you the time and date when the unit is off and displays the home menu when on.  You can access the many functions either through a bank of pushbuttons located on top of the radio or through the handy remote control.  There is even an Apple and Android app available to let you control the radio from your smartphone or tablet. 
 
Menu options include a Weather Bug, programmable alarm, local radio station access, equalizer, media player, and more.  The unit includes RCA input and output ports so you can connect to your existing music system; a USB port so you can play music from a flash drive; and a headset jack.  It is compatible with PC, MAC, or NAS with support for MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV, AIFF, even 24/96 Flac files.  On the technical side the unit features a High powered Class D Digital 12 watt amplifier with a 3” woofer and 1” tweeter.  The sound is robust with crystal clear highs and deep but clean lows.  The equalizer lets you customize the sound to your lucking.  
 
You can store up to 110 of your favorite stations and program 10 of them into pre-set buttons for fast access.  In includes the Pandora thumbs up and thumbs down functionality.  The expansive menu lets you search for music either by genre or by location.  The local access functionality gives you access to all of your local radio stations based upon which city you select as your “home” location.  You can not only listen to stations from cities all over the U.S. but all over the world.  The front LCD screen displays station, song title, and artist when available.
 
I immediately replaced my small shelf stereo with the Encore and will not look back.  Great sound, flexible customization, a relatively small size, and access to thousands of stations make the Encore a perfect item for any audiophile.  It would have been cool if it included a CD player but…who uses those anymore anyway?
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