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Level Up! Fall Gadget Special

A bounty of cool new gadgets

By Tim Janson     October 14, 2013
Source: Mania.com

Fall of 2013
© DiC Enterprises
It’s Fall and once again time for Level Up to take a look at the Fall bounty of cool new gadgets that should appeal to gamers and techies alike.  This time out we’ve got seven new and cool items for you to check out and varying in price from $69 to $299.
PowerFlask (Digital Treasures)
Grade:  A
Price: $99
We love mobile chargers here at Level Up and the PowerFlask is one of our favorite.   This dynamo of a charger is powered by a 13000mAh rechargeable lithium ion battery.  The unit comes with a Micro USB to Apple 8 pin lightning adapter, Micro USB to Apple 30-pin adapter, USB to Micro USB charging cable, USB to Dual Micro USB charging Cable, and power adapter.  All this allows you to charge up to three devices at once, such as two iPhones or iPods, and an iPad.  The charger comes with two ports, a 1 amp for phones or iPods, and a 2.5 amp for tablets.
When full charged (which takes around 12 hours) the unit provides up 300 hours of charging time allowing you to charge your devices many times before having to recharge the PowerFlask.  The unit even charges iPhones faster than plugged into a 120V outlet which is extremely impressive.  It can charge an iPhone 3 – 4 times, and an iPod Touch at least double that many times.  Four tiny LED lights on the side let you know the available capacity of the device with the touch of the side button.
The device also comes with a dual LED flashlight that is activated by quickly pressing the side button twice which is a tremendously handy feature in a blackout or other sudden unexpected situation where you find yourself in the dark.  The unit is about 3” x 3” and gets its name as it is shaped, with a slight curve, like a liquor flask.  It weighs one pound so can easily be carried in a purse, backpack, laptop case, or even your pocket.  The part I love about the PowerFlask is that it comes with the additional cables and inputs as other similar chargers do not come with these additional accessories.  There are other chargers that are as powerful but the flexibility of this item is what puts it at the head of the class.
Genesis Prime 7” Tablet (Ematic)
Grade: B-
Price: $69
Perfect for younger children or those that want a simple tablet and don’t need all the bells and whistles of an iPad or even a Kindle, the Genesis Prime is a solid, entry-level device.  The Genesis runs on the Android Jelly Bean 4.1 OS, comes with a 1.1 GHz processr, 512 MB of RAM and 4GB flash memory.  A micro SD slot allows you to add up to 32GB of additional space.  The HD player supports 1080P and of course is W—Fi capable.  It also features 5GB of Cloud storage.  The box includes a USB cable, wall charger, earphones, quick start guide, and manual.
The display of the Genesis Prime is surprisingly clear and sharp.  The tablet comes loaded with Google Play which gives you access to thousands of Android apps as well as movies, TV shows, e-books and magazines, and music.  If you don’t already have one the initial setup will require you to set-up a Gmail mail account.  Initial setup was fast and easy although the first couple of times I tried to access Google Play I lost my connection to my Wi-Fi but after that initial hiccup I have not had a connection or signal issue since in the month I have been using it.  It features apps to play your music, movies, and books, along with a calendar and contact manager.
While you can stick with the Google Chrome browser that comes loaded, the processor isn’t quite robust enough and Chrome can be slow and lag a bit.  I would strongly suggest downloading the Opera Mini browser which condenses web pages before loading resulting in faster browsing.  I’ve used YouTube and several game apps without issue.  The speaker is on the weak and tinny side to be sure but sounds just fine with headphones or a speaker like the Braven hooked up to it.
The tablet’s camera can take either still pictures or video BUT, and this is a big one, is only front facing which badly limits its usefulness.  Thus if you want to take a picture of something other than yourself you can’t see what you are shooting.  I don’t understand if you are going to make a tablet with a camera facing only one way why you would not want to have it back facing.  Just makes no sense to me.  The tablet with last about 4 hours on a single charge which is meh…ok but certainly could be a lot better.
I’ve read some poor reviews of the Genesis Prime but those reviews seem to forget the KEY point that the tablet is a mere $70.  The fact is you are going to be able to do a lot of the same things with this that you can with any of the yop of the line tablets for a fraction of the cost.
SuperTooth Disco Bluetooth Stereo Speaker (SuperTooth)
Grade: B
Price: $110
This Bluetooth stereo speaker packs one hell of a wallop into its 4”x4”x14” frame—28 watts to be exact making it one of the best, and most affordable portable speaker systems around.  Its power and rich sound is the reason it’s named the Disco as it is an instant party and party pleaser.  The package comes with the speaker, travel bag, wall charger, and 3.5mm stereo jack cable.  It is compatible with any A2DP Bluetooth device and also supports AVRCP enabled mobile phones.
The until takes about 3 hours to full charge and can play for 3 – 4 hours at maximum volume or up to 10 hours at medium volume.  The breakdown of the speaker is two 8 watt left and right speakers, and a 12 watt internal subwoofer/amplifier that producers incredible sound that is clean, clear and hiss free.  The speaker has a single control dial to control the power, play, pause, skip forward or back, adjust the volume, and boost the base to the subwoofer with a single touch.  It also features a small, blue LED light to indicate when it is paired with a Bluetooth device.
The functional Neoprene travel bag isn’t just for carrying but is designed to that you can access the power and audio cable ports as well as a small screen to allow the subwoofer to breathe and this baby huffs, especially with the bass boost turned on.  The unit quickly and easily pairs to your Bluetooth device by pressing and holding the on/off button for 5 seconds.  When it is in this “pairing” mode you need only go to the settings on your phone, laptop, or other device and search to find the “SuperTooth Disco” and then enter the pin number and you are all set.
However this brings me to the one real problem I had with the SuperTooth Disco.  The manual states that the speaker can be paired with up to 8 Bluetooth devices.  I did not find this to be the case.  When I tried to pair a second iPod touch, the first device disconnected.  Sure it only takes a few seconds to pair a device but if you want to switch devices it’s still a pain to have to pair them each time.  The manual is also confusing in that it says you can “easily switch to any of the paired phones or computers by disconnecting the currently used phone or computer using the Active Devices in the Bluetooth men of that phone or computer.”  Huh?  If I can pair 8 different devices why would I need to disconnect the current one?  Maybe I do just not understand it but this seems to be in direct contrast.  
While great for rock, country and rap, I can see where it might not have the subtlety of mids for more refined music like jazz or classical.  When not playing, it immediately goes to "Standby" and uses virtually no power.  But immediately will come to life when you play music again with only a second or two delay.  While it has a couple of foibles the SuperTooth Disco outperforms or at least equally performs speakers that are twice the price.
Brinno Pro HDR Time Lapse Video Camera (Brinno)
Grade: B+
Price: $299
A time lapse video camera is probably something you don’t think about needing but once you have it you wonder how you managed without it.  The TLC 200 Pro is a 1.3 MP camera that shoots video in 1280 X 720 (16:9 ratio) in AVI format.  The unit runs and has remarkable life on just 4 AA batteries.  The unit comes with a 4 GB SDHC card and can support up to 32 GB.  It is also functional as a webcam with Wi-F connectivity making it a snap to upload videos to your computer.  
With this camera you set the length of time you want the camera to capture video and you are off!  The TLC 200 can capture FAR more shots than a regular DSLR camera.  It’s major advantage of standard cameras/video cameras is that it automatically creates an AVI file which you can immediately download without the need for an file conversion needed.  It’s remarkably easy and I am hardly a camera expert.  The camera is wonderful for capturing events with outstanding quality even in low light conditions.  In fact it won’t be long until you realize just how much, or at least how useful a time lapse camera can be compared to standard cameras.  You will find uses for it as perhaps a security cameral while you’re gone, capturing nature shots, the possibilities are endless.
The LCD menu is large and easy to navigate.  Saving a change send you back to the begging which makes it easy but can be annoying if you’re making other changes. In the menu you can adjust your settigns for day/night recording, frame rate, capture rate, and record time in minutes, hours, or even days. The aspherical lens has a 112 degree field of vision, with a rotation capability of 120 degrees.  Images are nice quality but can be blurry at a slow shutter speed.  The manual focus can also be wonky.
Now what makes the TLC 200 especially useful is the huge number of accessories that are available.  Yeah sure after paying in the area of $300 you might think spending more is excessive but truly bring out the full capabilities of the camera such as a clear, waterproof housing, wall mount, motion sensor, bike mount, interchangeable lenses, an OTG card reader, and stop motion shutter release cable.  Yes it’s a bit of a “toy” type of item and by that an item you don’t have to have but one that’s a lot of fun.
Ogio Gambit Backpack (Ogio)
Grade: A-
Price: $90
The Ogio Gambit is a backpack designed with the techie in mind but would also work perfectly for any student.  The backpack is 20” x 15”x11” deep and weighs about 3 lbs. The pack has 17 different zippers which open a variety of pockets and compartments to hold all of your gadgets and accessories or school books and supplies.
The main compartment isfleece lined and can accommodate a 15” laptop and features a side pocket with stretchable securing strap.  There’s a padded compartment for tablets, a compartment for your mouse and a digital camera or headphones, two side pockets, two side water bottle/accessory compartments, a crush proof tech vault pocket for items like flash drives for example, an accessory compartment for smaller items like pens, batteries, a portable hard drive, cables, charging units, cell phone, etc…
While there’s a lot there and it is heavier than the average backpack you can get from a department store, the Gambit is also exceptionally comfortable.  The front straps are heavily padded and are adjustable at the sides as well as the strap that goes across your chest to give a comfortable and ergonomic fit.  There is also extensive padding on the outside of the pack in the areas that will be up against your lower back and neck.  The center of the Gambit which lies across your back has a heavy molded protection zone to keep the pack from crumpling and also to keep it lying flat against your back and distributing the weight.
Maybe the thing I like best about the gambit is that it is constructed with rugged, heavy duty materials which means it will last.  In fact it comes with a three year warranty.  I know that no backpack that I have ever bought my kids for school has lasted beyond one year which makes it well worth the price compared to spending $ a year on a new one.  I expect this one to outlast its warranty period.  Love this item! 
Crossfade M-100 Headphones (V-Moda)
Grade: A
Price: $299
No one says you have to produce a great item in great packaging but it sure as heck helps.  So lets start with the top of the line packaging for the V-Moda Crossfade M-100, over-the-ear headphones.  A small but sturdy hexagonal box with a cloth handle and a cloth button snap.  Open it up and you have heavy duty, molded foam securing the unit in place.  The headphone come in a gorgeous but rugged carrying case that zips closed and includes spots for your cables.  Utilizing V-Moda’s CliqFold hinges, the headphones fold up to an incredibly small footprint, smaller in fact than Beats Audio.  As the name implies the headphones click into place securely when folded to fit in the travel case.
The headphones themselves are equally rugged with a Steelflex headband which is welcome as I have broke more than one plastic headband in my day.  The outside of the ear cushions feature metal shields which are made of aircraft grade metal and tested beyond military level standards.  You can purchase optional, laser etched custom shields with your logo or perhaps favorite team and they come in a variety of colors.  The ear cushions are made of memory foam so they contour naturally to your face for maximum comfort. 
Ok so now that you know they are made well, how about the most important aspect…the sound!  Put these on and you get an unparalleled audio experience as if you were getting a private show in the best concert hall.  The Crossfade M-100 easily trumps Beats Audio, especially in the bass department which is full and rich but doesn’t get muddled like other headphones.  Vocals are, again, much cleaner than Beats as are the highs.  Beats has a tendency to be scratchy sharp with its highs.  The sound virtually envelops you.  Close your eyes and the sounds seems like it is all around you, again as if in a concert hall.  The Crossfade also excels at cutting down sound leakage.  If turned up loud enough you can hear the sound if you’re sitting next to someone wearing them but I dare you to tell me what sound is playing.  
And speaking of having the sound turned up, go ahead!  These sound fantastic with no distortion even at full volume.  Dual headphone inputs allow real-time mixing capability by allowing you to listen to multiple sources simultaneously. The Crossdade M-100 comes with what they call a SpeakEasy cable with mic for universal compatibility and communication. An additional SharePlay cable is included to allow you to share your sound with your friends and daisy chain sets together.  They also include a stereo input adapter.
Yes these are definitely a luxury item but built of the finest quality materials, featuring outstanding sound and comfort, with a variety of custom options, you simply can’t go wrong with these.
Satechi Smart LED Desk Lamp (Satechi)
Grade: B
Price: $99
I don’t see that well in the dark so when I am up late writing I have to leave a decent amount of light on which just wastes electricity and bugs my wife.  This is where the Satechi LED Desk Lamp has been a beneficial new addition to my desk.  This high-efficiency desk lamp only uses about 1/8th of the energy of a standard incandescent lamp and half the energy of a fluorescent lamp.
The lamp comes with four different lighting modes: a Reading mode with a bright natural light that reduces eye strain.  This is my mode of choice when working on my laptop.  The second mode is called study mode which features a slightly brighter color with a blue tint designed to increase concentration.  Relaxation mode is about half as bright as Reading mode with a slightly yellow tint that is supposed to promote relaxation.  Finally there is Bedtime mode which is supposed to encourage sleep.  I never use the Bedtime mode ad I’m not planning on sleeping at my desk but this would be your lowest light choice.  There is an up and down brightness adjustment which can be used with any of the modes.  The lamp also feature a one-button timer which will turn the lamp off after one hour of inactivity.
The top portion of the lamp where the actual lights are can tilt up or down at 140 degrees.  The base of the lamp can also be turned, again at 130 degrees so you have a good degree of flexibility with positioning.  The lamp has a wide and heavy base so you likely won’t have to worry about knocking it over.  As an added feature of convenience the lap features a USB port on its base that allows you to charge any USB device although it does not come with a cable.
While definitely functional and diverse, my only issue with the Satechi Smart Lamp is the $99 price tag.  This is a bit of a high price point for a desk lamp, even one with all of these features.  Maybe $30 too high.
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hanso 10/14/2013 5:52:44 AM

For Fall,  I bought myself the Wii U to play some Zelda Wind Waker and looking forward to getting Mario 3D World soon.  Was planning on buying Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze but it got delayed to February.

Also got the PS4 preordered and paid off, thinking of getting Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Knack for the system.  Possibly NBA 2k14.

Got the Xbox 1 pre ordered but still haven't decided if I'll get it or not.  The launch lineup is similar to the PS4's and I lean to the PS4 launch exclusives.  


BunyonSnipe 10/15/2013 12:04:02 AM

Looks like I'll be getting the PS4, too...

Titanfall is the only title on the XB1 that I like the look of and that's going to be on PC, too, so my mind has been made up for me...




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