Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category

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JDS Labs Bass Boost CMoy v2.02 Impressions

March 4, 2010

Headphone amps are pretty much standard equipment in the setups of audiophiles everywhere. Over the past few weeks, I’ve been doing a lot of research on headphone amps and come across a number of different amps in all shapes and sizes but the one type of amp that piqued my interest was the “CMoy” amp. This type of amp, designed years ago by Chu Moy is an unconventional but powerful amp design that can be made by anyone with the right parts and a soldering iron. Well, I don’t consider myself one of the handiest of guys with a soldering iron at the moment so, instead of taking a chance and trying to build one myself, I decided to buy one that had been pre-made from a company called JDS Labs. After a few hours of listening, I’m impressed.

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Why I Chose a Netbook Over the iPad

February 13, 2010

Yes, I know I’ve been writing a lot about the iPad as of late. Just bear with me here.

Since the announcement of the iPad, the latest in a long line of portable gadgets from Apple, I’ve been thinking long and hard about this thing and trying to find a place for it in my day to day life. While I haven’t exactly caught the iPad fever here, I’ve warmed up a bit to the concept of the device. It’s the sort of device that seems to have a certain niche appeal and will end up polarizing the market. One trip to one of the many gadget blogs and websites out there will show you that it has already done an excellent job of doing just that. In thinking of the iPad, I was drawn to another gadget, a gadget that saw its beginnings in 2007 with the launch of ASUS’s now famous Eee PC.

With the launch of that tiny laptop designed for browsing the net on the go, the netbook was born, and created a new segment of the PC market which has exploded since and made significant gains in terms of marketshare and popularity. These little portable laptops, most of which are powered by Intel’s underpowered (for the purpose of delivering long battery life) but enduring Atom processor, have become a staple among consumers looking for a small device that’s capable of checking email, playing YouTube clips, updating Facebook profiles and writing MS Word documents and be thrown easily into a backpack or purse at a moment’s notice. While Apple has yet to produce a product that could be classified as a netbook, they’ve certainly taken notice. In fact, Steve Jobs aimed a shot at netbooks in his presentation prior to the unveiling of the iPad, calling them slow, clunky and bogged down by “PC” software (an obvious jab at Windows). After hearing this, I began to think, “Are netbooks truly inferior to whatever Apple has cooked up?” Well, after seeing what exactly Apple has created here, I don’t think so.

While it’s quite obvious that netbooks have their limitations, the iPad has quite a few limitations of its own. Quite frankly, I’d even go as far as to say that the iPad has more limitations than the average netbook and I’m going to run down a list of them as I continue on.

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The iPad and Gaming

January 30, 2010

I’ve already posted my initial thoughts on whether or not the iPad needs to exist within Apple’s hardware ecosystem but now I’m going to shift gears and examine what the iPad means for gamers. After all, the main focus of Apple’s iPod Touch refresh last summer was gaming so it’s clear that Apple wants a nice big slice of the portable gaming pie that had previously been dominated by the likes of Nintendo and Sony with their DS and PSP systems. Now, the iPhone and iPod Touch represent logical gaming platforms and legitimate challengers to Nintendo and Sony’s portable gaming dominance because of their competitive price points, abundance of features in and outside of gaming, generally far cheaper prices for games and portability. The iPad on the other hand, is a different story altogether. While it has been said that the iPad will run most of the applications (in this case, meaning games) designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch, the real question is not only whether or not the average Joe will want to play games on the iPad as opposed to the already firmly established Nintendo DS or Sony PSP but whether or not someone will want to play a game on the iPad as opposed to the iPhone or iPod Touch.

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The iPad: Why Does This Need to Exist Again?

January 28, 2010

Before you read, keep in mind that these are my gut reactions and are meant to be taken with a grain of salt.

Earlier today (or yesterday, if you want to get technical) I was in the midst of a History class while Apple unleashed their latest invention upon the world so I missed all of the liveblogs and typical launch fervor that was surely running rampant throughout the internet around 1PM EST but after coming home and seeing just what Apple’s iPad is going to be when it releases in approximately 60 days’ time, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed. After the veritable deluge of rumors and speculation that has been spreading through gadget blogs for months now, I was expecting more. I was expecting more or less an Apple netbook (minus the keyboard) running a pared down version of OSX for $500 – $1,000, I was not expecting Apple to unveil what is essentially a giant iPod Touch. Honestly, given its feature set, I have no idea why this thing needs to exist, especially at the prices Apple is charging for the different versions of the thing (and there are a lot of them).

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Thoughts About the Zune HD

August 5, 2009

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If you’ve been reading my prior blog posts, dating back to about two years ago to the present, you’ll probably remember that I purchased one of the Halo 3 Edition Zunes. In those two years, I’ve grown to love my little 30GB Zune, as it has delivered just about everything I could reasonably expect from an MP3 player. Music quality was great, videos were watchable on its small LCD screen, the FM radio is a very nice addition (albeit underutilized recently due to my dislike of the music radio stations tend to play these days), and the wi-fi, even if its implementation was somewhat half assed at first, has been upgraded in recent updates to add wireless syncing and access to the Zune Marketplace through hotspots. Sure, leaving the wi-fi on nukes the battery life but the features are nice to have nonetheless. It almost goes without saying that I’m a bit of a Zune fanboy.

After two years, the Zune 30 has become a bit dated next to its younger siblings, the Zune 120 and flash based Zunes and a number of other MP3 players like the Creative Zen, Samsung’s P series and, of course, the iPod Touch, the MP3 player that has inspired so many clones as other companies attempt to cash on both it and the iPhone’s runaway success. As I sat and watched the first public unveiling of the iPhone and later the iPod Touch, I began to hope that Microsoft had a Zune Phone or Zune Touch in the works to combat them. Well, a while ago, my hopes were answered in the form of the Zune HD, Microsoft’s answer to the iPod Touch.

The Zune HD packs a number of interesting features such as a 3.3 inch OLED capacitive multitouch touchscreen sporting a 480 x 272 resolution which should prove exceptional for viewing videos. The interface is very similar to the interface already seen on current Zunes which may or may not be a good thing. On one hand, it appears fully functional and easily usable but next to the iPod Touch and iPhone, the UI runs the risk of looking a bit dated.

Outside of the touchscreen, the ZuneHD packs in a number of new features and upgrades such as the inclusion of HD radio. There hasn’t been much information released in regards to how the radio will integrate with the Zune HD but based on how the radio was integrated and later improved upon in current Zunes, this should allow for tagging songs for purchase later on the Zune Marketplace through their RDBS data. It’s pretty much a given that the radio will offer far better quality over the current Zunes due to the superior digital signal so there is no doubt that the inclusion of HD radio will be a great new feature.

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In the time since the announcement of the Zune HD, gadget blogs such as Engadget and Gizmodo and larger tech oriented sites such as CNET have had the chance to play around with prototype versions of the Zune HD and initial impressions seem to be very positive. The UI has been very snappy and video has looked fantastic. At this point, I’m less worried about the hardware capabilities of the player and more about whether or not the device will be able to stand up to the inevitable onslaught that will be levied against it in the form of the iPod Touch. It’s no secret that Apple has a stranglehold on the MP3 player market and rules with an iron fist. The iPod Touch is an amazing device on its own due to its intuitive multitouch interface, excellent web browsing experience and its great media playback abilities, but what truly makes the iPod Touch stand out among the crowd is the revolution known as the App Store.

Since its debut alongside the iPhone 3G, the App Store has matured into a force to be reckoned with of unparalleled size and scope and has inspired many copy cats and imitators. To date, none of these imitators have even come close to matching what Apple has created. Now it may seem like I’ve gone off on a tangent but this is directly related to the Zune HD. If the Zune HD is to make any sort of dent in the market, it will need something along the lines of the App Store. It would be too much to ask of Microsoft to expect them to be able to stand toe to toe with the likes of Apple right out of the gate but they will need an ace up their sleeve to be able to take on the reigning champion and I don’t think HD radio is going to be enough.

Overall, the Zune HD looks to be a very impressive piece of technology and a nice addition to the Zune family. I have been impressed by what little I’ve seen so far and hope that new information released about the player will be just as impressive. It remains to be seen if the Zune HD will have a real competitive edge that will make its long, uphill battle against Apple a bit easier. This is something the original Zunes had problems with. While I think the Zune 120 was head and shoulders ahead of its 120 GB iPod Classic counterpart, the market obviously didn’t share the sentiment and Microsoft has a great deal of work ahead of them if they want to convince the market that they truly have the superior product.

That is, if they do indeed have an iPod Touch killer on their hands.

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I Bought an iPod Touch

July 25, 2009

iPod Touch

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been somewhat of a Zune fanboy. I certainly had my reasons. My first MP3 player was a 20 GB iPod that I loved for about a year, until the hard drive was somehow corrupted and it stopped working. After several unsuccessful attempts to resurrect my poor iPod, I gave up and tossed it aside in favor of using other devices to satisfy my MP3 playing needs. For a while, I was getting by with just my PSP and whatever songs I could cram onto its memory stick but that just wasn’t enough. Two years ago, Microsoft released the Halo 3 Edition Zune and, in the midst of my Halo 3 fanboyism, I snapped it up without a second thought and instantly fell in love. The Zune isn’t the perfect MP3 player, but in my mind, it was incredibly underrated. But I digress…

Ever since the announcement of the iPhone and the subsequent announcement of the iPod Touch, I’ve been following the two gadgets closely but I must say that my interest in the iPhone is virtually nil, due to the fact that I am a Verizon customer and the iPhone is saddled with AT&T. This is a carrier I’ve heard naught but bad things about in regards to call quality and signal reception, two things that are rather important when it comes to phones. Perhaps when the iPhone makes the jump to Verizon’s vastly superior network (I’m a bit of a Verizon fanboy as well), then I’ll get excited about it.

So, the iPod Touch was the device I latched onto and grew increasingly fond of over the past few months and, after just as many months of quiet consideration, I bought one. After being on the fence for so long, what finally pushed me over the edge? Unsurprisingly, I finally caved after having a few opportunities to actually use the device and after using the iPod Touch, I was convinced. I had to have one.

You see, I’m the type of tech nerd that is constantly searching for “that device” and other tech nerds will know what I’m talking about. It’s that one, magical device that will do everything you want it to do, be it playing MP3s, videos, making phone calls, sending e-mail, internet browsing, whatever. You name it, that device does it. Arguably, the iPhone is the closest any device has ever come but I’ve already explained why I’m not gushing about that.

And there you have it. I’ve been using it over the past few days and I love it. Honestly, I really wanted to wait for the Zune HD to see what it would offer to counter the iPod Touch beyond what little we know such as the inclusion of the Nvidia Tegra chip and integrated HD radio but I’m quite the impatient fellow when it comes to things like this and Microsoft’s slow trickle of information related to the Zune HD has turned me off and yes, I fully understand that this is standard operating procedure for corporations such as these. So far, the iPod Touch is pretty much everything I was hoping it would be and provides one of the best experiences I’ve had with a portable device because it comes the closest to being “that device”.

I’m considering writing up a full review of the iPod Touch over the next couple days and maybe doing a little video review or something. We’ll see. For now, I’ll just say that I’m impressed with the iPod Touch and very happy with my purchase and leave it that.