Reviews

A "TouchCast" review of the Distil Union Wally Case


TouchCast is an interesting iPad only (there's a PC desktop version) app that allows "interactive" videos. Watch the review of the Distil Union Wally Case. You'll notice in the upper right hand corner the "Watch Interactive Version". Click there to go to the TouchCast web site.

Notice how the on video elements are reflected in the page below the video. You can also click on the graphic elements to go to the linked page - all while the video continues to play.

A YML On-the-Fly Review of the Libratone.com Zipp Speaker

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On YML just before Christmas, Shawn surprised Bill and Ian with an "On-the-Fly Review" of the very cool Libratone Zipp Speaker. The boys had fun playing with the speaker live on the air. This is the edited video of that review. We hope you enjoy it and, as always, please let us know what you think.

AirPort Express (2012)

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Pros: Excellent value, Compact for travel, AirTunes audio streaming

Cons: Lower throughput than Extreme and Time Capsule, No gigabit ethernet ports

CrashPlan CrashPlan+

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Pros: Customizable membership plans, Desktop and iOS app work seamlessly together, Multiple ways to restore your data

Cons: Size limit when restoring files from Web Restore, Initial backup can be slow.

Lab Tested: The new iPad 2 and old iPad 2

As reported by sites like AnandTech, the folks at Chipworks discovered that Apple is using a different production process for its A5 processors. The company switched from using Samsung Semiconductor’s 45nm process to Samsung’s 32nm process, reducing the size of the chip by 41 percent.

The smaller size could mean better performance or lower power consumption. To see if we could find any measurable performance differences between the two versions of the iPad 2, we purchased a brand new model and ran our standard set of tests on them.

In our performance tests, we found the two iPad 2s to be nearly as identical as their outside appearances.

FileMaker Pro 12

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Pros: Enhanced design capabilities. Embed multimedia files in databases. New script styles. Over 40 new themes. Great charting improvements.

Cons: Existing databases upgraded to new format with no user control. Clients on legacy version can't connect to new database format.

Adobe Lightroom 4 reviewed

Pros: Half the price of Lightroom 3, GPS and mapping features, Tonal recovery updates are very good, More localized adjustments, Book layouts are easy and sleek, Basic video editing

Cons: New chromatic aberration filter is not that great, Some minor bugs like import thumbnails not updating, No improvements to the weak Grain effect introduced in Lightroom 3 and no film-like grading profiles, Online video and photo service support limited without additional plug-ins

Camera+ 3.0 Review

Few iPhone apps have managed to substantially improve on the functionalities offered by Apple in its core system apps. Tap tap tap’s Camera+, a popular alternative to Apple’s Camera app, is one of them, and the 3.0 version released today takes a major leap in turning Camera+ into a more powerful solution to shoot, edit, and share photos online, as well as providing a solid foundation other developers can integrate their apps with.

Photoshop Lightroom 4

Pros: Develop module is better organized, Added brushing tools, New video management tools, New Map module includes reverse geotagging, Book module with Blurb integration and PDF output, Email capability for sending photos from the app, Lower price compared to previous versions, New DNG conversion options, New soft proofing capability

Cons: Can't stitch video snippets together, No Mac Address Book integration for email

Nike+ FuelBand

Good Stuff: Simple, elegant design, Feels good on the wrist, Wireless syncing is a breeze, Fuel encourages participation and follow-through

Bad Stuff: Rubber coating is easily marred, Limited social network integration, Only recognizes activities where you move your wrists, No sleep monitoring

Wacom Intuos5

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Pros: Touch and pen interface, ExpressKeys HUD is useful and unintrusive, All tablet sizes feature wireless option, New design

Cons: Wireless option slightly clunkier than Bluetooth

Olloclip vs. iPro Lens review

There’s no question that the iPro Lens takes better pictures, and its handle gives it a leg up on videos, too. The Olloclip, on the other hand, comes in a much smaller, more convenient package that outshined the iPro when I was on the go. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

The Olloclip goes for $69, while the iPro Len System will set you back almost three times that, at $199. With that significant price difference in mind, it all comes down to priorities. If you’re looking to get the most out of your iPhone’s camera and don’t mind a bulkier package or steeper price, the iPro’s the way to go. But for casual users who’d like to spice up their phone’s camera without breaking the bank or toting around extra hardware, the Olloclip’s just fine.

Olympus Pen E-P3

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Pros:
Excellent overall performance, Good still and video image quality, Built-in flash, Full complement of manual and auto controls, OLED Semi-touchscreen

Cons:
Pricey, Confusing menu system beyond the basics, Weak flash output, Only 3 frames per second continuous shooting

Pixelmator 2.0

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Pros:
A wealth of tools and features, Clean and fluid interface, Robust brush support (Photoshop brush compatible), Illustrator-style vector pen and shape tools, Support for OS X Lion Auto Save and Versions., Export to Mail, iPhoto, and other apps/services, Fresh filters and clever filter interface

Cons:
No adjustment or fill layers, Vector shapes cannot be filled with gradients, Palettes do not snap/dock together

Review: iPhone 4S

Jim: I love you, Siri

Siri: Impossible

Jim: No really, I love you

Siri: I hope you don’t say that to those other mobile phones, Jim

Jim: No way, I only love you Siri

Siri: You are the wind beneath my wings

Jim: That’s nice. I’m glad you know I love you

Siri: All you need is love. And your iPhone...

iPhone 4S Review: It's a Sure Thing

The iPhone 4S follows Apple’s recent trajectory of iPhone releases: It’s an object of some appeal to people who last upgraded their phones a year ago, and over the next year a great many of them will find it worthwhile to upgrade to the iPhone 4S. But to all those people who’ve been hanging on to their iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS, the wait is over: It’s time to upgrade without any hesitation whatsoever.

Video Monkey

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Convert, encode and tag videos with metadata at the same time

Pros: Can convert video and add metadata; offers Apple presets
Cons: Confusing, plain interface

Alfred

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I’ve been using Alfred for many months. On the surface it’s an app launcher, and that’s how I use it most of the time. After assigning a hotkey combination (I chose Command-Space), its main window is only a tap away. From there, start typing the name of the app you’re after and hit Return to launch it.

But that’s just the beginning. Here are some of the other useful tasks Alfred performs for me.

Review: Eight iPhone 4 Battery Cases

Compared to some of its competitors, the iPhone 4’s battery life is surprisingly good. But few of us would complain about squeezing a few more hours between recharges. And, of course, many iPhone 4s have been in use for over a year now, so their battery life is gradually getting shorter. In my quest to extend my phone's daily life, I tested eight iPhone 4 cases that include built-in batteries for powering the phone.

Customized Core i7 Mac mini offers iMac like Performance

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Want iMac-like performance, without having to buy an iMac? You can get such a machine from Apple if you customize the new Mac mini. Macworld Lab has tested a build-to-order (BTO) Mac mini, and the results in some of our tests are very close to that of a standard configuration 21.5-inch 2.5GHz Core i5 iMac.

The BTO Mac mini we tested doesn’t come cheap, however.

Ways to make Web Watching more like TV, less like a PC

Some folks watch movies, TV shows and videos from the Internet on their TVs by plugging in their computers, using ugly cables, keyboards, or mice that seem out of place in the living room. That PC-to-TV experience is more like using the computer than leaning back to enjoy TV.

So this week, I decided to try out three inexpensive set-top boxes that aim to make this process easier and neater. They are the $100 Roku 2 XS, the $99 second-generation Apple TV and the $199 Boxee Box from D-Link.

Of the three, I’d recommend Apple TV primarily for people who frequently use iTunes, or who own an iPad or iPhone. I’d recommend Roku for people who aren’t hooked on the Apple world and crave simplicity, variety and a low entry price. I’d only recommend the Boxee Box for techies because of its complexity.

How to Outfit the iPad 2 to make Typing easier

Although it’s a smash hit, Apple’s iPad isn’t winning the hearts of users who find it difficult to type on its onscreen keyboard. And even for many who love their iPads for other things and can type shorter items on the screen, the lack of a physical keyboard has meant they still must turn to their laptops for intensive typing tasks.

One solution to this dilemma has been to carry a separate wireless keyboard. But that means carrying two things. So a number of companies offer protective cases for the iPad 2 with low-profile, but real, keyboards built right into their inner surfaces. These keyboards appear when you open the cases, which act as stands for the tablet while you type.

I’ve been testing four such iPad 2 combo keyboard cases.

Ars reviews the mid-2011 MacBook Air

Pros:
Size and weight
Good screen
Excellent backlit keyboard
Long maximum battery life
CPU performance on par with last year's MacBook Pros
Thunderbolt port
Network recovery

Cons:
No Kensington slot
Network options are a bottleneck for local file transfers
Hard to get the best battery performance in real-world use
Software support for higher resolution display incomplete
iLife software tied to your account, can't be resold with the machine
Network recovery

Lab tests: Build-to-order Core i7 MacBook Airs

How fast is a MacBook Air when it's powered by an Intel Core i7 processor? Now that we've posted performance reports for the standard-configuration MacBook Airs, it was time to turn our attention to testing the optional, build-to-order (BTO) configurations of Apple’s latest line of ultra-portable computers.

Review: 13-inch MacBook Air

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With OS X Lion pre-installed, the MacBook Air gives users Apple’s latest hardware, including some of the industries fastest technologies and the most modern operating system on the market today.

The 13-inch MacBook Air is the computer that all other laptops will be measured against. It has power, portability, and a sleek design that is only matched by other MacBooks.

Western Digital's 3 TB MyBook Studio perfect for pre-Lion Backups

For Mac users looking for a relatively inexpensive external backup drive with FireWire 800 connectivity plenty of space, the Western Digital MyBook Studio 3 TB is just the ticket. If you only have USB 2.0 or just need a slow and steady backup drive, there are many other less expensive external drives. For example, Western Digital's WD Elements 3 TB USB-only drive can be purchased through Amazon for about $150; a tremendous bargain.

I like Western Digital's attention to the Mac market, and this drive is a perfect example of the meld of form and function that Mac users love.

First look: Spotify

Spotify, the popular-in-Europe music subscription service has arrived in the U.S.

The service is available in three flavors—free (you can listen to a limited number of hours of music per month), Unlimited ($5 a month with unlimited listening), and Premium ($10 a month with unlimited listening, higher bit rate tracks, and support for downloads and mobile listening).

I’ve had experience with the current crop of domestic streaming services—Napster, Rhapsody, Mog, and Rdio—and have now browsed through Spotify. Here’s what I’ve found while using a Premium plan.

Third Rail zaps iPhone Case Market with Detachable Battery Pack

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The US$89.99 Third Rail system includes the iPhone 4 case and a single 'Smart Battery' bundled together, although both components will also be available separately ($39.99 for the case and $59.99 for additional batteries). The case is straightforward black, and it fits snugly on the iPhone 4 with a bit of effort.

Photoshop Touch SDK drives Three Adobe iPad Apps

Adobe's traditional user base of creatives are some of the most computationally resource-intensive folk I can think of (along with hard-core gamers and scientists). So how does a company like Adobe jump on the tablet money train without having to develop a host of new applications? Let others do it for them. And voila: the Photoshop Touch software developer's kit, which will make it possible to create an ecosystem of tablet-based products capable of driving Photoshop. Along with the SDK, Adobe's delivering three iPad apps designed to use it: Color Lava, Eazel, and Nav.

It's a great idea; since a tablet is too underpowered to do "real" work, why not make it the interface to a computer that does the heavy lifting? Of course, it's not a new concept--just a thin client reborn for the 21st century, or alternatively, turning your PC into a cloud. It will enable app development for Android, BlackBerry, and iOS platforms, in addition to Mac OS and Windows systems.

Plus, since the apps only work with Photoshop CS5 (with a free update patch to 12.04), it may serve as an inspiration for all those laggardly CS4 upgraders to cough up the bucks. Or subscribe. By default, the SDK communicates via iTunes and Bonjour, if you don't have either, you can configure it to operate via a peer-to-peer network.

In my mind, the three apps aren't terribly useful, except as illustrations of a few types of ways the SDK interacts with Photoshop.