It’s hard to believe how different a hot commute in hair-pulling traffic can be from a balmy mid-afternoon drive on an open road in the countryside — both in the same car. Nothing brings back the freedom of summer like a great drive, and unless you’re cursed with a 36-month lease of a kiddie-hauler that now smells like sour milk, it’s high time you planned just such a trip. Now it’s time to get you equipped.
Because things could get ugly quickly
Maybe you’ve heard about them — there’s no way you haven’t — but Google is pushing a new eyewear gadget poised to revolutionize(!) how we interact with technology. It’s called Google Glass, and its current form makes even the those Rec Specs wearers from your youth soccer days look like Steve McQueen. The internet backhanders have already made a Tumblr about it, god bless ‘em. But as awkward as they are today, chances are that tech’d up eyewear is here to stay. It’s up to us to deal with it. So we decided to show some initiative by drafting a few ground rules. And we’re counting on you to buy in.
Ditch the hulk for some helpful tech
Most of us are out of touch with our bodies. We clueless about calories, how much we’re walking in a day, or even how to check our own heart rate. Luckily, there’s a host of new fitness trackers that make training truly personal. Strap them onto your wrist or toss them in your pocket and they’ll track your every move — every step you take, every minute you sleep, every calorie you inhale or burn off. Read on for our five best bets for prying you off the couch — and tracking your efforts.
Keep your tablet tickin'
The iPad’s extreme portability is simultaneously glaringly obvious and overlooked in favor of its flashier tech wonders. The take-it-anywhere-ness of the iPad is also perhaps its biggest downside: we tend to treat it like the things it replaced, the books and magazines that we could toss without a care. That usually doesn’t work out well. Here are 30 great options — leather, wool, propped, or otherwise — that should keep your tablet ticking and looking good.
What's that, now?
A respite from noise might seem thin on paper, but spend a few hours on an inescapable airplane with crying babies, heaving green-faced passengers or even a chatty cathy neighbor and get back to us on what you’re willing to pay for a little peace and music. What’s more, NC options have some of the best sound profiles available, making them true gems for audiophiles and the easily distracted alike. Considering the vastly small market for noise-canceling headsets available at the moment, the problem isn’t necessarily narrowing down the field — it’s choosing the best one for your audio needs. From pioneering audio staples to buzzing newcomers, these are the noise cancelers worth turning your ears to.
Call for backup
Doubling battery life is a no-brainer. Options run the gamut for solutions to Apple’s latest quick-to-die wonder — and we really mean run the gamut. It’s a bit of the Wild West in the battery case world at the moment, so start here with our five best selections, then do your homework and make sure what you choose will get you what you want.
Don't call it a video game
You’re sitting on the grid at Road America in a classic Lotus 79. The red turns green and you light ‘em up. Accelerating hard down the front straight, you dice for racing room with two or three dozen other drivers around the world before pouring into turn one. Yep, you read that right. Those other drivers aren’t FROM around the world, they ARE around the world. This is internet racing on iRacing.com
Speakers that speak for themselves
Pursue perfection. Some people — people at the top of their games — consider it a personal mantra. That theory holds for the design world, too, and it’s why industrial designer Joey Roth recently released a third version of his celebrated speaker system. Apparently, he just wasn’t satisfied yet.
It wasn’t so long ago that 10-key calculators and instant messenger were the most exciting things happening to technology. But nowadays, tech moves fast — new computer segments are born and buried quicker with each passing year. Don’t let that scare you away from the good ole desktop, though. All-in-ones have more to offer than ever: effective touchscreens with the UI to back them up (Windows 8), high-def displays that can easily double as TV screens (thanks to HDMI and built-in TV tuners), and slimmer profiles for fitting just about anywhere.
Sure, it’s tough explaining to grandma where to put the floppy disc, but we’ll leave that to you. Before choosing which one is right for you, though, figure out just what it is you need. Whether that means sexy looks, entertainment nirvana or a gamer’s sweaty-palmed fantasy, our five picks for the best all-in-one desktops are awaiting below to help out.
Smartphones have made typical point-and-shoots about as useful as Ryan Lochte in a public speaking class. But until our favorite thigh weights gain a thicker skin, there will always be space for tougher rigs designed to take a licking and keep on clicking. Toss one of these rugged cameras into your bag before your next big adventure, and maybe you’ll finally capture some evidence to go along with that hell of a yarn.
The term “noise canceling headphones” almost always summons images of big puffy over-the-ear numbers. As wonderful as those can be, they’re bulky to pack if you’re traveling light, and during workouts, they suck — providing a feeling akin to sweating with scones strapped to your head. Austrian headphone maker AKG’s K391 NC offer up noise canceling features in a compact package. We tried out a pair.
Don't Call Them Point-and-Shoots
The point-and-shoot market may have hit a smartphone camera iceberg, but the ship hasn’t sunk yet. In fact, bitter competition has sped up the photography arms race, producing a wide field of top-tier compact cameras with big sensors — at a better price. Boasting image quality more than good enough to be deemed professional, these cameras can be a useful tool for the prosumer and feverish enthusiast alike, providing an infinitely more portable, all-in-one option rather than bulky DSLRs while sharing many of the same features and image quality.
That said, it’s up to you sharpen the focus on what you really need. We don’t mind walking a few steps to get the right shot — so our choices hone in on the best compact cameras that sport big sensors, fixed lenses and fast focusing. There’s a big field of small shooters; we’re here to slim it all down to the cream of the crop.
Where to store it when the going gets tough
In today’s digital era of technology, “Knowledge is Power” has taken on a much broader meaning as data becomes our most valued asset. How we as users go about portably accessing and backing up these personal files — music, photos, financial documents, and third-party software — has proven to be just as critical. Whether it’s the aspiring music producer shopping beats around to labels or the established accountant keeping tabs of clients’ paper trails, everyone can use a sturdy and high-functioning portable hard drive, especially those who remain adventurous and (naturally or otherwise) accident prone.
We’re talking an external device that can withstand the daily wear and tear. Something that can handle being tossed in the messenger bag; something that can survive a natural disaster. Need we remind you of Hurricane Sandy, or of last Friday’s party at your place? Didn’t think so. Luckily for you, there’s a handful of damage-proof HHDs available sure to safeguard all your stored data — and we’ve found the best.
There’s no shortage of speakers vying for your computer’s affections. The trouble is, most have land grab aspirations that put Ted Turner’s to shame. Nocs NS2 Air Monitors ($450) are precisely designed to suit even the “coziest” of desktop environments, but like any child of the information age, prefer not to be pigeonholed by any single role.
Don't Sweat The Wet
Problem: you want to use your DSLR to shoot some rad watersport photos, but standing on the shoreline or using those disposable waterproof cameras isn’t nearly rad enough. And even less rad is trying to fit your personal rig into a Ziplock freezer bag to protect it from the wet. Solution: Outex waterproof DSLR covers.
This is the incredible technology you're looking for
Want to use simple hand gestures to move around robots, control iTunes, play video games and way, way more without spending an entire lunar cycle on Dagobah bunking with a rambunctious green midget? The MYO gesture control armband ($149) is the answer.
This system is no P.O.S.
Brick-and-mortar merchants looking for a point of sale system that isn’t a POS can end their search here. Powered by Square’s mobile payment system, Business in a Box ($249+) is a point of sale solution designed to handle small business needs with ease while keeping the IRS at bay.
Putting the polish on chrome
If the new breed of “convertible” Windows 8 laptops hasn’t left you more confused than a barber with Troy Polamalu in his seat, then Google’s latest venture into the hardware world should do the trick. The Google Chromebook Pixel ($1,299) is a high-end laptop running Google’s own Chrome OS. Not familiar with the software? It’s a browser on steroids, optimized for web content along with a growing number of browser-based applications — and that’s about it.
Find your digital training partner
You can’t manage what you don’t measure. That is true for endurance athletes tracking caloric expenditure and substrate utilization or weekend warriors just looking to stay fit. It is nearly impossible to know if you are getting stronger, faster and leaner without some tools for measurement. Thanks to our rapacious demand for data, we’ve seen an explosion in the number of devices and services to help improve performance, from GPS to power meters to physiological testing services.
But even with all these advancements, we still find ourselves asking more of the the same questions: What should I measure? What do I do with the data? What technology should I actually buy? To help answer these questions we’ve got five training technologies that will help give context to your rides, improve your performance and best your training buddies.
Above its Station
There’s no doubt about it: Sony’s Fourth Generation PlayStation has a hell of a lot to live up to. Sony’s video game rock star has absolutely shaped the gaming world, and the tech world in general, leading the way through three iterations of gaming domination, DVDs, Blu-rays and a massive library of titles. But today’s gaming market is a whole different beast. At an introduction event Wednesday, Sony revealed some of what’s to come in the new console, though quite a bit was (maddeningly) kept under wraps.
Finally the One for you?
HTC has a solid track record for making incredible Android phones such as the One X and more recent Droid DNA. But they’ve never gained the brand recognition of titans like Samsung. Thanks to a newly announced flagship, dubbed the HTC One, their time in the spotlight may finally come — granted a few bold bets pay off.
The good kind of cover up
Manufacturers would prefer to regularly pillage your wallet by selling you a screen for every situation — but it doesn’t have to be that way. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover ($80+) can transform your favorite Apple tablet into a laptop-rivaling email burner — and spare you the hassle of lugging a Smart Cover too, since it doubles as a magnetic cover.
Compact price, mid-sized features
Compact cameras are in trouble. Smartphones continue to don sexier optics, allowing the photographer in all of us to carry one less item and still get decent shots of our lunches/cats/sunsets. Not content to just fade away, manufacturers are ramping up the quality and features of their compact cameras to stay relevant. Taking cues from its larger-framed and sensored older brother (The XZ-2), the Olympus Stylus XZ-10 ($351) emerges from this crucible as a true pocket rocket.
Wear your heart on your chest
It’s apparently no longer enough to wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve — or wrist. Under Armour’s new Armour39 system attacks the digital performance monitoring question with a new “bug” device, which comes with a special sleeve that straps to the chest; like other bluetooth-enabled fitness computers, it records exercise data and stores it in the cloud.
It’s easy to think that a bag full of lenses is a good thing — hell, there’s one for nearly every possible use. But what exactly is the perfect lens? In our book, it’s the tried and true 35mm. A perfect medium between wide and normal perspectives, the 35mm lens stands as an indispensable gem for pro shooters and hobbyists alike. As the staple of prime lenses (fixed focus), there’s no shortage of lofty offerings, but owning a Canon or Nikon camera doesn’t mean that brand has a stranglehold on the lenses you can shoot with. In fact, recent offerings have proven that the third party lens is a force to be reckoned with (case in point: the Sigma above). Here, we present five of the best 35mm lens offerings available today that aren’t Canon, Nikon or Sony. Consider it a fresh look on an old-school perspective.
Free your TV
Ever since Sonos entered the streaming audio biz, couch potatoes with money to blow have wondered when they’d get some wireless TLC of their own. The Sonos Playbar ($699) is their long-awaited answer, boasting nine total drivers (six mid woofers and three tweeters), each powered by their own Class D amplifier.
Terms like all-metal enclosure, analog, and hand-made may conjure up thoughts of exorbitant price tags — most often you’d be right — but Meridian proves that occasionally pigs do fly. The British audio stalwart, known for stratospheric priced speakers and components, has unveiled the Meridian Explorer ($299), a pocket-sized USB DAC and headphone amplifier, and we got to try it out.