Tech News on G4

Great gadgets come in small gift packages

Dec 15, 2014

By Greg Gazin - Apple Gazin' - G4 Canada

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Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, but bigger isn't necessarily better or more desirable. So here are a few gift ideas all of which I had an opportunity to test-drive, that are all much smaller than a bread box and some of which might actually fit in the palm of your hand.

High Fidelity Electronic Earplugs

This first one certainly fits the criteria, but it's designed for your ears. The Music•Pro High-Fidelty Electronic Musicians Earplugs by Etymotic Research as the name says is ideally suited for musicians, but equally sensible for anyone to find themselves in environments where hearing protection is without trading off sound fidelity, which something like typical passive earplugs can't accomplish.

Great gadgets come in small gift packagesMusic•Pro Earplugs feature Accu Technology with specially designed dual-mode circuitry that actively monitors sound levels and reacts when necessary. The Natural Hearing mode allows all the sound to come through until it perceives it's surpassed the safety threshold. Then, it automatically kicks in a 15-db sound reduction, so you can still enjoy Mick Fleetwood's hi-hats and Lindsey Buckingham's wailing guitar during Fleetwood Mac's reunion concert without too much loss of sound quality while still protecting your ears. When it's safe, Music•Pro returns to its natural mode. The Enhanced Hearing mode, which can be selected with a tiny switch on each earbud is ideal for ballads and lighter sounds like McCartney's acoustic Yesterday. It offers a 6-db gain to amplify softer sounds and serves up a 9-db reduction when the sound goes out of the safety range. So you're covered, regardless of the environment and they might just save your hearing. Even better, you don't have to take them off during the intermission.

Music•Pro (MP•9-15) retails for $299 U.S. and is available directly from Etymotic and via Amazon. It comes with a wide variety of flange and foam ear tips to give you the best possible fit, a pack of #10 batteries, cleaning and filter tools, a flexible neck cord and protective case.

Great gadgets come in small gift packagesActive Noise Cancelling Wireless Earbuds

The Phiaton PS 210 BTNC is another gift for your ears. They're not diamond earrings, but your ears will certainly appreciate the precious sound these earbuds offer and a collection of features you'd expect to only find on full-sized headphones. These include active noise cancelling, wireless Bluetooth connectivity, decent bass response and with their Everplay-X technology, the ability to still use them without a charged battery.

They have a "half in-ear" designed allowing for balance and a comfortable fit in your ear. The Comply memory foam tips along with Phiaton's "Noise Blocker" technology, designed to eliminate 95% of the ambient background noise will allow you to enjoy your tunes or hear your caller while talking on the phone. The caller benefits too, as Phiaton has also added "Echo-Off", their own noise reduction technology that helps rid the background noise picked up by the in-line mic. 

They sound good too, incorporating apt-X technology for better dynamic range and more efficient streaming. And you can expect to get about 12 hours of talk time or 14 hours of tunes time and 10 days standby on a single charge.

The Phiaton PS 210 BTNC comes with a Neck strap with a full featured clip on remote control, Comply memory foam ear tips, 4 different sized sets of silicone ear tips, 2.5mm to 3.5mm audio and charging cables and a soft protective case to keep them safe. It retails for $149.95 U.S. (about $175 CAD) and you can find them at Amazon.ca right now for about 25% off.

Great gadgets come in small gift packagesMini Desktop Fan and Air Purifier

This ideal little stocking stuffer looks like a 4 or 5-inch desktop speaker but the only sound you'll hear from The Satechi USB Portable Air Purifier & Fan is a slight whirr. This clever little 2-in-1 gadget, designed for a small area, under 100 square will offer you either a slightly cooled breeze, just enough to push around the air a little bit or help you grab fine particles, like dander, dust and pollen from the air.  To change modes all you need to do is expand or compress the housing. When expanded, i.e. pulling out the front, it's a personal fan; compress it and it becomes an air purifier. It has a built-in filter that with ongoing use, should last about a year.  

The Satechi USB Portable Air Purifier & Fan is a cool little gift idea and easy to use. It runs off any USB port or charger, requires no drivers and is totally plug and play. It retails in Canada for $44.95 and is available directly from Satechi.net and Amazon.ca. A replacement filter will run you about $12.

Wireless Compact Multimedia Touchpad Keyboard

If Santa's list includes a keyboard and size is important, consider The Rapoo E2700 Ultra-slim Wireless Multimedia Keyboard with Touchpad as your gift of choice.  It has an 80-key keyboard, including 13 function keys and multimedia controls. It also has a built-in touchpad on the right side (sorry lefties) that offers gesture control so your loved one wouldn't even need to use a mouse. You get all this in a form factor smaller than Apple's Wireless Keyboard and weighing a mere 186 grams.

It works with a PC or Mac, but optimized for Windows 8. It can also be used for a media player and as a SmartTV remote control. You do require to a USB port as the Rapoo E2700 connects to your device through a mini USB 2.4GHz RF receiver.

Great gadgets come in small gift packagesDespite its size, it has a sturdy design reinforced by a metal back plate. The scissor style keys make them fairly responsive to the touch so they don't feel spongy like other compact keyboards. To make it smaller, they did away with the bezel, so there's no wasted real estate and they did have to make some adjustment to a few of the keys. So while this model may not be ideal for high-speed touch typists, it's still quite practical for those who require a traditional QWERTY keyboard to use in a small space.

The Rapoo E2700 Ultra-slim Wireless Multimedia keyboard with Touchpad comes with a 2-year warranty. It's available in both silver/white and black and retails for $49.99 from London Drugs (special order) and Staples.ca, where the black model is currently on sale for $29.89.

Greg Gazin can be reached at  gadgetguy "at" telus "dot" net GadgetGreg.com , or on Twitter @GadgetGreg 

 

Desk lamps are not typically something in this Gadget Guy's repertoire or even on my list of tech gifts for under the tree but I was happy to make an exception for the NewerTech NuGreen energy efficient flexible neck LED desk lamp.

The first thing you'll notice is that it looks pretty cool. It has a flat aluminum base, a bendable 12-inch gooseneck, which allows you to position, it depending on where you need the light and an equally flat disc-shaped head that matches the lamp's base quite nicely.

What's even cooler is how it puts out the light. The lamp head features an impressive 50 5mm light emitting diodes (LEDs), producing a very bright (4500K) white light similar to what natural daylight would look like. This makes it ideal for almost any room in the house.  It's not designed to light the whole room, but more in a concentrated area like a desk. Still, you wouldn't want to switch it on and looked directly at it, as it would be truly blinding. What's even more amazing is how energy-efficient it is. With all that light it puts out, it only consumes a mere 3.6 W total power and the LEDs remain cool to the touch.

According to the company, the LEDs are designed to last for up to 45,000 hours of use, which they say is up to 22 times longer than a traditional bulb. And they're eco-friendly too. They contain no mercury and therefore can also be recycled.

NewerTech NuGreen Flexible Neck LED Desk LampOne Touch Power

If you look closely, there's no visible power switch. Plug it in and a red ring illuminates at the end of the gooseneck at the base of the lamp. Simply touch the metal area below the ring and the lamp turns on. Touch it again and it powers off. At first I wondered about the red ring. If this is supposed to be an energy saving lamp and why is it burning energy? But then I quickly realized that it likely consumes very little power and makes the power switch easy to find in the middle of the night when everything is pitch dark instead of fumbling trying to find it.

Undocumented Dimming Feature

The next thing I thought was that although this was a really nice bright lamp but no way to control its illumination. Strangely enough, I discovered, by accident, that if you touch and hold the power control while it's on, the lamp will dim; touch and hold it again and it brightens. This feature appears to be undocumented. A very valuable feature like, dimming should never be a well-kept secret.

And then there's the AC adapter. Not not sure if this was planned or not, but the lamp itself has a small power cord tail which the AC adapter plugs into and then into the wall. This feature can be particularly handy when for example you might be doing your cleaning or dusting and instead of having to unplug the lamp from an inconvenient power socket you simply disconnect the adapter from the tail of the lamp then reconnect when needed.

NewerTech NuGreen Flexible Neck LED Desk LampOverall, I was impressed with the NewerTech NuGreen Flexible Neck LED Desk Lamp. It looks good; I like the flexible gooseneck, the one touch power and of course the undocumented dimmer.

I'm still amazed as to how bright the light is considering it only consumes 3.6 W making it very light on the energy pocketbook. It's important to note, however, that the light it emits is more of a natural and daylight white light, which might not be ideal for someone who prefers a more softer or warmer light.

My only concern is that it doesn't appear that you can actually replace the LEDs. And while the LEDs themselves are usually quite solid and last for a long time, in the event of a power surge and the LEDs fail, you might have to replace the lamp.

Nevertheless, this cool lamp, pardon the pun, would make an ideal gift for use in your home or office. It retails for $69.99 U.S. and comes with a one-year warranty.
It's not the cheapest lamp around, but you can find it at places like OWC or Amazon for a more reasonable $49.00 U.S.

Rating: 4.5/ 5

Greg Gazin can be reached at  gadgetguy "at" telus "dot" net , GadgetGreg.com , or on Twitter @GadgetGreg

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