Friday, November 30, 2012

Ion Room Rocker Sound Dock Review

Up for review today is the ION Room Rocker. We all love our music, and all of our portable devices make it easy to take our music anywhere. Often times we will store our favorite music and playlist on our portable devices. Having a docking station only makes sense because it does double duty.  Not only does it allow us to play music from our portable devices and charge them at the same time, it also gives us a sound system in a room such as a den, bedroom or kitchen.
Features and specs:

  • Full-range stereo speakers and built-in subwoofer
  • Subwoofer provides enhanced bass and full sound
  • Stream music wirelessly from any Bluetooth-enabled device
  • Charging dock connector for iPad, iPhone or iPod
  • Perfect for Android smartphones and tablets
  • 40 watts of total output power
  • Remote control included
    The ION Room Rocker came shipped in an attractive looking color printed box, with pictures and features of the device. Opening up the box revealed the device in molded cardboard to keep it well protected. Included were the docking station, power cord, 3.5mm cord, owner’s manual, and remote control. Construction seemed fairly good, with the plastic dock on top with control panel. The front is the speaker array. The bottom houses the built-in subwoofer, and the rear houses the sound port, the power plug and external line input for a separate portable device such as a cell phone or MP3 player. The enclosure itself appears to be made of wood with a black laminate finish. Fit and finish appear to be quite good.
    The ION Room Rocker performed quite well. Mids and highs had good definition and were quite crisp. I was not expecting much from the small down firing subwoofer. To the contrary, it actually performed quite well giving nice low end extension as well as good punch to the bass. Vocals were very natural sounding. Percussion was very crisp and clean with the mids being fairly smooth and not overly warm.  I was expecting good sound, but not this good.  Ion provided some nice aural nirvana with the Room Rocker, and my room was rocking!  The built-in Bluetooth also linked up with my laptop without a hitch.
    Overall, I was quite impressed with the Room Rocker. Its overall high quality sound was better than the price for the system implied. The ION Room Rocker had a good quality build, provided pretty good sound, and should give years of good use. It definitely lives up to the series name, and will rock your room. It has an MSRP of $149.99, but can be found for a lot less online.  Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the ION Room Rocker has earned our Recommended Award. Congrats! For more details and complete specs, check out their website at

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    Thursday, November 29, 2012

    Samsung Galaxy Note II Review by Kirk Spencer

    The Galaxy Note II has finally landed on Verizon Wireless and many of you might be wondering if it's worth picking up. We've had our hands on a Sprint model for the past few weeks and we thought it would be a good time to post our final review of the Galaxy Note II by Samsung. If you've seen the specs for this phone then let me say that’s only the tip of the iceberg. There is a lot more to this phone than specs.

    Having said all that, here is a list of the specs for the Sprint version of the phone. For the most part what you see here will be the same across the different carriers with the exceptions being the Network. We’ll spend the rest of the review talking about everything the phone has to offer and what our experience has been with the phone.
    Product Dimensions (inches) 5.949” x 3.17” x 0.37”
    Weight (ounces) 6.34 oz.
    Color Titanium Gray
    Battery, Standby 3G: Up to 250 Hours, 4G: Up to 300 Hours*
    Battery, Talk Time Up to 15 Hours*
    Battery Type and Size 3.8 Volt, Lithium Ion, 3100mAh
    Music Play Time Up to 40 Hours*
    Video Play Time Up to 7.5 Hours*
    Internet Use Time Up to 9.5 Hours*
    Frequencies and Data Type GSM/Edge/GPRS: 850, 900, 1800, 1900
    Data Speed 2G: CDMA, GSM/EDGE, 3G: CDMA EV_DOrA, 4G LTE: 100Mbps/ 50Mbps
    Platform Android™ 4.1, Jelly Bean
    CPU / Processor
    Processor Speed, Type Exynos™ 1.6GHz Quad-core
    Main Display Resolution 1280 x 720
    Main Display Size 5.5"
    Main Display Technology HD Super AMOLED™
    User Interface
    Features Widgets; TouchWiz; Smart Unlock; Accelerometer
    Camera Resolution 8.0 Megapixel
    Front-facing Camera Resolution 1.9 Megapixel
    Digital Optical Zoom 4x Digital
    Features Auto Focus; Shot Modes, Best Face, Best Photo, Beauty, Buddy Photo Share, Burst Shot, Face Detection, HDR, Low Light, Panorama, Share Shot, Single Shot, Smile Shot; Geo-tagging; Editing Modes; Camcorder; DivX®; HD Recording; HD Playback; Video Share; TV-Out; Online Image Uploading
    Features Music Player; Compatible Music Files, 3GP, AAC, AAC+, M4A, MIDI, MMF, MP3, PMD, QCP, WAV, WMA; Audio, Streaming; Ringtones, Polyphonic 72-note; MP3/Music Tones
    Features Video Player; Compatible Video Files, H.263, H.264, MPEG4, VC-1, VP8, Dvx; Video, Streaming
    Fun and Entertainment
    Features Downloadable Content; Wallpapers, Animated; Samsung Widget Gallery; Samsung Media Hub
    Business & Office
    Features Microsoft® Office-compatible; ThinkFree Office/Polaris® Office; Voice Memo
    Messaging Options
    Features Email; Corporate Email; Picture Messaging; Text Messaging; Instant Messaging; Threaded / Chat-style Messages; Video Messaging; Swype™ / T9 Trace; Predictive Text (T9®/XT9®)
    Features Bluetooth® Profiles, (Apt-X Codec support) LE; Wi-Fi®; Wi-Fi® Hotspot; HTML Browser; Java™; GPS
    Internal Memory 16GB
    External Memory/microSD™ Capacity Up to 64GB
    Calling Functions
    Features Speakerphone; Voice Recognition;Voicemail; Visual Voicemail; Speech-to-text; Text-to-speech; Etiquette/Gesture Mode; Picture Caller ID; Multitasking; Call Restrictions; Hearing Aid Compatible (HAC); TTY; Airline Mode

    Build Quality
    The phone has the same slick feel we’ve seen before from Samsung. The brushed metal look on the back has some kind of a lacquer finish to it. On the back you see the branding of the device and manufacturer. The speaker is in the bottom left. The 8 Megapixel camera with flash is centered at the top. Since we’re looking at the back of the phone, the volume rocker is on the right side and the power button is on the left side of the phone. On the bottom of the phone there is a standard micro USB port and you can also see the S Pen.

    The phone is about as thin as the iPhone 4s. You can also see in this image that the headphone jack is on the top of the phone.

    Some of you might be wondering just how big 5.5” really is. If you’re not familiar with how screen sizes are generally measured, it is diagonally. The Galaxy Nexus is a 4.65” phone and though it’s slightly less than an inch bigger the Galaxy Note II’s screen is almost as big as the entire Galaxy Nexus phone. To put this into a little more perspective here is an image of the iPhone 4s and the Galaxy Note II.
    The Galaxy Note II is almost as wide as the iPhone 4s is tall. The Note II is also referred to as a phablet, so here’s one more picture of the phone next to a 7” tablet.
    The Galaxy Note II lives up to its phablet name in every way. The screen size is right between what I would call the conventional smart phone screen size and tablet screen size. Some people might be turned off by how big the screen is, but I would encourage you to spend some hands on time with the device before turning it away. Go to a store, pick one up and see how it feels. This is definitely a two handed device, but that’s the price you pay for so much screen. Samsung realized this and they've provided a few settings to help with one handed operation. My recommendation would be to stick to using two hands. If you're in a situation where you can only use one hand like driving a car then you probably shouldn't be using the phone anyway. If you can't get away from it, try out the single handed feature in the phone dialer and the additional single handed features in the phone's settings.

    The Galaxy Note II is an HD Super AMOLED screen with a 1280x720 resolution. If you haven’t already heard the screen is not a PenTile display. The sub pixel arrangement is a unique form of RGB with a red and green sub pixel stacked on top of each other and a blue pixel to the left spanning the length of the green and red sub pixels. I've been a huge fan of AMOLED screens and the Galaxy Note II’s screen is the best one I've seen yet.

    The Galaxy Note II sports an 8 Megapixel camera. Just like what we’ve seen with the rest of the phone, Samsung has provided several additional features to the camera software which really help to take a good picture. These are some sample pictures which were taken with the phone’s camera. We took some inside with normal lighting, outside, and we turned off the lights and took a picture using the flash in a low light setting to see how the phone worked in each of the situations.

    The camera supports different shooting modes like Best photo, Best face, Panorama, and Share shot.

    Best photo will take 8 images in quick succession. When the camera is done taking the pictures it will open a screen to pick which images out of the selection you would like to save and it will discard the rest. This is the perfect feature to capture just the right picture of a sporting event, or your son sliding in to home base.

    Best face is an extremely useful shooting mode when taking group photos. If you choose the Best face shooting mode it will take 5 images with a slight pause in between each image. After taking the picture you will see a photo preview screen with yellow boxes surrounding each person's face. Click on any of the faces surrounded by a yellow box and you can pick out of a selection of images taken which face is the best face for that one person. I was doubtful of how well this feature would work, but after testing it out I was surprised at how well it mixes in the different faces.

    Panorama images shooting mode works as you would expect. It provides a nice guideline to help you follow and to get the best panoramic picture possible.

    S Pen
    The S Pen introduces new ways to use your android device. Pressing the button on the pen and tracing something on the screen will take a screenshot of the section you've outlined. One of my favorite features of the pen is the Airview feature. Hovering the pen over the screen is similar to a mouse hover. You can see additional tool-tips, screen previews of videos and sub-menus on web pages while browsing the web. In the device settings there are settings for the S Pen which let you specify the dominant hand. You can also turn on the S Pen keeper setting which will sound an alarm if you leave the pen behind.

    My only complaint with the S Pen is that it only works on the screen. You still have to use your fingers for the menu and back buttons to the left and right of the physical home button on the bottom of the phone. It would have been nice to be able to use the S Pen for those as well to keep my greasy fingers off the entire beautiful front face of the phone.

    We mentioned previously that there is a lot more to this phone than specs. Normally I am not a huge proponent of modifications to the stock Android environment. However, I would like to take some time to point out some of the things Samsung has done to enhance the user experience which go beyond the modifications to their Launcher application.

    The built in video player provides a Pop up Play feature which lets you continue watching a video while performing other tasks like browsing the web. I don't think this is something you will do all the time, but it's nice to see this level of innovation coming from Samsung.

    The Gallery application has features to enhance photo organization. It also adds in a bit of eye candy with different options for scrolling through your photos with the gallery views. You can use the S Pen to write on the back of images.

    Easy Mode provides a set of widgets and larger buttons making phone use even easier. If you've ever been frustrated with small buttons in Android this is probably a feature you will want to try.

    The Phone application is enhanced with several new features. You can boost the call volume above and beyond the normal volume levels. There is a setting to increase the ringer volume while the phone is in your pocket. Custom sound profiles can be created and there is even an option to easily build custom vibration patterns.

    Smart stay is a cool feature that keeps the screen on as long as the phone detects that you are looking at it. I've never been one to set a short timeout on my phones. I almost always set it to 10 minutes as one of the very first things when I get a new phone. I turned on Smart stay and set my screen timeout to 15 seconds. After using this feature I realized that I was able to squeeze out more battery life from the times I would set the phone down and not use it. The best part about it was that I did not have to keep touching the screen every 15 seconds while I was looking at the phone.

    Smart rotation looks at the position of your eyes before it rotates the screen. If you're like me you've used your smartphone in bed countless times. I almost always have to turn off rotation before using my phone in bed because it will inevitably want to rotate on me at the most inconvenient times. Smart rotation does a pretty good job of eliminating that annoyance. I can't say that it's perfect, but it is definitely better than the alternative.

    We wanted to try out the gaming experience on a 5.5” screen. You might have noticed a few games in the iPhone 4s vs Note II screenshot up above. I played DeadZone for a few hours. I didn't experience any stutter while playing and the additional size made it easier to keep my finger out of the way while using the on screen controls. Samurai vs Zombies looks absolutely amazing on the Note II’s screen. I first started playing SvZ on my 10” tablet and the first time I saw SvZ on a phone I was turned off. Everything was so small and it just didn't feel as nice. The 5.5” screen solves that problem and the game play is amazing. The Mali GPU is more than capable of delivering an enjoyable gaming experience. The screen size and vibrancy of colors are the icing on the cake.

    When it comes to performance there is real world performance and benchmarks. The entire time time we've spent with the phone it has been quick to respond taking full advantage of its hardware and Jelly Bean's Project Butter. Every action is responsive and fluid. The animations between screens are prompt. Applications open quickly, browsing the web is surprisingly responsive and we haven't noticed any noteworthy lag with the phone. It has been the best experience we've had with any android phone in terms of responsiveness to date.

    I know some of you will want to see benchmark results, so here is a result from the latest version of AnTuTu v3.0.1.
    Our results were right on par with what other users have seen in the AnTuTu benchmark. The dark green is the 3D result and the light green is the 2D result. I won't spend more time posting benchmarks. I think it is sufficient to note that the phone lists as one of the top devices here and in our real world experience it was nothing but buttery smooth in all aspects including gaming.

    A 5.5” screen is definitely going to be demanding in terms of power consumption. Samsung includes a surprisingly large 3100 mAh battery with the Note II. Usage is subjective so take your standard usage into consideration here. Most users should be able to go a full day on a single charge and possibly longer. Samsung provides some power saving features in the phone's settings which some of you may be interested in. If you watch battery percentage constantly then don't forget you're dealing with percentages. 1% on a 3100 mAh battery will last longer than 1% on a smaller battery. My experience with the battery life was nothing but positive. The phone easily lasts a fully day with what I would consider standard usage (checking e-mail, reading my rss feeds, texting, Google+ usage, browsing the web a bit, etc).

    The Note II comes with NFC capabilities. NFC is still an emerging technology, but the potential to pay for things using your phone or to quickly share content is all possible with NFC. The Note II has two NFC related settings, one to turn on NFC and the other to turn on S Beam which enables the sharing of photos, videos, music files, maps, web pages, apps, contacts and S Note files.

    The Galaxy Note II also comes with a pair of headphones in the box. The headphones double as a headset for taking phone calls. Included in the package are four sets of different sized ear buds so you can pick the one that provides the most comfort for your ears. The shielding for the wiring is thicker than your $10 pair of headphones. We won't spend too much time on the headphones, but we did give them a good run. They were capable of producing clean bass. They were not too bright and I actually played around with the equalizer to bring out more of the higher tones till I was satisfied with the results. Don't expect the quality you would get from a $200-$300 pair of headphones, but to get these included as part of the package is definitely an added bonus which we feel is one more way the Galaxy Nexus II stand out among the current crop of high end devices.

    The Samsung Galaxy Note II is one of the best phones on the market today. The combination of extraordinary hardware and software features all wrapped up into one device is an experience we wish everyone could have. If you are on the fence about the screen size, consider everything else the phone has to offer and go get some hands on time with it at a local retail store. The quality of hardware, software and overall design make this phone a clear winner of our Editors Choice Award.  For more info, check out Samsungs website at

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    Ion Water Rocker Wireless Waterproof Audio System Review

    When I think of pool, I think of pool party. But to help bring the party and pool together, music is a necessity. And whether it's a pool party or just an individual lounging at the pool alone, music makes it more enjoyable. However, water and electronic devices tend not to mix well. Thanks to Ion Water Rocker, you can safely add music to your pool, or other recreational activities that include water, such as the beach or lake.

    The Ion Water Rocker is a unique little MP3 player device. It consists of two pieces, the transmitter and the receiver. The transmitter is a small device that your MP3 player, cell phone, or other portable music device plugs into. You can keep this device in a safer location such as on the patio and plug it into the wall. It's not waterproof, but it does have a clear plastic cover that goes over it to protect it from splashes.

    The next part of the device is the receiver. This is a round ballish looking device that receives the signal wirelessly form the receiver. It has two stereo speakers built-in to play your music. Being waterproof, it can simply just float in the pool and play your music while you're lounging or playing in the pool. And if you want to simply listen to the radio, the receiver has a built in FM tuner.

    It's features and specks include:

  • Stereo, wireless speaker and transmitter with 100-foot range
  • Perfect for pools, hot tubs, lakes or bringing to the beach
  • Fully waterproof and submersible (level IPX7)
  • Add up to 10 speakers from a single transmitter
  • Transmitter with 1/8-inch jack for connecting iPod, iPhone or other audio devices
  • Built-In FM radio

  • The Ion Water Rocker came well protected in a nice looking color printed box that includes pictures of the transmitter and receiver along with some of it's features. Opening up the box showed that both pieces were well protected and sectioned out with cardboard deviders. The transmitter looked to be made of fairly cheap plastic, but appeared put together sufficiently well. There is a 3.5 mm cord that plugs into your MP3 player/iPod/cell phone. The receiver was more impressive. It is a round looking ball of a device, again with plastic construction. But needing to be waterproof, the build quality, and fit and finish, seemed to be better and more tight. I also liked the rubber controls on the top of the device for controlling power, volume, radio controls, ect.

    Testing the Ion Water Rocker, it performed as expected. The transmitter successfully sent the signal to the floating receiver. The receiver floated effortlessly in the pool. Spashes had no negative effect on it. Even "accidently" falling onto it and submerging it temporarily seemed to have no negative effect. It's tuner did a good job of receiving local stations.  The speakers also performed well enough. Volume was able to get decently loud. While not considered an audiophile piece of gear, and bass output was limited, I would not expect those features at this price point and in this type of device. It did play sufficiently loud, highs and mids were sufficently clean and detailed.  And as the name implies, it rocked the pool.

    The Ion Water Rocker definitely added a fun factor to the pool. And it can add that same factor to any outdoor water area, such as beach, lake, ect. The Ion Water Rocker performed as expected. It's design features, quality and performance did come out in a synergy that was fun to listen to. At an MSRP of $99.99, it would make a great addition to any pool side location. Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the Ion Water Rocker has earned our Recommended Award. Congratulations on a well thought out product that is destined to fill a niche. For more info and complete specks, check out their website at www.

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    Tuesday, November 27, 2012

    Coleman Big Basin Extreme Weather Sleeping Bag Review

    Coleman has been a provider of quality products for over 100 years. I'm glad to see that things haven't changed. If you are looking for a quality product at a good price, it's easy to look to Coleman. Up for review today is one of their mummy style sleeping bags, the Big Basin Extreme Weather Sleeping Bag.

    Features and specs:

  • For temperatures 0⁰ F to 20⁰ F (-17.78⁰ C to -6.67⁰ C)
  • Big and tall design for heights up to 6 ft. 6 in. (1.98 m)
  • Diamond ripstop polyester cover and polyester liner
  • Wide bottom for room to move your legs
  • Semi-sculpted hood helps lock in heat
  • Quilting construction eliminates potential cold spots
  • Thermolock™ full-length draft tube prevents heat loss through the zipper
  • Two-way no-snag patented zipper plows fabric away from the zipper
  • Unzip the bottom for extra ventilation on warmer nights
  • Stuff sack for quick and easy storage
  • Two way zipper for maximum ventilation
  • Stuff sack included
  • Dimensions: 39 in. x 92 in. (99.1 cm x 233.7 cm)
  • Five year limited warranty

  • The Coleman Big Basin Extreme Weather Sleeping Bag came in a nice looking color printed box with images of the product as well as it's features and specs. Opening the box revealed a sleeping bag, stuffed in it's stuff sack. Pulling out the sleeping bag revealed a large sized, mummy style sleeping bag. The Coleman Big Basin is designed for the big and tall person. At it's 39" wide and 92" long it will fit a larger or taller person. However, it can be used by anyone. While I am neither big or tall, I like room to move and the Coleman Big Basin provided that perfectly. I did not feel as confined as in a traditional mummy, yet at the same time I had some nicer features that are typically found in the mummy bags like the drawstring hood to keep the cold air out. Zippers were of good quality and sewn in well. The nylon construction appears highly durable and the fill showed no signs of clumping. The draw string worked well. Overall the fit and finish as well as the quality of construction and materials used were quite good. At this point I was anxious to see just how well it would perform.

    Taking the Coleman Big Basin on an overnight campout, I was cozy warm. The Big Basin is rated at 0-20 degrees. 0 degrees being on the low side of the comfort range and 20 degrees being on the high side. It's easy for manufactures to sometimes fudge on these numbers, but the Coleman rating seemed fairly acurrate to me. While the temperature didn't get down to 0 degrees, it did get down to around 25-30 degrees. And I slept very warm and comfortable without being too hot or too cold. The stuff sack is also the right size. Whether being rolled up and put in the bag or just stuffed in, the included stuff sack worked well with both. I also really liked the built in baffle to keep out cold air along the zipper. The built in pocket also proved handy for small items such as wallet, keys or glasses.

    The Coleman Big Basin Extreme Weather Sleeping Bag proved to be a high quality product that was very comfortable to sleep in with an accurate tempurature rating. The quality of materials and construction were also very high. I would have no problem recommending this product to anyone that does both a lot of camping and are hard on their gear, such as Boy Scouts. As a assistant scoutmaster, not only would it do well for a scout, it will do well for anyone. It is a bit on the bulky side as well as a bit on the heavy side, so it is not recommended for a backpacking bag. Based on it's design, features, qualtiy and performance, it has earned our Recomended Award. We will continue to update this review as to it's performance in colder weather as winter approaches. For more informantion and complete specs check out their website at

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    Sunday, November 18, 2012

    Magellan eXplorist 110 GPS Review

    We live in a digital age. Our digital devices make life more convenient for us. Computers help us at home, GPS receivers help us get to where we need to go. But GPS receivers can do more than just tell us how to get around town. Up for review today is the Magellan eXplorist 110.

    The Magellan eXplorist 110 is a portable handheld GPS. The eXplorist 110 won’t give you step-by-step directions for getting around town, or tell you where the closest fast food restaurant is. It will however help keep you from getting lost outdoors. It is designed for camping, hunting, or other outdoor activities. The eXplorist 110, even though a more basic model, will still do a lot more than keep you from getting lost.  
    Features and specs:
    • Easy to Navigate Menus and Rich Graphics A simple main menu, intuitive contextual menus, and vibrant graphics make this device easy to use
    • Brilliant, sunlight readable color screen A vibrant 2.2" color transflective screen provides the best readability in direct sunlight
    • Rugged and waterproof to IPX-7 standards Focus on the adventure not protecting the device
    • High-sensitivity SiRFstarIII GPS with 3-5 meter accuracy 3-5 meter GPS accuracy provides a superior navigation experience
    • Pre-loaded World Edition Map Referencing a complete road network in North America and Western Europe and major roads throughout the rest of the populated world to help in orientation. See parks, rivers, lakes, major city points, and other types of land use areas.
    • 18 Hours of battery life using 2 AA batteries Go strong for an entire day (or more). No stopping to replace the batteries.
    • Suspend Mode The goal is to conserve battery life by putting the device into an advanced power saving mode. Suspend mode will turn off everything expect for GPS tracking. Wake up the device with a single click.
    • Paperless Geocaching Download and view more than 20 unique characteristics of each cache and view, search, filter on the device. Details include name, location, description, hider, size, difficulty, terrain, hint, spoilers, and last 20 user logs among a number of other details.
    • 500 megabytes of user memory available Loads of space for waypoints, Geocaches and tracks.
    • Record Tracks and See "Breadcrumbs" on the Map Screen Keep a log of all the steps you took throughout the day. Reference your track to find your way back or to keep a digital journal of all your outdoor adventures
    • Track Summary Start your journey with one-click and keep tabs on useful statistics such as distance travelled, average speed, elevation gain and descent, and average time to find
    • NMEA Message Output (USB Only) For hardcore outdoor GPS enthusiasts who want to connect their device to laptop running VantagePoint software and see your position on computer screen.
    • Multiple Coordinates and Map Datum's Navigate around the world and do it accurately. See your geographic location in UTM coordinates or reference the OS Grid for use in Great Britain
    The quality is what I have come to expect from Magellan. It is excellent. The Magellan eXplorist 110 came shipped in a attractive green printed box, with pictures of the device and some specs and features. Opening the box revealed the GPS receiver wrapped in a plastic bag, held in a cardboard cutout. Lifting out the cardboard cutout was where the Quick Start Guide was, which was the only included accessory. The eXplorist 110 is a fairly simple device and accessories are not needed. Pulling out the device revealed a solid device with a soft rubber casing. While I would not want to drop the device, I was glad to see that it could take a drop and still survive. It is also waterproof, to handle the outdoor elements. The eXplorist 110 was put together using high quality materials, with a high quality fit and finish. The roundish design felt good, and was sufficiently bright, to be able to read outdoors. The rubber buttons were also very responsive and worked well.

    As mentioned previously, the eXplorist is a more basic model in the eXplorist series line-up. With that being said, it does have the features that most will need. If you are a more avid outdoorsman and are looking for more features, there is no need to fret, Magellan has more models for your consideration, such as the eXplorist 310, 510, 610 and 710. But the eXplorist 110 reviewed today will let you see your current location, add way points, plot out routes, and see your tracks. It will even do geocaching.
    Everything came together really well with the eXplorist 110. Adding way points, and using these waypoints to make your routes was fairly simple. I really liked the ability to see where you have been. Geocaching is also a good way to get some familiarity of the device. My wife’s grandfather, a hiker, took three of his grandsons on a hike several years ago. They got lost, and thanks to a search and rescue effort, they were found a couple of days later and were ok. The next Father’s Day, her grandfather had a new handheld GPS. The eXplorist is an excellent device that does a lot. While it is a more basic model in the Magellan lineup, it still has a lot of features, and reading the owner’s manual will greatly help in getting the most out of it.

    I was very pleased with the performance of the Magellan eXplorist 110. It is rugged, will built, and should give years of service. The display was easy to see and read. The interface and controls were simple to navigate. At an MSRP of only $129.95, the Magellan eXplorist 110 is a bargain! Based on it’s design, features, quality, and performance, the Magellan eXplorist 110 has earned our Value Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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    Sunday, November 4, 2012

    Audiofly AF78 Premium IEM Review

    I love my music, as many of us do. And with smart phones, it is so easy to take it with us everywhere. Often times the included earbuds just don’t cut it. After all, if you like music, why not have it sound good. Up for review today is a premium IEM from Audiofly, their AF78.

    I was excited to review the Audiofly AF78 due to their design. When it comes to IEM’s, their are two different types of driver: dynamic and balanced armature. To make a long discussion short, most cheap earbuds and many nicer IEM’s use a dynamic driver. The single dynamic driver produces excellent low end extension, with good mids and highs. The balanced armature typically does not have the low bass output and extension found in the dynamic drivers. They do however provide a better mids and high frequency performance. The Audiofly AF78 is the only model that comes to mind that uses dual drivers, with both a dynamic and balanced armature drivers.

    Features and specs:

    Driver Type9mm Dyn/Balanced Armature: Custom articulated dual drivers with crossover for incredible separation and beautiful detail in the high end with lush well-defined response in the lower and mid frequencies.

    Magnet Type Neodymium: Audiofly headphones use a neodymium magnet for longevity; the alloy has a unique crystalline structure that has a greater resistance to being demagnetized.

    Frequency Range: 18-22KHz: The AF78 has an extended frequency response across the entire spectrum with a range of 18Hz - 22Khz for a massive soundstage with impressive detail and separation.

    Cable Length1.2m: Our high spec AudioflexTM flat braided cable not only has kevlar reinforced conductors, but a CorduraTM brand Nylon outer sheath for superior strength and amazing durability.

    Plug Type 3.5mm gold plated: We use gold plated plugs not because they look good, but because gold is the best conductor with the greatest resistance to corrosion giving you better sound transmission that is durable.

    Impedance 16 Ohms: The AF78's dual drivers have a low impedance of 16 Ohms. This is ideal for low powered devices like iPods® and iPhones® giving enough headroom so they have no trouble producing plenty of volume.

    Sensitivity 108dB at 1kHz

    The Audio Fly AF78 came in an attractive box with color photos of the product and its specs and features. Opening the box revealed a product in premium packaging that was well packaged. It was quickly obvious to me that this is Audio Fly’s flagship product, the materials used, as well as build quality and fit and finish was very good. I like the cloth Kevlar cable, and the quality connections. I also like all the accessories. About the only thing I would change is the round storage tin. But that is personal preference as while it isn’t fancy, it does work.  The next question is how does this all come together in it's sound?

    Star Wars - Throne Room and Finale: the soundstage was pleasantly big with good imaging.  The trumpets had great resolution and were not too brassy sounding.  The trombones had excellent timbre.  The full orchestra had a lot of instruments, and you could really hear them.
    Junior Wells - Why Are People Like That:  the vocals were really life-like with excellent timbre.  The piano also sounded natural.  I especially liked the harmonica solo that showed off some great dynamics.  And the bass had some great low end extension.
    No Doubt - Hella Good: impact and low end extension in the kick drum at the beginning of the song was very good.  The percussion was also crisp and very dynamic.  Vocals had excellent timbre and natural sounding.  Overall the resolution of all the instraments was very good.

    Justin Timberlake - Sexyback: had nice low end extension and output.  The snaps were dynamic and the vocals were smooth and natural sounding.  It also provided a big soundstage with great imaging.
    Techmaster P.E.B.- Activate, and Time To Jam:  the sound of the dual drivers were impressive, and to truly test the bass output of the dynamic bass driver, I turned to Techmaster.  I was not dissapointed.  Bass output and extension was superb.  I tend to like a lot of bass, and its output was just the way I like it.....LOUD, yet also very clean.
    Since the Audiofly AF78 has the built-in call handling feature, I thought I would test it out.  So I turned to my HTC EVO 3D cell phone.  My cell recognized it once they were plugged in.  I received a call, and with a simple press of a button, the call was answer.  To the person on the other end of the call, I was easy to hear, not too tinny sounding, and didn't sound 1,000 miles away. 

    The Audio Fly AF78 has proven that Audio Fly is a true contender in the premium IEM market. And with it’s superior design, other manufacturers should be taking notice. For those in the market for some premium IEM’s you would be disappointed not to give them a listen. Based on their design, features, quality and performance, the Audio Fly AF78 has earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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    Sigma Karma Evo Pro High Power LED Bike Light Review

    If you like to bike at night, you will need a bike light. But not all lights are created equal. Up for review is the Sigma Karma Evo Pro K-Set high power LED light. If you have seen the cheap lights found at your neighborhood Wal-Mart, then the difference in quality and performance will jump out at you!

    Whether you are riding on or off road, you will want a light if you are riding at night. And if you are riding off road, a light is a necessity. Since you won’t be riding on smooth pavement, you will want a bright light to see potential obstacles up ahead. The Sigma Karma Evo Pro K set will definitely fit the bill for that.

    Features and specs:
    -State-of-the-art single chip LED technology
    -Enormous light output up to 320 lumens
    -Extra long burn time with constant brightness (4 h/8 h power-, 6 h/12 h standard-, 12      h/24 h energy- saving mode with IION/IION XL)
    -4 modes: energy saving, standard, power, and flashing mode
    -Multi-stage battery capacity indicator
    -Extremely durable aluminum housing
    -Tool-free click-mounting (uni-fit 22-32 mm)
    -Horizontally adjustable
    -Switch on protection (double click for ON)
    -IION, IION XL compatible
    -Low weight: 70 g
    -Helmet bracket included

    The Sigma Karma Evo Pro is a very high quality light. It came in a nice looking printed box with color photos of the product, as well as product specs. Opening the box revealed cut outs to hold the components in place. The charger, battery, cables, and the light itself all were high quality. The materials used were very good, as well as their fit and finish. The cables felt very solid, with good connections.  The design of the connections was also very well thought out, for a weatherproof connection.  I was also impressed with how small the light was, yet how solid it felt, with a tank-like build quality.  I also like the included helmet bracket, so you can mount the light on your helmet instead of your handlebar.

    I was expecting good performance from Sigma, but not this good.  This little light is a canon!  Even on its low power setting it is very bright and usable for off road riding at night.  Which means it is a great fit for even long mountain biking treks.  But turn it on to high power mode, and ….WOW!  To quote Darth Vader…”Impressive…most impressive.”  You can really see a ways ahead of you.  Yet at the same time, it also did a great job of illuminating right in front of you as well.   Having a range of 80 meters is not an overstatement as some manufacturers can tend to do.  The power button worked well, and I really liked how you have to press it twice to turn it on, so there are no accidentally turning it on.

    Having used Sigma products before, I have come to expect good products from them. Yet the Sigma Karma Evo Pro K-Set high power LED light still managed to impress me. It is that good! If you have a mountain bike and like to hit the trails, the Sigma Karma Evo Pro is a must see. Having used it, I can honestly say I would not hit the trails at night without it. With an MSRP of $149.99, it is worth the money.  Based on it's design, features, quality, and specs, it has earned our Editor's Choice Award.  Kudos to Sigma!  For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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