Sunday, December 29, 2013

2013 Editor's Choice Awards

2013 has been a great year. And with it there have been some excellent products! Not all have been award worthy. But the best find themselves earning our Editor's Choice Award. To further recognize these well deserving products, we publish our Annual Editor's Choice Award. These are the best of the best in their categories that came across my desk this year.

ACS T1 Custom In Ear Monitors

Adata XPG SX300 SATA3 256GB mSATA Drive

Audio-Technica ATH-AD900X Headphones

Kenwood Excelon DNN990HD Connected Navigation Entertainment Car Receiver

Kingston HyperX 16GB DDR3-1600 Laptop Memory

Kingston Wi-Drive 128GB Wireless Drive

Magellan SmartGPS 5295 Car Smart GPS Receiver

Monster Diamond Tears Headphones

Onkyo LS-B50 EnvisionCinema Soundbar System

Otterbox Defender Series Cell Phone Case

Otterbox Defender Series Tablet Case and The Latch Accessory

STM Jet Roller Wheeled Laptop Bag

SVS PC13-Ultra Cylinder Powered Subwoofer

Velodyne vTrue Headphones

ViewSonic's VP2770-LED Monitor

Westone 4R In Ear Monitors

Westone UMX3 In Ear Monitors

As you can see, there have been some excellent products! Click on the links for their full review. And not just products, but innovations as well. It has me excited for the future. I can't wait for what 2014 will bring. Stay tuned for more coverage of great products and great manufactures. And thanks for reading and following us!

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Kingston Wi-Drive 128GB Wireless Drive Review

There is more and more need for storage capacity on our portable devices. Whether it be pictures, video, music, or games, our portable devices are being used more and more for all of the above. All of this takes up memory, and some devices don't have the capability to use memory cards. Enter the Kingston Wi-Drive.

Features and Specs:

F E AT U R E S / B E N E F I T S
>>Capacities1 — 32GB, 64GB
>>Dimensions — 121.5mm x 61.8mm x 9.8mm
>>Wireless Network Interface — Wi-Fi 802.11g/n
with wireless security (WPA/WEP)>>Rechargeable Battery — up to four hours of
continuous use
>>Local Storage2 — wirelessly transfer files to and
from the Wi-Drive App and the Wi-Drive hardware
>>Bridged network connection option — allows
you to access the Internet while using Wi-Drive’s
>>Cable miniUSB to USB cable included
• User can upload files and content from their
PC/Mac to the Wi-Drive using the USB cable
>>Convenient — pocket-sized for easy
>>Guaranteed — one-year warranty
>>Free Wi-Drive Apps4 with Additional
Features — downloadable at Apple's App Store,
Google Play and Amazon Appstore
>>Customizable Device Name (SSID)
>>User selectable Wi-Fi priority list when there are
multiple APN/Key available>>File Support5 — Wi-Drive can store any file type,
but playback and viewing is based on the files
that are supported by the moblie device.

General file format support6:
• Audio: MP3, WAV
• Video7: m4V, mp4 (H.264 video codec)
• Image: jpg, tif
• Document: pdf

>>Operating Temperature — 32°F to 122°F
(0°C to 50°C)>>Storage Temperature — 14°F to 158°F

The Kinston Wi-Drive 128GB came in an attractive looking box with pics of the device and it's features. Opening the box yielded a wrapped Wi-Drive, USB cable, wall adaptor, and owners manual. The Wi-Drive was made mostly of black plastic. But the quality as well as the fit and finish was very good. We recently reviewed the Kingston MobileLite which is a similar device. I like the design and quality of this Wi-Drive much better. It feels better put together, and has a more sleek, elegant look. It looks like a more premium device.

Using the Wi-Drive was rather simple. It is like having your own personal Cloud!  First you would download and install the application on your portable device, and run the program pairing it with the Wi-Drive. Once that is all done, now you are ready to start enjoying all of the additional content. Will you are limited by the capacity of the Wi-Drive, 128GB really is A LOT of capacity!!

Performance of the Kingston Wi-Drive was just as I anticipated. Music, photos, and content on the device was simple to access and played great. The wall adapter had a USB connection, and there is a USB cable included that attaches to it to charge the drive. This same cable can be used to attach the Drive to your computer to transfer content.  Transferring the content was easy. Viewing or listening to it through the Wi-Drive on your portable device was just as easy.

The Kingston Wi-Drive had me pleasantly unsurprised. Unsurprised, as it has the quality and performance that is up to the reputation that Kingston has made for itself as a clue chip manufacturer. With an MSRP of $179.99 it is a tad pricey, but worth it for the additional capacity it gives you. They also have lower capacities of 64GB and 32GB available, which is still a lot of additional content.  It is well built, and I love the design! Based on it's design, features, quality , and performance, the Kingston 128 Wi-Drive has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Onkyo TX-NR626 7.2 Channel Network A/V Receiver Review

There is a lot that goes into a surround sound receiver. Long gone are the days of a surround sound receiver just providing surround sound from your video source. Now they provide audio processing, video processing, and wireless connectivity, to name a few. Even entry level receivers provide additional functionality. But if you are willing to pay a bit more, you will get a lot more. Enter the Onkyo TX-NR626.

Features and Specs:

# Channels7.2
Power Watts/ch95W (8ohms 20-20kHz, 0.08%, 2 Channels Driven, FTC)
Power (8ohms 20-20kHz 0.05%) /Ch -
THX Certified-
Continuous 6ohms Rated
Certified 4ohms Performance-
All Discrete Circuitry
3-Stage Inverted Darlington Circuitry✓ (Front & Center Channels)
Independent Block Construction (Amp/Preprocessor)-
Toroidal Transformer-
Independent Power Supply-
Bi-amp Capability For Front-
DOLBY DecoderTrue HD, DD Plus, PLIIz
DTS DecoderDTS-HD Master Audio
Dolby PLIIz
ONKYO GAME Surround Modes
THX Processing Mode-
Audyssey DSX-
Audyssey Dynamic EQ
Audyssey Dynamic Volume
Direct/Pure Mode- / ✓
Music Optimizer✓ (Advanced)
192K/24 Bit DACs✓ (Burr-Brown)
isf Certified Calibration Control-
Audio I/O6 / 0
Phono Input
Digital Audio IN (OPT/COAX)1 / 2
Digital Audio OUT (OPT/COAX)-
Composite I/O5 / 1
Component Video I/O1 / 1
Front-Panel A/VL / R / V
Front-Panel Optical-
USB InputFront
HDMI I/O6 / 2
HDMI Support for 3D, Audio Return Channel and CEC
HDMI Support for Deep Color, x.v.Color, LipSync
HDMI Support for DVD-Audio, SACD, Multichannel PCM
PC Input (15 pin D-sub)-
Component Video Upconversion-
Analog To HDMI Upconversion✓ (from 480i/576i)
1080p Upscaling✓ (Marvell Qdeo)
4K (up to 4096 x 2160) Upscaling✓ (Marvell Qdeo)
4K Passthrough
Multi-Channel Input-
Analog Pre-OutsSubwoofer (x2)
Speaker A/+B-
Powered Zone2
Zone 2 Line Out
Zone 2 Video Out-
Zone 3 Line Out-
iPod Ready✓ (via optional DS-A5)
Airplay Ready✓ (via optional DS-A5)
HD Radio-
Supports Onkyo Remote App✓ (iPod touch/iPhone and Android-Powered Devices)
Internet Radio Capable✓ (Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, Sirius/XM, Slacker,, Aupeo!, TuneIn)
Streaming Audio From PC / Network✓ (DLNA, Home Media)
Streaming Audio From USB memory
Wireless Network✓ (Wi-Fi-Certified)
Bluetooth✓ (Built-in)
Integration Access
IR Input-
ONKYO-RI System Control
12V Trigger-
Pre-Pro/Learning Remote- / ✓
Back-Lit Remote-
On Screen Remote Programming
Bi-directional Remote Setup via GUI-
Activity Based Remote-
Color-Coded Speaker Terminals
Auto Speaker Calibration W/Mic.✓ (Audyssey MultEQ)
OSD Out✓ (Advanced "Home" GUI)
Solid Aluminum Front-
Warranty2 YEARS
Amplifier Section
Speaker Impedance
All Channels115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7%, 2 channels driven)
Front L/R95 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels driven, FTC)
115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7% THD, 2 channels driven)
Center95 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels driven, FTC)
115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7% THD, 2 channels driven)
Surround L/R95 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels driven, FTC)
115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7% THD, 2 channels driven)
Surround Back L/R95 W (8 ohms, 20 Hz-20 kHz, 0.08%, 2 channels driven, FTC)
115 W (6 ohms, 1 kHz, 0.7% THD, 2 channels driven)
Video Section
Component Video Frequency Response
Video1 Vp-p/75 ohms (Component)
0.7 Vp-p/75 ohms (Component PB/CB, PR/CR)
1 Vp-p/75 ohms (Composite)
Tuner Section
FM/AM Preset Memory
FM87.5 MHz–107.9 MHz
AM530 kHz–1,710 kHz
Dimensions (W x H x D)
Weight21.6 lbs (9.8 kg)

The receiver came well protected in a standard box with pictures of the receiver, with it's features and specs on the box. Opening the box revealed a well protected receiver, surrounded in Styrofoam. Also included was the remote, owners manual on CD, batteries, and mic. The materials used in the construction was mostly metal. The quality of construction was good, as was it's fit and finish. The Onkyo TX-NR626 was put together well, and also had a good weight to it.

Reading the manual, this Onkyo TX-NR626 is far from entry level, and is loaded with features. Let's start with the more standard receiver features: 7.2 channels for dual sub outs, 95 watts per channel, Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, 192K/24bit DACs, 6 HDMI inputs, 2 HDMI outputs. Then there are the more advanced features like built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, 3D ready, 4K pass through and 4K scaling, zone 2 line out, powered zone 2, Audyssey multEQ, Dynamic EQ and Volume, and MHL. Then there is the remote application for iPhone and Android. AS stated, the Onkyo TX-NR626 is pretty loaded with features.

Some of the features are common in a receiver, like the 95 watts a channel and 7 channels of amplification. Powered 2nd zone means you can devote 2 of the 7 channels to a 2nd room like a den. I did like the dual sub outs. While most don't use dual subs, using 2 can correct some room acoustics like nodes. Six HDMI inputs means you have room for plenty of components. The two HDMI outputs is also handy. You can have the main output for your big screen, and the 2nd for the front projector for when you want to go really big!

The built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are very cool features. Now you can access your online music accounts like Pandora and Spotify. You can also access content on your portable device through Bluetooth. Add MHL and now you can access the video content on your mobile device through the TX-NR626. Onkyo takes it even a step further with their remote application. By downloading and installing the app on your iPhone or Android device, you turn your device into a remote control for the receiver.

The Onkyo TX-NR626 also has the Marvell Qdeo chip built-in. This is one powerful little chip. It is actually a video processor. Thanks to this chip, the receiver is able to do great looking upscaling up to 1080p and beyond to 4K. While 4K displays are rare, at least your receiver will be ready for the day when you have one.

The Audyssey Trio of features in Audyssey MultEQ, Dynamic EQ, and Dynamic Volume, are very useful features. MuliEq helps to correct the sound based on room acoustics, Dynamic EQ constantly adjusts the frequency response and surround levels, for true loudness correction. Dynamic Volume monitors the volume in real time, optimizing the dynamic range while maintaining the desired sound level. All of this helps to ensure the best possible sound.

Now it is time to see how it all comes together and performs. Connecting and setting up the receiver was very simple. I loved the updated GUI, which made set up a cinch. And of course with the included wireless mic, setting up the tuning and crossovers was just as easy. It was just a matter of plugging in the mic and running the program with the test tones. The receiver did all the work. While the results were not dead on, they were actually pretty close...close enough for all but the most demanding listeners.

Listening to the tuner was ok. Living in a rural area, there aren't a lot of stations that come in well. There are only two stations that came in solid. That's the same performance I get out of my cell phone. I would have expected better tuner response.

I really liked the extra features on the TX-NR626. It's built-in Wi-Fi worked great for internet radio. Pandora and Rhapsody are there.  To access Spotify it will need to be a premium account. Bluetooth worked good as well, as I was able to pair with my cell phone and listen to my content stored there. Connecting an MP3 player through the USB connector was also easy. Navigation was simple, and it sounded great.

HDMI switching worked great. I loved having all of the inputs. Having a cable box, blu-ray, PS3, Xbox, and Wii, I still had room left over. Switching between sources worked well without any glitches.

Video also looked excellent on my flat screen.  Blu-ray looked the way blu-ray should. Colors were well saturated with good resolution and contrast. The Qdeo processor seemed to do a great job. DVD doesn't magically upscale to the same quality as native blu-ray, but DVDs did look good. Blu-rays were beautiful. I only wish I had a 4K display on hand to test that upscaling. But at least you know you are covered when you do eventually take that plunge.

The audio side of things also come out well. Dolby True HD and DTS-HD master Audio came through with all of their aural bliss. To be honest, I was not expecting a lot from the amplifier section. Not that it is bad, just not as good as I am used to with their upper tier series. When it comes to amplifiers, I like to use the horsepower and torque analogy. Horsepower doesn't do everything. Torque does matter. And watts per channel, like horsepower, isn't the whole story. While the TX-NR626 doesn't have the same headroom as their upper tier series, I was still impressed. The TX-NR626 provided plenty of power, even for high volume listening. Movies were dynamic with plenty of resolution. Imaging was very good, and the soundstage was sufficiently large. Music had the same level of performance. The level of transparency at it's price point was quite good. Styx Renegade had nice vocals with very good texture and timbre. Resolution was also very good. Vocals were also pleasantly smooth. Percussion was crisp and clean, with good punch in the drums. Rusted Roof: Send Me On My Way had similar performance. The acoustic guitar was crisp with nice resolution. The Flute was really clean with good air. Percussion was really clean. The vocals sounded really natural, smooth with good texture, and threw a nice big sound stage, and good dynamics. The drums had nice midbass extension. There were multiple DSP Modes as well, although I am more of a purist and don't usually use them. But they did work and were fun.

The Onkyo TX-NR626 is an amazing receiver at it's price point. It is a mid level receiver for Onkyo. It features so much more than Onkyo's entry level models, and yet doesn't have near the build quality or have the robust amplifier section of their upper tier. Yet at the $599 MSRP price point it can't be touched. In bang for the buck, Onkyo delivers a TKO! Onkyo hit it out of the park! The Onkyo TX-NR626 is worth every penny, and then some. This fun receiver performed very well, and even got me singing along to the music. After all, isn't that kind of experience that it's all about? Based on it's design, features, quality, and performance, the Onkyo TX-NR626 has earned our Highly Recommended Award. Kudos to Onkyo on this engineering achievement. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Giveaway Sponsored by Audiofly

Audiofly is sponsoring a Christmas Giveaway of one of their great IEM (In Ear Monitor) headphones in the AF33m.  We have a couple pairs to give away.  We will do so thru a drawing held Christmas Eve.  To enter, "Like" our Stereowise Plus Facebook page, and include a comment with two facts from their website  Winners will be notified by New Years.  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from us at Stereowise Plus and Audiofly! 

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SVS PC13-Ultra Subwoofer Review

They say good things come in small packages. In this case, the same is true for large packages. After all, subwoofers like the SVS PC13-Ultra come in very large packages. Subwoofers, for the most part, are not small. The SVS PC13-Ultra is actually quite large at almost four feet tall. I must admit, seeing this behemoth brought a smile to my face, and could hardly wait to get it set up.

Features and specs:
**Frequency response graph does not denote maximum output capability.
  • 2-meter ground plane away from reflective structures (quasi-anechoic)
  • 20 Hz Mode: 19-150 Hz +/- 3 dB
  • 16 Hz Mode: 16-150 Hz +/- 3 dB
  • Sealed Mode: 26-150 Hz +/- 3 dB
Subwoofer Specs:
  • Cabinet Dimensions: 46" (H), 16.6" (OD)
  • Dimensions: 47" (H), 16.6" (OD) (includes feet, grille, amplifier)
  • Weight (unboxed): 90 pounds
  • Shipped Dimensions: 52" (H), 20" (OD)
  • Shipped Weight: 114 pounds
  • Extremely rigid and strong cylinder enclosure
  • High-grade black fabric exterior cover
  • Down-firing driver with integral base plate
  • Top-firing triple 3.5" high-flow flared ports
  • Dense foam port blockers (3) included
  • Variable 20 Hz, 16 Hz and Sealed tuning modes
  • Protective non-resonant steel mesh grille
  • Power cord length: 8 feet
Driver Specs:
  • SVS 13.5” extreme performance underhung Ultra driver
  • SVS custom-tooled die-cast aluminum basket
  • Flat-wire, 3” diameter, high-power, high-temp, 8-layer, aluminum voice coil
  • Polyimide impregnated fiberglass former/bobbin
  • Dual 9", composite layered, linear roll, extreme excursion spiders
  • Integrated tinsel leads
  • Nickel-plated high-tension spring terminals
  • Proprietary injection molded gasket and parabolic SBR extreme-excursion surround
  • Composite pulp/fiberglass press layered cone with stitched surround
  • Low carbon 1008 steel components, electrophoresis black plating
  • Finite Element Analysis (FEA)-optimized underhung motor structure for the lowest possible distortion
  • Copper shorting sleeve reduces gap induction and distortion, and enhances thermal conductivity
  • Dual Genox 8H/Y-35 high grade ferrite magnets
  • Oversized pole vent for greater cooling and low noise
Amp Specs:
  • STA-1000D Sledge with 1000 watts RMS continuous power (3600 watts peak dynamic power)
  • High efficiency cool-running Class D switching topology
  • Detachable power cord with main power switch and ceramic fuse
  • RoHS compliant, lead-free construction and world-wide safety certifications
  • Auto-On / On switch with "green" standby mode
  • Stereo line-level RCA and balanced (XLR) input/output connections
  • Normal and Hi input voltage switch
  • Customized EQ and DSP limiter settings specifically for the PC13-Ultra
  • Variable tuning with 20Hz, 16Hz, and Sealed settings to match subwoofer port settings
  • Fully adjustable (frequency and slope) phase-correct speaker/sub digital crossover
  • Intelligent Feature Control (IFC) with bright LCD display
  • Two (2) digital PEQs with adjustable frequency, cut/boost, and Q values
  • Room gain compensation control with adjustable frequency and slope
  • Adjustable digital delay on main speaker line-level outputs to time-align the speakers and subs
  • Input impedance - 24 kΩ (unbalanced RCA) / 22 kΩ (balanced XLR)

 The SVS PC13-Ultra came well protected in a large box, with pictures of the sub and it's features listed. Opening the box revealed a well protected sub. Included with the sub was the quick start guide, owners manual on CD, power cord, and port plugs for tuning. The quality of materials used in the construction was excellent. Fit and finish was also excellent. The SVS PC13-Ultra is a flagship product, and it was built as such.

Subs are built for low frequencies. When it comes to home theater, this can be a big task. Especially in modern blu-ray movies, there is plenty of content down to 20 cycles and below. Reproduction of these frequencies is a daunting task. However SVS has designed the all the components to deliver such in spades with the SVS PC13-Ultra.

It all starts with the driver. To be able to handle the massive loads of subsonic frequencies, the driver needs to be massive. The cone needs to be stiff so there would be cleaner sound. The surround needs to be robust to handle the stress of the travel of the cone during high excursion. The motor structure needs to be massive to handle the needed power and control the cone. The basket also needs to be sufficient to handle the stress of all of the components. To power this driver, SVS has turned to a Sledge 1000 watt class D amp. Not only being able to provide up to 3600 watts of peak dynamic power, the Sledge amp is loaded with other great usable features. In addition to the standard RCA connectors, balanced XLR connections are available. There is also an LCD display for DSP control such as crossover, output and tuning.

The enclosure is a huge part of the design, and I absolutely LOVE what they did with it. Unfortunately for some, the WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) may not be that high, but I still love it. SVS has gone with a tall tube design. For very deep tuning, you need a LOT of airspace, long ports, and usually both. With a tube design, they were able to get this in a very small footprint, of only 16.5 inches round. What this does mean is that to get the necessary internal volume, and length of ports needed for tuning, the enclosure needed to be fairly tall at almost 4 feet. Hence the rather low WAF, due to not being able to be hidden.  This subwoofer is going to be seen, and I can't see that as a bad thing.

I have had experience with SVS for several years now, when I met Ron Simpson at CES years ago.  They had a suite at Alexis Park to show off and demo several of their subs.  I was taken back at their performance, and ended coming home with a demo model 16-46 PC Plus.  I will never forget driving home from CES that year.  I went by the suite to pick it up at the end of the convention.  I was driving home in a small Honda Del Sol.  To get it in the car, I took the top off.  The sub stuck out the top of my car by a good 12 inches at least.  I put the seat belt around it, and off I was.  Fortunately I had clear weather the hole drive home.  And I will never forget the looks I got driving home.  The women stared at it with an astonished bewildered look on their face as if they were thinking to themselves...."what is that thing?"  And the guys had an astonished yet longing look on their face as if thinking to themselves...."I know what that is, and I want it!"  So when given the opportunity to review the SVS PC13-Ultra, I jumped on it!

I really liked the flexibility of the design. There are 3 long ports, and 3 include port plugs. These plugs allow for user tuning, depending on listening preferences. Default tuning is 20hz, but with the port plugs the tuning can be changed to 16hz or sealed. The black steel mesh on the top comes off fairly easily to access the ports.

The use of a tube design also simplified the construction. With a high output subwoofer, there is the concern of needing to include internal bracing to guard against panel flex, to insure for the cleanest sound and best performance. By nature, the structure of a cylinder is already very strong. Internal bracing is not needed. The tube used in the build of the sub is very strong. And I really liked the elegant look of the black cloth. The down firing driver, tall tube with king ports, really give for an efficient design. And of course a look that demands respect.

Performance of the PC13-Ultra was what was expected from SVS. It did not matter what content I threw at it. The PC13-Ultra was up to any movie. Whether it was battle scenes in the new Star Trek movie, the pod race in Star Wars Episode One or multiple battle scenes in all of the Lord of the Rings movies, to name a few, they were all handled to perfection. The PC13-Ultra played loud, deep and with utmost authority. Only when pushed beyond reference levels did the sub seem close to it's limits. And not once did I hear the sub bottom out, even listening at reference levels and beyond! I loved the sound I was hearing. The bass was very dynamic, explosions had impressive impact with excellent resolution. I couldn't help but chuckle when feeling my pant legs vibrate. I had some friends over for a movie and they said the same thing, without me pointing out I felt it. He said it first!  But I think the best came from my kids.  My youngest at 8 came in and said I had to turn it down because the walls of the whole house were shaking.  But the best was my youngest son at 12 coming in and saying "dad, turn it down, really.  I'm trying to go to the bathroom and the water in the toilet is bouncing!" And come to find out, that was not in the bathroom next to my theater room.  That was in the bathroom upstairs!  I just started to laugh.

I threw at it a gambit of different music tracks. The SVS PC13-Ultra seemed to easily handle whatever I threw it's way. Bass had excellent low end extension, with no bottoming out. As with the movie tracks, the sub played with authority with additional apparent reserves and headroom. Kick drums had chest pounding impact, and great resolution. The cone sounded well controlled by the motor structure, and only sounded a bit muddy when really pushed extremely hard at high volume levels.  I have seen subs that were great subs for home theater, but not as good for music. The PC13-Ultra was very musical. It performed excellently with movies AND music, being an excellent all around performer. I would not hesitate in a heartbeat to use it for both.  My 16-46 PC Plus has performed well, but does bottom out on occasion.  The SVS PC13-Ultra is a noticeable improvement all around.

SVS makes an excellent sub. And the PC13-Ultra as their flagship performs as such. At an MSRP of $1,699 it is a real bargain for the performance you are getting. And you can rest assured your satisfaction is guaranteed with their 45 day guarantee. If you are not happy with it, you have 45 days to audition it. If you are not happy they will issue a full refund, and even cover return shipping. Now that is confidence. And having heard it, I can understand why! So you really have no risk. Based on it's design, features, quality and performance, the SVS PC13-Ultra has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at Reference gear used included NHT Classic Series Speakers, Onkyo TX-NR1007 receiver, Oppo Digital BDP-83 transport, Sony Bravia SXRD front projector, Elite Screens ezFrame fixed mount screen.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Magellan SmartGPS 5295 Review

Electronics continually gets better and better. Improvement and increases in technology always effect the products we see. This also holds true to GPS receivers. Gone are the days of just getting us from point A to point B.  Additional functionality has found its way into the new receivers. These are called Smart GPS, and are the new hot items to get in vehicle navigation. Enter the Magellan SmartGPS 5295.

Features and specs:

  • The Connected Car… For Everyone - Magellan SmartGPS 5295 delivers a Premium Connected Car experience in any vehicle, for a fraction of the price of in-dash infotainment systems.
  • Lowest Gas Prices - Automatically receive lowest gas prices from your preferred stations.
  • Cloud Connected Syncing - Sync destination and contacts with SmartGPS, Smartphone, Computers & Tablets to share information across devices.
  • Phone Sends to SmartGPS* - Send destinations from your iPhone or Android smartphone to your SmartGPS for a seamless navigation experience.
  • Smartphone App Included - Search or Automatically receive Reviews and Deals from Yelp & Foursquare, then confidently navigate to destinations with on-board maps. (iOS & Android) 
  • 5" High-resolution Capacitive Touchscreen - Extra-wide 5" glass touchscreen gives you a large area for safe viewing while driving.
  • Yelp & Foursquare - Receive Valuable Reviews and Deals for destinations around you, wherever you are.
  • Traffic Camera Alerts - Receive audible and visual warnings of red light and speed cameras along your route, provided by PhantomALERT. 1 Year Free.
  • Weather - 5 day weather forecast of your preferred 5 cities.
  • Best Parking - Provides parking garage locations, hours of operation and directions to the entrance.
  • Lifetime Map Upgrades - Never worry about out-of-date maps again. Download the latest map information (up to 4 times a year) for the life of your Magellan navigator.
  • Free Lifetime Traffic - Warns you of reported traffic events that may delay you and provides alternative route suggestions.
  • Wi-Fi - Allows downloading of Cloud Connection features, use of Android browser and wireless software updates without an extra subscription.
  • Internet Browser - Wi-Fi Web Browser allows you to search for destinations from any location with a Wi-Fi hotspot.
  • Hands-free Calling - Integrated Bluetooth technology. turns your navigator into a hands-free speakerphone, making your commute time more productive.
  • Back-up Camera Compatible - As you put your car into reverse, your Magellan navigator will automatically switch into rear-view mode allowing you to see what is behind your car- including children, pets and toys.
  • Landmark Guidance - Receive directions using 9 categories of landmarks as your guide, making it a more intuitive way to navigate.
  • Junction View - Realistic images of freeway signs and arrows provide advanced warning guiding you to the correct lane to make driving easier, safer and less stressful.
  • Speed Limit Warnings - Manage your speed along your route with optional settings for visual and audible alerts.
  • OneTouch™ Favorites Menu - Find your favorite restaurant, bank, gas station and more in any city with a single touch. Easily create shortcuts to your favorite destinations and previous searches with personalized bookmarks so you can quickly find them anywhere you travel.
  • Spoken Street Names - Hear street names and directions for a clear understanding of when to make the next turn while you keep your eyes on the road.
  • QuickSpell® with SmartCity Search - As you type the first few letters of your target address QuickSpell instantly narrows the search based on your destination.
  • 7 Million of Points of Interest (POI) - Search and route to millions of preloaded destinations such as gas stations, restaurants, hotels, attractions and other points of interest.
  • Preloaded Premium Maps - Travel the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada with all the maps you need, pre-loaded on your device.
  • Auto Night View - Adjusts color and contrast for easy night viewing. 
  •  * Works with iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, & most Android Smartphones
    • Dimensions (English):6.3" x 3.5" x 0.5"
    • Dimensions (Metric):160 mm x 90 mm x 14 mm
    • Weight (English):0.78 lbs
    • Weight (Metric):355 g
    • Battery Type:1100 mAh Li-ion rechargeable
    • Battery Life: 80 minutes
    • CameraNo
    • FlashlightNo
    • Microphone: Yes
    • Waterproofnoinfofound
    • Speaker: Yes
    • Stereo Audio JackNo
    • Available User Storagenoinfofound
    • CPU: Texas Instruments Cortex A8
    • Expandable Memory: microSD
    • Temperature Range (F):14F to 158F
    • Temperature Range (C):-10C to 70C
    • Suspend ModeNo
    • Internal Memorynoinfofound
    • Audio/Video Input: Yes
    • SD Slot: Yes
    • Water-Resistancenoinfofound
    • Vibratenoinfofound
    • Watch ModeNo
    • Package Contents: SmartGPS Unit with Battery
      Windshield Mount
      Vehicle Power Adapter
      Micro USB Cord
      USB AC Adapter
      Quick Start Guide
      SmartGPS Apps Download Card
    • Display Resolution, WxH: 800 x 480 WVGA
    • Screen Size: 5.0"
    • Display Type: Capacitive
    • Touch Screen: Yes
    • Invertible ScreenNo
    GPS & Sensors
    • GPS Accuracy: 3-5 Meters
    • High-Sensitivity GPS: Yes
    • Barometric Altimeternoinfofound
    • Temperaturenoinfofound
    • Antenna Type: Multidirectional Patch
    • 3-Axis Electronic CompassNo
    • External AntennaNo
    Mapping & Navigation
    • Preloaded Maps US, Canada, Puerto Rico
    • Uploadable MapsNo
    • Points of Interest: 7M
    • Turn-by-Turn Routing: Yes
    • Vertical ProfileNo
    • Area CalculationNo
    • Hunt & Fish CalendarNo
    • Sun & Moon InformationNo
    • Tide & Current TablesNo
    • Coordinates Systems & DatumsNo
    • User GridNo
    • AAA TourBookNo
    • Lifetime Traffic Alerts: Yes
    • Highway Lane Assist: Yes
    • Map Updates: Lifetime
    • Multi-Destination Routing: Yes
    • OneTouch Favorites Menu: Yes
    • Speed Limits: Yes
    • Spoken Street Names: Yes
    • Audible Proximity Alarmsnoinfofound
    • Silent Proximity Alarmsnoinfofound
    • Traffic Wake-UpNo
    • Periodic ReportingNo
    • Branded POIs: Yes
    • POIs Along Route: Yes
    • Smart City Search: Yes
    • Smart Detour: Yes
    • QWERTY/ABCD KeyboardNo
    • Find Your CarNo
    • Pedestrian ModeNo
    • TourDirectorNo
    • Landscape/Portrait ModeNo
    • Navionics? Map CompatibleNo
    • Good Sam/Trailer Life DirectoryNo
    • RV/Truck routeNo
    • Customize Vehicle ProfileNo
    • Breadcrumb NavigationNo
    • Back to Start/LocationNo
    • Landmark Guidance: Yes
    • Portrait/Landscape modeNo
    • Bluetooth Safe Texting: Yes
    • Junction view: Yes
    • Best Parking: Yes
    • Traffic Camera Alerts by Phantom ALERT: Yes
    • Yelp Integration :Yes
    • Foursquare Integration: Yes
    • Gas Prices: Yes
    • Weather: Yes
    • Imaging Sensornoinfofound
    • Resolutionnoinfofound
    • Vertical View anglenoinfofound
    • Horizontal View anglenoinfofound
    • Output Imagenoinfofound
    • Power Supplynoinfofound
    • Ingress Ratingnoinfofound
    • Dimensionsnoinfofound
    • Weightnoinfofound
    • Operating Temperaturenoinfofound
    • Frequencynoinfofound
    • RF Output Powernoinfofound
    • Power Supplynoinfofound
    • Current Consumptionnoinfofound
    • Weather Proofnoinfofound
    • Operating Temperaturenoinfofound
    • Dimensionsnoinfofound
    • Weightnoinfofound
    • Receiver Sensitivitynoinfofound
    • Power Supplynoinfofound
    • Current Consumptionnoinfofound
    • Operating Temperaturenoinfofound
    • Dimensionsnoinfofound
    • Weightnoinfofound
    User Generated Content
    • Accepts GPX FilesNo
    • Waypointsnoinfofound
    • Routesnoinfofound
    • Geocachesnoinfofound
    • Legs Per Routenoinfofound
    • Paperless GeocachingNo
    • Picture ViewerNo
    • Tracksnoinfofound
    • Points Per Tracknoinfofound
    • User Data Online SharingNo
    • Activity Historynoinfofound
    • Activity Totalsnoinfofound
    • Lapsnoinfofound
    • Locations/WaypointsNo
    • File Formatnoinfofound
    • Magellan Active CompatibleNo
    • Third-Party Website CompatlbleNo
    • User LoginNo
    • Driving status & reportNo
    • Core Fitness DataNo
    • Training AlertsNo
    • Auto PauseNo
    • Auto LapNo
    • Customizable Activity Profilesnoinfofound
    • Customizable Activity ScreensNo
    • Quick Info ScreensNo
    • Multisport ModeNo
    • Activity PacerNo
    • Heart Rate Based Calorie CalculationNo
    • Quick StartNo
    Interface & Communications
    • Communication Protocolnoinfofound
    • USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro)
    • NMEA Outputnoinfofound
    • PC Compatible: Yes
    • MAC Compatible: Yes
    • Bluetooth: Yes
    • Wi-Fi: Yes
    • Cellular: Yes

    The Magellan SmartGPS 5295 came in attractive looking packaging with photos of the device, along with features and specs. Included was the device, owners manual and app download card, the windshield mount, and various cables. Materials used in the construction appeared to be mostly plastic, yet high quality. The fit and finish was very good. In hand it felt well put together, and felt like a premium device.

    As you can see from the features and specs, the Magellan SmartGPS is more then just a GPS receiver. It can also access the internet through wi-fi. Once connected, you can do a lot more. GPS receivers have Points Of Interest (POI) already programmed in. Now, not only can you find a nearby gas station, you can also check gas prices. Another example is restaurants. Now you can find a restaurant and YELP reviews.

    The Magellan Smart GPS can also access local information. This includes items such as weather and traffic alerts. It can even give you Red Light Camera and Speed Trap Alerts! Just in case that was not enough, you can receive Yelp and Foursquare reviews and deals based on your location. The Magellan Smart GPS seems to do everything. It is a true game changer in vehicle navigation!

    The Magellan Smart GPS also does all this safely. Now you can do what you have used your smart phone for in navigation, but do so much safer. You can even use the Cloud and save your favorite destinations and share them with your other devices, such as Smartphone, Tablet, and computer. I must say, I am in awe with all of it's functionality. In terms of in vehicle navigation it is a huge leap forward. Let's see if it performs just as well.

    Performance of the Smart GPS has been in spades. Not once has it gotten me lost, as I have been using it to navigate. And the real icing on the cake has been using it's advanced features. I loved seeing the local gas stations on screen and their gas prices. Traffic and local restaurant info was also cool to see. The Magellan SmartGPS provided A LOT of features, and they worked seamlessly with the device. It reminded me of synergy, with the whole being more then the parts. The SmartGPS has some great features, but having it all work together is just awesome!  Using the dial at the top of the screen rotated the screen to 100% navigation, to 50% navigation/50% tiles for traffic alerts, red light cameras, gas stations, restaurants, etc, to 100% tiles.  You can even surf online and check email, Facebook, etc. It took some getting used to, but I liked it. 

    Keep in mind that the use of it's smart features was dependent on being linked to you cell phone for online content.  It took a bit to get it linked to my phone, but it worked.  So you will be dependent on your phone as well, and some may have more trouble than others.  Using it to make hands free calls worked great as well, with good sound quality of both myself through the mic and the person on the other phone thru the built-in speaker.

    The Magellan Smart GPS 5295 is a huge leap forward in vehicle navigation. With all of it's advanced features, in the realm of vehicle navigation it is a true game changer! And it does so more safely then just using your smartphone. With an MSRP of $249 it is worth it for the advanced functionality.  The Smart GPS also performed in spades. In term of Christmas gifts, this is one I would want! Based on it's design, features, quality and performance, the Magellan Smart GPS has earned our Editor's Choice Award. Kudos to Magellan for such an excellent product. for more info and complete specs, check out their website at

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    Thursday, December 5, 2013

    Kingston MobileLite Wireless Drive Review

    It never ceases to amaze me how we depend on our mobile devices to do so much. After all, about only 15-20 years ago pagers were still common. Now not only do we have cell phones, but the common thing now is to play games, listen to music, and even watch movies on our cell phone or tablet. The problem is all this content takes up A LOT of space. The problem is many products (such as the iPhone) don’t have memory card slots. Enter the Kingston MobileLite Wireless drive.

    Features and Specs:

    F E AT U R E S / B E N E F I T S

    >>Wireless reader — transfer files to your existing SD & USB

    storage from your mobile device

    >>Supports multiple users — stream up to three different

    movies to three different devices at the same time

    >>Versatile — use with smartphones, tablets and PCs through

    Wi-Fi capability

    >>Battery bank — use the built-in battery to charge your phone

    and keep you mobile

    S P E C I F I C AT I O N S

    >>Inputs for Storage USB and SD — reads SD, SDHC, SDXC and

    microSD (with included adapter)

    >>Supported File Systems FAT, FAT32, NTFS, exFAT

    >>Dimensions 124.8mm x 59.9mm x 17.3mm;

    4.9134" x 2.3583" x 0.6811"

    >>Weight 98g

    >>Wireless Network Interface Wi-Fi 802.11g/n with wireless

    security (WPA2)

    >>Rechargeable Battery up to 5 hours of continuous use

    >>Battery built-in Li-ion 1810mAh 3.8V

    >>Local Storage1 wirelessly transfer files to and from the

    MobileLite Wireless app and the MobileLite Wireless hardware

    >>Camera Roll support1 allows users to move photos from their

    mobile device to MobileLite Wireless in order to free up space

    >>Cable USB to micro USB cable included

    >>Operating Temperature 0°C to 40°C

    >>Storage Temperature -10°C to 45°C

    >>Guaranteed one-year warranty, free technical support

    >>Customizable Device Name (SSID) User selectable Wi-Fi

    priority list when there are multiple APN/Key available

    >>File Support2 MobileLite Wireless can store any file type.

    Playback and viewing are based on the files supported by the

    mobile device

    >>General file format support2

    • Audio: MP3, WAV

    • Video3: m4V, mp4 (H. 264 video codec)

    • Image: jpg, tif

    • Document: pdf

    The Kingston MobileLite Wireless drive came in an attractive looking box with pictures and specs. Opening up the box showed a drive that was well protected, wrapped in bubble wrap. The materials used was put metal and part plastic.  Fit and finish appeared good, with a good overall build quality. The included accessories include owners manual, charging cable, and SD card adapter. Thanks to the SD adapter, microSD cards can also be used.

    I must admit that I absolutely love the idea of the MobileLite Wireless drive! With it, you basically have your own personal Cloud. You are not limited to the storage space that is built into your portable device. Thanks to the MobileLite, if you have a device like the iPad, you now have access to a world of additional content!

    The Kingston MobileLite is also more than providing additional storage access to products that do not have built-in card readers.  Most cell phones with a card slot only take micro SD cards. So larger SD cards won’t work. With the MobileLite, it will work with SD cards and microSD cards. Thanks to the USB slot, you can also use thumb drives with it, and access the data on your thumb drive.

    Just in-case this functionality was not enough for you , Kingston has provided even more. The MobileLite is not just for you. Data on your SD card or thumb drive can be shared over its wi-fi connection with up to 3 users. It also doesn’t end there. The MobileLite will also act as an emergency charger. It can be used to charge you cell phone!

    Using the MobileLite was very easy. The included owners manual provided simple instructions on how to download the app onto your portable device, and setting up the wi-fi connection. Once the connection between the devices was established, accessing the content was a piece of cake. Photos looked great, and accessing music and playing movies worked well also. The only potential downside is the lack of built-in memory. Having a card slot, you have access to as much memory as you have cards for. But without built-in memory, just don’t forget your SD card!

    Kingston came up with another awesome product in their MobileLite Wireless drive. Based on all of the functionality provided, I can’t see why anyone would not want one. It is also cheap, being able to find them online for under $50. Based on it’s design, features, quality and performance, the Kingston Mobile Lite has earned our Value Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at


    Read more!