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Gear Gallery: New Motorola Slider, Mobile TV and the Ultimate Gadget Watch

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Gear Gallery: New Motorola Slider, Mobile TV and the Ultimate Gadget Watch
: The Z9 effortlessly satisfies the standard phone user, and pleases the rest of us with a couple extra perks. You get your e-mail and IM; you can listen to music from the microSD card or buy some more. Calls are above-average quality (trust us, we've been shouting into an iPhone for the last year). In addition to 2-megapixel shots and recording video, it can also video share -- send live video to other 3-G AT&T users, which is great for broadcasting scenes from your DIY fight club or natural disasters.
But the star of the show is the GPS. This is no cell-tower GPS Lite that only tells you what block you're on; this is the real deal, with turn-by-turn directions, live traffic info, access to the AT&T database for points of interest -- you know, stuff that's actually useful. If you don't want to punch in an address, just call the 877 number and speak it. On the downside, you will visibly age while it initializes, and it sometimes miscalculates your direction. Fortunately, goofs are few and far between and the Z9 picks up on them.
WIRED: Excellent call quality. Strong GPS capabilities. Lets you transmit (or receive) live video to other 3-G AT&T phones. Haptic feedback tickles.
TIRED: GPS can be slower than waiting for the Optimus Maximus. Pretty heavy. Proprietary headset/power connector = crap.

$249 (with two-year contract), Motorola

(Photo courtesy Jim Merithew,
Read our full Motorola Z9 review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: If Dr. Evil of Austin Powers fame were more musically minded, he may have demanded something like the beamz -- a musical instrument with "fricking lasers" attached to it. As a kid with his music career still ahead of him, beamz founder Jerry Riopelle frequented an ice cream shop with a laser-triggered doorbell. When the MIDI music format appeared in the '80s, he wondered whether the same concept could apply to making tunes. The result, decades later, is the beamz Music Performance System.
This large USB peripheral includes six beams generated by 12 lasers that, when broken, activate elements of 30 songs stored on your computer. Riopelle managed to create a laser-based instrument anyone can play -- a harder task than it sounds, since the musical parts have to mesh musically in nearly limitless permutations of hand waves. Music experience helps with timing, tempo, arrangement and composition, but it's so easy and amusing to play that only the Invisible Man could fail to have fun. — Eliot Van Buskirk
WIRED: Lets anyone make music. With lasers. Near-zero latency. One-shots, loop-based samples, dual-sample banks, "conductor" beams for toggling sections and a backing-track creator allow complex compositions. Exports in WAV format. Plans include a "third-party composer program," a Stevie Wonder play-along and other downloadable songs for $2 each.
TIRED: The demonstration video almost defies explanation. Seriously, click on it. Some of the sounds seem dated. No Mac version (yet). Pricey considering that this is nothing more than a fancy toy.
$600, Sharper Image

Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: What RIM's aversion to 3-G is we'll never figure out. With version 8120, RIM updates its beloved Pearl smartphone with WiFi but still omits a 3-G radio and, oddly, GPS, the latter of which can be found on both the 8110 and 8130. The shell is virtually identical to older Pearl models, and functionally very little here has changed. Aside from some minor interface tweaks (woo, new icons!), the trackball-and-two-letters-per-key experience is fully intact.
The big news, of course, is the addition of WiFi, and RIM seems to have finally gotten the kinks worked out of its 802.11g implementation; we didn't encounter any of the troubles we experienced with the BlackBerry 8820 last year. If you dig the BlackBerry's mature e-mail features (who doesn't?) and can handle the whole bi-character key setup (and we know many who don't), the Pearl 8120's a solid upgrade to hold you over until a 3-G version (fingers crossed) arrives. —Christopher Null
WIRED: Camera upgraded to 2 megapixels plus flash and video capability. Software is somewhat better at word detection and correction; even works well with odd, multiword URLs. Crazy-loud speakerphone. Very sensitive mic offers exceptional call quality in our tests. Very fast battery charging, and nearly nine solid hours of talk time in our benchmarking. Stable WiFi implementation.
TIRED: Pearl keyboard still not for everyone. Lack of 3-G is absurd. No GPS.
$200 (with two-year contract), RIM

(Photo courtesy Jim Merithew,
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: The latest effort to get the boob tube on a mobile device is AT&T's Mobile TV with FLO (Forward Link Only), and it's surprisingly good. Coupled with the LG Vu phone, it's a match made in couch-potato heaven. The MediaFLO service uses an unusual, nonstandard bit of spectrum to ensure that the streaming of your favorite flicks is uninterrupted. Instead of downloading the data over AT&T's 3-G network, the Qualcomm-developed technology operates primarily on the old UHF television band, though it does tap into the 3-G network in order to get started.
The result is that there's virtually no buffering and programming starts up within a few seconds. On the Vu's brilliant 3-inch screen we found picture quality to be insanely clear and frame rates to be smooth as the ice cubes in a tumbler of 30-year-old bourbon. "Mobile TV" is a bit of a misnomer. Only a few channels are simulcast, meaning you can watch them in near-real time. All other programming, like episodes of your favorite Fox shows, are time-shifted and updated when necessary. Still, watching live streaming TV or movies like The Karate Kid on the Vu's 3-inch haptic touchscreen is pretty amazing.
WIRED: Good selection of simulcast and time-shifted programming. No network lag. Live streaming CNN is a must for news junkies. Variety of programming packages should fit just about everyone’s viewing style.
TIRED: Unless you're in an area with strong 3-G coverage, the service simply will not work. Right now the service is only available in 58 locations nationwide.
$30 per month as tested, AT&T

(Photo courtesy AT&T Wireless)
: The Kensington SlimBlade trackball mouse is an aerodynamic, sleekly designed peripheral. It's also a tad schizoid. And that's a good thing. What I am crazy about is that with the touch of a button on top of this mini-size travel mouse, its smooth-gliding scroll wheel transforms into a responsive trackball. Finally, there's a pointing device for your notebook that works in tight spaces and is as comfortable to use as the larger desktop mice I'm more accustomed to.
The SlimBlade’s 1,000-dpi laser is dependable: No matter what surface it lands on, the mouse performs perfectly. The roller ball even offers 360-degree scrolling without having to physically move the mouse. Bluetooth connectivity means that the thin-profile mouse is all you need to carry -- no extra USB adapters or encumbering cables to schlep around. If your PC doesn't have built-in Bluetooth, Kensington's new USB Micro Adapter should do the trick. With a mouse of this caliber, don't be surprised if you find yourself plugging it in to your desktop PC as well.
WIRED: Thin enough to stick in a shirt pocket. Seamlessly switches from mouse to a 360-degree trackball. Auto-sleep mode automatically extends the two-AA-battery life up to six months. Seriously. Plastic chassis feels like metal with some heft. Amazingly comfortable to use despite its size.
TIRED: Mouse/trackball mode button initially takes some time to figure out. Hard to know when sleep mode has kicked in.
$100, Kensington

Read our full Kensington SlimBlade Trackball Mouse review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: This no-frills unit rocks a bright 3.5-inch QVGA screen encased in a black plastic chassis, and weighs less than half a pound. On top of all the normal manuals, the NAV730 includes a car charger, mounting bracket, 1-GB SD card containing U.S. maps, USB charging cable and a DVD containing backup maps. The WinCE-based OS was fast enough when navigating the menus, but the user interface was a bit of a downer.
Acquisitions were also a bit of a mixed bag. I was able to get a 28-second lock while outdoors on a relatively clear day. Meanwhile, attempting the same feat indoors took 2 minutes, 32 seconds. These aren't necessarily bad times, but other GPS units we've tested achieve faster locks in more challenging settings. Once I got moving, the voice-guided turn-by-turn directions were easy enough to understand via the text-to-speech feature and surprisingly loud 1-watt speaker. Unfortunately, these solid additions were marred by occasionally spotty destination markers. These navigational hiccups were extremely rare, but honestly there was a moment or two when I questioned whether the NAV730 would accidentally direct me into oncoming traffic.

Extremely cheap and mostly effective. Excellent multimedia support (MP3, WMA, OGG, MPEG4, AVI, WMV, GIF, JPG, TIFF). Zippy menu navigation via 400-Mhz processor. Accurate text-to-speech pronunciation of street names. Traffic Message Channel compatible (subscription required). Voice guidance in 20 languages.
TIRED: Seriously light on preprogrammed points of interest. Hard power cycle necessary for charging. Clunky menus and overall UI can prove challenging. No Bluetooth support. On/off switch is too far recessed, hard to toggle. 320x240 screen is hard to read outdoors.
$170, V7

(Photo courtesy
Read our full V7 NAV730 GPS review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: For its price, the Navigon 2100 Max is fairly s****. If you plan out your trip far ahead of time you'll have a positive experience. The Navigon can switch from 2-D to a 3-D Reality mode that will even show you which lane you should be in. In emergencies, you can bring up the nearest tow truck, hospital or pharmacy. But once you leave the highway or want to navigate on the fly, prepare for frustration. It's hard to get the scroll buttons to register, address look-up is time-consuming and unintuitive, and the Points of Interest directories are hard to navigate, especially if you don't know the name of the business you're searching for.
The most aggravating of all is when the unit starts talking back, arguing like a real estate lawyer. If a community is not a "registered municipality," the Navigon can still find it, but won't let you navigate to a street within that area. One address we checked simply couldn't be found because we couldn't provide the correct hamlet for it. Yes, Madame Navigon is hard to satisfy and takes patience to deal with; if you don't have the time to convince or cajole her to do your bidding, then it's time to spring for a pricier model.
WIRED: Midrange features at a flea-market price. The speaker has a good set of lungs and demands to be heard. The unit's excellent mounting bracket is virtually shake-free.
TIRED: Sluggish response time frustrates and causes double-taps. Obstinate refusal to recognize certain towns even though they show up in auto-fill enrages the most gentle souls.
Price/maker: $299, Navigon USA

Read our full Navigon 2100 Max review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: The enV2 is apparently the end result of spilling coffee on a stack of consumer satisfaction surveys from the first enV. It's a lighter, slimmer package, but a botched facelift leaves it with all the style of that TI-36 you ditched back in high school. Easy to dial, but with the half-inch-tall screen on the front, the enV2 isn't really good for much else. Thankfully, once you open it up there's a full QWERTY keyboard -- not as wide at the original, but the keys are evenly spaced so it's still great for messaging.
There's a 2-megapixel camera, but even if you have figured out how to comfortably hold an Altoid-can-clamshell without blocking the much smaller lens with your fingers, pics and video turn out pretty grainy. Where to end? Do yourself a favor: If confronted with the choice of purchasing an enV2, think long and hard about it. After all, you're stuck with this device for two years. — Nate Ralph
WIRED: Bluetooth. Vibrant interior screen. External microSD slot. Stereo speakers.
TIRED: VZ Navigator (pay me!), IMs as SMS (pay me!), POP e-mail (pay me!) and the walled garden web "browser" (pay me!) will jack up that monthly bill. No WiFi.
$130 with two-year contract, Verizon

Photos courtesy Jon Snyder,
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: Packed into a dual analog/digital face, the Tissot T-Touch is literally a flotilla of functions. So what exactly does it do? Well for starters, how about dual time zones, two alarms and countdown chronographs? OK, still not impressed? But how about adding a barometer, thermometer, perpetual calendar, compass, altimeter and an azimuth (sort of a GPS system on your wrist)? Oh what's that? Getting gadget fever? Wait, there's more.
What really makes this timekeeper unique is how all these functions are activated: the face is a touchscreen. By tapping on seven different points on the analog face the digital portion displays the results instantly. Of course to cram this type of instrumentation into a watch requires a certain amount of heft and the T-Touch does not disappoint, weighing in at more than a quarter-pound. Programming the T-Touch's ambitious functionality also takes the same patience that would go into solving a Rubik's Cube. But if you possess that patience, this just might be the ideal timekeeping, temperature-sensing, direction-finding, altitude-detecting, all-in-one, wrist-mounted wundergizmo.
WIRED: Dual analog/digital face provides actual temperature, directional readings and barometric readings. Backlighting and water-resistance to 330 feet useful for all you deep divers out there.
TIRED: Hard to program. Confusing eight-page instruction booklet almost as thick as an issue of Wired magazine. Quarter-pound weight plus J-Lo-class thickness make you conscious of the watch at all times.
$1,100, T-Touch
(Photo and wrist modeling courtesy James Merithew,
Read our full Tissot T-Touch Watch review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: The iK500 iPod Dock's two 5-inch subwoofers and passive radiator on the back pump out the shock waves while the dual tweeters take care of the crispy bits. Whether it's thump or twitter, the Kicker sounds equally good.
More than a brutish and simple set of speakers, the Kicker comes with a remote that lets you navigate your iPod menus to select playlists or songs and adjust the volume, not just the shuffle and volume of lesser remotes like the Bose SoundDock's. Knob revivalists will dig the prominent protuberance on the front of the case, which covers power, volume, bass, treble and aux-in selection. The back of the box offers a 3.5mm line-in port and stereo RCA-out for connecting external speakers.

You can't get busted for disturbing the peace if you can't hear the cops banging on your door. Achieves ear-stinging volume without distortion. Volume, bass and treble controls are accessible with a poke and pinch of the front-facing knob. Zune owners can pick up a similar zK500 model.

The iPod docks vertically (rather than at an angle), making the screen hard to read. The direction buttons on the remote slow down scrolling. No mic-in for high-decibel karaoke.
Price/maker: $350, Kicker

(Photo courtesy Jim Merithew,
Read our full Kicker iK500 iPod Dock review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: Admittedly, most people don't sit around thinking, "Gee, I wish I could set up a high-speed WiFi network here at this picnic. Or at the beach. Or in my minivan." But for us gadget junkies, we do think that. That's why this mobile router and EVDO card combo from Kyocera is perfect for us. The router signed on automatically go to Verizon's network after inserting the ExpressCard; you can also use older PC card modems with the router. Soon, we were sharing very snappy net access with everyone in the nearby park. Two small quibbles -- the router required periodic reboots, and we never got scalding download speeds on the Rev A network. Downloads topped out at 700 Kbps while uploads peaked in the 400-Kbps range. But for the price and ease of use, not to mention the McGyver-like ability to quickly throw up a network, the combo is hard to top. — Mark McClusky
WIRED: Dead simple to set up -- we went from box to internet surfing in less than five minutes. Routing functions worked well, easily managing dozens of clients. Handsome white case design. Router accepts PC card, ExpressCard or USB wireless modems. Four-port wired router included. ExpressCard protrudes less from laptops than competing models.

Slight instability required power cycling to resolve. Speeds not quite up to our hopes for EVDO Rev. Antenna on card seemed a little fragile.

$250, Kyocera

$50 (with two-year contract) from Verizon, Verizon

Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.

Lasonic X Famous i931

The Lasonic X Famous i931 is a ghetto-fabulous boombox designed by former Blink 182 drummer Travis Barker, and its ability to play music from iPods, SD/MMC cards, microphones, USB sticks and line-level sources hits us right in the feature-set sweet spot. But with an interface that somehow renders the user-friendly iPod nearly un-navigable and a chintzy plastic construction, it's best-suited for one activity: belting out rhymes over backing tracks stored in one of the above-mentioned formats. See, this thing has a quarter-inch input that works with a standard stage mic. A gain-control knob mixes vocals above or below the music, while an echo knob adds various intensities of delay to your voice. We would not recommend this 2x12-watt monster for regular music listening since it can be so frustrating to use. But if you know exactly what you would do with a microphone enabled iPod boombox, Lasonic X Famous i931 will get the job done in style — Eliot Van Buskirk
WIRED: Plays MP3s from iPods or flash memory. Displays song information. Lets you address throngs with a microphone (not included). Remote control and custom-fitted docks for various iPod models are included. TIRED: Flimsy construction not tough enough for the streets. Semi-opaque plastic obscures iPod screen; no display on remote. Controls are more confusing than MF Doom's rhyme schemes. Doesn't work with iPhone or iPod Touch. Even when blasting "Fight the Power," we didn't feel like tossing a garbage can through a window.

$250, Famous Stars and Straps

(Photo courtesy Eliot Van Buskirk,
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: The 10-megapixel Olympus SP-570UZ makes a good shooter for the photo enthusiast who lacks experience yet has enough loot to drop on an entry-level DSLR. You can start out relying on the auto settings (they won't steer you wrong), and then explore the advanced functions as you build your skill. Even the most hopeless of n00bs can use this thing. The more experienced user can squeeze a lot from the camera in various shooting situations, and you can perform nearly all functions manually for more control.
The camera's lens barrel extends to a lewd length, but it packs a 20x zoom. The anti-shake controls help in the long shots, but you'll lose some detail unless you're using a tripod. The camera boasts a litany of functions -- face detection, burst mode, 22 scene presets, movie recording and epic zooming ability, but where it really excels is up close. Those who like to sweat the small stuff will love the super macro mode that captures excellent detail in flowers, bugs and other assorted tiny objects.
WIRED: Stunning macro function makes big shots out of the smallest subjects. Versatile controls soothe the enthusiasts while auto presets comfort the n00bs. Excellent manual. Top-mounted hot shoe makes swapping external flash options easy.

TIRED: Pretend-professional zoom requires two hands. Zoom shots without a tripod can come out blurry. Stubborn clinging to proprietary xD media is irritating: Resistance is futile, Olympus.
$500, Olympus
(Photo courtesy Jim Merithew,
Read our full Olympus SP-570UZ camera review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: The brand-new 15.4-inch (1280x800) Gateway M-151X comes in three hues (red, silver and blue) or wrapped in a blue and white floral graphic called Arctic Bloom. While the M-151X is, at heart, a mid-range laptop, its 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM and 250 GB hard drive should provide all the power and storage you need for just about anything that's not specialized: Gaming is decent, graphics are solid and video editing is easy on this machine. The sea of mainstream laptops is littered with lackluster look-alikes, and while the M-151X isn't perfect, it manages to occupy that sweet spot between price and performance, not to mention style.
WIRED: Silver keyboard looks great with the brushed metal bezel that surrounds it. Touch-sensitive volume slider and slot-load DVD burner: score! Bluetooth, HDMI, 5-in-1 card reader, fingerprint reader, 1.3-megapixel webcam with mic. Solid two hours of battery life -- even while running multiple multimedia apps.
TIRED: Only three USB ports (no room for one more?), no FireWire. Speakers leave much to be desired, namely bass. Screen is very reflective, most noticeable with dark images, as when watching movies.
$850, Gateway

(Photo courtesy Jon Snyder,
Read our full Gateway M-151X laptop review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.

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