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Old 02-06-2009
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Gear Gallery: Media Streamers, Two-Wheeled Screamers, Pocket-Sized Beamers
: Kodak’s Theatre HD's raison d'être is straightforward: to shuttle the contents of your PC directly to your television using ethernet or Wi-Fi. Pictures, videos, podcasts, music or any other digital content that may be living on your hard drive (as long as it's not squelched by some DRM straightjacket) can be whisked away by this tiny little box to your television with little to no fuss.
What really sets the Theatre HD Player apart from the rest of the field is how immaculately it performs its tasks. Once you've downloaded Kodak's EasyShare display software, everything is pretty much taken care of. Have a hard drive filled with extra content? No problem. Simply hook it up to one of the player's USB ports and you're ready to go.
WIRED: Intuitive UI coupled with a handy RF remote makes setup and playback of multimedia a Zen-like experience. Wealth of connectivity options: component, HDMI, optical or RCA audio, dual USB ports. Transforms crappy YouTube video into semi-watchable content.
TIRED: Requires Kodak EasyShare software to get the streaming party started. No Mac compatibility (for now). Pricey, especially for a device without a hard drive. Needs more internet content.
$300, Kodak

Read our full Kodak Theatre HD Player review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: Skidding in at 53 pounds (on the lighter side for this category), Ohm's mountain bike-inspired geometry and its nine-level power-assist and regeneration system make it a smart, nimble and efficient two-wheeler.
On pavement and trail the BionX power plant, mounted on the rear hub, employs a unique sensor technology that is constantly adjusting the level of assistance it gives you based on the terrain. Encountering some mushy road? More power is delivered to the gears. Gliding down paved asphalt? The juice is dialed back. And if your thighs are flushed with lactic acid on a sheer hill, a flick of the trusty thumb throttle cracks the whip and the motor totally takes over, no pedaling required. But for all this innovation and comfort, you will, however, have to part with a spouse-enraging $3,450. Is it worth it? Well, it is a ton of fun.
WIRED: Excellent Shimano parts mix with disc brakes and RockShox suspension fork. Lockable battery compartment hides space for mobile phone, wallet, media player and your other little stuff. Regeneration mode gives extra on-bike battery life. Comfortable suspension seat post. Four- to six-hour charge time.
TIRED: Throttle position needs to be improved for optimal bike handling. Price steeper than any hill the bike can handle.
$3450, Ohm Cycles

Read our full Ohm Cycles XS700 review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: For about $300 more than the average netbook, the UC7807u offers a scintillating array of grownup specs. Intel 2.0-GHz Core 2 Duo CPU? Check. 250-GB hard drive? Yep. 3 GB of memory, a glossy 13.3-inch display, a slot-loading optical drive and ports galore (three USB and an HDMI)? You betcha! Best of all, with its fetching brushed aluminum chassis, no one will mistake this for a budget notebook.
Unfortunately, the UC7807u also has all the telltale signs of some obvious corner cutting. Forget about gaming. Due to Intel's torpid integrated GMA 4500MHD graphics card, even moderately intensive titles won't run properly. But our main beef with the UC7807u is the feeble 6-cell battery which clocked in at a disappointing 3 hours, 25 minutes — a full hour shorter than most other notebooks in this category.
WIRED: Recession-worthy price. Built like a tank. Slick, touch-sensitive volume and multimedia controls.
TIRED: Tips the scales for a notebook in this category. Battery drains faster than an ATM at a strip club. Epic fail on the tiny circular touchpad. It's cramped and serves no discernable purpose. Onboard speakers spit out tinny, distorted sound. HDMI, but no Blu-ray?
$800 as tested, Gateway

Read our full Gateway UC7807u review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: It's no wonder this watch ran away with my heart; for the competitive runner or multisport athlete seeking a personal best in 2009, the Polar RS800CX is the required training device. Because of incredibly robust desktop software, tracking of obscure performance metrics, and a wide variety of add-on sensors, the RS800CX can help you measure, analyze and improve nearly every aspect of your training program.
WIRED: Offers better heart-rate monitoring than your average hospital. Incredibly customizable from in-watch display, to software interface, to training programs. GPS and barometric altimeter combined with location tracking mean you'll never wonder where you wandered. Extensible pods make watch more sport-versatile than Lance Armstrong
TIRED: Even beer goggles won't pretty up this ugly watch face. May need to hire a coach anyway — just to teach you how to use the PC-only desktop software.
$500, Polar

Read our full Polar RS800CX MULTI review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: The pocket rocket we've been packing in our pants recently (full name: Optoma DLP EP-PK-101 Pico Pocket Projector) is one of the first mini projectors to hit the market. It's also one of the best, even though a number of flaws spill from the tiny device.
Styled like a '40s-era Zippo, the piano-black portable feels more natural in the hand than a lot of cellphones. But it's not size that matters to us, it's the video components! The projector is comprised of a combo-rig LED lamp and a DLP chip (courtesy of Texas Instruments) that sets the resolution at 480 x 320 pixels with a range output of 9 lumens. Yes, we know this is low compared to full-bodied projectors like Benq's gargantuan MP512 ST 2500-lumen projector but for something this small, it's remarkable.
WIRED: Perfect projector for parties. Rectangular lens creates wide image that keeps the image from stretching. Fine picture quality, 8-96 inches. Startup time > 4 seconds. Dead-sexy hardware.
TIRED: Lithium-ion batteries die after 2 hours' use; how are we supposed to watch our Battlestar marathon? Battery recharge time 4 frakkin' hours. Suck-tastic speaker. Unless you have a video-out adapter, you can't project Office docs from your PC. Projector gets hot enough to fry bacon after running 30 minutes.
$400, Optoma

Read our full Optoma EP-PK-101 Pico Pocket Projector review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: Are you the schlemiel who's always dropping his cellphone or camera at parties? Or maybe you're the schlemazel who always gets the drink spilled on him? Either way, if you're looking for a camera to fit a clumsy or accident-prone lifestyle, the shockproof, waterproof, and cold-resistant Stylus 1050 SW can take the beating from fumbles, faceplants or full-speed crashes, and still keep clicking.
About the size and shape as a pack of smokes, the 1050 is equipped with an accelerometer letting you tinker with settings by tapping on the top and the sides. This lets you do useful stuff like turn the flash on and off with a gloved mitt or preview pictures with one hand while you fend off a tiger shark with the other.
WIRED: Shockproof to 5 feet and waterproof 10 means you can bang it on the edge of the pool as you fall in with no harm done. Tap feature lets you change settings without futzing with buttons, and the camera can handle alpine frigidity with aplomb. Comes with a microSD adapter for greater media versatility.
TIRED: Lens cover slides more easily than Ricky Henderson. The battery is easily inserted backwards, making you think it's dead or the camera is malfunctioning. Weak zoom and poor macro ability; this camera could use a bifocal upgrade.

$300, Olympus
Read our full Olympus Stylus 1050 SW review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: Touted as the thinnest and lightest BlackBerry yet, the Curve 8900 has some much-needed upgrades over its predecessor, but also some disappointments.
Wi-Fi is hot and easy to set up, the camera got a bump to 3.2 megapixels, the 16 GB MicroSD storage can hold up to 20 hours of video, and the high-res screen is fantastic in any light. On the other hand, callers were hard to hear, documents were difficult to create, and RIM's revamped proprietary browser is good for surfing the Internet but isn't as smart about automatically resizing webpages as the browsers on competing smartphones.
WIRED: Slick, sexy design mashes the best of the Bold and Curve 8830. Brilliant, high-resolution screen is one of the best we've seen on a RIM device. Full HTML-rendering on websites. 3.2-megapixel camera is even better when paired with video-recording capabilities; 3.5mm headphone jack means no clumsy adapters. Near 5-hour battery life is most impressive.
TIRED: 3G is MIA. Despite the powerful 512-Mhz processor, the software still lags. New website and software don't perform as well as they should. Phone quality was mixed and loud speakers fail to compensate for somewhat distorted music playback.
$200 with a two year contract, RIM

Read our full RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: This handset (which arrives in some of the most gorgeous packaging I've ever seen a consumer electronic encased in) is almost laughably banal in its actual construction. A silver slider with wide-spaced keys, it posses a passing resemblance to the Nokia 5200, albeit with a larger (2.2-inch) screen. But, once you switch it on and start using it, things begin to get interesting.
The operating system orbits around Facebook synchronization. Basically you take the phone online, pair it with your Facebook account, and all of your various Facebook applications become active on the mobile. Your Facebook address book syncs up with the phone's address book. Events from your Facebook calendar become part of the phone's calendar. Take a picture with the 3.2-megapixel camera, and you can automatically upload those shots to a Facebook album.
WIRED: Brightly hued, easy to use, easy-to-sync OS pairs perfectly with your Facebook account. Skype integration is thoughtful. Thoughtfully spaced keys make texting, entering URLs rather pleasant. Camera takes photos that are sharp enough to be a profile picture. Extremely cheap for an unlocked device.
TIRED: Humdrum hardware punctuates novel OS. Not offered in the United States ... yet. Battery life is clinically depressing when surfing the web, using Skype.
$112 (estimated), Three

Read our full INQ1 Facebook Phone review.
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: HP has been tinkering with touch tech for a couple of years. But they have yet to nail the bull's eye with a machine that mixes mature hardware with a haptic interface that feels like more than just a half-assed effort. So, we were cautiously optimistic with the TouchSmart tx2z. The good news? As HP's first multitouch convertible tablet, it's got a lot of potential.
Converting from notebook to tablet proved painless, thanks to a solid hinge and the included pen. After swinging the 1280 x 800 screen around (and folding it back), we found two goodies. First, using the pen automatically disables the touchscreen (to prevent palm-related havoc), and second, HP included an active digitizer for handwritten input. This made reckless activities like e-mailing while strolling around the block surprisingly easy. Even jotting down quick notes using a finger (instead of the pen) gave us minimal hassle.
WIRED: Fully baked as both a touch and tablet device. Travels well with its compact and stylish chassis. Includes quick keys for rotating screen orientation. Mini media remote and pen conveniently hide away in chassis. Altec Lansing speakers strike decent balance between volume and clarity. Extra goodies aplenty: biometric security, webcam, dual headphone jacks, 802.11n compatibility and 5-in-1 card reader.
TIRED: Bloated OS hinders performance of otherwise decent specs. Occasionally laggy switches between notebook and tablet mode. No multitouch love for the trackpad. Terrible viewing angles and weak visibility in direct sunlight. Fan sounds like a leaf-blower at a My Bloody Valentine show.
$1550 (as tested), HP

Read our full HP TouchSmart tx2z review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.
: Nero's LiquidTV TiVo PC looks like a TiVo and acts like a TiVo, but, brother, it ain't no TiVo.
Actually, the package makes your PC act like a TiVo by adding a USB TV tuner and the same TiVo software that drives the set-tops. You also get a for-reals TiVo remote and an IR receiver so you can command content from the couch.
Ironically, that's where you're gonna get pissed. The remote can't launch the software, so you'll have to physically walk over and mouse it open. The remote can be programmed to turn your TV on and off, but it can't put your PC in standby mode or wake it up again. If you do that manually, the IR receiver fails to wake up with the rest of the system.
WIRED: Includes a one-year TiVo subscription, and after that it's a cheaper-than-set-top $99 per year. The software can auto-convert recordings to iPod or Sony PSP format. Integrates with any TiVo boxes you already have. Extra storage is just an external hard drive away.
TIRED: The remote lacks necessary PC controls. Not measurably better than Windows Media Center — which, incidentally, is free. The tuner supports ClearQAM, but the software doesn't, so forget digital channels unless you hook up the antenna.

$125, Tivo
Read our full Nero LiquidTV TiVo PC review.
Check's latest Gadget Lab reviews, updated daily.

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