Optimus Mini Three 2.0

Light-up, animated keys are cool, but we want to do more.  We like the idea of tiny OLED displays embedded in keyboard keys, but until we tried one of these futuristic keyboards, it seemed like nothing more than a way to show off. After all, don’t your fingers usually cover those buttons? But after trying the Art Lebedev Optimus Mini Three 2.0, a three-key version that’s not intended to replace a full-size keyboard, we’re highly supportive of the concept. Customizable, animated keys can show instant feedback.

Zack Stern's picture

Healing Rhythms

You can practice meditation techniques with biofeedback from these sensors.  To us, biofeedback has always seemed like the natural direction for input devices, where sensors can hook up to your body and read subtle changes in brain activity that would control what’s displayed on the computer—or, in our most advanced sci-fi fantasies—what the computer does. Companies such as NeuroSky (www.neurosky.com) are developing EEG brainwave-reading systems to control machines. These applications could eventually lead to a retail product that lets you move the cursor with your mind. Healing Rhythms introduces us to a few other biofeedback sensors designed to teach users about meditation and quieting the mind and body. The hardware and software don’t control the Mac otherwise, but instead monitor your responses as you move through various exercises. We got a kick out of watching the software change with biofeedback, and we even learned a few useful basic meditation techniques in the process.

Cintiq 20WSX

Take your photos and illustrations in hand with this gloriously large and responsive LCD tablet.  Digital Artists, Designers and photographers need a way to edit photos, draw onscreen, and edit their designs and images. Without a pen tablet, clicking and drawing with a standard mouse can feel cumbersome and imprecise. With Wacom’s gorgeous (and pricey) Cintiq 20WSX, you can banish your mouse and write, scribble, and sketch onscreen with a stylus instead. This 20.1-inch drawing tablet merges a bright LCD with a touch-sensitive surface, giving amazing control in the apps that graphics pros use most. The result feels nearly the same as actual pencils and brushes, but with all the benefits of a digital workspace, like undo, layers, and scripts.

Dictate 1.0.1

Dictate comes with a USB headset. Dictation programs act as your personal typist, transcribing words as quickly as you speak—theoretically, anyway. Initially, Dictate did an excellent job transcribing our spoken phrases into onscreen text. And it even let us control menus, edit text, and access other functionality in the open app, so we kept our hands off the keyboard with great success. Dictate impressed us with its quick, accurate performance. However, we hit a wall almost immediately. In its initial release, Dictate can’t improve its accuracy when listening to your corrections. If it thinks you mean “racket” when you say “wrecked,” it always will until MacSpeech releases an update.

SpaceNavigator for Notebooks

Perfect for flying through 3D apps like Google Earth  A mouse never feels quite right controlling 3D applications. Designers usually have to click many times—or enter elaborate multikey commands—to angle the perspective just right. The SpaceNavigator for Notebooks is a great 3D controller because it moves in all of the directions you might want to go in order to manipulate a digital object or scene. With this device, a quick twist or nudge feels more natural than using mouse-clicks and key commands.

X-Rite i1Display

The same colorimeter comes with both options—only the software is different.  Color experts are aware that the average Joe isn’t cuckoo for color theory, but we’d all like to depend on the consistency of a calibrated, profiled display. The X-Rite i1Display does an impressive job of attending to the needs of both enthusiasts and pros, depending on the software package selected. Color Me Accurate

Susie Ochs's picture

Perfect for camping, hotel rooms, or anywhere you need a tiny speaker.  We’ve seen hundreds of iPod cases, scores of speakers, and even a few novelty products like bags and coolers that pack built-in speakers with iPod connections. But the iMainGo 2 combination case and speaker is one of the most useful and decent-sounding products we’ve tested—especially for its $40 price.

Xtrememac Tango X

It looks great, but the Tango X2’s sound won’t make you feel like dancing.  At first blush, the Tango X2 iPod speaker dock gets plenty of points for design. The smooth, black box takes the space of a couple of encyclopedias, and its elegant silver trim works dressed up for a dining room or down for a bedroom. But the Tango X2 has two left feet where it really counts, blasting out shrill, distorted sound.