So close to being great. In the last few years, the center console of a vehicle has become command central for climate control, navigation, and enormous stock stereos. The amalgamation of these items is great until you try to add an iPod or hands-free Bluetooth system to the mix, or you want to upgrade the audio system. The Alpine eX-10 iPod integration and Bluetooth hands-free calling system hopes to alleviate your lack-of-an-iPod-kit-in-your-new-car blues. The eX-10’s LCD allows drivers to navigate their iPods and Bluetooth-equipped mobile phones. Users have the option of using an FM transmitter or auxiliary minijack audio output to bring the tunes to their stereo system. The FM transmitter pushed a better-than-normal audio signal to the stereo. But if it can be utilized, the auxiliary output is the way to go for cleaner sound, without the issues inherent in FM transmitters.
The Guided Edit mode gives you a column of options for easy editing. Photoshop Elements has long played the role of little brother, with a streamlined interface and toolset designed for amateur photographers, hobbyists, and anyone who doesn’t need all of Photoshop’s advanced functionality—or $649 price tag. At $90, Elements 6 is a tremendous bargain, and head and shoulders above previous versions. This is the first Universal binary version of Elements, and the performance boost on Intel Macs closely mirrors that of Photoshop CS3—it boots quickly and generally feels smooth and responsive. We also ran it on a G4 Titanium PowerBook and a Dual Power Mac G5 with respectable speeds. While Adobe claims that Elements can run with 512MB of RAM (1GB is recommended), we found that the program sometimes crashed on our PowerBook, which has 1GB of RAM, but never on our MacBook Pro or Power Mac G5, with 3GB and 2GB of RAM, respectively. We suggest downloading the trial version to see how it performs on your machine.
Dark Castle’s infamous henchmen return—and bring friends. Return to Dark Castle revisits two classic Mac games from 1986 and 1987. Back then, the black-and-white Dark Castle titles introduced sharp graphics and smart gameplay to a young side-view, platform genre. But other than color and more levels, little has been added to Return to Dark Castle. This lovingly crafted game could have come out 20 years ago—we were hoping for more updates and innovation.
Olympus’s Four Thirds sensor limits your lens choices, but the E-3 takes excellent pictures. The Olympus E-3 is a beefy, 10-megapixel, semipro DSLR aching to beat up on the competition. But at $1,700 for its magnesium-muscled body and another $900 for a top-of-the-line Supersonic Wave Drive (SWD) lens, it may be tough to take on contenders that offer as much (or more) for the money.
The sleek SeeThru adds barely any bulk, but a bit of weight If buying a MacBook Air didn’t empty your bank account, fear not. The stampede of related accessories is ravenously thundering toward you, ready to gobble up every spare dollar. Sure, that might seem cynical, especially since, as far as add-ons are concerned, a good laptop case is usually considered money well spent. Spare Your Air.
The Mini Surge is incredibly handy for recharging your USB devices while traveling. Back when FireWire was first introduced, one of its coolest features was that it delivered power and was a fast data conduit. At the time, USB’s trickle of electrons wasn’t enough to power much of anything. As devices became more frugal with their electricity, USB slowly turned into a recharging standard for many small gadgets. But there’s one major difference in how Macs handle these ports while asleep: FireWire ports continue to receive power, whereas USB ports don’t. So you can recharge a FireWire device while your laptop is asleep, but not a USB device. You have to leave the whole system running just to charge your iPod.
iBackup’s list of default sources includes all the files that most home users will want to save. iBackup’s Spartan interface may give the impression of a featherweight, but looks in this case are deceiving. Although it eschews the slew of options offered by ChronoSync, the application retains just enough power to best Apple’s Backup 3 at running regular network backups. iBackup saves and organizes backup plans as profiles, each of which has its own set of options within the Preferences menu. For network backups, the application can automatically connect to network volumes by IP address, and can automatically disconnect when the backup is finished. Backup profiles can be scheduled to repeat daily or weekly.
Bank shots are even better when you shoot them on purpose! With Neon Tango, Freeverse conjures up the spirit of classic, vector-line arcade games. This unabashedly retro shooter features typical, blast-anything-that-moves gameplay that would normally cost you an afternoon pumping quarters into a cabinet. And even though Neon Tango never feels completely original, its high standards make for some fun shooting.
No need to lug a DSLR to every outing—the PowerShot G9 saves room in your beach bag for more sandwiches. The PowerShot G9 is a “prosumer” camera, neither fish nor fowl in a world that otherwise clearly defines point-and-shoot versus full DSLR. But in not being clearly one or the other, the G9 winds up delivering many of the best characteristics of both. Its $500 list price is at the high end for point-and-shoots, and adding Canon’s optional lenses pushes it toward DSLR prices, but the price also foreshadows features with a high-end bent.
Déjà Vu lists all saved backup plans in its pane inside System Preferences. Déjà Vu stands out as the most effortless and invisible application that we tested, offering an intuitive interface that collects all of the features most essential for network backups.