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HDRSoft Photomatic Pro 3.0

HDR and tone mapping bring out all the detail in this shot of Venice’s Grand Canal.  High dynamic range (HDR) photography is a technique designed to capture much more detail in color and contrast than traditional photography can. When taking a photograph, a camera can only capture a single exposure. A shaded subject with a bright sky behind it presents a classic conundrum. Capturing the details of the shaded subject requires an exposure that will wash out the sky. Yet an exposure optimized for the sky will underexpose the shaded area, swamping its details in inky darkness. HDR photography captures all those details by snapping three or more images at differing exposures and blending them together.

Modartt Pianoteq 2

While there are lots of controls for tweaking the sound, you’ll fall in love with Pianoteq by just playing the darn thing.  While the digital music world is ruled by gnarly synthesizers, decked-out drum machines, and spacey sound effects, most musicians will tell you that the Holy Grail of software is one that can emulate the good old acoustic piano. Sampled piano instruments typically require sample libraries that eat up between 15 and 30 gigabytes of hard drive space, and are constrained by the limitations of sampling technology. Well, fear not: A group of French geniuses have come up with the ultimate nonsampled piano, and it’s downright luscious.

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.

Synology DS107+

This powerful system comes without a drive, but installing your own is a piece of cake.  Of all the NAS devices we tested, the Synology DS107+ promised the most extensive feature list, and the device consistently impressed us with its Swiss-Army-like capabilities on our network. The enclosure ships without a hard drive, so your first task is to install one. The instructions for doing so are simple and easy to follow, and we were plugging the device into our wireless router within minutes. (Disclosure: Synology was kind enough to install a drive in our test model, so we removed it and installed a second drive to duplicate the standard user experience.)

Susie Ochs's picture

Our level 10 knight battles a level 11 troll to become Lord of the Swamp.  Practically everyone has played a board or two of Bejeweled, the match-three puzzle classic that sucks casual gamers in on Macs, PCs, consoles, iPods, and mobile phones. Puzzle Quest starts with the same gameplay, but adds strategy and RPG elements to keep things interesting.

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.

Susie Ochs's picture

Matias iRizer

The iRizer adjusts to four different angles. The MiniRizer has two angle options. Laptops make it possible to work almost anywhere, but if you do too much work in a space that isn’t ergonomic, you could wind up in pain from hunching your back or keeping your wrists bent at a bad angle. The iRizer from Matias is a light, sturdy, adjustable laptop stand that’s as portable as your notebook itself. The iRizer comes in two pieces. The base piece has a strip of rubber to grip the bottom edge of your notebook, and is set up with the Matias logo on the top and the iRizer name facing you. The upright piece has four angled slots labeled 20, 30, 40, and 50 degrees. With the numbers facing you, you feed the base piece through the upright piece, and the way the slots are cut creates the desired angle between the two pieces. You rest the bottom of your laptop on the upright piece, and the rubber strip on the base keeps it in place. The upright piece also has an oval cutout to vent the bottom of your laptop.

This is one bug that won’t spoil your picnic.  Standing out is important in the crowded iPod-speaker market, and Vestalife manages to do that with its first entry into the field, the Ladybug. At first glance, you might not even think it’s a sound system at all. It just looks like a 5.4-by-5.6-inch ball that resembles an overgrown ladybug with closed wings. When you open it up, the speakers fan out, exposing the docking area, and the device looks ready to fly off your shelf. Parents will appreciate the unique rubberized coat of paint that gives the sub-2-pound speaker an original feel and makes it simple for kids to grip without dropping.  

Roberto Baldwin's picture

Alpine ex-10

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.