RuggedKey USB drive by LaCie USA
$39.95 for 16 gigabytes or $69.95 for 32 gigabytes at
USB thumb drives are pretty tough to begin with, but not quite tough enough for the engineers at LaCie. So they’ve come up with a bright, bouncy little gadget that was born to take a pounding.
The RuggedKey is based on the USB 3.0 standard, so it swaps data much faster than drives of the previous generation. With its buffed stainless steel design, it looks solid enough. But LaCie has clothed the RuggedKey in a removable sheath made of soft, bright-orange plastic. The company claims that the drive can withstand a drop of well over 300 feet with no ill effects. I only dropped it about 50 feet, but it came through just fine. RuggedKey is also water-resistant and able to withstand extremes of heat and cold.
In addition, LaCie includes the ability to scramble stored files with extremely tough 256-bit encryption software. And RuggedKey buyers get 16 gigabytes of free online data backup, provided by the company’s Wuala cloud storage service.
The extra online storage partly makes up for the price, which is considerably more than most USB drives of equal capacity. But then, how many of the others are built to take a beating?
iFrogz Boost near-field amplified speaker for smartphones by Zagg Inc.
$24.66 at Amazon.com
Some external smartphone speakers make you plug the phone into a connection dock; others require you to set up a Bluetooth link. But the newest idea from iFrogz is a speaker that’s even simpler to use. Just drop your phone on top of it.
It’s all based on a technology called “near-field audio.” Start the phone playing music through its built-in speakers, then put it on top of the Boost.
The device picks up the sound from the phone’s speakers, amplifies it, and pumps it out through its own built-in pair of speakers. I have no idea how it works, but it does. The Boost runs on three AA batteries, and can spend months in “standby mode.”
It starts cranking out sound the moment you put the phone on top, then drops back into standby when the music ends.
It’s a slick idea, hampered by the Boost’s mediocre speakers.
To my ears, the music sounded muddy and undistinguished. I’ve gotten much better results from Bluetooth external speakers.
Still, this gadget is cheap, easy to use, and reasonably loud. It may be just the thing for low-budget listeners who’d like to give a boost to their favorite music.
Tritton Warhead wireless surround sound headset for the Xbox 360 game console
$299.99 at store.gameshark.com
I’d say $300 is a mighty fat price for a set of headphones. But this is a mighty set of phones, a wireless rig that delivers the full-blast glory of video game sound without waking the neighbors.
The Warhead comes with its own pyramid-shaped control console which plugs into the Xbox’s digital audio port. The phones themselves are powered by rechargeable batteries, but you never plug them into an electrical outlet. Instead, slide the battery into the console’s recharging port. The Warhead even includes two batteries, so you can use one while recharging the other.
The phones hook up to the Xbox at the press of a button; a spinning light on the control console tells you you’re locked in. Now just fire up the game and start playing. As I blasted my way through Modern Warfare 3, the Warhead delivered every nuance of the game’s immersive, concussive sound. Meanwhile, my wife snoozed on the sofa undisturbed.
I’m not enough of a hardcore gamer to lay out this much money for headphones. But the Warhead is a superb accessory for the Xbox killer elite.