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Posts tagged with "accessories"

CES: A Tour of the Most Interesting (and Strange) Tech Announcements

CES has been going strong all week with announcements of new gadgets: home automation gear, TVs, computers, and lots more. Many mobile phone makers and some big industry players sit out CES, but there is still plenty of news from companies big and small with new products and technologies to show off.

A lot of what gets hyped at CES is prototypes and concept devices that will never ship or will get delayed. Still, every year I find that CES is fascinating to study for the industry trends it reveals and the handful of gadgets I discover that I’d like to try.

After combing through hundreds of headlines and press releases, I’ve compiled a roundup of some of this week’s most compelling announcements. Feel free to skip around to the categories that you find most interesting using the table of contents below.

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Brydge Announces Pro+ Keyboard with Trackpad for the iPad Pro and a Standalone Trackpad

(Source: Brydge)

(Source: Brydge)

Today Brydge announced the Pro+ keyboard for the iPad Pro, which incorporates a trackpad. The keyboard was first revealed in connection with a lawsuit filed by Brydge against another keyboard maker that Brydge says violated a patent on the company’s keyboard hinge. Although Brydge’s official announcement doesn’t disclose when it will begin taking pre-orders, the company says it will be soon. Brydge also says that the first 500 pre-orders will be shipped in late February, with the remaining pre-orders shipping in late March.

With iPadOS 13, Apple added accessibility support for pointing devices like mice and trackpads. Pointing devices can be connected via USB or Bluetooth using iPadOS’s Assistive Touch Accessibility feature, which permits navigation of the OS’s UI. Although the experience of using a pointing device with an iPad Pro partly resembles using one with a Mac, it’s also different and more limited. As Federico explained in his iOS and iPadOS 13 review:

The first and most important difference between iPadOS and macOS is that UIKit is still designed and optimized for touch input. When you enable mouse support in iPadOS, you’ll notice that the system won’t react to the hover state of the pointer: if you hover over a button in a toolbar, you won’t see a tooltip; if you wait with the cursor over the edge of a document, you won’t see a scroll bar; in Safari, hovering over drop down menus of a webpage will not automatically expand and collapse them.

I’ve used iPadOS 13 with a Logitech MX Master Mouse 3S and agree with Federico’s assessment that if you go into mouse or trackpad use on iPadOS expecting precisely the same sort of experience as a Mac, you’re likely to be disappointed. Still, the feature opens up exciting possibilities beyond the accessibility needs it addresses, such as the ability to assign shortcuts to button presses.

(Source: Brydge)

(Source: Brydge)

Brydge’s new keyboard closely resembles past models but adds a trackpad to the center of the wrist rest. The keyboard comes in two sizes to accommodate the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models, connects via Bluetooth 4.1, has three levels of backlighting, 3-month battery life, and is space gray. With the trackpad, Brydge says users will also be able to open the dock with a two-finger tap on the trackpad and trigger App Exposé with a three-finger tap. Users will also be able to tap the bottom left or right-hand corners of their iPad Pro’s screen to return to the Home screen.

The 11-inch model of the Pro+ will cost $199.99, and the 12.9-inch version will be $229.99. If you are interested in ordering the Pro+, Brydge encourages registering on its website to receive an alert by email when pre-orders begin.

The Brydge trackpad. (Source: Brydge)

The Brydge trackpad. (Source: Brydge)

Separately, Brydge announced a standalone trackpad, which should appeal to existing Brydge keyboard owners who want to add a complementary trackpad without purchasing the Pro+. Brydge hasn’t disclosed much about the standalone version of its trackpad, although the company says it is coming soon, will be glass with a ‘Multi-Touch Engine,’ connect using Bluetooth 4.1, and will have a 3-month per charge battery life.

It will be interesting to see how Brydge’s Pro+ keyboard and standalone trackpad do with users. Off-the-shelf pointing device support was an important addition to iPadOS 13 for people who need the feature for accessibility reasons. I’ve experimented with the feature on several occasions, but until it’s more refined, I have a hard time seeing myself using a pointing device with my iPad Pro regularly. As a result, I’m not that interested in the Brydge Pro+, but I’ll withhold my final judgment on that score until I’ve seen reviews by people who have used production models of the device and tried one myself. I also wouldn’t be surprised if iPadOS 14 strengthens mouse and trackpad support, making the Pro+ an even more attractive option later this year.


Satechi Debuts Cleverly-Designed USB-C Apple Watch Charger

Source: Satechi

Source: Satechi

Satechi began selling a new MFi-certified Apple Watch charger today with a clever design that looks perfect for iPad Pro users.

The charger, which is made of space gray aluminum and retails for $44.99 in the US, has a USB-C connector that plugs directly into devices with USB-C ports. Attached to an iPad Pro while using a Smart Keyboard Folio, you can charge your Watch and conveniently see the time thanks to the Watch’s Nightstand Mode. Satechi includes a short USB-C male to female cable in the box for situations where you don’t want the charger connected directly to a device, such as a MacBook Pro where it would block other USB-C ports.

I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but this charger looks like it would have been perfect when I was traveling last week, so I ordered one immediately. During that trip, I worked on my iPad Pro on and off throughout the day, and Satechi’s charger would have been an excellent way to charge my Watch and had a minimal impact on the iPad Pro’s large battery.

For a limited time you can use the coupon code GIFTSATECHI to get Satechi’s USB-C Magnetic Charging Dock for Apple Watch for 20% off.


Mac Pro Accessory Roundup: Stand, Mount, Webcam, Lock Adapter, and More

After having been pre-announced by nearly 1,000 days, the new Mac Pro finally went up for sale yesterday on Apple.com, alongside the Pro Display XDR. Complementing these two devices, a variety of new accessories have also just launched, some from Apple and others from third-party companies.

The $4,999 Pro Display XDR doesn’t include a stand or mount of any sort out of the box, so buyers will want to either pick up the $999 Pro Stand or the $199 VESA Mount Adapter. The display also does not include a built-in webcam. However, Logitech is offering a new 4K Pro Magnetic Webcam for $199 that attaches magnetically to the top of the display as an add-on for professionals who need that functionality.

Another Apple-designed ‘accessory’ is the $2,000 Afterburner Card, a PCI Express card designed exclusively for the new Mac Pro to accelerate ProRes and ProRes RAW video codecs. Along the same lines of Mac Pro-exclusive hardware, Apple has added a variety of options for DDR4 ECC memory to its store, including 16GB for $400, 32GB for $800, 64GB for $1,200, 128GB for $2,800, and 256GB for $6,000.

After spending a small fortune on your Mac Pro, you might reasonably be concerned about the device being stolen. To the rescue is Belkin with a $49 Lock Adapter that enables you to secure your Mac Pro with a third-party lock. Also from Belkin is a $69 AUX Power Cable Kit which provides an assortment of common AUX cables for graphics cards.

Rounding out the accessory options are AMD’s $2,800 Radeon Pro Vega II MPX Module and $5,600 Vega II Duo, along with an MPX module, the Promise Pegasus R4i 32TB RAID ($2,299), and the Promise Pegasus J2i 8TB Internal Storage Enclosure ($399). The optional $400 wheels for the Mac Pro are not available for separate purchase at this time, and instead must be ordered as part of your configured model.

Two things are immediately obvious upon surveying these accessories: first, they’re clearly for users with very specific high-end needs, and second, Apple has poured significant investment into creating the new Mac Pro, Pro Display XDR, and fostering this new ecosystem of accessories. The target user base may be small, but Apple has nonetheless gone all-out with its most powerful computer.


Apple Releases Smart Battery Case for iPhone 11 and 11 Pro with Dedicated Camera Button

Today Apple has launched new versions of its Smart Battery Case for the latest iPhone models, the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max, which are available to order now from the company’s website with November 25 delivery, which is the same date the case will be available in local stores.

Like previous editions of the Smart Battery Case, the case’s exterior is made of silicone. There are three color options for the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max case: Pink Sand, White, and Black. The standard 11 case, however, is only available in Soft White and Black. All different versions of the Smart Battery Case are available at the same price: $129.

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Each version of the Smart Battery Case offers a quoted 50% longer battery life, making the already-excellent battery life of this year’s iPhones even better. They also all come with a new feature not available with any other previous case: a dedicated button for launching the camera, which sits on the lower-right side of the case.

From the product listing:

The case features a dedicated camera button that launches the Camera app whether the iPhone is locked or unlocked. A quick press of the button takes a photo and a longer press captures QuickTake video. It works for selfies, too.

This is a very intriguing development, and one that’s particularly fitting for the iPhone 11 lineup due to its heavy emphasis on cameras. Now with the Smart Battery Case, you can shoot photos and videos for much longer than before without killing your battery, while also gaining more convenient access to the Camera app than is possible without the case.


Swapping Dongles for a Dock: The OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock

By limiting its laptops to Thunderbolt 3 and USB-C ports, Apple has been able to continue its relentless pursuit of thinness. That’s great when you’re on the go. However, if an Apple laptop is your primary computer, the number and lacking diversity of ports is problematic. When you’re back at home or work, connecting legacy USB-A devices, SD and microSD cards, and Ethernet and HDMI cables requires an array of often expensive dongles and cables that quickly fill up the available ports on your Mac.

When I commuted to downtown Chicago for work, I carried a 2016 MacBook Pro with me. At the end of the day when I returned home, I sat the laptop on my desk and plugged in a bunch of cables and dongles, which was a pain. Because I work from home now, I don’t use my MacBook Pro that way very often anymore, except in the summertime when that laptop becomes a testbed for the latest macOS beta. I’ve been trying to work on the macOS beta from a MacBook Pro as much as possible over the summer, and the experience has caused me to revisit the frustration of unplugging cables and dongles every time I want to leave my desk and work elsewhere.

I had been thinking about ways to improve my summertime beta setup when Other World Computing offered to send me its OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock to test. I took them up on the offer, and having used it for a while now, I love the convenience of being able to connect everything to my MacBook Pro with a single Thunderbolt 3 cable. It’s not an inexpensive solution, but compared to the cost of purchasing multiple over-priced dongles, it’s not as extravagant as it might seem at first.

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Apple Debuts New USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter for iPad Pro and Modern Macs

Chance Miller of 9to5Mac details a fresh update to an Apple USB-C adapter:

Apple this week has quietly released a new version of its USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter. This $69 adapter includes a USB-C port, HDMI port, and USB-A port, with the new version making several notable improvements.

The new USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter adds support for HDMI 2.0, an upgrade from the original model’s HDMI 1.4b. This means you can now drive 4K 3840 x 2160 video at 60Hz

4K 60Hz throughput is supported on the iPad Pro, iMac Pro, and 2017 or later versions of the 15-inch MacBook Pro and Retina iMac. Miller also notes that the updated dongle now includes “support for HDR video in HDR10, as well as Dolby Vision.”

I’ve been interested in purchasing the prior version of this adapter for contexts where I’d like to watch a video but don’t have an Internet connection. Since the Apple TV doesn’t support offline downloads, but many apps on the iPad do, connecting my iPad Pro to a TV set via HDMI seems like the best solution. The added flexibility of including a USB-A port, and even a USB-C port to enable power charging, makes this an especially appealing dongle for me.

You can order the new USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter from Apple’s website for $69.

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StayGo USB-C Hub: First Impressions

The two devices that first got me interested in USB-C hubs were my iPad Pro and MacBook Pro. With the iPad, the attraction was a single device that could connect an external display, support Gigabit Ethernet networking, and read photos from an SD card with the promise of external storage support in iOS 13. For my 2016 13” MacBook Pro, I wanted a way to easily connect legacy USB-A devices, jump on my wired network, copy photos from SD cards, connect to an external 4K display, and leave other USB-C ports open for devices I only occasionally connect to my Mac.

One of the trickiest aspects of picking a hub is finding one with ports that fit your use cases the best. On top of that, not all connections are created equal. As Federico explained in his story on his iPad setups late last year, there are a variety of USB flavors that support different data speeds and power delivery amounts as well as HDMI ports that refresh 4K video at different rates.

Since early this year, I’ve been using the HyperDrive Slim 8-in-1 USB-C Hub, which has:

  • 1 USB-C port with Power Delivery, but that isn’t Thunderbolt-compatible
  • 2 USB-A 3.1 ports with 5Gbps throughput
  • an Ethernet jack
  • Mini DisplayPort (4K at 30Hz)
  • HDMI (4K at 30Hz)
  • an SD card slot
  • a microSD card slot

I haven’t had a need for the Mini DisplayPort connection on the Slim 8-in-1 much, but the hub has handled my other needs well as I detailed in my review. However, one of the biggest problems with the HyperDrive hub is that it has a short built-in cable that can’t be removed. The trouble is that at about 16 centimeters long, the short cord causes the hub to dangle from the side of my MacBook Pro when it’s elevated on Twelve South’s Hi-Rise stand and my iPad Pro when it’s in the Viozon stand I use to write. Both setups look messy and put stress on the cable that I worry will cause it to fail eventually.

That’s why I was intrigued when Twelve South told me they were working on a way to solve the problem. The solution is the company’s new StayGo USB-C hub, which Twelve South sent me to try.

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Libratone’s Zipp 2 and Zipp Mini 2 Portable Wireless Speakers: The MacStories Review

I love my two HomePods. One sits in my living room and the other in my studio. When I finish working for the day, I can ask Siri to move my music from the studio to the living room where I continue what I’m listening to as I make dinner and relax. Most of the time, both HomePods are also within earshot for issuing Siri commands to turn lights on and off, add items to my grocery list, and kick off shortcuts.

Here’s the thing though: it’s summertime. I’m spending time outdoors and going on road trips to visit family. Meanwhile, my HomePods remain tethered to the wall by power cords. They’ll be there waiting when I return, but when I’m on the go, my HomePods are useless, which prompted me to start looking at portable speakers that could reach beyond the walls of my home.

My research led me to Libratone’s Zipp 2 and Zipp Mini 2 wireless speakers, two of the only wireless solutions I’ve found that support Apple’s AirPlay 2 audio streaming technology. Libratone sent me one of each model for testing, and I’ve spent the past few months using them in different spots around my house, in my backyard, and at the beach. Both speakers deliver on the versatility I was looking for, extending the ways and places I can play music. However, neither of the Zipp speakers was quite as simple to use or reliable as the HomePod. The few issues I ran into are balanced out in no small measure by the versatility of the Zipp speakers though, which depending on your needs makes them a worthy replacement for or supplement to the HomePod.

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