Category Archives: travel accessories

Magellan Leads With Four New MiVue DashCams for CES



Magellan LogoFor those who want to record their travels for pleasure or have to keep their insurance premiums down out of necessity, GPS pioneers Magellan have announced four new affordable MiVue DashCams for the upcoming CES 2016. To be clear, these aren’t navigation devices, but instead record video of journeys, accidents and other unexpected events. The new MiVue 320, MiVue 420, MiVue 430 and MiVue 450D are all designed to be unobtrusively located on the dash, while having a comprehensive base set of features, including

  • Magellan 420 DashCamMiVue Manager – Intuitive interface to browse recorded videos. Video recorded from the Impact Sensor can be reviewed for post-accident analysis. Video may be shared on social media sites like YouTube and Facebook
  • Parking Mode – In situations where there’s an impact while the car is parked, the DashCam wakes up to record the event. You can even choose to have the device always recording with vehicles that have constant power supplies.
  • Impact Sensor – Records impact forces, which show the direction and magnitude of a collision.
  • Night View Enhancement – Automatic day or night light adjustment assuring the best picture quality regardless of lighting conditions.
  • Impact Event Recording – When the 3-axis sensor detects sudden changes in motion, the device instantly saves protected files to prevent them from being overwritten.
  • Camera Mode – Switch to Camera Mode to collect photo evidence or create lasting memories. With the built-in battery, the device can be taken out of the car to get close-up photos.
  • Rotating Mount Design – Mount easily pivots to any desired angle assuring you never miss an important moment.
  • GPS Tracking – The built-in, high-sensitivity GPS receiver automatically records your driving information on the video, so you have both a location and time stamp during playback.
  • Wide Angle Lens – The 140° wide-angle lens provides an enhanced peripheral view to record the entire street.

The top-end 450D comes with dual cameras to record a wide 240° view or both inside and outside of the vehicle, and has WiFi connectivity. The 420 and 430 DashCams provide additional safety with Lane Departure warnings and Front Collision Avoidance alerts.

Magellan is excited to expand its award-winning line of MiVue DashCam models. Our four new models are designed with superior image quality, large storage capacity and extended battery life,” commented Stig Pedersen, Magellan Associate Vice President of Product Management.

The new Magellan MiVue DashCams will be available from Q2 2016 at retailers throughout the U.S. and Canada as well as online at www.magellangps.com in with prices expected to start at $109.99.

If you want to know more, the DashCams will be on show at CES 2016 in the Magellan Booth, LVCC South Hall MP25441.


Booq Cobra Laptop Briefcase Review



booq LogoOn review here is the Booq Cobra Laptop Briefcase, a lightweight and high-spec laptop bag. Unlike some of the other Booq bags that I’ve reviewed here for GNC, it’s in the more traditional style for those circumstances where a rucksack looks a little bit too casual. Designed for laptops with screens up to 16″, it’s made with ballistic nylon complimented by lower leather trim, meaning it looks good but is durable too. As you’ll see from the pictures, the YKK zips are mostly on show in bright steel, though the main laptop compartment has a covered waterproof zip.

Booq Cobra Side

Booq Cobra with Laptop

Opening it up, the Cobra has plenty of room inside, with five main compartments for gear. Starting from one side…

  1. Booq Cobra InnerZipped pocket with Booq’s corporate copper-coloured inner, suitable for an A5 size notepad or tablet.
  2. Open pocket with soft jersey inner. Additional easy access pockets within suitable for purse, wallet, mobile phone, MP3 player or tablet. Useful when on the go but gear may fall out.
  3. Big zipped pocket with copper inner. Further internal pockets for A4 notepad and bigger devices, perhaps external hard drive, PSU or even lunchboxes. Couple of pen pockets and a keyring too. Handily, the zip on this goes at least three quarters of the way down the side of the Cobra, so it opens wide. Not sure you’d quite get a change of clothes in here but it’s close.
  4. Big hidden waterproof zipped pocket, with soft padded lining. The is obviously intended for the main device and it comfortably took a big Toshiba Satellite Pro.
  5. Simple open pocket with copper inner, big enough for a magazine or A4 notepad.

There’s padding and protection between the compartments, so gear is going to be looked after wherever it is.

Booq’s copper-coloured inner may not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s much easier to find stuff in the depths of the pockets. To some extent the pictures don’t do the colour justice – it’s better in real life, as they say.

Booq Cobra CarryFor carriage, the Cobra’s well covered. To start with, there’s the two handles which are comfortable without being overly broad, and attach to the bag with seatbelt-style webbing. The handles fold back into the bag when not needed, keeping the bag neat. Then there’s an over-the-shoulder strap, made from similar webbing with a large shoulder pad and metal clasps at each end. And finally there’s a webbing loop that can be passed over the handle of a trolley suitcase to sit the Cobra on top.

Even better, the Cobra has a flat bottom, so the bag stays upright when put down (mostly!).

As with all Booq bags, the Cobra is tagged with a Terralinq serial number, which is Booq’s “lost and found” service, giving a much greater chance of being reunited with lost gear. Let’s hope you never need to use it.

At US$295, GB£210 or 295€, the Booq Cobra isn’t an impulse purchase so I imagine the briefcase will be protecting some high-end gear. The Cobra seems a quality product – well finished, no lose threads, metal fixtures – and it’s perfect for cossetting a MacBook Pro or gaming laptop while travelling. Available on-line (US, UK, Europe) and other good retailers.

Thanks to Booq for the review Cobra.


Plantronics Calisto 620 Speakerphone Review



Plantronics Logo

On review here is the Plantronics Calisto 620 UC wireless Bluetooth speakerphone. It’s designed to pair with a smartphone or tablet for impromptu teleconferences and as the UC (Unified Communications) variant, the Calisto comes with a pre-paired USB Bluetooth transceiver, working well with IP-based telephony such as Microsoft’s Lync or Skype for Business.

In my experience, speakerphones fall into two categories; those that are normal phones with a speakerphone capability and those that are dedicated speakerphones and typically have no handset. The former usually sound rubbish with the feature added to tick a box, whereas the latter can provide clear communication into a meeting. Let’s take a look and see if the Calisto 620 also provides that much needed clear communication.

With the unboxing video out of the way, how well does the Calisto work in practice? It’s certainly very easy to use. Once paired with a smartphone, it can be treated as simple Bluetooth headset. The 620 doesn’t have voice dialling or voice commands, so calls have to be placed via the smartphone. I don’t see this as an issue given the expected usage of the Calisto 620 within an office environment. Incoming calls can be answered by pressing the call button on the unit.

Using the 620 with IP telephony was similarly easy. The pre-paired Bluetooth transceiver plugs into a spare USB port on the PC and the connection to the 620 is established automatically. For incoming calls, press the call button to take the call; for outbound calls, select the Calisto as the audio device in Lync and dial via the softphone.

The Calisto 620 supports A2DP meaning that music or video soundtrack can played through the speaker. Ok, it’s not hi-fi, but it’s a massive improvement on most smartphone speakers. The volume isn’t going to fill a lecture theatre but for a conference room or office, it’s perfectly adequate.

With regard to audio quality, it’s surprisingly good on both sides of the call. According to the Plantronics specification, the Calisto has “Bi-directional microphones (that) activate in the direction of speaker’s voice” and “Full duplex audio with 360° room coverage”. What that means is that 620 can pick out whoever is talking wherever they are in the room…

One of the biggest benefits is simply that the Calisto 620 is battery powered and can be located wherever is most convenient. Cabled (speaker)phones are still restricted to the length of the cord. Battery life is rated at seven hours talk time which I think is accurate as I got a working day of music out of the 620, with a few breaks here and there.

In summary, the Plantronics Calisto 620 wireless speakerphone is an ideal addition to the office arsenal of technology. Whether paired to a smartphone or IP telephony, the 620 provides portable voice-conferencing for small groups which can be up and running in seconds. At around GB£80, it’s competitively priced against its rivals, many of which don’t have the seamless integration with Microsoft Lync or other IP telephony systems.

Thanks to Plantronics for supplying the review Calisto 620 speakerphone. Feedback welcome from GNC readers on the unboxing video.


Booq Boa Shift Backpack Review



booq LogoOn review here is the Booq Boa Shift, a lightweight laptop backpack and brother to the Booq Taipan Shock reviewed a few weeks ago. Cut from the same cloth, both physical and metaphorically, the Shift takes laptops up to 17″ compared with the Shock’s 16″, but there’s little in it terms of overall size at 46 x 34 x 20 cm. There’s plenty of room inside for the gadgets and gear, with a slim pocket for the laptop, a larger section for gear and a couple of outer pockets for easy access. It’s a svelte, streamlined pack when all zipped up.

booq Boa Shift

The outer material is 1680D triweave water-repellent polyester closed with YKK zips and all the stitching is neatly finished and taped over on the inside. It looks like a quality product – there are no stray threads or sticky zips. The specs say the Shift weighs around 1.4 kg (3 lb) which is heavier than the Shock and although I don’t have the benefit of the two backpacks side by side, the Shift does feel a little more substantial with extra internal pockets.

The dedicated laptop section is closest to the back side of the Shift and has padding on all sides. It took every laptop I had with ease, including a hefty HP ProBook with a near 16″ screen. My small Chromebook almost disappeared inside it.

booq Boa Shift Internal Pocket

In the main section, there’s a selection of zipped pockets, netted areas, keyrings and pen-holders with plenty of room for books and lunchboxes too. The Boa Shift has flashes of yellow both inside and on the back. The main pocket opens good and wide for easy access to the insides.

booq Boa Shift Internal Pocket

The Boa is loaded with features. To start with all the zips are YKK’s water-repellent versions, so once closed up the bag will keep gear dry in a rain shower, and the bag looks neat as there are no zip teeth showing. Each side of the bag has two open pockets which will take a small bottle of water or perhaps boarding passes. The shoulder straps have two small elastic pockets that can take small items, such as an mp3 player. On the rear, there’s a separate zipped pocket, just the right size for an ereader or small tablet.

booq Boa Shift back

One final touch is a small separate zipped pouch for bits’n’pieces like headphones or credit cards. I can see it being handy travelling too, as you could put all the essentials in it and simply pull out the pouch before putting the Shift in the overhead bin.

Comfort-wise, the shoulder straps are well padded and can be adjusted for fit. There are little loops on the end of the straps to help tighten when needed. There’s an airmesh back padding to help with the load while keeping cool. I loaded the Boa up with some books and lugged it around for a bit and there’s no complaints here.

booq Boa Shift Straps

Finally, as with all Booq backpacks, the Boa Shift comes with Terralinq, a service designed to reunite lost bags with owners. By pairing a serial number on the backpack with the purchaser, the Shift can be returned should it be found.

Overall, as with Taipan Shock, the Booq Boa Shift is a well-made backpack that has plenty of pockets and space for safely toting the biggest of laptops and all the gear that goes with them. The Boa Shift is available from Amazon.co.uk for around GB£120, which is pricey enough and given that the Shock is currently retailing for about half the price, unless you need that extra 1″ or so, I’d stick with the Shock. However, if size matters (or you want a more streamlined pack), take a look at the Boa Shift.

Thanks to Booq for the loan of the Boa Shift.


Booq Taipan Shock Backpack Review



booq LogoThe Booq Taipan Shock is a lightweight laptop backpack for devices with screens up to 16″, designed to store the laptop safely in a padded section, placing all the accoutrements of mobile life in other pockets and compartments. As can be seen in the photos, it’s a relatively big backpack at 46 × 33 × 21 cm giving it a large internal volume for plenty of gear. The outer material is 1680D triweave water-repellent polyester closed with YKK zips and all the stitching is neatly finished and taped over on the inside. The specs say it weighs just under a kilo.

Booq Taipan Shock back

Booq Taipan Shock strap sideThe dedicated laptop section is closest to the back side of the Shock and has padding on all sides with a flash of red material. The Shock easily took a chunky HP ProBook with a 15.6″ screen and a more svelte 13″ Lenovo Yoga looked almost lost inside the padded laptop pocket.

Booq Taipan Shock laptop pocket

In the main section, there’s a selection of zipped pockets, netted areas, pen-holders and slots for paper pads. There’s plenty of room for books and lunchboxes too.

Inside the Taipan Shock

Booq Taipan Shock Removable KeyringThe Taipan Shock has loads of neat features. To start with all the zips are YKK’s water-repellent versions, so once closed up the bag will keep gear dry in a rain shower. As the zips are covered with a layer of material, they look neat and tidy, with none of the zip teeth showing. For convenience, one of the side pockets has a detachable keyring, and while the arm straps can be adjusted for fit, any extra webbing can be neatly wrapped and retain with velcro to stop it flapping around. Finally on the rear of the backpack, there’s a pocket that’s just the right size for an ereader or 7″ tablet, which is handy for easy access.

Booq TagsThe Taipan Shock looks very smart in grey but for a bit of brightness a few coloured leather pull-tabs are included which can be swapped in. It’s a neat touch.

Finally, the Booq Taipan Shock comes with Terralinq, a service designed to reunite lost bags with owners. By pairing a serial number on the backpack with the purchaser, the Shock can be returned should it be found.

Overall, the Booq Taipan Shock is a well-made backpack that has plenty of pockets and space for safely toting larger laptops. The Taipan Shock is vailable from Amazon.co.uk with an RRP of £80.

Thanks to Booq for the loan of the Taipan Shock.


Sennheiser Headphones at Gadget Show Live



Sennheiser_aiAt Gadget Show Live, I had the chance to chat with Michael from Sennheiser about their current headphone range including the Urbanites and the latest iteration in their classic Momentum series. The second generation Momentum M2 maintains the original’s high fidelity while improving the headphones’ comfort. The Momentum Wireless is ideal for the traveller with Sennheiser’s active noise-cancellation technology, NoiseGard, and the AptX codec for high definition wireless transmission.

Having previously reviewed the Momentum On-Ears and being extremely impressed with the audio, I imagine the over-ear version is even better.

Momentum M2

 

 


Tegstove Camping Stove Cooks and Powers



British Inventors ProjectThe Tegstove is a portable gas stove that cooks food, powers gadgets and recharges its battery. Displayed at Gadget Show Live as part of the British Inventors’ Project, the Tegstove uses thermoelectric generator technology to generate energy from widely available clean burning butane gas.

The Tegstove is the perfect solution for campers and hikers who are well off the beaten track and want to keep their GPS charged or power LED lights at night. As its primary function the Tegstove burns butane gas to cook food or heat water. As a secondary function, electrical energy is generated from the difference in temperature between the hot of the burner and the cold of the gas cylinder. The electricity can be used either to power a device plugged into the USB port or to charge the Tegstove’s internal battery.

Up close this is a beautifully designed product with great attention detail which I sincerely hope will carry through into the retail product.

Tegstove

The Tegstove is on pre-order at CrowdShed for £69 if you get in quick, which I think is a bargain. I don’t even camp and I want one!


TravelHug 3-in-1 Travel Pillow



British Inventors ProjectThe TravelHug is a 3-in-1 travel pillow which provides a comfortable upright sleeping, transforms into a water-resistant cushion for the beach and finally converts into a soft flat pillow for sleeping.

TravelHug works by wrapping around your body to give adjustable support to your head and neck. By putting TravelHug into its own pillowcase, you then also have a water resistant cushion or soft flat pillow. TravelHug rolls away into a small stuff sack ready for convenient comfort anywhere.

Travel Hug

Part of the British Inventors Project, the TravelHug is available now for £20 from their store. Matching coat not included.


OmniO Rider Backpack Buggy



British Inventors ProjectParents, we’ve all been there. You’re as far away from home or car as possible and your toddler decides that he or she has had enough of walking. No amount of encouragement or cajoling will make him take another step and you have to carry your darling all the way back.

If you recognise this story then you’ll be interested in the OmniO Rider, a lightweight buggy (stroller) which collapses to a backpack. The production version is expected to weight less than 6 kg and that’s definitely lighter than a toddler! I tried on the prototype and even it was light enough.

OmniO Rider Fold Sequence

In most other respects it looks much like an ordinary buggy with cupholders and nappy changing bag.

OmniO Rider

Aside from from the clever folding mechanism, the OmniO team developed a new wheel design that uses rollers for sideways motion. Called omni-wheels, they can go at the front or the back of the buggy depending on the driver’s preference. I liked these – lovely piece of engineering. Who says you can’t reinvent the wheel?

Omnio Wheels

The OmniO Rider is currently an Indiegogo campaign where it’s trying to raise $50,000. With an expected retail price of $500, there are early bird offers at $350, so get in quick.

Taking all this into account, it wasn’t a total surprise when it won Gadget Show Live’s “British Invention of the Year Award”.

Omnio Award


SafeSip Stops Spills



British Inventors ProjectSafeSip is a reusable drinks cover that fits almost any glass, mug, cup or can to stop spills. It’s a simple product that has myriad uses with children, the elderly, during travel, on picnics or in places where a liquid leak would be disastrous.

Made from food-grade silicone rubber, the SafeSip can be pulled over a wide range of drinking vessels, including fizzy drink (soda) cans, with a straw pushed through a self-closing hole in the SafeSip. It’s dishwasher safe, works with both hot and cold liquids, and comes in eight different colours. Another great product from the British Inventors’ Project at the Gadget Show Live.

SafeSip

The SafeSip is currently crowdfunding at CrowdShed.