Monthly Archives: November 2010

BeoSound 8 iPhone/iPad dock to seduce audiophiles with its sexy make

Born Rich: The new BeoSound 8 from the house of Bang & Olufsen is undeniably one of the coolest and sexiest iPad/iPhone/iPod speaker docks we’ve ever seen. Taking your digital music experience to a completely new level, the BeoSound 8 iPhone dock features a manual room adaptation switch with three positions, so that you can place it anywhere without compromising the sound performance. The gorgeous iPhone dock can also accept music streamed wirelessly over Wi-Fi. To suit your liking, the BeoSound 8 comes in either black or white with aluminum details and matching power cord. The BeoSound 8 iPhone dock, featuring cone shaped speakers, will hit the shelves by the end of this month for $999.

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Audi A1 E-tron to use Google Earth navigation

CNet: Audi is raising the bar for electric vehicle infotainment systems by offering the same telematics package in the European A1 E-tron that it delivers in its top-of-the-line A8 sedan.

The Audi A1 E-tron is a prototype plug-in that uses a 45-kilowatt electric motor powered by a 12-kilowatt battery to deliver a 31-mile range. For longer distances, a small gasoline engine generates electricity to recharge the battery and extends the urban EV’s range another 125 miles. Gear heads often complain that EVs take the fun out of driving, but the A1 E-tron’s infotainment system could change their minds.

It may not go very fast or very far, but at least the prototype’s navigation system provides the most visually appealing directions for getting there. In addition to a factory-installed Wi-Fi hot spot that supports up to eight devices, the A1 E-tron’s telematics integrates Google Earth navigation with three-dimensional graphics and Internet search. That’s a lot of technology for a micro EV, especially considering that infotainment in electric vehicles is often limited to determining energy consumption and battery range.

The A1 E-tron’s infotainment package goes beyond tedious vehicle data and offers navigation and search capabilities rivaling what you experience on your computer or mobile phone–probably better in most cases–and opens the door to more-general and natural searches rather than entering specific addresses and points of interest. But this may be small comfort to U.S. buyers; although the A1 E-tron is developed for a global sales, according to an article in the New York Times, it isn’t expected in the U.S. any time soon. At least it’s nice to know that this technology could end up in a different EV that may be headed to our shores, such as the rumored electric-only A2.

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iHome details its AirPlay-focused iW1 speaker

iPodNN: iHome today explained some of the workings of its upcoming AirPlay speaker. Now called the iW1, the audio system will primarily stream from an iTunes computer to the speaker and should mostly use an iOS 4.2 device as a remote, although the feature should theoretically allow direct-from-device streaming. The hardware will allow a Sonos-like multi-room audio system with the option of piping audio to every iW1 on the local network or just individual units.

Most other details are refinements of what was teased after the iW1 was first shown in September. Audio quality should be a focus with both class-D amplifiers as well as Bongiovi Acoustics tuning for the pairs of tweeters and woofers. A row of capacitive touch buttons on top will provide basic physical controls, and iPhone or iPod owners will have the option of charging directly from a USB port on the back.

iHome hasn’t yet given an estimated battery life for the lithium-ion pack in the iW1 other than “hours,” but it did mention that the speaker will support the native iOS app for setting up and delivering firmware updates.

Release dates, prices and other launch details still aren’t known for the wireless audio system, though its release hinges on iOS 4.2′s posting, which could come by Friday.

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Creative outs Zen Touch 2, high-grade Bluetooth headphones

iPodNN: As part of the same launch that brought the Ziio tablets, Creative today put out both a sequel to its Zen Touch MP3 player and a new set of Bluetooth headphones. The Zen Touch 2 is a rare Android-based MP3 player and outputs Bluetooth audio with the same apt-X compression as the Ziios, theoretically supplying lossless wireless sound over Bluetooth. Equally unique is the option of GPS in some models that lets them use stand-alone GPS apps without having to use a cellular connection.

All versions of the new Zen Touch have a 3.2-inch touchscreen, 802.11n Wi-Fi and a two-megapixel camera. They carry microSDHC slots to add to the built-in storage and have their own RCA video out for viewing on a TV. The plain version without GPS comes in 8GB and 16GB capacities at the equivalent prices of $217 and $248 in Singapore; GPS is only available with an 8GB model and costs $232.

The WP-300 headphones can recognize apt-X but are platform-independent and should work with iPads, iPods and other devices that can send out stereo Bluetooth audio. It can charge up from USB and has its own physical controls on an ear cup to skip through tracks. Creative hopes to charge $116 for a pair.

Both the Zen Touch 2 and the WP-300 should be available in Singapore by the end of the year, although they should get an international launch not long afterwards.

 

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Sharp launches super-slim 3D Blu-ray player

 

Electronista: Sharp Japan has launched the BD-HP90, which it first announced back in September. The 1.3-inch thin device supports 3D Blu-ray content in 1080p at 24fps as well as support for DVDs, CDs and digital formats through USB including DivX HR and JPEGS and MP3.

But like many home entertainment devices currently available, it is also web-enabled. It offers support for Netflix video and Pandora audio streaming through its in-built Wi-Fi or Ethernet connections. It DLNA compliant giving users the option of streaming media from compatible devices wirelessly for display on a connected TV.

The Sharp BD-HP90 ships in Japan on November 20 for the equivalent of $450. US availability and pricing has not yet been announced.

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Automakers try to stay as smart as new phones

Automotive news: Smartphones present drivers with both a useful enhancement and a dangerous distraction.

Consumers accustomed to being connected wherever they go don’t want to give that up when they get into a car. Drivers stuck in traffic want to put that time to productive use.

So automakers and suppliers are devising innovative and safe ways to pair cars and smartphones so consumers can monitor the condition of the vehicle as well as new postings on Facebook.

“The automobile is no longer a communications dead zone that prohibits drivers from staying connected to friends and family,” said Anna Buettner, an analyst at iSuppli, a consulting firm that specializes in automotive electronics.

“With the expanding array of communications options, many drivers are willing to take the risk of an accident simply because they want to read or reply to a text message or check and update their preferred social media site,” Buetner wrote in a recent report. “Finding and implementing a way to safely integrate social networking and other apps in the car is more feasible than fighting the trend.”

Differing strategies

Multimode wireless connectivity–Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and cellular–governed by flexible programmability is speeding the integration of smartphones into vehicles. But even when the goal is the same, approaches differ among automakers. The integration strategies of General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co., for example, are dramatically different.

Ford’s strategy centers on its Sync voice-activated system. Sync, developed with Microsoft Corp. and launched late in 2007, provides multiple hard and wireless connections with smartphones and other mobile devices that drivers might bring into the vehicle.

Sync revolutionized the control of MP3 players and cell phones by allowing drivers to control them through the vehicle’s existing audio controls and structured voice commands. Ford says its research has shown that Sync makes using these devices less distracting. The automaker has improved and expanded the Sync interface several times.

“We know we can do better things for our customers by allying with the companies that provide the devices and services customers already use,” said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president for global product development. “What we see emerging is a mutually beneficial collaborative community where our shared customer–anyone who drives a car and owns a smartphone–is the true beneficiary.”

Ford also has introduced an application programming interface for smartphones that allows smartphone apps to run and be controlled through Sync.

The first programs to use the new Sync API are OpenBeak, Pandora and Stitcher. The vehicle’s center screen mimics each app’s smartphone appearance and function. OpenBeak provides a direct link to the Twitter social media site, while Pandora and Stitcher are popular Internet radio applications that compete with satellite radio.

Additional apps are expected to become available through the online stores operated by Apple, Android and BlackBerry.

Built-in, not brought

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Parrot announces Minikit Smart Bluetooth car kit

 

Car Tech/Cnet: Parrot, makers of the previously reviewed and highly rated Minikit Slim Bluetooth speakerphone, has just announced the latest in its line of hands-free car kits, the Parrot Minikit Smart. However, the Smart has a trick up its sleeve. It’s not just a speakerphone, it’s also a universal phone cradle and a USB charger.

The Minikit Smart attaches to the vehicle’s windshield with a suction cup and connects to any handset that supports Bluetooth wireless, acting as an external speaker and microphone for for hands-free calling. If it sounds anything like the Minikit Slim, we’re sure that call quality will be quite good. Thanks to support of PBAP, the unit will sync address books when paired with compatible phones for easy access via voice activated dialing. Up to 2,000 contacts can be synced per phone, and up to 10 phones can be saved in the unit’s memory.

A2DP audio streaming is also supported, so users are able to stream music through the Smart’s loudspeaker. However, this feature is most handy when used in conjunction with, for example, navigation apps, where the boosted audio output can help users to hear critical turn-by-turn directions over road noise.

Like most Bluetooth speakerphones we’ve tested, the Minikit Smart features a rechargeable battery–this one boasts 10 hours of talk time or a week of standby–but can also be powered by its included 12-volt car charger. The Smart also features a powered USB port for connecting and charging your handset of choice and even ships with three 3-inch pigtails for connecting phones that use Mini-USB, Micro-USB, or Apple 30-pin dock connectors.

Parrot Minikit Smart will be available in November 2010 at an MSRP of $129.99 through BestBuy.com, Crutchfield.com, 6th Avenue Electronics, Car Toys Al & Ed’s, ABT Electronics, Car Toys, Fry’s Electronics, Bell Canada and ParrotShopping.com.

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Dual’s new car stereo brings its own iPod dock

 

Dual's new receiver features a fold out iPod/iPhone dock behind its faceplate.

Car Tech/Cnet: Dual Electronics is no stranger to taking risks with oddball gadgets that combine features in interesting ways (just take a look at its XGPS300 car kit/GPS receiver/battery extender for the iPod Touch), so we’d like to say that we weren’t surprised when it revealed a car stereo that rolls in its own iPod dock at the 2010 SEMA Show. In truth, however, we’re still a bit confused by the oddity of it.

The Dual XML8150, as the stereo head unit is called, is a mechless car audio receiver. By omitting the CD transport, Dual was left with a good deal of open space within the chassis of the single-DIN receiver, so the manufacturer decided to build an adjustable iPod cradle into the unit. Folding out from behind the XML8150′s faceplate, the cradle connects to the chassis with a flexible arm and can be pivoted into a portrait or landscape orientation. At the base of the cradle is a 30-pin dock connector that interfaces with any iPhone or iPod (with the exception of the Shuffle), while at the top is a ratcheting arm that expands and collapses to accomodate and hold any iDevice from a Nano to an iPhone with a case.

The arm itself seemed a bit awkward to move into and out of the chassis, but we were only given a brief demo with a loose, unmounted receiver. Perhaps when anchored into a vehicle’s dashboard, the articulating arm will be easier to position.

Once connected, users can control playback directly from the iPod itself, using the Dual receiver to manage volume and send audio to the vehicle’s speakers. The unit also supports Bluetooth wireless connectivity for hands-free calling and A2DP/AVRCP audio streaming. For users who may be connecting an iPod and using a separate, the unit features dedicated buttons on its faceplate for answering and ending calls, as well as PBAP support for syncing phonebook contacts for retrieval via its control knob.

There’s also USB connectivity and an analog-audio input with a pair of front facing ports, as well as an SD card reader, but if you’ve come this far and there’s not an iPod in that cradle, you’re doing it wrong.

The Dual XML8150 is not available just yet, but will be sometime later this month at an MSRP of $149.

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Onkyo unleash CS-V645 & CS-445 iPod Dock Mini Systems

 Akihabara:Onkyo introduced yesterday a new audio-video mini system and stereo mini system. The Audio and Video mini system, the CS-V645, consists of a powerful DVD/CD player with a built-in dock for iPod, a USB connection, high definition HDMI video output and DVD 1080p upscaling, DivX, MP3, WMA and JPEG support as well as a pair of two-way loudspeakers. While the CS-445 stereo music system has a CD player, built-in dock for iPod/iPhone, and slightly less powerful two-way speakers.

Onkyo, a brand known worldwide for quality home entertainment electronics, has introduced an audio-video mini system and stereo mini system that are each well suited for the office, bedroom, dorm room, or summer cottage. The AV mini system consists of a powerful DVD/CD receiver with a built-in dock for iPod, a USB connection, high definition HDMI video output with 1080p upscaling, and a pair of two-way loudspeakers. The step-down stereo music system has a CD receiver, built-in dock for iPod/iPhone, and slightly smaller two-way speakers.

The Onkyo CS-V645 DVD/CD Mini System plays a wide range of audio and video formats from DVDs, CDs, iPod, and USB. In addition to standard DVD and CD playback, it supports MP3, WMA, JPEG, and DivX file formats. Video programs are upscaled to 1080p resolution for output to a high definition video display over an HDMI connection. The dock for iPod is located on the top of the receiver, and the USB jack is on the front panel for easy access for flash drives and cable-connected systems.

The Onkyo CS-445 CD mini system plays CD’s CD-R and CD-RW media with standard CD-audio, MP3, and WMA files, and the top-panel dock for iPod/iPhone dramatically increases the available music sources.

Both systems have powerful 40-watt stereo amplifier sections and a pair of high-performance two-way bass-reflex loudspeakers with 1-inch soft dome tweeters and the company’s signature OMF (Onkyo Micro Fiber) woofer cones. The DVD receiver has a 20-preset FM tuner, the CD receiver has an AM/FM tuner with 40 presets, and both models include a full-function remote control.

The Onkyo CS-V645 will be available in early December with a suggested retail price of $399. The Onkyo CS-445 will reach dealers in early November with a suggested retail price of $329.

 

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