ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime
The ASUS Transformer Prime is one of those "time machine" devices. You know, the kinds of gadgets you'd love to travel with into the past simply to blow people's primitive minds. I think about that every time a new generation of video game consoles debuts and I'm sure millions would love to take an iPhone back 20 years. With the Prime, I remember being amazed way back in 2011 that such processing power could be shoehorned into a thin, metal tablet. The combination of an optional keyboard, super-bright screen and NVIDIA-powered gaming was simply too much for me to pass up.
It's been seven months, and much of that initial amazement still remains. After playing games like Grand Theft Auto III and the Tegra 3-enhanced Shadowgun, I'm convinced we tech enthusiasts live in an exciting time. Yet for all its technical prowess and flexibility, something's always nagged me about the TF Prime. I just don't trust it. Apps can randomly crash and the OS doesn't always respond to my inputs with the speed I'd expect of a quad-core device. Some apps also don't respond well if I attach the keyboard dock during use (e.g., mistaking a space bar press and an Enter key command). In those cases, I have to close down the app, attached the dock and then restart whatever program I was using. I generally avoid doing anything hugely important or time-sensitive on my Prime for fear that something will crash at the worst possible moment.
That lack of trust significantly diminishes its usefulness as a work companion, but I have few complaints about the Prime as a purely recreational device. Movies look great, the screen remains usable outdoors (in Super IPS+ mode) and the fact that I can plug in a wired Xbox controller to the keyboard dock is icing on the cake. So, no, it's not the perfect, all-in-one device I was hoping for, but the Transformer Prime remains hugely impressive. I'd still take it back in time with me and amaze our ancestor with my quirky, but fun, transforming buddy.
-- Philip Palermo
Verbatim Dual USB Power Pack
What's the single greatest way to end mobile device range-anxiety? How about a battery pack (nearly) capable of recharging the 11,666mAh battery nestled inside the new iPad. Verbatim's Dual USB power pack packs a hefty 10,000mAh battery inside a case the size of a small book, but you won't feel that extra 325 grams in your luggage is too much to bear when you need to re-juice your phone, tablet or both on the go. A pair of USB sockets (a normal one and a high-capacity one especially for the new iPad) sit at one end, while three blue LEDs peek out from that piano-black casing when switched on.
If I have a niggle, it's that recharging the battery pack through its mini-USB port is an overnight job through, and various cables supplied in the box are just too short. But beyond that, I keep this in my bag nearly all the time to make sure that I never have to be "that guy" aimlessly hunting around for an open socket at the local coffee house.
-- Dan Cooper
V-Moda Crossfade LP headphones
A couple of years ago, I got my grubby paws on a pair of V-Moda Crossfade LP headphones. Since then, the Crossfade LP has been a loyal sidekick, providing me company during road trips, long plane rides and even late-night gaming sessions at home with my portable systems or via Astro's MixAmp. The biggest reason comes from my affinity for bass. If you like head-pounding low range that shakes off the plaque from your teeth, then the Crossfade LP and its 50mm drivers deliver. I also like the angular design with its leather and metal accents, especially compared to the more plasticky look of other headphones.
In terms of its build, the Crossfade LP feels pretty solid -- you can flex the steel frame headband and it still retains its shape. The memory foam cushions used in the earpieces also feel soft and comfortable, with the headphones offering a tight, snug fit overall. Admittedly, the fit might be a tad too tight for some folks, as it makes it a bit tough to use with glasses. When traveling, you can't just take it off and rest it around your neck because it feels like you're being choked by a toddler. The fact that you can't rotate the ear cups affects ease of storage as well. Upon closer inspection, I've also noticed some faint hairline cracks around a few of the of the screws that connect the ear cups to the headband, though they're more of a cosmetic issue at this point.
Despite those niggles, I really like how V-Moda's Crossfade LP headphones sound. When using it with a player with an EQ, you'll definitely want to fine-tune your settings so you get the proper separation between ranges as opposed to muddy base overload. Get that EQ adjustment right and the Crossfade LP sounds pretty darn good -- you can push the volume on these headphones and likely blow out your ears without noticing any speaker distortion. Add in the fact that you can get the Crossfade LP for about half of the original $200 price and it's worth a look for bass junkies.
-- Jason Hidalgo