IRL: The Retina display MacBook Pro and Sony's SRS-BTX300 Bluetooth speaker

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IRL: The Retina display MacBook Pro and Sony's SRS-BTX300 Bluetooth speaker

We've got a twofer this week, folks. As that lead shot up there suggests, we'll be revisiting the Retina display MacBook Pro -- the 13-inch version, to be exact. And then, past the break, we'll also give you a mini-review of Sony's SRS-BTX300 Bluetooth speaker.

Apple MacBook Pro

My history with laptops reads like a Goldilocks tale: some were too big, some were too small and some were definitely too hot (hello, 12-inch PowerBook). However, I might have found something "just right" in the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display that I bought at the end of 2013.

To me, it's a good balance between size and power. It's portable enough that it's no major burden in my bag -- important when hiking around trade shows -- but there's still plenty of screen area and performance (at least on my unit with a 2.4GHz Core i5 and 8GB of RAM) when I need to do some serious media editing. The Retina screen also gets around the limited workspaces that I've seen on many small laptops. While the computer isn't going to have as big a virtual workspace as some of its rivals, there's still plenty of room to breathe.

The real highlight, though, is the battery: it's a monster. I have yet to run low on power when unplugged, even when I go out of my way to drain the energy cells dry. At Expand New York, I only managed to use half a charge after five hours of near-constant writing, chatting and media editing. Even the wireless display support doesn't tax the battery all that much. There are other laptops that manage this kind of longevity, but most of them are Ultrabooks that won't be as quick.

It's not quite a jack of all trades. I'd rather have a 14-inch Razer Blade if I were looking for a small gaming rig, and Samsung's ATIV Book 9 Plus has both a higher-resolution screen and touch input. For me, though, the MacBook Pro ticks a lot of checkboxes. It can do everything I want it to do for as long as I need on any given day. I'm sure I'll eventually need to replace it, but for now, I can't ask for much more.

-- Jon Fingas

Sony SRS-BTX300 bluetooth speaker

Bluetooth speakers have become increasingly popular over the past few years, but I for one didn't learn how handy they could be until fairly recently. And while the Sony SRS-BTX300 I've been using isn't nearly as portable as, say, the Jawbone Jambox or Beats Pill, I could still easily fit it in my messenger bag and carry it with me if I wanted to. To put its size in perspective, it's about as long as a 13-inch MacBook Air and wee bit shorter than an iPhone 4s, while its weight clocks in at nearly four pounds. Needless to say, it's a solid piece of hardware.

Looks aside, the SRS-BTX300 can push out some very loud sound, so much so that I never turn the volume to more than 50 percent when listening to music -- it's one of those things you have to hear to believe. The full-range 70mm speaker has a few different audio settings to choose from, including a Mega Bass mode that's intense enough to make the tenant below my apartment throw a temper tantrum and think about filing a noise complaint.

What I love the most about the BTX-300 is that I can pair devices via Bluetooth, NFC or an audio jack to play my tunes, allowing me to seamlessly switch between my HTC One, iPad and sixth-gen iPod nano at any given time. Sony claims around eight hours of battery life, which is on par with what I experienced, and sometimes even longer if I use it periodically rather than in one long jam session. For $200 (MSRP), its appearance may be utterly subtle, but there's no doubt the SRS-BTX300 sounds just as good if not better than all those other wireless speakers it's up against.

-- Edgar Alvarez

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