Review

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Dropcam HD Review

It doesn’t get any easier than this

When we hear hype that something is the “easiest” thing in the world to set up, we usually put on our hip waders and prepare to slog through a waist-high pile of dung, because 19 times out of 20, it's usually a load of crap.

Well, believe us when we say that the Dropcam HD is the easiest Internet camera  we’ve ever set up. We mean it. To set up the Dropcam HD, you just plug the camera into your PC via USB. The setup files are stored in flash, which kicks up a configuration utility. This lets you create an account with Dropcam and connect the device to a Wi-Fi network. Once you’ve done that, you unplug the Dropcam HD, move it to the area you want to monitor, and plug it in via the included 2-amp wall wart. That’s it; you’re done and streaming 720p video to the Internet in about two minutes flat. The lens is a wide 107 degrees, which is enough to let you see most of a room. The video quality is good, and while certainly far better than QVGA surveillance cams, the compression is heavy enough that you won’t be picking out license plates with it.

The Dropcam can be removed from the unique mount, if needed.

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Audioengine A5+ Powered Speakers Review

Great speakers made even better

Wow. How did five years go by so quickly? We first became aware of Audioengine in early 2007, when the company asked if we’d be interested in evaluating its A5 self-powered speakers. It’s now 2012, and we have the revamped A5+ self-powered speakers on our desk. Now, as then, we’re knocked out by the huge sound these monitors can produce.

The retro white finish on Audioengine’s A5+ self-powered speakers is totally groovy, man.

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Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E Review

Close, but no silver bullet

The Thermalright Silver Arrow SB-E doesn’t lack for heat pipes: Eight of them rise from the heat exchanger up into the two sets of cooling fins. The entire thing, from aluminum fins to copper pipes and heat exchanger, is plated in a shiny nickel coat. The two sets of cooling fins are shiny and jagged, and much more stylized than the Noctua DH-14 (reviewed April 2012) or the Phanteks PH-TC14PE (reviewed June 2012), its most obvious competitors of the coolers we’ve tested. The whole assemblage weighs two pounds, 7.6 ounces with both fans. Those fans—a 15cm TY-150 and 14cm TY-141—are both low-RPM 12V fans with 4-pin PWM connectors.

There’s something incongruous about mustard-and-olive fans with those edgy nickel-plated cooling fins.

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Kingston 64GB Wi-Drive review

Offload your bulk videos and music

The concept for Kingston’s 64GB Wi-Drive is a little difficult to communicate to most people, but we’ve decided the best analogy is real estate.

Pretend you live in Tokyo or Manhattan and your $850,000 condo is just 700 square feet. What do you do with all your crap? Get a storage unit.

That’s precisely how Kingston’s clever little Wi-Drive works. Coming in sizes of 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB, the Wi-Drive lets you offload video, images, and music onto a diminutive battery-powered device. To access the files, you simply connect your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to the Wi-Drive via Wi-Fi. Even better, the Wi-Drive allows up to three simultaneous users so it essentially operates as a personal media server. For storage-limited devices such as the Kindle Fire or small-capacity iPads, the Wi-Drive lets you live large with media.

The Wi-Drive works as a small, battery-powered media server.

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Falcon Northwest Tiki Review

Size really doesn’t matter

Size doesn’t matter. At least that’s what Falcon Northwest is saying with its latest entry into the micro-tower war, the Tiki, which offers full-size tower performance in a teeny, tiny case.

In case you don’t know, the micro-tower war is the place to be right now. Traditionally, slim micro-towers (as opposed to the typical Shuttle-style shoe-box form factors) have been bereft of performance. That all changed earlier this year when Alienware hit the market with its X51 (reviewed in May). Just bigger than a typical first-generation console, the X51’s innovation was a desktop-class GPU and CPU for a decent price. While groundbreaking, the X51 made some compromises, such as forcing you to choose between a hard drive or SSD, and offering only midrange GPU options (currently) and no ability to overclock.

Given its superb performance, the Tiki deserves to be placed on a pedestal—luckily, it comes with one.

 

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Aperion Audio Zona Wireless Speaker System Review

Close enough for jazz

The performance of the Aperion Audio Zona speakers is good enough for us to grant the company poetic license in labeling these speakers “wireless.” They’d need to be battery-powered in order to be entirely free from wires, an impractical solution because those batteries would need to be humongous to power the 20-watt Class D amplifier in each cabinet.

Each 15-pound cabinet houses a 20-watt Class D amp driving a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter and a 4.5-inch woven-fiberglass woofer.

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OCZ Vertex 4 256GB Review

OCZ Vertex 4 256GB

OCZ has typically reserved its Vertex label for the highest-performing SSDs in a given generation—using synchronous NAND, for example, rather than the asynchronous NAND found in its less expensive Agility series. The 256GB Vertex 4 carries on that tradition, with 16 128Gb IMFT 25nm synchronous NAND packages on a board with 512MB of DDR3 DRAM cache and OCZ’s new Indilinx Everest 2 controller.

The Everest 2 controller in the Vertex 4 is a modified Marvell controller with custom Indilinx firmware.

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SanDisk Extreme SSD 240GB Review

SanDisk Extreme SSD 240GB

SSD vendors that make one or more components of their drives tend to do better than those who just slap commodity parts on a board and call it a day. Sounds reasonable, right? SanDisk’s Extreme SSD is yet another drive based on the LSI SandForce SF-2281 controller, a 6Gb/s SATA SSD controller with speedy sequential reads and an emphasis on hyper-fast queued random writes.

However, because it is a NAND manufacturer, SanDisk has the means to use its own 24nm toggle-mode NAND—eight 256Gb packages in the 240GB version—instead of commodity NAND. Like other SF-2281-powered drives, the Extreme SSD uses the extra 16GB of NAND for overprovisioning and write caching.

SanDisk’s Extreme is a plain black metal box with a sticker on it and speed inside.

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D-Link DIR-857 HD Media Router 3000 Review

802.11n’s last gasp?

In case you’re wondering why we’re reviewing an 802.11n router when the first 802.11ac routers have already reached the market, we have several reasons. First and foremost, the latter didn’t make it to the Lab in time for our print deadline. Secondly, the IEEE isn’t expected to formally ratify the 802.11ac standard until early 2013. The 802.11ac routers on the market today are based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, so there’s a remote chance they could be rendered obsolete when the standard is finalized.

Yes, there are 802.11ac routers on the market, but they’re based on Draft 2.0 of the standard, and the Wi-Fi Alliance did not have a certification program in place at press time.