Hardware

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Ultrasone iCans

Ultrasone’s iCans feature the same S-Logic technology that prompted us to name the company’s Proline 750 headphones to our 2006 Best of the Best list. However, as wonderful as they sound with an iPod, they can’t displace the Shure E4g earbuds in their respective Best of the Best category.

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Kingston Datatraveler Secure 4GB

Kingston’s DataTraveler Secure is billed as an “enterprise-grade” flash drive. Translated for civvies, that means 256-bit AES hardware encryption, an IPX8 waterproof rating, and a titanium shell. Oh yeah, and optimization for small files. While almost every key we’ve tested in the last few months choked on the 10,000 Word docs we feed them during testing, the DataTraveler Secure was able to write that onslaught of files in three minutes instead of the usual 20 minutes.

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Foxconn 975X7AB-8EKRS2H

It’s no secret that Nvidia had a heavy hand in designing Foxconn’s excellent AM2 Athlon 64/nForce 590 SLI board, but Foxconn’s Intel-powered 975X7AB-8EKRS2H board suffers for a lack of Nvidia-applied polish.

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SMC WSKP100

SMC’s Skype phone is proof positive that consumer electronics design in 2006 is largely inspired by the iPod. Shiny, white plastic design? Check. Rounded edges? Check. Flat face? Check. Poor user interface that frequently doesn’t work right, and a screen that sometimes shuts off at random? Oh wait, Apple’s products don’t have that.

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IO Data BRD-UM2/U

Combining a Blu-ray drive with a USB interface seems at first like hitching a flying saucer to a wheelbarrow. Can USB’s meager bandwidth handle such newfangled technology? Even at full-tilt, 2x Blu-ray burns hover in the 8MB/s range, which is actually slower than an 8x DVD burn. So, yes, USB 2.0 provides plenty of bandwidth.

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Plextor PX-B900A

When is a Plextor drive a Plextor drive? Certainly not when it’s a Panasonic.

To get onboard the Blu-ray train in a hurry, Plextor rebadged a Panasonic SW-5582 Blu-ray drive as its own. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Invaluable firmware updates will come from Plextor and not some Pac Rim outfit. And to be fair, the Panasonic’s far better than the first-gen Pioneer Blu-ray drive we reviewed in October, which couldn’t even read CDs.

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