On a luxury cruise vacation, travelers are pampered with everything from butler service to their selection from a menu of pillows. Taking that idea a step further, Celebrity Cruises is in the process of upgrading bedding, teaming with a sleep system manufacturer to get the job done. Every stateroom on every Celebrity ship will eventually have the new sleep system, but some passengers will get a better experience than others.
Already outfitting four of Celebrity Cruises ships with Celebrity eXhale bedding, sleep system/adjustable bed manufacturer Reverie is moving through the 11-vessel fleet, most recently outfitting Celebrity Constellation.
Over 2000 cruise travelers on Celebrity Constellation will enjoy the comfort of either an 8-inch or 10-inch Dream mattress. The Dream Sleep Systems feature air cylinder technology that allows guests to adjust the level of firmness in their mattress with some allowing the base of the mattress to be manipulated remotely, via iPad. Perfect for couples, each side of the bed can be re-configured at different firmness levels to accommodate varying sleep preferences.Celebrity guests staying in a suite will get the 10-inch mattress and experience butler service that includes a personalized introduction to the customizable aspects of eXhale bedding. Those in other accommodations will get the 8-inch mattress, no butler intro.
Guests who stay in Celebrity’s top digs Reflection Suite also get an in-room iPad that can be used to wirelessly control the adjustable base of the bed as well as other bedroom appliances using Reverie’s remote app. That one feature alone has a bunch of possibilities for fun in-stateroom games.
Over the past few years the tablet market has grown from a small niche with few buyers into one of the fastest growing segments in consumer electronics. The introduction of the iPad created consumer demand where there had been none before and naturally a host of competitors soon followed. The most successful of those competitors are powered by Google’s touch-based Android operating system, which is now run on dozens of devices, including smartphones and tablets. Android has delivered on its promise to provide inexpensive devices that rival those built by Apple, and as a result someone looking to buy a tablet on a budget now has some legitimate options from which to choose. Take for example the Genesis Prime from Ematic, a device whose biggest selling point is its very affordable price.
At its core, the Genesis Prime is a 7-inch tablet with a 1.1 GHz processor, 4GB of storage and a front-facing VGA camera. It runs Android 4.1 (Jellybean) and has full access to the Google Play store, giving users the ability to download games, apps, books, music, movies and more. The device is just .4 inches thick and tips the scales at a svelte 9.6 ounces, which makes it thinner and lighter than most other tablets on the market. All of these features are pretty much the minimum of what you would expect out of any Android tablet these days, although the Genesis Prime does have one feature that helps it stick out from the crowd – its price. Ematic sells the device for just $79.99, which puts it squarely into the “budget” category and well below most of its competitors.In order to reach that price point some compromises obviously needed to be made with the technology incorporated into the tablet. How much of a deal breaker those compromises are depends on the value you place on having cutting edge technology in your gadgets. For instance, the 7-inch touch screen on the Genesis Prime runs at a resolution of just 800 x 480 – which is well below the 1024 x 768 display found on the iPad Mini or the 1280 x 800 screen that Google puts in it’s own Nexus 7 tablet. Ematic also skimped on storage space, offering up just 4GB out of the box, although that can be expanded up to 32GB using MicroSD cards. But that’s not all, the processor used to power the Genesis is on the slow side, the built in camera is sub-par and the battery life is just a shade over four hours, which isn’t even enough to complete a cross-country flight.
With all of that in mind, I tried to approach my review on the Genesis Prime from the perspective of the consumer who isn’t necessarily in the market for Apple’s high-end devices or even Google and Amazon’s mid-range tablets. I put myself into the shoes of someone who wanted a tablet but didn’t want to blow their budget acquiring one. Even coming at it from that angle, I found that I needed to set my expectations accordingly in order to not be disappointed. The Genesis does offer a full Android experience and provides access to the Google Play ecosystem, but it is also sluggish and slow at times, which can be a bit frustrating, particularly when you’re not sure if the device has registered your touch inputs or is actually doing something in the background. Once I started to install a few apps, it also didn’t take long to run into storage issues due to the paltry 4GB that comes built-in. At one point, I couldn’t even update some apps because there simply wasn’t enough storage capacity left to do so. Adding a MicroSD card fixed the problem, but that is an extra expense that some consumers shopping in this space may not be prepared for.
Still, the Genesis Prime isn’t without its merits. It you’re looking for a device to check email or your social networks, it works just fine in that capacity. It’ll even handle light web browsing activities relatively well and streaming from Pandora or Spotify worked great, although the sound quality was better coming out of a decent pair of headphones rather than the built-in speaker. Reading books through the Kindle app or Google’s own Play Books was also fine, although the low-resolution screen is likely to be a more of a strain on the eyes. Some of the more popular 2D games, like Angry Birds, performed reasonably well too, just don’t expect to play some of the more advanced 3D games in the Google Play store. Something like EA’s Real Racing 3 would probably be more of an exercise in frustration than anything else.
If you’re in the market for a tablet device and you don’t have much money to spend, you fit exactly into the target audience that Ematic had in mind when they designed the Genesis Prime. $80 for an Android device is extremely cheap for sure, although the old adage of “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more applicable than it is here. The all-around performance of this tablet is below that of the competition, but then again most of them cost at least twice as much. The Genesis Prime is a decent enough product, provided you go in knowing its limitations. But aside from the low cost of entry, it is hard to recommend this tablet. Especially when Google’s entry level Nexus 7 costs just $199 and comes with a much better screen, four times the memory, double the battery life and a considerably faster processor.
At the start of this review I mentioned how quickly the tablet market has grown over the past few years. It has gotten so big in fact that tablets are now projected to start outselling traditional PC’s as early as next year. Apple of course commands the largest part of that market share with their iPad, but Android has carved out a nice slice of the pie with lower-cost, alternative devices. Perhaps Ematic is looking to create a bargain basement space in which they can become the dominant player. If that is the case, the Genesis Prime is a solid device at a great price. But if you can manage to dig a little deeper into your wallet, you’ll find the alternatives are much better devices all around and well worth the extra money spent.
One of the best features of the iPad has always been its outstanding battery life. Depending on how you use the device, it is not uncommon to get 8-10 hours of use between charges. That is generally plenty for typical day-to-day use, but when traveling that may not even be enough to get you to your destination. Considering how difficult it can be to find an unused power outlet in an airport, having a different source of juice is always a nice option. External battery packs are a viable alternative, but they can also be bulky and cumbersome. Digital Treasures, a company that specializes in accessories for tablets and smartphones, believes they’ve come up with the perfect compromise. They’ve integrated a secondary battery for charging an iPad directly into a protective case, providing a product that addresses two issues at the same time.
The Props Power Case is available in both an 8000 mAh and 12,000 mAh version. I tested the higher capacity case and found that it worked as advertised, offering an easy and convenient way to extend the life your tablet’s battery. The large, flat power cell is integrated directly into the case and must be charged via USB ahead of time. That can actually take a surprisingly long time depending on whether you plug the included charging cable into your laptop or a wall outlet. Digital Treasures doesn’t ship the case with an AC adapter, however, so if you want to charge from an outlet you’ll need to provide your own USB adapter. A charge indicator on the side of the battery lights up in blue, keeping you well informed of just how close to capacity the Power Case has at any given time.Having to charge two devices (the iPad and the case) can be a bit cumbersome when traveling, but if battery life is a concern, the system works quite well. Digital Treasures says that the case can more than double the battery life of an iPad 2 and extend the life of the iPad with Retina Display by 70 percent. In real world use, I found it fell a bit short of that number, but not by much. A fully charged Props Power Case gave my iPad 3 an extra 6.5 hours of power, which is a considerable extension, to say the least. All of that extra power doesn’t just have to go to the iPad, however, as the battery is also more than capable of charging a smartphone or any other USB device. That adds a nice level of versatility for when you’re on the go.
Of course, adding a battery to your protective case doesn’t come without a few compromises. I found the Props Power Case to be rather bulky, especially since my iPad usually only sports an Apple Smart Cover. The battery also adds extra weight that is a bit off-putting at first too. If battery life is your primary concern, however, you’ll probably find these compromises are well worth it – after all, we are talking about considerably longer usage time. But if you’re an iPad owner who is quite happy with the performance of the device right out of the box, the case is likely to feel like a massive step backwards in terms of portability.
To make matters worse, when the charging cable is plugged into both the battery and the iPad, the system gets even more convoluted. The addition of the cable sticking out of the side of both devices just adds to the feeling of bulk. While this is obviously necessary to take advantage of the extended battery life, there was a point where I began to wonder just how my lovely thin and light tablet became so unwieldy.
The overall quality of the case is actually quite impressive. Digital Treasures has put together a solid product that is both attractive and functional. The Power Case is made of very durable faux-leather, which is extremely resistant to the wear and tear that comes with travel. It also does a fine job of protecting the iPad contained within. While testing the case, I never once felt like my device was ever in danger while ensconced in this protective layer, and after using it for several weeks, the case still looks like it just came out of the box. It may be bulky and heavy, but the Props Power Case does deliver on its promise of providing both extra battery power while also keeping your iPad safe from harm.
In another nice touch, Digital Treasures designed the front cover of the case to fold back, converting its form factor into an easel. This comes in handy when watching movies, reading a book or even playing a game. The easel form factor is particularly useful while on a plane, although I found it to be rather stable even when sitting on your lap at the airport. Plenty of other cases offer this same functionality of course, but with the weight of the battery serving as an anchor of sorts, the Power Case wasn’t quite so apt to shift about.
As mentioned above, Digital Treasures offers this case in both an 8000 mAh and 12,000 mAh version. The lower capacity model will save you a little cash ($89.95 vs $119.95) but for the most part it doesn’t affect the case itself in any really noticeable ways. If you’ve been looking for a way to extend the life of the battery on your iPad even further, then this is definitely solid option to choose. The case will indeed allow you to work longer, watch more movies, read more books and listen to more music. In doing so though, you’ll also be giving up some of the portability that comes along with a thin and light tablet, as the Props Power Case negates those characteristics completely. For some of us, the trade-off is well worth it, but I suspect for most the loss of portability could be a major factor.
Over the past couple of years, the number of choices for consumers looking to buy a portable Bluetooth speaker has exploded. It wasn’t all that long ago that our options were limited to just a few underpowered speakers that provided low-quality wireless audio, but now there are literally dozens of these speakers on the market making it much more of a challenge to decide which one to buy. It has also made it more of a challenge for the companies who manufacturer these devices to stand out in the crowd, forcing them to try something a little different. That seems to be the approach that Nyne took with their NB-230 speaker system, delivering a product that will remind you more of an old-school boombox rather than the smaller speakers that typically come from their competitors.
The first thing you’re likely to notice about the NB-230 is its size. Most other portable Bluetooth speakers are designed to be small enough that you can toss them in a backpack and take them along with you just about everywhere, but as mentioned above, this speaker is more like a streamlined boombox for the 21st century. While it is small and light enough to take with you on a day trip, this isn’t likely to be the kind of speaker that you’ll want to carry with you on a trip to the far side of the globe. It is simply too large and oddly shaped to want to put into your luggage, although it is great for a day at the beach or family picnic in the park.
Unlike most other portable Bluetooth speakers that I’ve used, the NB-230 doesn’t include a rechargeable battery. Smaller speakers can be powered for hours on their own built-in batteries, but this device is too large for that to be an efficient option. Instead, you’ll need to use six C batteries to keep the speaker operating while away from a power outlet. (When is the last time you actually had to use C cells for anything? Probably the last boombox that you owned more than a decade ago.) Nyne says that those batteries will keep the NB-230 charged for up to four hours, and that is about what I achieved while testing the unit. That means that using this speaker away from home could get costly and that battery life is about half that found on smaller models from the competition.What the NB-230 lacks in portability it more than makes up for in sound quality, however. Because of its size, this speaker can out class most of its competitors in terms of volume without even breaking a sweat. But the two high-quality, 3-inch speakers that Nyne integrated into this device also do an excellent job of replicating a full range of sound. The mid- and high-range elements of your music will shine through distinctly on the NB-230, coming through with surprising clarity. Bass lovers will be more than satisfied with this device as well, as this speaker can deliver a thump that will remind you of your old boombox. I put the NB-230 through its paces using a variety of classic rock, pop, classical music and even podcasts and in all cases it performed admirably.
Connecting an iPad, iPhone or other Bluetooth enabled device to the NB-230 couldn’t be simpler. Holding down a dedicated Bluetooth button on the speaker places it in pairing mode and then you simply select it as an alternate audio source from whatever gadget you want to play music from. After a few seconds, the two devices will connect and all audio will begin playing directly from the NB-230’s speakers. Having wireless audio available at all times has gotten to be kind of second nature these days, but it really is nice to have the ability to send your favorite music to a powerful, high-quality audio system from across the room without ever having to get out of your easy chair. For those devices that don’t have Bluetooth functionality built in, the NB-230 also has an audio jack that allows you to plug a device in directly. While it is nice to have this option for use in a pinch, it does diminish the fun of having a wireless speaker system to a degree.
I was also impressed with how well the NB-230 performed as a speakerphone. This is a common feature on other Bluetooth speakers as well, but the size of Nyne’s offering aids it once again in this category as the large speakers enhanced the experience nicely. When paired with a smartphone, incoming calls can actually be picked up directly from the NB-230 itself and a built-in mic makes two-way communication a seamless affair. It performed so well, in fact, that most people I talked to using this speaker couldn’t tell I wasn’t on my phone directly. It even works great in conference calls situations, as the NB-230 can be placed at the center of a table, facilitating a conversation with numerous people in one room.
In terms of design, the NB-230 has nice clean lines that make it a natural fit for just about any environment. It looks just as good in an office as it does your living room or bedroom. It has a sleek, classic look about it that is modern without seeming too trendy. If you purchase one of these speakers, you can rest assured that it’ll still look as contemporary in five years as it does today. That isn’t always an easy thing to pull off on any electronic device.
If you’re looking for a portable Bluetooth speaker to take with you when you travel, the Nyne NB-230 probably isn’t the best option for that situation. Its larger size makes it tough to lug along on any trip that involves getting on an airplane. On the other hand, if you want an excellent wireless audio system for around home, and occasional use elsewhere, this is a fantastic option. It has excellent sound quality across the entire audio spectrum and it can pump out the tunes with plenty of volume. On top of that, it serves as an excellent speakerphone, which comes in surprisingly handy in a number of situations.
The Nyne NB-230 carries a price tag of $129.95, which makes it very competitive with similar devices from other manufacturers, most of which don’t deliver the level of sound quality that you’ll find here.
Taking the skeptical point of view on travel apps can be dangerous. But with so many apps from a variety of sources doing their rendition of the technology du jour, it is easy to dismiss the lot of them as more of the same. Sometimes though, tiny updates to existing apps can make them a valuable addition to our soft travel gear.
Travel Plans In One Place, Now With Ground Options
Subscribers to TripIt, the intelligent travel plan organizer, now have access to a new feature that might make the service more valuable. Already, TripIt users create a trip by defining a travel window period of time in which it occurs. Filling in the details can be as easy as forwarding an email copy of airline, hotel and/or rental car reservations to Plans@TripIt.com, which reads and understands your plans with a high degree of accuracy.
Now, new TripIt feature Groundlinkenables users to add ground transportation, coordinated with existing travel plans, from a smartphone. The app has a Track Your Ride feature that Glympse users will feel comfortable with. Groundlinkusers will pick their drop-off point from a map generated by Groundlink using nearby venues, addresses, ride history or airports. Already armed with up-to-date details of user flight plans, Groundlink will monitor user travels and advise ground transportation services if it looks like their ride might be delayed. Right now, Groundlink is offering 20 percent off rides booked via the TripIt Mobile App.
Connectivity Worldwide Now With Easy Payment Boingo, worldwide connectivity company with over 600,000 hotspots worldwide, announced recently that iOS users can now use their secure iTunes account to buy a Boingo subscription. Making the app easier to use than ever, users can activate the new plan on multiple iOS devices, allowing customers to quickly connect to unlimited Boingo Wi-Fi without entering account information.
Behind The Scenes Update For A Better Experience Airbnb is an online service that allows “hosts” to rent unoccupied living space and other short-term lodging to guests. Testing the service here at Gadling has had mixed results. In the article “Important Warning For Anyone Using Airbnb,” Gadling’s Kyle Ellison warned, “if you plan on renting out a room or serving as a host, be sure you’re aware of the local laws, lest you receive a knock on the door that isn’t from a paying guest,” after discovering that many localities do not allow subletting. In “Airbnb Reconsidered,” Gadling writer Alex Robertson Textor highlights some communication problems inherent with the service that can be problematic.
In response to these concerns and others, Airbnb released a new update reported in techcrunch aimed not at users but at those who host them. One new feature will allow hosts to better communicate with potential users by pre-approving, denying, or requesting more information from guests. The hope is that the new features will increase the speed with which bookings can happen. Another feature will give hosts improved ability to update calendar listings, ensuring that the most current inventory can be seen by users.
Not Just Your Air, What You See Below Delta Airlines, like most other carriers, has an app that will check you in, track your frequent flier program miles and more. Nothing really exciting there. But Delta’s Glass Bottom Jet is a unique app for iPad that brings users a bird’s-eye view of locations they are flying over. Users can explore the area with photos, landmarks and Wikipedia pages and tell you which Facebook friends you’re flying over. Check this video for more on Delta’s Glass Bottom Jet: