10 gadgets to make summer travel more enjoyable – The Gadling Gear Review

Now summer is finally on its way, you are probably looking closely at the travel deals out there, waiting to pick an affordable destination (hint: check out our hot travel deals!).

Before you spend all your hard earned cash on your plane tickets, why not invest in some gadgetry to make your trip more enjoyable? Here are 10 gadgets that can help you carry more, get online (in the air), capture your fun, keep your photos safe and help power all that stuff.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star bag

Wouldn’t travel be easier if you could pack everything you need for a short trip, in one bag? Would life become perfect if that bag could be a shoulder bag, backpack and duffel bag? Then check out the new Tri-Star from Tom Bihn bags.

This 3-in-1 bag makes smart use of its space, and has room for clothes, a laptop and any other small items you want to carry along with you.

Price: $240
Where: Tombihn.com (ships late June)

EyeFi Video card

EyeFi was featured in our top 25 best travel products of 2008.

The EyeFi card is an SD memory card with a twist – built inside this tiny card is a WiFi adapter, and any time your camera is in range of a wireless access point, it sends its photos to a variety of sources. The card supports uploads to your home PC, but also to most online photo hosting sites.

For 2009, EyeFi took their excellent product, upped the storage space to 4GB, and added support for video files.

Now your camera can upload photos, as well as videos. Imaging making a funny video, and arriving home with all that content already published on Youtube!

Price: $79.95 (EyeFi 4GB Explore Video) or $99.95 (Share Video)
Where: eye.fi store

Verizon MiFi

The new Verizon MiFi promises to make mobile broadband easier than ever. In the past, getting online with mobile broadband involved using a USB adapter or modem card.

The MyFi combines a wireless hotspot and mobile broadband adapter in one small battery powered device. When turned on, you can get online using your WiFi enabled laptop, netbook or PDA, without having to deal with complicated software.

Price: $99.95 (after a $50 mail in rebate, and with a 2 year contract, $59.95/month for service)
Where: verizonwireless.com

Pocket HD Camcorder

Still carrying a bulky tape camcorder? Dump it and invest in a new digital HD camcorder like the Creative VadoHD or the Flip UltraHD. At just over $200, these cameras make surprisingly high quality clips, and they are small enough to fit in your pocket. With no moving parts, battery life is often enough for a days worth of clips.

Once you get home, you simply pop out the built in USB plug, and copy all the clips onto your computer, ready to upload to your favorite video sharing site.

Price: from $199
Where: Flip by Pure Digital, Creative Vado HD, Kodak ZX1, ZI6

Tekkeon TekCharge MP1800

The Tekkeon TekCharge MP1800 is, despite the long name, remarkably simple. This small Lithium-Ion battery pack can charge almost any portable device. The unit comes with a variety of charging tips for mobile phones, PDA’s and smartphones.

With a whopping 4000mAh capacity, this battery pack carries enough portable juice to recharge most gadgets at least twice. When connected to an iPod or Zune, you’ll get over 100 hours extra music playback time!

Price: $44.95
Where: Tekkeon reseller page

>>>> Go to part 2 of 10 gadgets to make your summer travel more enjoyable

Daily deal – Creative Vado pocket digital camcorder

My daily deal for today is for the Creative Vado pocket digital camcorder.

This small digital video camera records up to 2 hours of content and features a 2x digital zoom, an internal rechargeable battery and a built in USB connector.

Recordings can instantly be sent to Youtube or other video sharing sites, or stored/edited on your PC.

Cameras like this have become increasingly popular thanks to their low cost and durability. I’ve used several of them myself, and often prefer them over a regular digital camera because they are much easier to carry around.

Of course, the video quality is not comparable to a high-end digital video camera, but the content is perfectly acceptable for shots of your vacation or other event.

The Creative Labs Vado normally retails for $99.99, but if you don’t mind the silver version, you can pick one up for just $59.99 with free shipping. The pink Vado version is $5 more. If your wallet has a little extra cash to spare, check out the HD version of this camera.

Product review – Creative Vado HD pocket high definition camcorder

In this product review I’m going to introduce you to the Creative Vado HD pocket camcorder.

The Vado HD is one of a long lineup of pocket camcorders that has recently hit the market. Last year I reviewed one of the first pocket HD camcorders; the Kodak Zi6. Since then, several other manufacturers have released their own product.

Creative is no a newcomer to the consumer electronics market – they have been making audio and video products for ages, and I still have happy memories of owning my first Sound Blaster audio card back in 1989.

As far as camcorders go, the Vado HD is tiny – at just 3.9″ x 2.2″ at just 0.6″ thick and 190 grams, it is one of the smallest on the market.
On the front of the camera is a small protruding lens, and on the rear is where you’ll find its 2″ display, D-Pad control and play/delete buttons. On the side of the Vado HD is an audio/video jack and a mini-HDMI connector hidden behind a plastic dust cover.

On the bottom of the camera is a regular tripod screw port and a flip-out USB connector.

The Vado HD is powered by an internal rechargeable battery pack, rated for up to 6 hours of video recording.

Inside the camera is 8GB of storage space, which is sufficient for about 2 hours of HD+ recordings. The memory is not expandable, so you will need to move clips to your computer when you are in need of more space.

As far as recording quality goes, the Vado HD is quite simply stunning. I’ve used several of these little cameras in the past, but none really produced anything I’d consider worthy of replacing a “real” camcorder. The Vado HD does 3 things I’ve not seen from any other camera in this class:

  • Audio is impressive
  • Low light recordings are actually usable
  • Video quality really looks “high definition”

Audio is actually better than impressive – even when I used the camera in a really tough location (a large stadium with a dolphin show), it picked up all the noises brilliantly. As far as recording in low light goes – it still won’t be a replacement for a camera with night vision, but in a room with just a couple of regular lamps I was able to make a very decent recording.

The camera records video in 720p with the H.264 video codec format. When set to its highest quality setting, you’ll be able to record up to 2 hours in “HD+ and 4 hours in the regular HD format. When set to VGA (low quality), the camera can record up to 8 hours. Zoom is provided through a 2x digital zoom, which I don’t really recommend as it lowers the quality of the clips.

I’ve made several video clips showing the recording quality, and I’m sure you’ll agree that this is quite acceptable for a $230 HD video camera. I’ve seen worse from a $600 DV (non HD) camera.

Creative Vado HD Demo from Scott C on Vimeo (be sure to click the “HD” button).

(Click here for the HD version of the clip, sorry for the poor quality and stuttering, YouTube does not handle HD clips very well).

As you can see – video quality is actually very good, not “professional HD camera” good, but certainly good enough for your vacation video clips.

The Vado HD retail package makes the camera even better. Creative include a Mini HDMI cable and a silicone case as well as a USB extension cable.

The camera charges using USB, so no additional charger is required, though they do sell extra batteries and chargers if you feel you may need some more juice on the road.

Once you have made your recordings, you have several ways to watch them. The first, and easiest is to plug the camera into your TV using the included HDMI cable. Playback over HDMI is of course in HD, and you only need a single cable for video and audio. The second option is what you’ll want to use to archive and edit all your video clips – using your PC.

The first time you plug the Vado HD into your computer, it installs Vado Central, a simple video viewing application. From within Vado Central, you can instantly upload your clips to Youtube, Photobucket or Box.

The best part about Vado Central is that you do not need to install anything on your PC – which means you should be able to use it at the local Internet Cafe, airport lounge PC or restrictive work laptop. Vado Central also has the ability to grab captures of video files and turn them into photos, as the camera itself does not feature still imaging.

If viewing and uploading is not enough, you can also install a basic video editing suite, which allows you to make quick but fairly creative videos in a matter of minutes. The application offers a couple of video effects and the ability to add some background music, but it is not as flexible as a full video editing package. Naturually you can also import and edit the clips in any third party video editing package capable of working with H.264 video files.

The Creative Vado HD costs $229 and is available directly from Creative.com or your favorite electronics retailer.

Daily deal – Creative Vado HD Pocket Video camera for $200

My daily deal for today is for the Creative Labs Vado HD Pocket Video Camera.

This pocket HD camera shoots in 720p, which results in a resolution of 1280×720, making for very decent HD video clips. Included in the box is a silicone cover, HDMI cable and rechargeable battery.

The camera charges using the built in flip-out USB connector. Controlling the camera is extremely easy, you simply turn it on, and start shooting. You can then view your recordings on an HDMI equipped TV, or on your PC when you transfer them using the included software. Once on your PC, you can also upload the clips to a variety of video sites.

I’ve got a Vado HD in front of me, and will be posting a full review next week, but I can already reveal that it is an extremely impressive little shooter, and produces surprisingly crisp clips with superb audio. The rechargeable battery and included case and cable make it a great bargain.

The camera has 8GB of built in storage, so you do not need to invest in additional memory.

The Vado HD normally retails for $229, but is currently on sale directly from Creative.com for just $200. That price even includes free shipping!