Technological Trinkets and Overlooked Hardware Essentials

WRITTEN BY: Josh Smith

PC enthusiasts know where to turn for cutting-edge graphics cards, gamers know which consoles are available and why one may be better than the rest, and everybody knows about the latest and greatest smartphone, because the world can’t shut up about them.

But what about those small, unknown gadgets that we’re all missing out on? The reasonably-priced tidbits of tech that enhance our experience, yet don’t get the attention of the rest of the world because they’re not designed to be flashy or expensive.

They’re simply designed to be useful.

It’s these odds and ends that reside in the pockets of your backpack, are packed in your luggage for trips, and can ruin a vacation when they’re left at home. They’re important. We just don’t treat them that way.

strong>Accell Powramid and USB Charging Station - It’s a surge protector, to be simple about it. The design makes it far more useful than your typical horizontal surge protectors, though. The round, pyramid design is perfect for all your electronic adaptors, without the bother of those particular chargers that are so large they take up two slots. That means you can have six things plugged in without having to navigate a gauntlet of other cables to find real estate. There are also two USB ports and, with the entirety of the technological world running on USB, it’s an added bonus.

ChargeKey - A 2.5” micro-USB that you can carry on your keychain. How awesome is that? The downside is the price. While it’s certainly handy, the fact that it’s priced at $29.99 is the only major drawback. It’s made from a flexible rubber, it’s easy to use, and tests indicate the thing must be made from the little black box they use on airplanes because it’s damned near indestructible. That price though, that’s going to be the dealbreaker for most.

Nyko PlayPad Pro - With console gaming seeing a decline (for now) and mobile gaming surging like never before, accessories are now available to enhance your experience. This is one of them. “But,” you say, “the point of mobile gaming is to get rid of my controller.” Not so. The PlayPad Pro offers a stable of games(http://www.nykoplayground.com/games/) that you’re familiar with and some you’re not, then let’s you play them from the comfort of your thumbs. The Bluetooth connection and the semi-scaled down design means that any backpack or shoulder bag should have enough room to tote it around, ensuring that some fun, interesting games are available on a whim.

span style="line-height: 1.3em;">MHL Hardware

MHL stands for “Mobile High-definition Link,” and essentially acts as a way to connect your tablet or smartphone to a television. You might wonder why you’d want to connect a mobile device to a television, it’s mobile after all. Well, if you’re using the Nyko PlayPad Pro listed above or if you simply want to play something like Angry Birds on your big screen without having to pay $40.00 for it on console, an MHL device is perfect. There are a number of manufacturers though, and there are variations in design.

strong>Accell MHL to HDMI Adapter with Extended MHL Cable - Despite it not fitting perfectly into any particular piece of hardware, I was able to get it to work, albeit with some problems. Potentially a defect (hey, it happens), the fact that the cable was so long, I was able to stay on the other side of the room to troubleshoot. The only MHL cable I tested that extended more than 4” -- seriously -- the nearly ten feet of distance was amazing to have. Seriously, other manufacturers, if you can’t at least match the distance, step up your game.

Samsung Galaxy HDTV Smart Adapter - At $39.99 you might be scared off, but with the popularity of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the fact that this is the only MHL cable I’ve tested that works flawlessly with it, it’s worth the investment. The Galaxy S4 is known for it’s robust screen as it is, but seeing it on a 46” television (in 1080p). The drawback is the short cable length, David to Accell’s Goliath, but if you can extend it yourself, this is perhaps the best of the bunch.

Rocketfish 8” MHL cable (RF-G1171) - The Rocketfish option is as close to “universal” that I’ve encountered, but even so it doesn’t work flawlessly with all hardware. In fact, it doesn’t necessarily work with all hardware at all. It measures about 4” long and is perhaps the most basic of this bunch. It broadcasts in 1080p and allows you to charge your device while using it, but most MHL cables do. Truly, if any of these cables are considered “oatmeal,” this is it. But, hey, people like oatmeal.

While there are dozens, hundreds of additional accessories that we could wax poetic about or cite as simply “disrespected,” I’ve found that the few here are worth mentioning. From gaming options to broadcasting to your television to simply charging your devices, oftentimes the simplest of tasks is overlooked. It’s a shame, really, because without some of these little technological trinkets, your smartphone or tablet investment turns into a paperweight.

COMPETITIONS

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