The Hartford Courant The Electronic Jungle column
May 24, 2013 (The Hartford Courant - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
In size, shape and heft, the Divoom Bluetune-Solo does a good impression of a mini-soda can.
Where's the pop tab
But it's more than a can of sugary calories: The Bluetune-Solo is the best little cheapo (less than $60) portable Bluetooth speaker I've heard since the JBL Micro Wireless.
The Bluetune-Solo, at $50, is even less expensive than the $60 Micro Wireless, and, if memory is reliable, capable of more substantial sound.
It's only a single 2-inch driver, pointed upward from a sawed-off plastic cylinder with rubberized siding available in five colors, powered by a meager 4 watts.
The numbers, however easy to dismiss, don't tell the story.
The Bluetune-Solo is surprisingly potent for a tiny speaker likely to be transported in a computer bag or knapsack, or stationed next to a laptop. Like speakers of this type, the Bluetune-Solo works with a Bluetooth-compatible device, with no Apple or Android exclusions. The Bluetune-Solo's own little pop tab, built into a tab that extends much of the diameter of the speaker grille, is actually its only control: Push and hold the button for pairing with your Bluetooth-activated device or press to activate the microphone and speakerphone mode.
Divoom built the on-off toggle switch into the speaker's bottom. It has a micro-USB port for charging or connecting to a laptop and a minijack audio output for daisy-chaining other speakers. Divoom also says it turns the Bluetune-Solo into a Bluetooth adapter for a wired speaker. That did not work out well during my evaluation for two reasons: The wired speaker produced only a fraction of its normal volume, and the Bluetune-Solo, with no volume control of its own, refused to shut up.
The "X-Bass" logo embedded into the Bluetune-Solo's pop-top tab is perhaps this speaker's only less-than-subtle touch. For such a tiny speaker, the Bluetune-Solo's sound is coherent except at too-high volumes, but the lower frequencies, while good for a minican, do not deserve an X-Bass exclamation.
Whatever X-Bass exists emerges from slotted vents along the Bluetune-Solo's bass as a byproduct of energy produced by the 2-inch driver. The 500mAh rechargeable battery lasts at least 21/2 hours at high volumes, up to eight hours at lower volume.
For twice the price, $100, the Jawbone Jambox and Logitech's UE Mobile Boombox would be worth a look, but you will not find much better than the Bluetune-Solo at $50.
Otterbox Armor: An iPhone case study
Otterbox calls its Armor series "the toughest case ever built." So how was I supposed to judge that I could sit on it, stomp on it, waterboard or drop it from a second-floor window into the shrubs below, but how could I match OtterBox's declaration of toughness
The company says its Armor series for iPhone 5 and 4S and the HTC GS mobile phones remains waterproof under 61/2 feet of water for 30 minutes, withstands 2 tons of pressure and can survive a 10-foot drop onto concrete.
OK, that's pretty tough for a two-piece case made of plastic, silicone and metal latches. It should be tough, too, for $100.
Let's concede the toughness and address the practical: How lovable is it for daily use
I discovered the home button was significantly more difficult to press than the home button on a standard silicone case. The plastic screen cover was also less sensitive than a standard adhesive cover. Sometimes I had to swipe two or even three times for a response.
The plastic cover appears to be the Armor's most vulnerable part. It might survive a 10-foot drop onto flat concrete, but I would be concerned for my iPhone's life if it fell 10 feet onto a jagged rock.
The Armor does not pass the daily-use test, but most of us don't need a case that can withstand half an hour under 61/2 feet of water.
The Armor, without doubt, is a heavy-duty, special-occasion case.
Divoom Bluetune-Solo speaker
Price: $50; divoomusa.com
Hot: Compact design, good-for-its-size sound.
Not: Distorts at higher volumes.
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