Blumoo

Pros Controls multiple devices with one app. Streams music. Simple setup.

Cons App could use a makeover. Slightly choppy audio streaming. Some button lag. Bottom Line The Blumoo uses IR and Bluetooth technology to stream music and control your home entertainment devices from your smartphone. It supports a plethora of devices and is a snap to install, but the user interface could use a facelift and streaming audio is a little jittery.

By John R. Delaney

If you're tired of looking at that collection of remotes cluttering up your coffee table, it's time to trade them all in for a universal remote solution such as the Blumoo ($129.99) from Flyover Innovations. As with products like the Gear4 UnityRemote and the Logitech Harmony Link, the Blumoo uses Bluetooth and infrared wireless technology to control your home entertainment components using your iOS or Android mobile device. What sets it apart from the others is its ability to stream audio from service like iTunes, Spotify, and Pandora directly to your home stereo. The Blumoo is easy to set up and had no trouble controlling my older receiver and DVD player, but audio streaming was a little erratic and the remote overlays used in the app could use some sprucing up.

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Design and Installation
The Blumoo pod is an attractive little gadget with a translucent black cover and a silver metallic stand. It measures 2.8 by 1.9 by 2.2 inches (HWD) and contains six different infrared LEDs that allow you to control numerous devices. It also contains a Bluetooth 4.0 receiver that communicates with your Bluetooth-enabled mobile device. Sticking out of the back of the pod is a 9-inch-long, hard-wired cord with a 3-port dongle for power, analog audio, and IR extender connections. The kit comes with a power supply and an audio cable that plugs into your receiver's auxiliary audio ports, but you'll have to supply your own IR extender if needed.

An LED indicator hidden behind the black plastic lens glows red when the unit is powered up and turns blue when a Bluetooth connection is made. A green light indicates a firmware update is in progress.

Installing the Blumoo couldn't be easier. Since it uses line-of-sight infrared wireless technology to send remote codes to your various devices, you'll want to place it where it can "see" each device's infrared sensor. And if you want to control devices in more than one room, you'll need a separate pod for each one.

Blumoo inline

For this review, I placed the pod in the same room with my 10-year old Onkyo TX-series receiver, an even older Onkyo CD player, a Vizio HDTV, a Philips DVD player, and a Motorola cable box. I connected the audio cable to the receiver, plugged in the Blumoo's power supply, and was ready to download the app to my iPod Touch.

App and Performance
The Blumoo app is available for iOS and Android devices, but does not offer Web browser support. Aesthetically, it isn't much to look at; the remote templates are a dull gray and would benefit from a touch of color. That said, the app is very easy to set up and offers IR codes for over 200,000 different devices, including HDTVs, Blu-ray/DVD players, stereo receivers, and wireless speakers. To add or delete a device remote, simply tap the icon in the upper left corner of the Home screen and select Add Device, Add Custom Remote, Remove Device, or Reorder Remotes.

The Reorder Remotes function lets you change the order in which each device remote appears on the Home screen, while the Custom Remote function lets you create a remote that contains only the buttons you want. When you choose Add Device, you're presented with a screen with submenus for adding a TV, DVR, DVD/Blu-ray player, CD player, Speakers, Receiver, or Streaming Player. Within each submenu are hundreds of model choices for each device category, but if you can't find your exact model you can probably use another from the same manufacturer. If you still can't find a remote that works, send an email to Blumoo with a request to add your specific model. To find out if a remote code works, the app will ask you to use the code to power up the device. If it does, you're good to go; if not, it places a check mark next to each code so you know not to try it again.

At the bottom of the app are Home, Guide, Music, and Settings buttons. The Home button takes you to the Home screen, Guide launches your TV programming guide, Music opens your smartphone's music app so you can stream audio to your A/V receiver via Bluetooth, and Settings lets you change your TV provider (for the TV guide) and enable clicking sounds for remote buttons.

The Blumoo was able to control every device in my entertainment center, but I had to do a little remapping to make it happen. For example, the remote template for my FIOS box did not have a Mute button, so I had to create one and map it to my Vizio TV remote in order to mute the TV audio. The exact model numbers for my Onkyo receiver and Philips DVD player were not listed in the database, but I chose similar models and the remotes worked perfectly.

Blumoo app inline

My biggest gripe with the Blumoo has to do with the way it handles streaming audio. In my tests, every so often I'd notice a very slight skip when streaming songs from iTunes Radio and when playing songs from my playlists. This happened at least once during each song at random intervals, and occurred even when my iPod was in the same room as the Blumoo. Results were similar with my iPad. The folks at Blumoo hope to resolve this with a firmware update in the near future.

I also noticed a 2-3 second lag between the time I'd press a button on any remote and the time the device carried out the command. It's a minor annoyance that's easy to overlook when you have the ability to switch between remotes with a flip of your finger. I also loved the custom remote feature that lets you add buttons from all of your devices to a single remote template to create a true universal remote. I had no trouble controlling devices from my outdoor patio deck at up to 100 feet from the pod. However, once I moved beyond the 100-foot mark, some commands dropped and streaming audio would cut out frequently.

Conclusion
The Blumoo may be a bit more expensive than the Gear4 UnityRemote and the Logitech Harmony Link, but its ability to stream audio from your mobile device makes it worth the extra 30 bucks or so, despite the occasional playback hiccup. It successfully paired with all of my home entertainment devices, even the older components, and provided relatively good range. Button response could be quicker, but it's not slow enough to be considered a deal breaker.

If you're married to the idea of using a traditional wand, check out our Editors' Choice, the Logitech Harmony Ultimate . Granted, it's almost three times more expensive than the Blumoo, but in addition to controlling your entertainment devices it can control things like the Philips Hue lighting system, and it supports media playback on the PS3 and Nintendo Wii U gaming consoles. It has a smartphone app, too.


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Samsung NX30

Pros Snappy autofocus. 8.6fps burst shooting. Excellent high ISO performance. Solid control layout. Vari-angle touch-screen display. Tilting EVF. Integrated flash. Wi-Fi with NFC. 1080p60 video with mic input.

Cons Limited burst shooting. EVF lags in dim light. On the bulky side. No alternate kit or body only purchase options. Dedicated charger not included. Bottom Line The Samsung NX30 is an excellent mirrorless camera with a unique titling EVF, but its burst shooting duration is limited.

By Jim Fisher

The Samsung NX30 ($999.99 with 18-55mm lens) is the company's most full-featured mirrorless camera to date, thanks to innovations like an integrated, articulated electronic viewfinder and class-leading Wi-Fi. The 20-megapixel camera sports the same APS-C sensor size you'll find in D-SLRs, and its body design is similar to an SLR as well. If you're invested in the NX system, it's the camera to get if an EVF is a must (if not, the NX300 is a more compact option). It falls just short of winning our Editors' Choice award, which stays with Sony's Alpha 6000, which focuses and shoots a bit faster and is $200 less expensive when purchased with a lens.

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Design and Features
The NX30 measures 3.8 by 5 by 1.6 inches (HWD) and weighs about 1.4 pounds without a lens. The included zoom adds about 7.2 ounces, and adds about 3 inches to the depth. The design incorporates a sizable handgrip, an integrated pop-up flash, and an articulating EVF—if you didn't know this was a mirrorless camera, you might mistake it for a compact SLR. It's a bit larger and heavier than the Olympus OM-D E-M10 (3.2 by 4.7 by 1.8 inches, 14 ounces), which also incorporates a pop-up flash, EVF, and handgrip in its design.

Samsung NX30 : Sample Image

The 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS is included. It covers a 27-82.5mm field of view in 35mm full-frame terms, and features image stabilization. Like most mirrorless cameras, the NX system uses lens-based image stabilization. If you want in-body stabilization, you'll have to go for a model with a smaller image sensor like the Olympus E-M10 or the tiny Pentax Q7. If you've got an older Samsung camera and are upgrading to the NX30 there's a good chance that you already have this lens. And Samsung is not selling the NX30 as a body only, so you'll be buying it again. At this time the company is not offering the NX30 with any of its other zoom lenses, which include a non-stabilized 20-50mm f/3.5-5.6, a compact power zoom 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 ($349.99), and the pro-level 16-50mm f/2-2.8 S ED OIS.

All of the controls, save for the lens release button to the left of the mount, are located on the right side. There's a depth-of-field preview button on the faceplate, located so that you can engage it using your middle or ring finger, and the top plate houses the mode dial, drive mode dial, video record button, Wi-Fi button, metering control, control dial, shutter release, and the power switch. Rear controls include a flat command dial with four directional presses (Display, Autofocus, ISO, White Balance) and a center OK button, as well as buttons to adjust exposure compensation, engage autoexposure lock, play and delete images, and open the menu. Samsung also includes an Fn button, which brings up an overlay display that provides direct access to settings.

Samsung NX30 : Sample Image

The overlay menu can be controlled via touch, or via a combination of the rear command dial (its directional presses move from setting to setting) and the top control dial (it changes settings of the active box). Samsung has done an excellent job leveraging the display's touch input; it feels like an extension of the physical controls rather than an afterthought. Most mirrorless cameras with touch screens make it easy to tap the rear display to set a focus point, but the NX30 extends that capability to separate focus and exposure. Just tap and drag the active focus box and a separate box will appear to set the exposure point. The only thing missing is the ability to use the display to move the focus point while framing an image with the EVF, a feature that's still exclusive to Panasonic models like the Lumix GH3.

The display itself is 3 inches in size with a 1,037k-dot resolution. It's an OLED panel rather than an LCD, which gives it a look with a little bit more contrast, and with all those dots it's extremely sharp. I had no problems using it outdoors on a bright day, and the vari-angle design makes it possible to view from almost any angle. I was able to take low-angle shots without having to get down on the ground by flipping the display up and selecting my focus point via touch; that's not possible with a camera with a fixed rear display like the tiny Panasonic GM1.

The integrated EVF is also quite sharp thanks to a 2,359k-dot resolution. It's got a tilting design with four set positions that range from the standard position to one that's almost vertical; just pull it away from the body in order to adjust it. The EVF has more resolution than that of the Sony Alpha 6000, but even with a side-by-side comparison it's hard to tell the difference. Both are a bit choppy in dim conditions.

Wi-Fi is a standard feature in new cameras, but Samsung has been leading the pack in that functionality for some time now. The NX30 is no exception; it's easy enough to copy images and videos to your smartphone or tablet using the free Samsung Smart Camera app. You won't be able to transfer 1080p60 videos or Raw images, but otherwise it's a smooth process. You can also post directly to various social networks, including Facebook, Picasa, Dropbox, and Flickr, or send them via email. Instagram isn't supported like it is with the Android-powered Galaxy NX, but it's easy enough to copy images to your phone and then share them on the popular network. There's a remote control function as well; a Live View feed streams to your handheld device and full manual control is possible.


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Acer H276HL

Pros Affordable. Solid performance. Sleek design.

Cons Limited feature set. Reflective screen. Bottom Line The Acer H276HL is an attractive 27-inch monitor that uses In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology to deliver accurate color and gray-scale performance. At just under $250 this is one of the best values around.

By John R. Delaney

Whether you're working with multipage documents, surfing the Web, or playing the latest first-person shooter games, it's always better on a big-screen monitor. However, the cost of all that extra screen real estate has been prohibitive for users on a budget. Not anymore. The Acer H276HL ($249.99) is a 27-inch monitor based on In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel technology that provides solid all-around performance and stylish aesthetics for just under $250 list price. Features are limited on this model, and it has a somewhat reflective screen, but neither gripe prevents the H276HL from earning our Editors' Choice for affordable big-screen monitors.

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Design and Features
The monitor's sleek design belies its affordable price. The 1,920-by-1,080 panel sits inside a bezel-free cabinet that is only 1.3 inches thick and has a matte-black textured finish with a thin band of glossy-black trim around the edge. The 11-pound cabinet lacks VESA mounting holes, but is supported by a textured black base. The stand provides tilt adjustability, but does not support height, swivel, or pivot adjustments. The screen has a glossy coating that helps give colors a bit of pop, but its reflective properties can be distracting, especially when displaying a dark background.

On the back of the cabinet are HDMI, DVI, and VGA video ports, an audio port, and a headphone jack. You won't find any USB ports on this monitor, nor does it have a webcam or a DisplayPort input, but the HDMI port doubles as a Mobile High-definition Link (MHL) port and will display content from a compatible smartphone or tablet while charging it (an HDMI-to-MHL cable is not included). The H276HL also has a pair of 1.5-watt speakers that aren't very strong and lack bass; you'd be better off with a decent set of desktop speakers if you'll be watching movies or playing games.

There are five function buttons and a power switch mounted below the lower bezel. As with most Acer monitors, such as the Acer FT200HQL and the Acer B276HU, pressing any function button brings up an on-screen menu with labels for each button. From this menu you can select one of five picture presets (Standard, Eco, User, Graphics, and Movie), adjust speaker volume, select an input source, or enter the Main Menu. From the main menu, you can adjust Brightness, Contrast, and Color Temperature settings, as well as Focus, Clock, and Screen Position settings for when you're using an analog signal.

The H276HL comes with a three-year warranty on parts, labor, and backlight. It also comes with HDMI, DVI, VGA, and audio cables, a resource CD, and a printed User Guide.

Performance
The H276HL's colors were surprisingly accurate for a low-cost monitor. The chromaticity chart below shows red, green, and blue measurements (represented by the colored dots) in relation to their ideal CIE coordinates (represented by the boxes). As you can see, red and blue were inside their respective boxes, while green was just a little bit off, which is not uncommon in low-end and midrange monitors.

Acer H276HL

Color quality while watching The Wolverine on Blu-ray was excellent, and dark and light image detail was sharp, particularly in the scene where Logan protects Yashida from the nuke in the darkened underground cell. The fine shadow detail is a result of the panel's ability to display all shades of gray, which was apparent on the DisplayMate 64-Step Gray-Scale test. Granted, the H276HL's gray-scale performance can't compare with that of a high-end IPS monitor like the NEC MultiSync PA242W-BK, but it's very good for a low-cost display. IPS monitors are known for their wide viewing angles and the H276HL is no different. Colors remained true, and the panel remained bright when viewed from every angle.

The H276HL's 5-millisecond (gray-to-gray) pixel response did an adequate job of handling fast-action video while playing Aliens vs. Predator, but blurring artifacts did pop up from time to time. Chances are, this will go unnoticed by all but the most hardcore gamers, though.

The H276HL used 24 watts of power during testing while set to the Standard picture preset and 22 watts while set to the Eco preset. That's more energy-efficient than both the Acer K272HUL (38 and 30 watts, respectively) and the BenQ EW2740L (34 and 23 watts, respectively).

Conclusion
What the Acer H276HL lacks in features, it more than makes up for in bang for the buck. Its 27-inch IPS panel offers rich, accurate colors and better-than-average gray-scale performance for a monitor in the $250 price range. Moreover, its bezel-free design and slim cabinet make it look more expensive than it is. It can't match the performance or pixel count of its high-resolution sibling, the Acer K272HUL, but it is $200 cheaper and is an outstanding value. All that is why it earns our Editors' Choice for affordable big-screen monitors.


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Digital Storm Krypton

Pros Excellent performance. Packs Nvidia's latest mobile graphics card. Generous port selection. High-quality sound with amplification for headphones.

Cons FireWire 800 port protrudes slightly. Generic design with plastic construction. Bottom Line The Digital Storm Krypton is a midrange gaming laptop that leverages the latest Nvidia and Intel hardware to deliver top-notch performance.

By Brian Westover

The Digital Storm Krypton ($2,297, as tested) poses a common question for mobile gamers. What's more important in a gaming laptop, the total package or pure performance? While we grapple with this quandry every time we review a new gaming machine, the answer here is clear. The Krypton focuses on high performance, thanks to an overclocked Intel Core i7-4810MQ processor and a new Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M graphics card. Other systems may be prettier, or offer more storage and entertainment options, but as far as pure gaming power, the Krypton delivers. It's enough to make the Digital Storm Krypton our Editors' Choice for midrange gaming laptops.

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Design
Measuring 1.81 by 16.3 by 11.3 inches (HWD) and weighing 9.1 pounds, the Krypton is a big laptop that packs some potent hardware. The design itself is a bit generic, though. The Clevo chassis looks just like those we've seen from other manufacturers, and the black plastic with a matte finish isn't particularly exciting.

The 17.3-inch display has a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution, providing full HD support. With an anti-glare finish, there are no issues with reflectivity, though the blacks aren't quite as dark or rich as you might see on other displays. The accompanying audio—pumped out of two Onkyo speakers set just below the display and an integrated subwoofer on the underside of the chassis—is quite good, thanks to a Soundblaster X-Fi 3 sound card. The Krypton also adds amplification to the headphone output, which will help headset wearers to hear every little effect, from the crunch of footsteps to the staccato beat of enemy fire.

The keyboard offers plenty of roomDigital Storm Krypton
for typing and gaming, and it features square keys—adjacent to one another instead of spaced out, like on a chiclet-style keyboard—with blue LED backlighting. The touchpad just below has a glowing insignia across its surface, which rotates through several colors. The mouse features separate right and left buttons, with a fingerprint reader nestled between them for easy, secure logins.

Features
On the sides and rear of the Krypton, you'll find all manner of ports and connectors. On the right is a tray-loading Blu-ray player/DVD burner, along with several audio connections (for headphones, a mic, and external speakers), and a USB 2.0 port. On the left are two USB 3.0 ports, a combination USB/eSATA port, a Gigabit LAN port, a multiformat card reader (SD/MMC/MS), and a FireWire 800 port. The FireWire port is a head scratcher, not only because it's a bit out of date, but also because the port on our review unit protrudes slightly, just begging to get snagged on something.

Digital Storm Krypton

The rear of the chassis has a 4-pin power connector, an HDMI port, a DisplayPort, and a mini-DisplayPort. For wireless connectivity, there's Bluetooth 4.0 and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi.

The Krypton has both 250GB solid-state drive (SSD) for booting and a larger 750GB, 7,200rpm hard drive. The laptop is refreshingly free of any bloatware. All you'll find when you first boot up are Windows 8.1 (64-bit), drivers and utilities for sound, and Nvidia GeForce Experience, which serves as the control center for the Nvidia graphics card. Recently added to GeForce Experience are features like ShadowPlay, which lets you record in-game video, Game Stream (for streaming your games to an Nvidia Shield), and Battery Boost, which offers dramatically improved gaming performance when the system is on battery power. Digital Storm backs up the Krypton with a three-year warranty on labor, with one-year of part replacement and lifetime tech support.

Performance
Digital Storm Krypton With a quad-core Intel Core i7-4810MQ (overclocked from 2.8GHz up to 3.8GHz) and 16GB of memory, the Krypton packs a punch when it comes to heavy processing. It scored 6, 375 points in PCMark 7, and cranked through our multimedia tests at a swift pace, finishing Handbrake in 33 seconds and Photoshop in 3 minutes 14 seconds. While none of these scores top the charts, they are competitive with gaming laptops that cost up to $1,000 more.

The Krypton is outfitted with a new Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M graphics card, the same GPU seen in the Alienware 17 (2014). In 3DMark 11, the Krypton scored 11,810 points at Entry settings, and 2,943 points at Extreme settings. In gaming tests, with the resolution set to full HD and the detail settings high, it cranked through Aliens vs. Predator at 46 frames per second (fps) and scored 49fps in Heaven. This system will play almost any game you throw at it, but for smoother gameplay (up in the 60fps range), it may be best back off of the eye candy a bit. For top-of-the-line graphics support, you might want to opt for a dual-GPU system, like the Origin EON17-SLX (2014); even with the newest Nvidia card, the Krypton couldn't top the graphics might of two GPUs working in tandem.

It's not built for portability, but the Krypton lasted a decent 4 hours 7 minutes on our battery rundown test. While that amount of time won't get you very far—and gaming will shorten it considerably—it lasted a good bit longer than the 3:19 of the MSI GT70 2PC Dominator, and was hours ahead of the paltry 1:13 of the Origin EON17-SLX (2014).

Conclusion
With its potent processing and graphics performance, the Digital Storm Krypton offers a lot for its midrange price, even competing against high-end systems. While paying more will get you things like improved design and construction, or a larger hard drive, these characteristics are secondary for a lot of gamers. What you really want for your hard-earned money is gaming power, and the Digital Storm Krypton delivers. Compared with our last winner in this category, the MSI GT70 2PC Dominator, the Krypton offers superior performance in several areas—graphics and gaming, battery life, and productivity—for nearly the same price. 


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InFocus IN126a

Pros Sharp text. Low price. 2GB of internal memory. 3D-compatible. Wide range of connection choices.

Cons Rainbow effect in video. Feeble audio. Data-image quality suffers over a VGA connection. Bottom Line The InFocus IN126a offers sharp text and a wide range of connection choices in a bright, modestly priced WXGA data projector.

By Tony Hoffman

As the highest-resolution model of three very similar projectors recently introduced by InFocus, the IN126a ($569) provides good brightness and text quality in a modestly priced WXGA data projector. Though not without its flaws—rainbow artifacts in video, feeble sound, and degraded data-image quality when a VGA connection is used—it's a good value for the money, especially for a business or school that shows a lot of text-heavy presentations.

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The IN126a uses a DLP light engine rated at 3,500 lumens. It has a native WXGA (1,280-by-800) resolution and a 16:10 aspect ratio. Also introduced with it were the InFocus IN122a, which has a native SVGA (800-by-600) resolution, and the InFocus IN124a, an XGA model with a 1,024-by-768 native resolution.

The projector, black with rounded corners, measures 4 by 11.5 by 8.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.2 pounds, making it easy enough to tote around. It lacks a soft carrying case, which is available from InFocus as a $39 accessory. It has a focus wheel and a zoom wheel, each accessible from behind the lens. The focus wheel is narrow and a little hard to use, but you should still be able to get a sharp focus from it.

It has a solid selection of ports, including two VGA ports (for connecting to computers); a monitor-out port; an HDMI port; an S-video port; an RCA composite video jack plus two audio-in ports; an audio-out port; an RS232 jack; a USB mini-B port to connect to your computer to display its screen; a USB Type B port for mouse control and firmware updates; and a USB Type A port that lets you run a computer-free presentation off of a USB thumb drive, or plug in an optional Wi-Fi adapter ($29). There's also 2GB of internal storage.

Data-Image Testing
I tested the IN126a from about 8 feet away from our screen, where it projected a 55-inch (diagonal) image that was bright and stood up well to ambient light. In data-image testing using the DisplayMate suite, its image quality was suitable for typical business presentations. Text quality was good; both black type on white and white type on black were crisp down to our second-smallest size (7.5 points).

Colors were generally a bit dull, with yellows looking mustardy. That's often an issue with DLP projectors, which tend to have lower color brightness than white brightness. Some gray backgrounds showed a green tint; there were traces of green in grays in all color modes. There was considerable pixel jitter in images made up of closely spaced lines. Switching from a VGA to an HDMI connection eliminated the jitter, and reduced tinting as well.

I also noticed the rainbow effect that is common among DLP projectors in images that tend to bring it out. It shows as little red-green-blue flashes, particularly in bright areas against dark backgrounds. It's not a significant issue in data images with the IN126a.

InFocus IN126a

Video and Audio
Video quality is suitable at best for short clips as part of a presentation. The rainbow effect was much more of a problem in video. They were noticeable often enough that they would be likely distracting to someone at all sensitive to the effect. Colors were generally a bit dull, and I also noticed posterization—the tendency for sudden shifts in color where they should be gradual—in several scenes.

Sound from the IN126a's 2-watt speaker is weak. It would probably suffice in a rather small room, but you'd be better off using a set of powered external speakers.

The IN126a lets you project 3D content, though you will need active-shutter DLP-Link 3D glasses for each member of your audience. InFocus sells them for $69 a pair.

This projector offers a higher resolution than the InFocus IN122a and the InFocus IN124a, at a higher price. Should your presentations frequently have small type or intricate diagrams, or should you display them on a large screen, the IN126a is the better choice of the three. Although none of the three models has very good video quality, the IN126a didn't show any pixelation, unlike the lower-resolution models, particularly the InFocus IN122a. But for typical presentations in a small room, the IN124a or IN122a should suffice, and you'll save some money in the process.

Conclusion
The IN126a's image quality for data or video is no match for the NEC NP-M311W, Editors' Choice for a WXGA data projector in its (5- to 7-pound) weight class, but it is lower in price, slightly brighter, and is 3D ready. However, the 3,100-lumen NEC NP-M311W is an LCD projector, so its color brightness should equal its white brightness, while DLP projectors tend to have lower color than white brightness, as seemed to be the case with the IN126a. The InFocus IN126a offers good brightness and text quality, and a solid set of connection choices, in a moderately priced business projector. Its video is passable, and the audio is weak enough that you'll probably want to hook up a pair of external speakers to it. You'd do best to avoid using a VGA connection, as its data image suffered as compared to over an HDMI connection. But it's a good choice as a bright, low-priced WXGA projector for offices or schools that show a lot of text-heavy presentations.


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Snapchat (for iPhone)

Pros Ephemeral. Fast, dirty, super-easy photo- and video-sharing. Bold, fresh design. Innovative video-chatting interface.

Cons Unique interface needs a primer. Poor video chatting. Stories sometimes inaccessible. Troubled security history. Bottom Line Snapchat's troubled history and some iffy video chatting, overshadows this unabashedly bold, young, and unique application for free image- and video-sharing on iPhone.

By Max Eddy

In my review of Snapchat for Android, I managed to not talk about sexting. This might surprise some readers, but Snapchat (free), which lets you share images and videos that vanish after a preset amount of time, isn't really about sexting or even being secretive. Instead, it completely ignores the idea of a social network as a scrapbook (like Facebook) or as artistry  (like with Instagram) and focuses on ephemerality.

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It's a very different idea, and Snapchat has a bold and unique design to match. The app's design is bright and unabashedly young, with an interface that shirks some of the smartphone design conventions that have been around for years. But some security missteps and a few bugs hold back what could be a watershed for mobile apps.

Snaps and Video
Snapchat is focused on quickly sharing videos and pictures—called "snaps"—so it's no surprise that you begin your Snapchat experience on the viewfinder screen. The interface is simple, with a large shutter button in the center and a toggle camera button in the upper right. Tap the shutter button to take a snap, or press and hold it to shoot 15 seconds of video. I particularly like the ability to tap the screen and refocus while filming.

Other options, such as filters and text toggles, are hidden until you need them, as is the ability to download an image you just took—hey, you might want it later! The most important tool is a clock in the bottom where you set a life span for your image. This is the app's original killer feature; your pictures are only accessible to recipients for as long as you allow them (unless they grab a screenshot, of course). You can choose a lifespan between one and ten seconds.

Snapchat (for iPhone)You can swipe in one of six filters only after you take a snap, but be warned that these are lackluster compared with what you find on Instagram or Flickr. You can also add captions over the image in a few, limited styles, or you can doodle in a set of vibrant colors. Only three filters affect the actual color of your image; the other three overlay time, temperature, or the current speed at which you are traveling. This last one presumably uses GPS data, as Snapchat requires location information.

Unlike Instagram or Flickr, Snapchat offers no filters for videos, but you can add time, temperature, or speedometer overlays. Like snaps, videos are very limited; you won't find the editing options on offer in Vine and Instagram.

Recipients view your snaps or videos by tapping and holding the screen. Once you tap the screen to view the snap, a counter in the corner runs down the time remaining to view the snap and, yes, they can take screenshots during this time. If you lift your thumb off the screen for even a second, the image will vanish but the counter will keep going down. Don't miss your chance to see the image. Note that videos have no life span; once a video finishes playing, it vanishes.

A warning: If you take a screenshot, Snapchat will send a message to the snap's sender. I really like this feature, which is also included in Confide. Weirdly, I could not get this feature to work in Android, though that might be a technical limitation.

Chat
Recipients can find your snaps in their inbox, just to the left of the viewfinder screen. Here, snaps, videos, and text messages are stored as threaded conversations. Swipe right to reveal the time of the last interaction, and further right to open a chat window with a Snapchat pal. You can send text, snaps, or videos directly from this screen, too. It looks simple, but it can be quite confusing as all of your images, videos, texts, and read receipts degrade and vanish over time. Wait a few days and you'll see a blank screen instead of a lively conversation.

Snapchat (for iPhone)Weirdly, Snapchat will put an alert into the threaded conversation if someone takes a screenshot of the text but it doesn't take note of when someone takes a screenshot of a snap. Those alerts exist solely in the iOS notification center.

When two users are in the same chat window, the camera icon turns blue. Tapping it opens a live video feed, which is a new feature to Snapchat. A preview of your own camera's view shows next to your thumb, with the other person's video stream running full screen in the background. Moving your thumb up and down toggles between your front- and rear-facing cameras.

The video chat system is one of Snapchat's best design flourishes. It feels totally fresh and made for mobile, albeit a bit confusing at first. Unfortunately, the design is better than the implementation. I found video chat to be laggy, verging on the unusable, when chatting between an iPhone 4s and an iPhone 5c over Wi-Fi. Performance was no better when using two Android phones, or a mix of Android and iOS devices, including the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Nexus 7.


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InFocus IN122a

Pros Good text quality. Low price. Bright. Has 2GB of internal memory. 3D ready. Good set of connectivity choices.

Cons Rainbow effect in video. Feeble audio. Lacks carrying case. Bottom Line The InFocus IN122a is a bright and inexpensive SVGA data projector that's well-suited for schools and businesses on a tight budget.

By Tony Hoffman

The InFocus IN122a ($409) provides good value in a lower-resolution, portable business projector. It's bright, has good text quality, and provides an ample set of connection choices. There are similar projectors with better overall image quality, but the IN122a is a well-rounded and capable data projector that's good for schools and businesses on a budget.

Compare Selected

The IN122a is the lowest-resolution model of a trio of nearly identical (except for price and resolution) budget data projectors recently introduced by InFocus. The InFocus IN124a provides XGA (1,024-by-768) native resolution, while the InFocus IN126a offers WXGA (1,280-by-800) native resolution.

The IN122a has native SVGA (800-by-600) resolution, in a 4:3 aspect ratio that's common in data presentations. It uses a DLP light engine rated at 3,500 lumens. The projector, black with rounded corners and a gently curving top, measures 4 by 11.5 by 8.7 inches (HWD) and weighs 5.2 pounds, making it easy enough to tote around. It doesn't come with a soft carrying case, but you can buy one from InFocus as a $39 accessory. It has a modest 1.1X optical zoom.

The port selection includes two VGA-in ports (for connecting to computers); a monitor-out port; an HDMI port; an S-Video port; an RCA composite video jack, plus two audio-in ports; an audio-out port; a RS232 jack; a USB mini-B port to project the contents of your computer screen; a USB Type B port to connect to a computer for mouse control and to download firmware updates; and a USB Type A port that lets you run a computer-free presentation off of a USB thumb drive, or plug in an optional Wi-Fi adapter ($29). The IN122a also includes 2GB of internal storage.

Data-Image Testing
I tested the IN122a from about 8 feet away from our 60-inch (diagonal) test screen. It produced a bright image that stood up well to ambient light. In data-image testing using the DisplayMate suite, its image quality proved suitable for typical business presentations. Text quality was good; black type on white was sharp down to 6.8 points and white type on black was fuzzy at the smallest size. Colors were a bit on the dark side, with yellows looking mustardy. Some gray backgrounds showed mild green tinting; I noticed some green in grays in all color modes. I also saw some pixel jitter in images made up of closely spaced lines; switching from a VGA to an HDMI connection eliminated it.

InFocus IN122a

Video and Audio
The IN122a's video quality is suitable at best for short clips as part of a presentation. The main issue is the rainbow effect that is common among DLP projectors. It manifests as little red-green-blue flashes, particularly in bright areas against dark backgrounds. I saw such rainbow artifacts often enough that they would likely be distracting to anyone sensitive to the effect. Colors tended to be on the dull side, and I noticed posterization—the tendency for sudden shifts in color where they should be gradual—in several scenes.

Sound from the IN122a's 2-watt speaker is weak. You might get by with its sound system in a small room, or if your audience is close to the projector, but you're better off using a set of powered external speakers.

This projector lets you project DLP-Link-compatible 3D content, though you will need active-shutter 3D glasses for each member of your audience. InFocus sells them for $69 a pair.

Conclusion
For a bit more money, you could get one of the IN122a's higher-resolution counterparts. The InFocus IN126a is a good choice if your presentations include very small text or detailed drawings. However, you'd best avoid using a VGA connection with it, as data image quality over VGA suffered more (compared with over HDMI) with the IN126a and IN124a than it did with the IN122a in our tests.

The IN122a is brighter than the comparably priced Epson EX3212 SVGA 3LCD Projector, our Editors' Choice for SVGA projectors, which is rated at 2,800 lumens; and unlike the EX3212, it can show 3D content. The LCD-based Epson EX3212, however, had much better image quality in our testing. Its data-image quality is excellent, and its (rainbow-free) video is considerably better than that of the IN122a. Although the IN122a is no match for the Epson EX3212, it's still a good choice as a bright, modestly priced SVGA projector with a solid set of connection choices.


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