Macworld Expo Gems

Like many other Macworld staffers, I spent the past week at the Macworld Conference & Expo in lovely Boston, MA. Although the East Coast Expo is much smaller than the San Francisco show each January—especially now that Apple has decided not to attend the former—there are still a good number of exhibitors, many of whom are showing new and interesting products. A number of my favorites, such as Harman Kardon’s Drive+Play iPod solution for your car and DLO’s TransPod for iPod shuffle, were recipients of Macworld’s Best of Show Awards, but a few others stood out, as well.

I’ve been a fan of STM’s bags and backpacks for a while now, but they were showing a number of new bags at the Expo that made me wish I had several extra backs and arms just to carry them. The new Loft ($55 for 12” PowerBook version; $60 for 15") is a retro-stylish vertical-loading laptop bag made of heavy-duty brown nylon with orange PVC trim. And the company’s new $95 Intention should be a big hit with women who are tired of carrying both a purse and a laptop bag: The I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-leather PVC bag, available in brown with blue stitching or black/black, looks like a large leather handbag, but includes a removable padded laptop pouch, numerous internal pockets, and a matching cable/cosmetic case. I also like the little touches: If you want to wear the bag as a purse, you can remove the shoulder strap and hide the D-rings; on the other hand, if you want to use the shoulder strap, you can retract the handles into the case.

STM Loft

STM’s new $30 Rebound is an inexpensive, form-fitting sleeve for your PowerBook; however, instead of using neoprene, that protects only against scratches, the company has used a kind of polyurethane foam which offers more protection against bumps and knocks. Finally, the new $75 Sports 2—the updated version of the Sports model that I’ve been using to carry my PowerBook for the past six months—offers a number of enhancements that has me looking to upgrade.

Longtime “gaming” mouse vendor Razer’s $60 Razer Pro—which appears to be a white and gray version of the company’s Diamondback mouse—looks like a great peripheral for those who use their Macs for more than just iLife and Office. With a resolution of 1600 DPI and 7 programmable buttons, it should offer even the most hardcore of gamers speed, accuracy, and customizability aplenty; a matching white and gray, aluminum and plastic mouse pad provides a perfect optical mousing surface.

ETCHamac’s PowerBook customization

And the company has even newer mice and keyboards in the works that let you store sets of button/key configurations—perfect for using them with different games, or for multiple users. (The keyboard will even have an LCD display that lets you know which configuration you’re currently using and what each key is programmed to do.) Peter Cohen has more on the Razer Pro in his Game Room Weblog, and I look forward to reviews of all these products from Peter.

If you’ve always wanted to add some more bling to your iPod or Aluminum PowerBook, Macmedia’s new ETCHamac is sure to be right up your alley. You send your PowerBook or iPod to the company, which then uses a laser to etch the design of your choice directly onto the case. Add text, logos, even images—you’ll get a professional-looking grayscale likeness etched permanently into the surface.

Bluelounge Cableyoyo

iPod etching ranges in price from $20 to $50, with PowerBook work costing $35 to $200 (depending on the type and size of the design). If you don’t want to send your PowerBook in, for $36 extra Macmedia will engrave a brand-spankin’-new PowerBook screen casing and send it to you—you just have to install it yourself.

Finally, Bluelounge was showing their Cableyoyo, a $5 accessory designed to control cable clutter—at least for thinner cables such as Apple’s iSight FireWire cables and iPod dock connector cables. The Cableyoyo accommodates up to 6 feet of cable, which, as the name implies, wraps around the unit’s yo-yo-like groove. (Although the Cableyoyo is square rather than round like a real yo-yo.) The Cableyoyo is quite thin, so it won’t work with thicker cables, and the plugs at the ends of your cables don’t fit into the Cableyoyo, but it’s still a novel idea and an attractive design.

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