Gadget Inspector: Fun Auto Style on a Budget
[Photo: Driving Emoticon]
Automotive gear used to be so
simple: radio, 8-track, fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror and a faux
leopard seat pad.
Nowadays, the choices are endless
- from the most high-tech gizmos to the neatest little gadgets.
In Part Three of our auto overview,
well look at the most affordable items in the bunchreally made for those on a
Xtreme Macs InCharge Auto($19.95) makes it possible for you to power and charge your iPhone
or iPod in practically any ride.
Its compatible with any 12-volt
accessory outlet, you can use the detachable USB cable with your computer, and the
cable is long enough to also use with your phone.
InCharge Auto is user-friendly
with plenty of features. Its circuitry is designed to protect against power
spikes, the LED displays the regulated power supply, and you never have to
worry about replacing the self-resetting fuse. It also comes with a lifetime
guarantee, meaning that XtremeMac will repair or replace covered product that
proves to be defective in material or workmanship.
Theres no end to what you can
plug into your 12-volt cigarette lighter these days. Alpines eX-10 ($159) offers you in-auto plug-and-play iPod playback.
Thanks to the full-color LCD and
wireless control, you can cruise to your destination while cruising your iPod,
picking out the songs you want to hear. Using the built-in FM transmitter,
stream your audio to your car stereo, or use an auxiliary-input jack. Enjoy
hands-free phone calls via built-in Bluetooth.
The Azentek Atlas CPC-1000 is billed as
the worlds most complete in-dash double-din
computer radio replacement package. Utilizing an Intel 945GM
Express Chipset, 120 GB upgradeable hard drive, 1GB DDR2 533/667MHz DIMM
upgradeable memory and Microsoft OS (with Windows Vista), it provides
entertainment, business, telecommunications, navigation and automobile
The Atlas CPC-1000 is Bluetooth
enabled and also comes with a DVD-ROM and CD-RW drive, Super-Bright 6.5
Touch-Screen LCD, PC-Card slot for optional accessoriesfor example, a
broadband wireless Internet card, internal SiRFstarIII GPS Navigation receiver,
external antenna, internal Wi-Fi 802.11b/g wireless connectivity, Dolby Digital
5.1 5-Volt preamp outputs, 50x4 Internal amplifier and AM/FM tuner. Its also Satellite Radio and HD Radio ready.
If you think this is cool, you're not alone! The CPC-1000 won the "Best of CES" Award for Hottest Tech & GPS Product this year at the Consumer Electronics show too!
Heres something way cool from ModooTronix: the Bluetooth Hands-Free Mirrorwith Parking System ($179). ModooTronix offers
a variety of these wireless car kits that run on Bluetooth technology. The system
features a high-quality, built-in loudspeaker and external high-sensitivity
microphone. Simply plug it intowhat else?your lighter socket, clip the
Bluetooth mirror over your rearview mirror, and youre good to go.
Answer, end, reject, redial, voice
dial or audio transfer all your calls. Enjoy Bluetooth disconnection, place
calls, or adjust the loudspeaker volume with the push of a button, without even
touching your phone.
The parking sensor kit operates
via the mirror and displays the distance of rear objects via digits on the
mirror itself. Twinkling lights display left and right rear-object locations,
the reversing sensor only kicks into gear when youre backing up, and the
warning system offers four stages of beep sounds according to object
distance. The kit comes with installation cables, mirror main body, two or four
sensors, controller box and users guide.
Its never, ever too soon to think
about Christmas and those last-minute gifts or stocking stuffers. For just
under $10, the SmartPad ($8.99) is a
longtime favorite that anyone with car clutter should have. Smack that baby onto
your dashboard and watch your cell phone, pen, sunglasses and whatever else is
flying around the car suddenly affix itself in one place.
The SmartPad works on horizontal,
vertical and slanted surfaces. Made of reusable rubber, it doesnt scratch or
leave residue. When the sticking stops, wash and put it back on the dash. Or
frig. Or computer. Easy, practical andbest of allCHEAP!
And finally, my favorite: the Driving LED Emoticon($29.99). This battery-powered
(four AAs), wirelessly controlled message sign attaches to your vehicles rear
window courtesy of the included suction cup.
Keep the remote control unit up fronton a window, in a storage
compartment, or on the dashboard (on your SmartPad!) so that you can press the
buttons and activate the Emoticon messages: smiling face, frowning face,
"Thanks," "Back Off" and, most importantly for me,
"Idiot, because my middle finger doesnt reach all the way to the rear