Category: Gizmos

By on May 5, 2017

Advent LDWS100

If there’s anything we’ve learned with this project, it’s something we should have already known but tend to forget: Most projects turn out bigger than first imagined, and some are so large as to be either impossible, or not such a good idea after all — at least for those without the proper tools or knowledge.

Such was the case when we went to install the Advent LDWS100 Advanced Driving Assistance System. This is not to say the Advent isn’t a good device. Or to say that it is. It’s simply to say that we couldn’t get it working, so we don’t know.

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By on May 1, 2017

hondata-2017-honda-civic

Honda’s new Civic is a heck of a car, even if the styling is polarizing. But it’s not a performance car like Civics of old, where mixing and matching engine and transmissions from other models could yield a very quick ride with a stratospheric redline. Enthusiasts are anxiously awaiting the Si and Type-R trims, which promise plenty of power — but what of those who already have a car, or need features the high-performance cars don’t have?

Enter Hondata, the firm that’s been tuning Honda engine management systems for years. It’s been the industry leader for those looking to do those engine swaps, and has developed software and devices to add performance to the factory ECU.

Recently, Hondata released its FlashPro for the newest Civic powered by the 1.5-liter turbo engine, and I had a chance to drive a Hondata-tuned 2017 Civic.

Even stock, the new turbo Civic is faster in the quarter-mile than the previous-generation Civic Si, so the extra performance should be impressive.

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By on April 6, 2017

Hopkins nVision Backup Sensor Kit

If you’re looking for some electronic assistance backing your car but don’t want to mess with installing a rearview camera, a backup sensor system might be the solution.

Consisting of ultrasonic sensors mounted at the rear of the vehicle and connected to an audible alarm inside the car, a sensor system gives you a warning when you’re getting close to something behind you, typically growing more urgent as you get closer.

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By on April 6, 2017

Pyle PLCM7500 Backup Camera Kit

There’s no question a rearview camera can add a measure of convenience to the business of backing up and increase your margin of safety. Studies have shown a rear camera makes it easier to see small children, pets, or obstacles behind your vehicle that might be otherwise invisible using just your mirrors or looking out the rear window. And that goes double for pickups and other tall vehicles, which can have a blind spot as long as 50 feet to the rear. Adding a rearview camera can also make it easier to see and hook up a trailer. 

Many new cars have backup cameras, and it’ll be mandatory equipment by the 2018 model year. For those of us without, the aftermarket offers plenty of choices. 

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By on March 30, 2017

Schumacher X114 Compact Inverter

If you’re looking for an inexpensive power inverter and don’t want to sacrifice a cup holder or other interior real estate, the Schumacher X114 might be just the ticket — as long as you don’t mind a bit of noise with your power. 

Capable of putting out 140 watts of continuous power, the X114 has more than enough juice to drive a laptop or other small electronic device. To that end, it comes equipped with one 120V receptacle, and a 2-amp USB outlet for charging a phone, music player, or most anything else that can be charged via USB. 

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By on March 20, 2017

Garmin HUD+

A windshield head-up display, or HUD, is a beautiful thing. Capable of displaying navigational guidance, vehicle speed, and other information on the lower part of the windshield and in the driver’s line of sight, HUD systems have become increasingly common on new cars since their first appearance a couple of decades ago.

More recently, a handful of aftermarket suppliers and startups have gotten on the bandwagon, offering devices that pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth to provide similar functionality, even if these devices lack the seamless integration of a factory system.

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By on March 17, 2017

Energizer EN180 Compact Power Inverter

Even if your car is equipped with a built-in power port or two, it may not have enough outlets to support all the electronic devices and habits of you and yours, or said ports may be inconveniently located or accessed. Maybe you want a configuration your car doesn’t have, like a 120V outlet to power a laptop or portable DVD player. Or maybe whatever ports your car has just haven’t been quite right since that last Big Gulp incident.

If any of these scenarios is the case, a power inverter can be the solution. Depending on the make and model you choose, an inverter can give you the versatility to power several devices at once, juice up your laptop or other electronic device, or provide more power and quicker charging than built-in ports in your car. And with prices starting at less than $50, inverters are affordable enough to make sense for almost any budget.

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By on March 13, 2017

Motorola Sonic Rider Bluetooth Speakerphone Kit

Safety experts generally agree that shutting off your phone altogether while behind the wheel is the safest way to travel, but the reality is that just isn’t going to happen for many drivers. In spite of thousands of deaths and close to a half million injuries chalked up to distracted driving every year, we are a society largely addicted to our phones.

But experts also agree going hands free is a safer option than handling a phone on the go, and most newer vehicles now have Bluetooth so drivers can keep their eyes on the road and use voice commands to make and receive calls. While arguably still distracting, hands-free calls are a better idea than punching keys at highway speeds, when a car travels the length of a football field in about five seconds — coincidentally, the average length of time it takes to read or send a text message.

For owners of vehicles without built-in Bluetooth, there are all kinds of aftermarket solutions available, from small units with a microphone and speaker that clip to a sun visor and cost as little as $20, to replacement head units that will set you back hundreds of dollars or more. For the purposes of this exercise, we looked at the former for their ease of installation and low cost.

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By on March 9, 2017

iOttie Easy One Touch 2

With the average age of cars on the road now on the far side of 11 years, the latest electronic safety and convenience systems don’t do most drivers much good. But the good news is that any car can be upgraded with many of these features, from blind spot warning to Bluetooth for streaming music and hands free phone calls. You can easily install most of them yourself, and for a lot less than making payments on a new car.

Our new series of articles detailing some of these features will take you through what products are available, how they work, and what they cost. We’re starting with nine products available from the automotive aftermarket provided by our sponsor eBay, who has also graciously offered up three $500 gift cards. We’ve independently made our product choices based on ease of DIY installation, popularity, favorable reviews from other sources and users, and brand recognition with websites and readily available customer support.

Oh, and we’re installing all these upgrades on a 1999 Acura TL with 152,000 miles.

First up, let’s keep it simple: a trick phone mount from iOttie, the Easy One Touch 2.

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By on January 20, 2012

Don’t you sometimes want more attention? Aching to simply blow people away? The people at Banshee Horn LLC might just have the thing for people who want to be noticed. It is called the Banshee Horn, and it does what the name says. The folks promise in an email to TTAC that the gadget helps you “warn motorists up to 3 blocks away” with a pain-inducing 139 decibel horn. Read More >

By on October 8, 2009

(courtesy blueunplugged.com)

The latest advancements in communication imply a great future for the automobile. And yet, like my former manager in Corporate America once said, “I can’t wait to go to a place where my BlackBerry doesn’t work.”  Like most BlackBerry addicts, I doubt she really meant it. Mostly because these handheld email magnets are legalized crack, for better or worse. Now BlackBerry makes a self-branded, visor mount speakerphone: traffic jams en route to work and business travel in sub-par rental cars shall never be the same. And its name is the VM-605.

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By on July 28, 2009

Rear view cameras are becoming commonplace on SUVs, CUVs and luxury cars but only as part of very expensive option packages. If you prefer spending your money on things like groceries and house payments, or have an older vehicle, you’re pretty much out of luck. But not entirely. Peak (yes, the antifreeze people) offer the Peak Wireless Back-up Camera System. To see if it passes muster, I installed one on my 1999 Chevrolet Tahoe.

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By on June 22, 2009

The Microsoft Zune prides itself in being the only significant alternative to Apple’s wildly popular iPod and iTunes duo. But there’s a problem: Zune distances itself from the industry standard software and hardware systems. Considering Microsoft’s dominance stemming from the personal computer revolution, the Zune’s unique value proposition is less like the corporate mothership and more like the original Apple Macintosh: isolating and challenging. Which, considering their fashionably late entrance, makes the Microsoft Zune a tough sell.

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Product Review: Microsoft Zune Product Review Rating

By on May 13, 2009

Ford seems to be the only part of the big 3/2.5/1.8 that’s embracing technology as a way to win customers. Their SYNC system got massive airplay in the Blue Oval’s ads. Down at the dealer level, FoMoCo’s been pushing SYNC like crazy. Strange, then, that I’ve noticed a distinct lack of reviews on the SYNC. So I hopped into a Ford Fusion for a week to answer a simple question: it is any good?

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By on April 9, 2009

One of my long-standing disagreements with the editor: the Porsche Cayenne is a dangerous diffusion of the Porsche brand. I never believed that. I’d call Robert up and tell him— if I could dial this new Porsche Design P’9522 phone with its razor thin buttons. Or use it stateside for that matter. Perhaps I’ll e-mail my review. Nope. The gorgeous new touch screen gizmo lacks that feature. It does have a 911 GT3 ring tone, though.

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