As regular readers know, Campus News is often asked to review items from companies large and small. We only review items that actually pertain to our audience, and then, after testing them, usually give them to staff and readers via our Facebook page.
This article’s theme goes with our story on page 5 – things you may need living in a small space, such as a dormitory or an off-campus house with roommates. Its secondary theme is interesting items you may want to have with you when you move to live on or off campus.
The first item that caught our attention was a Sanus VLF220 TV wall mount. This makes a lot of sense for a tight space – the TV can be positioned in various directions (sideways, or tilt up and down – great for gaming from a bed!), the product was relatively easy to install and assemble (about 15 minutes). It’s about $200-250 via online stores. We tried it with a 42” Zenith and it carried it fine. Its manual says it can support TVs from 37-65 inches and 130 pounds. There is a YouTube video showing you how to install this product. Just not having a TV stand is worth the effort of getting a TV wall mount, and this one seems better than the ones commonly sold in stores. Try www.sanus.com for more information.
Another thing you may want to get is a solid – but not too expensive – digital camera. We’ve all gone one way or the other – we either shoot with an iPhone or with some $500-1000 SLR. The problem with the iPhone is that it takes flat photos, though the color and definition is good. The SLR may be too pricy, or you may be afraid to bring it somewhere where it could get damaged or stolen. A solid alternative is a mid-range camera with a wide lens that can give your shots some dimensionality. We tested the $150 GE X450. The shots taken were much better than a cell phone’s and not much worse than the Campus News’ Nikon SLR. If you take a photography class at the college level, your instructor may insist on an SLR, but, otherwise, this is fine for shooting a wide range of shots.
From the company: “Optical image stabilization ensures that your photographs are crisp and clear, and the 2.7” LCD screen allows you to view your photos and edit them on the spot. The GE X450 offers the ease of a smartphone camera with even more advanced features for capturing and sharing high quality photos including 16 megapixels, 25X optical zoom, video recording, object tracking and pancapture panorama capabilities.”
But, speaking of cell phones, we are a big fan of OtterBox. Yes, they are bigger than other cases, but you won’t end up with those cracked screens so many people seem to have. OtterBox sent us two varieties for iPhone 5/5S. The more stylish Symmetry (about $40 online), which is also lightweight and looks to be very sturdy, and the higher-end Resurgence (about $85-100 online), which has “military-rated” protective coating and a bigger backside to give you twice the battery life. The minus of the latter box is that it pretty much doubles the weight of your phone; but if you are a heavy user, you may need the extra charge.
We’d like to say we tested these OtterBoxes by dropping them off of a tall building, but we’re not crazy. However, through previous experience, we feel that these are well worth the cost. If one had to buy either the OtterBox or the Apple Insurance Plan for an iPhone, we’d suggest the OtterBox!
In our mailbag also came an actual mailbag! A small company called TerraCycle is making what they are saying is an iPad case made of recycled post-office mail bags. They are very unique, and do fit a 10” tablet fine. They have lots of little pockets, too. You should still have a protective case on your tablet – this offers little protection from bangs and drops – or you could just use this bag for carrying your note pads and various instruments. It seems suitable for a male or female.
(Buying the bag online proves difficult. The TerraCycle site says that they are out of stock. There is one such bag on eBay for about $50. We’d say a fair price is $35, so make a “best offer.” These are cool, kind of post-apocalyptic looking.)
TerraCycle also makes other “green” things, such as coasters made of used computer circuit boards. Check out their site at TerraCycle.com.
Another small company that sent us an interesting product is ZBand. Their site is ZBand.biz and they are based out of Ireland. The guys at ZBand invented a watch you can wear that, through hooking up via BlueTooth and an app on your Android, Apple or Windows phone, vibrates at an appointed time.
You could use this as an alarm clock if you don’t want to wake up a roommate, or a silent reminder to, say, take a medication, or to warn you when a test is about to end.
It’s $60 with free shipping and seems worth the cost for those who need it. You will need a basic cell-phone wire to charge this, as it doesn’t come with one. The most popular Android chargers are compatible.
Our tests showed that this actually works. You can just press the Z button to stop the buzz, which is strong enough so that you take notice, but not jarring. I’m sure the inventors thought of this, but adding an actual clock to the ZBand may be a good idea. Then wearing it in public wouldn’t seem as strange. But, overall, nice invention – good luck, ZBand crew!
We also tried out a Hydraluxe Cool Case by Comfort Revolution. It’s supposed to keep the sleeper cool at night. This might be great for a rooming situation where you can’t control the heat. We did find the case a bit heavy and hard to get used to, and just to be room temperature. Where was the “refreshing gel?” Maybe we did something wrong. It’s $20 for a standard-sized case, $30/queen, $40/king via www.comfortrevolution.com.
We will have more reviews in future issues. Have a product in mind for us to look at? Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.