TRAVEL: Gift ideas for the out-and-about

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Plantronics Voyager Legend


The Plantronics Voyager Legend offers some of the best voice and audio quality Ive ever experienced in a Bluetooth headset. And Ive been reviewing these headsets for a long time. While theres one potential drawback, its mostly an exceptionally well-made Bluetooth headset.

The Legend takes a different path than many other conventional headsets these days: instead of getting smaller, it seems to have gotten bigger. You look at it and wonder why its so large. Im happy to report the extra size and weight is balanced by a comfortable design, and you quickly acclimate to the extra heft on your ear. The larger size seems to lead to better quality calls, and that is obviously important. The headset includes a volume rocker, power, call, and mute buttons. The large microphone extends a bit further than you might be used to, but again, that seems to lead to better quality calls. The headset is easy to sync and features good battery life.

The drawback is potentially substantial, depending on how you plan to use the headset: you need a proprietary docking station to charge it. There is no micro-USB port on the headset, nor is there any other type of port. If you plan on traveling with the headset, you better plan on traveling with the dock, too.

Fortunately, the dock works great. And it uses micro-USB to connect the cord to the wall. I was surprised Plantronics didnt fit an emergency charging section into the headset itself, making it chargeable (and therefore more useful) on the road. The headset slides into the dock and locks magnetically, and it does a great job doing that. I often left the headset dangling from an outlet overnight as it charged, and it never once accidentally dropped out of the dock. I did test it on the road and while driving, but because it cannot be charged on the road (and I dont travel with the dock), I used the Legend primarily at home and in the office. It really shined in those settings, where it was tested on many business calls and never once received a complaint.

The Legend includes moisture protection properties making it resistant to sweat, water, coffee, etc.; properties I expect will be appreciated by each and every owner. It will stream audio media from your phone (tested to confirm with Windows Phone 8, iOS, and Android), features excellent noise cancellation, and has an extensive list of voice commands built into it. There is a much-appreciated feature that answers the phone when you put the headset on (assuming your phone is ringing), and if youre already wearing the headset you can use a voice command to answer or ignore. This is intuitive and worked very well for me, with a few exceptions when I was driving.

The Voyager Legend is a very well constructed device, made of top quality plastics, metals, silicon, and rubber. I very highly recommend it for your home and office. If you can keep track of the charging station, it makes an excellent road companion, too.

- Dan Hunt

Blue Mikey Digital


The Mikey Digital by Blue is a iOS-compatible microphone that attaches to the 30-pin port on an iPad or iPhone 4 and up (also works with 4th-gen iPods) It will work with the newer iOS devices by use of Apples Lightning adapter.

As a voice recording microphone I didnt find the sound quality too much better than the builtin microphone on my devices. The plus the Mikey has with voice is that there is more control over the gain, as it has three settings, and you can adjust the direction.

I think the real strength on this product is the ability to connect an instrument to your iOS device for recording. This works with anything that has a line out, like a keyboard or a guitar. In this I think the sound quality is much better. There is a port on the top of the Mikey that takes a Mini plug in and it comes with a 1/4-in-to-Mini adapter.

I think this can be a great first gift for someone who wants to start recording, whether an instrument or their voice. They can move on to MIDI later on if they like it.

- Tom Lupien

Booq Python Courier Camera Messenger Bag


The booq Python Courier Camera Messenger bag makes a great camera case. Its sleek and modern, and doesnt read immediately as a camera bag, which I appreciate when Im in hotels or walking through airports. Inside the main compartment it is well padded, and generously deep. The two internal lens compartments are really well built, so the camera and lenses all feel very securely packed and protected. The dividers can be moved to accommodate your needs, which is a nice feature. I carried one extra lens, and used a second compartment for an extra battery, flash cover, and USB cable. Everything fit really well, and nothing felt like it was moving around. The bag was great for storing the camera too - you can put it on a shelf, and not worry that the camera could get damaged if it fell. With the messenger style, there is no zipper around the top of the camera, which I always worry will scratch.

If this bag billed itself exclusively as a camera case, Id be sold. Its well designed, solid, and has cool features like a Terralinq serial number. You can register the bag, so if its lost and found by an honest individual, they can log on to the Terralinq website and hopefully return it to you. All great stuff.

However, this bag doesnt simply bill itself as a camera case. They tried to go above and beyond, which is where the problems begin. If you remove the padding for the camera, you can use this bag as a regular messenger bag. Great & but where do I put my camera while Im using the bag? If it allowed the camera to be pulled out and still protected, this might make more sense, but it doesnt. Actually, I take that back - why in the world would you want to use your nice, clean camera bag for anything else? Its simply not a practical concept. There is a narrow back pocket, but this is not padded on the back wall, so anything inside will be banging against your hip, suitcase, etc. While it is billed as perfect for an iPad, I tried that. I slid it over the handle of a suitcase, and heard the dull thud of my laptop against the handle. Whoops.

The moral of this story- if youre looking for a subtle camera case that doesnt scream steal me, Im a DSLR! when youre traveling, this is a great option. It has great pockets and padding, and a really nice design. But this is a camera bag. Using it for anything else just doesnt make sense.

- Claire Kiely

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This story, "TRAVEL: Gift ideas for the out-and-about" was originally published by Network World.

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