Yuhnke Tech Check: Unique gadgets that may look odd but do the job

Gooseneck dock, iPad Foosball and a speaker tower

PHOENIX - In the market for some fun new gadgets?

Check out three I got the chance to test.

Une Bobine
[Fuse]Chicken - $28+

There are phone cables and phone docks.  They are typically two different ways to plug your phone into the wall or your PC.  Une Bobine is an odd-looking gooseneck combination of both. 

It reminds me of the big long microphones they used to have at fast food restaurants in the 80's.  Remember those? The person at the counter would use it to call your order back to the kitchen. 

Instead, this has a USB plug on one end and an iPhone dock or MicroUSB plug on the other end.  Coil it up to give it some structure and then your smartphone can float next to your computer. 

The Une Bobine is a unique idea and a great way to hold your phone at eye level while at your desk.  Not to mention, the designer shares the same alma mater as yours truly.  I digress. 

The classic  iPhone dock connector is solid and sturdy and "clicks" in.  It provides a great connection even when being used at the end of the long arm of Une Bobine.  MicroUSB is a different story.  I'm not convinced that our smartphones are designed to be used like this.  There are plastic adapters included with Une Bobine that are designed to help take the weight off the actual MicroUSB plug when using Une Bobine but it is still bearing more weight than it probably should.  The demo device I tested even started shorting out a bit unless I leaned my smartphone, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, forward a bit.  It had me concerned.

With that said, it's a unique idea that is great for iOS devices and Android devices.  If you're using MicroUSB I would simply warn you to proceed with caution.  The last thing you want is a broken port on your smartphone.

Classic Match Foosball for iPad
New Potato Technologies - $99.99

Anyone who loves foosball knows, it's all about touching and spinning the foosball handles.  An iPad foosball game can't replicate that classic feel... or can it?  Classic Match Foosball from New Potato Technologies attempts to do exactly that and does a pretty good job at it.

It's essentially an iPad dock that doubles as a controller for a 2 person game of foosball using your iPad as the playing field.  Click your iPad (original up to 3rd gen) into the standard 30-pin dock connector, install the app and you're ready to play. 

The game is self explanatory and the controller is actually very responsive.  Even the classic foosball "handle spin" seems to work well on the iPad game.  Sure, it's obviously much smaller than a real foosball table but there's no question that you're getting a great mix of virtual and real foosball fun here.

Myself and 2 friends tried it out.  We had a blast but were all a bit frustrated that the handles didn't line up with the actual rows on the game.  For some reason they were offset and I kept grabbing the wrong handles when trying to play.  I'm sure this is something that you would adjust to after playing the game for a while but it's something to know before you buy.

Otherwise, it's a great way to enjoy a fun game of Foosball on your iPad with a friend.  If you can't make it to a full-size Foosball table, this is a great unique option.  On top of that, it has a USB plug on the bottom so you can use this table as a charging/syncing dock for your iPad.

Creative Sound BlasterAxx SBX 10/20
Creative Labs - $149.99/$199.99

The Sound BlasterAxx is what I call a "oh yeah, it also does..." gadget.  It's one of those cool pieces of technology that seems to do so many more things than you would expect just by looking it at.  It looks like a typical speaker bar, and it is.  It plugs via USB into your PC and becomes your computer speaker.  With Sound Blaster processing built-in, it sounds great.  These guys have been doing audio for years and know their stuff.  In my tests music sounded great with nice bass and crisp highs. 

On top of the Axx you'll find a touch sensitive control panel.  Slide your finger up or down to adjust the volume, mute the speakers, change sound modes and more.  It worked well and was super simple to understand.

The Axx has several different sound modes and it can be controlled via the touch controls on top, an app on your PC or an app on your smartphone.  It connects to your smartphone via bluetooth.  While you're synced you can also stream music wirelessly from your smartphone (or other bluetooth device) directly to the Axx speaker.  Like I said, this thing does a lot. 

It also has a headphone jack on the back along with an aux in just in case you want to plug a smartphone or mp3 player directly into the speaker. 

Oh yeah, it also does voice calls and it does them really well.  It's specifically designed to isolate your voice from the room no matter how noisy the background is.  It works via the USB cable for Skype, Google+, etc calls or via bluetooth with your smartphone for phone calls. 

The Sound Blaster Axx is an amazingly versatile speaker that sounds really good.  It's plug and play and will work within seconds of connecting it to your computer.  You will have to make a spot for this little tower on your desk but I think it'll be worth it.  It's the ultimate add-on for anyone who takes audio seriously.

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