Product Reviews

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Amazon Fire TV
Amazon
amazon.com
Not to miss out on the growing trend of people moving from cable and dish to streaming media players, Amazon launched their Fire player back in May. This system can do everything the Roku, Apple TV or Chromecast can, with a few additional features. The biggest is the voice search, a nice alternative to having to type in whatever you’re looking for, and it’s pretty spot-on at understanding what you’re saying. It also comes with a quad-core processor, 2GB memory and a gaming setup that, with added memory and quality connectivity, looks like it could be a competitor to next-gen systems in the years to come. The downsides, however, will make you slightly cautious: The menu can get very clunky, and everything tends to work like it’s an app rather than a channel. Speaking of which, the channel selection you’d find on other systems doesn’t really exist, including not having access to HBO GO. The load times are occasionally stalled, as with anything working on Wi-Fi. Overall, it’s pretty damn impressive. Just make sure you have an Amazon Instant account to get the full bang for your buck. –Gavin Sheehan

Beacon Audio
Phoenix 2
beaconaudio.com
The kids at Beacon have come out with a nice, little sequel to their original Phoenix model speaker: The Phoenix 2 ($79). It now includes a mic, so the Bluetooth speaker can double as a speakerphone—which comes in handy for any mandatory hands-free moments or conference calls or something. The Bluetooth connectivity allows you to wirelessly sync your iPhone, computer, tablet or what have you to the speaker in seconds for instant jam sessions, and it comes in handy that you can also control the music directly from the speaker (both in volume and in previous/skip song selection). You can also connect directly to the Phoenix 2 in case you’re working with something that’s Bluetooth-less. The device itself is small (three cubic inches), but still contains two speakers and a subwoofer within—which means that the Phoenix 2 can get loud. Deliciously loud. My only qualm with the Phoenix 2 is that, when you connect multiple speakers to your smart phone, tablet, computer, etc., the music will only play from one of the connected Phoenix 2 speakers—though you can still control the music from any of the connected speakers, so it seems like it wouldn’t have been difficult for them to make the music playable from multiple connected speakers as well. That being said, Beacon does make a model that has the option to connect multiple speakers and still have music play from all (The Blazar, $149). On its own, the Phoenix 2 kicks ass—and with a 10-hour battery life, it kicks ass and takes names. –John Ford

CamelBak
Relay Water Filtration Pitcher
camelbak.com
Tap water is awful in so many ways, and bottled water is just plain wasteful. CamelBak has the solution for your city’s shitty water problem with their filtering pitcher. The Relay pitcher not only filters cloudy tap water when you fill it up, but also gives it a refreshing second filtration when you go to pour yourself a glass. Most hydrated people have used one of the slow Brita pitchers that can take a long time to fill up—the Relay, on the other hand, filters water as fast as your tap can dish it out. The lid of the pitcher has snap latches on both sides to ensure it stays put, and the pour spout is the perfect size for filling up your favorite bottle without spillage. The filter for this pitcher lasts an average of four months, where most filters last five weeks. There’s even a reminder dial on the lid that takes all the guesswork out of keeping things fresh—select the current month and the month it needs to be replaced is exposed. This pitcher comes in a smoky charcoal, baby-blue aqua and a dull purple. If you keep your fridge fully stocked with beer and leftover pizza boxes, like me, it can be hard to fit anything else on the shelves. Lucky for us, CamelBak designed this pitcher to fit anywhere—even in the door of your fridge. The Relay retails for $37 and replacement filters are $12. You can find these at most local sporting goods stores or at camelbak.com. –Granato