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Review: The iPad Air 2 is so good, it almost disappears

iPad Air 2 Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple’s iPad Air 2 is so good, it almost disappears. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Pity Jony Ive. The poor bastard just can’t catch a break.

Ive and his design team at Apple have just released a pair of exquisite iPads — the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 — and yet are getting grief because the iPads offer nothing “new.”

“New” being things like face-tracking cameras, heart-rate monitors or — god forbid — a stylus. These are the kinds of things that get called “innovation.”

Instead, the new iPads look a lot like last year’s models, and those from every year before. This makes many tech reviewers yawn.

Largely unnecessary,” says The New York Times’ lukewarm review. “More of the same,” writes Business Insider. “You might think I’d be pretty excited about them — but I’m not,” says Walt Mossberg at Re/Code.

Indeed, instead of adding new hardware features, Ive’s team has even removed them. The mute/lock button is gone on the iPad Air 2. Who removes features?

Well, Jony Ive does.

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Meet the origami kayak that makes adventure easy

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Taking the Oru Kayak for a ride. Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

I consider myself to be “the adventurous type” but I’ve never once kayaked, thanks to two big hurdles: I live in the desert, and I drive a tiny Fiat that barely fits four grown humans in its cramped interior.

Water activities in these parts of Arizona require a gas-guzzling truck and a garage big enough to store your boats, putting kayaking out of reach for most urban dwellers. Oru Kayak destroys both those necessities with a foldable boat that’s strong enough to take on a lake or river, while also compacting into a box small enough to fit in your closet.

Before the Oru Kayak glided into my life, my go-to outdoor activity was hiking. Point me to a waterfall 15 miles away in the desert and even if that AZ ‘dry heat’ was boiling the tar on the highway, I was totally there. Now that there’s a boat that fits in my car, everything’s changed.

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5 monstrous horror movies that will make your Halloween blow up

Who could forget about this guy? Photo: Toho

Who could forget about this guy? Photo: Toho

Film monsters are physical manifestations of our fears and anxieties. They represent the dangers of progress; terrifying, real-world diseases; and the darkness that lurks deep inside of the human heart. But mostly, they’re just a hell of a lot of fun.

Cult of Mac’s Halloween roundup of excellent horror movies continues with five of the greatest monster movies ever, riveting tales about inhuman beasties that are here to mess with our cities — and our minds.

(Got extra room in your horror queue? Don’t miss yesterday’s roundup of five horror classics.)

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5 classic horror movies that’ll give you the creeps this Halloween

Most things are scarier in black and white. Photo: Prana Film

Most things are scarier in black and white. Photo: Prana Film

In case the giant bags of candy on prominent display at every store that sells food didn’t tip you off, Halloween is coming up. Some people celebrate by dressing up and going to parties or scoring free sweets from their neighbors, but I prefer to spend my Spooky Night with some tiny bags of sour gummis and a selection of horror movies.

If that sounds like a solid evening to you, this will be a treat. Cult of Mac is recommending 25 movies this week, and we’ve arranged them into themed categories. Today, we’re building up your historical base with some classics.

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Turn your game audio up to 11 with these Bluetooth cans

These Astro 38s are easy to pair, last for hours, sound amazing. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

These Astro 38s are easy to pair, last for hours, sound amazing. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

I typically try out a new product for review without reading any of the documentation or media relations stuff that the folks who send us such things want us to look at. I want to have as pristine an experience as possible. Sometimes that leads to little surprises.

I put these new Astro Gaming A38 Bluetooth headphones on my head last week, and paired them with my iPhone to play a little music. After a few songs of various genres, I stopped the tunes and took these off my noggin. I suddenly realized that my girlfriend had been blending up a protein shake in the nearby kitchen. It was surprising because I honestly could not hear it with the headphones on my head and playing music at a relatively low volume – and our blender is really loud.

While they’re great for music, these are also fantastic sounding headphones that help you immerse yourself into any game on your iPad or iPhone, cutting down on the auditory distractions from the outside world when they’re powered up.

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Hard-rockin’ drum pedal lets you be the band

Fantastic sounding drums at your feet. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Fantastic sounding drums at your feet. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

There’s always that moment when your drummer can’t show up for rehearsal. She’s got some other commitment. He’s got another gig. Her boyfriend needs her to take him to the hospital.

It happens. When it does, you can do what I’ve always done – pound your foot against the floor and try to muddle on through – or you can use a drum machine. The problem with standard drum machines is that they’re made to be used by hands or, in some cases, drum sticks. I’m not a drummer (no sticks) and I need my hands to play my guitar. What I really need is a drum machine I can play from the floor, guitar-pedal style.

That’s what caught my eye about the BeatBuddy – this is a guitar-pedal-style device that lets you use your foot to play back drum beats in a variety of styles, fills and different parts included. This is my new best friend when the drummer can’t make it to practice, and it may become my new stage pal if I take my act solo.

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MixBag has all the pockets you’ll need (but you pay for every one)

The MixBag is versatile, but it won't necessarily make you look super-cool. Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

The MixBag is versatile, but it won’t necessarily make you look super-cool. Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

I was pretty sure I would never need to look any further than my trusty Chrome bag when it came time to be out and about with my electronics. It was a simple system, really: Just chuck everything into the bag’s cavernous pocket, buckle it in and go. It was quick, and it worked — until I needed to actually get anything out of there.

See, for all its style and the novelty of its seat-belt strap, Chromes are really only meant to transport one or two larger packages. Because they’re messenger bags. You know, for messengers.

The MixBag takes a different approach: It’s smaller, but it has a pocket for everything you might possibly need to carry around.

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Amazing guitar and vocal effects boxes will have you sounding like a pro

Play Acoustic has all you need to sound like a pro. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

TC-Helicon’s Play series has all you need to sound like a pro. Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

It’s hard enough to sing and play guitar at the same time, let alone manage a floor full of guitar effects pedals. Add to that trying to create vocal effects like most listeners expect and you’ve got a solo musician’s worst nightmare.

The folks at TC-Helicon have come up with a couple of pretty nifty floor-style pedal boxes that have you covered though: You can dial in a fantastic guitar sound for either acoustic or electric guitar, fill a room with amazing vocal effects and backing harmonies, and even loop musical phrases to create a song with multiple parts on the fly. Dubbed Play Acoustic and Play Electric, these simple stomp boxes contain some serious technology in an easy-to-use platform.

Here’s how it plays out.

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Lust List: Apple wrappers and other showstoppers

Review: Smaller iPhone 6 proves bigger isn’t always better

iPhone 6 Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The iPhone 6 is as good as gold. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

My first impression? My goodness, this is the small one?

The iPhone 6 is a big step up. It makes older iPhones look small. Ridiculously small. Even after a few days, my old iPhone 5s feels positively Lilliputian. The 6 dwarfs the 5s, which felt big and expansive at the time. Now it looks like a little dolls’ phone.

I’ve been really digging the 6. It’s a big bright slab of glass and metal. It feels impossibly thin, almost like an oversize credit card in your hand. But it’s solid and stiff — it’s not going to snap in my back pocket if I sit on it.

The 6 is not a gob-smacker like the 6 Plus, which stops people in the street. But it’s more manageable, especially with one hand.

I’m a big fan. I like it a lot, except for one design flaw that’s been driving me crazy.

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