Lust List: This stealth speaker is a Power Mac’s Mini-Me and more



Lust List: August 2015

Each month, Lust List rounds up the gear that gives us a fever of 103. August's secret rendezvous includes a stealthy Bluetooth speaker, a smartwatch that's not made by Apple, sweet Star Wars headphones and much more.

HiddenRadio2 Bluetooth speaker

This stealthy little speaker would look right at home next to an inky-black Mac Pro. While most Bluetooth speakers go for a rugged, sporty look — hell, this year's cutest model even comes with a pool-ready float — the HiddenRadio2 will really class up the joint.

The secret is the glossy black dome that slides up an inch when you touch the top of the HiddenRadio2. A sensor in the sleek cover lets you adjust your music's volume, jump between tracks or answer phone calls, with nary a button to be seen. It's not the loudest speaker you'll ever hear, and at just 5 inches tall and 3.5 inches wide, it's not designed to pump out the bass like bigger speakers.

Instead, it's all about subtlety, clean lines and that aforementioned class. The audio is crisp and vibrant, whether you're streaming AC/DC or a Bartok cello concerto, and the utterly clutter-free design makes the HiddenRadio2 truly remarkable. Currently on sale for $179, it comes in glossy black, platinum silver and a pricier gunmetal. It'll bring a smile to your face every time you fire it up, and I can't wait till the promised apps (for iOS and Android) arrive to give HiddenRadio2 even more subtle powers. — Lewis Wallace

Buy from: Hidden

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Mission Workshop Division Chino Pants

These are some of the greatest travel pants I've ever slipped into. They're not really "travel" pants, but this is what I used them for during my recent travels to Italy. I was packing light and I wanted a pair of pants I could be comfortable in on the plane and then use for any and all occasions on the ground in Europe.

Mission Workshop's Division chino pants fit the bill beautifully. They looked the part whether I was wandering the streets during the day or getting a little dinner on a piazza at night. They were lightweight without being flimsy, and when I spilled an Aperol spritz on my lap, it just rolled right off. The addition of the zippered pocket on the leg of these $225 pants gave me peace of mind about my cash on hand. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Mission Workshop

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Fenix 3 smartwatch by Garmin

The Apple Watch is the prettiest smartwatch I've ever put on my wrist, but when it's time to go on adventures, I've been cheating on it with the Garmin Fenix 3. It may not be much of a looker, but what the Fenix 3 lacks in the sex appeal department it makes up for it with sheer utility.

Features like GPS, altimeter and barometer make it a better fit than the Apple Watch for activities like hiking through the Grand Canyon. And it comes in a stainless steel body with a domed sapphire lens, so I'm never afraid of scratching it up.

The Fenix 3's control scheme looks slightly intimidating. Instead of featuring a touchscreen, the watch uses five side buttons to navigate to functions and control apps. Once you get oriented, though, it's actually easier to use than Apple Watch's UI. For instance, you just press the Start button twice to start recording a run, hike, swim or bike ride. It doesn't boast 8,000-plus apps like Apple's wearable, but I've found that to be a positive — it's a less-distracting piece of tech.

Yes, you can connect the Fenix 3 to your phone and get all the email and text alerts you're accustomed to from other smartwatches. It even has music controls and some cool fitness features that Apple Watch doesn't, like the ability to estimate the maximum volume of oxygen you can consume per minute, a recovery advisor and running dynamics metrics.

The Fenix 3 isn't necessarily the smartwatch you want to wear all day, every day, but its bigger-than-big battery can keep it running in watch mode for six weeks, just in case you want to. It's also great for when your Apple Watch dies and you're a three day's hike away from the nearest electrical outlet. — Buster Hein

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

My 2nd Brain bags by ThinkTank Photo

Camera bag makers ThinkTank Photo have a knack for making your brain work better. The construction of ThinkTank bags, the way the company designs every little compartment and pocket, seems to gently guide you into organizing your digital life on the go.

The company's line of laptop and tablet briefcases called My 2nd Brain includes a number of sizes to give you the right amount of bag. I walk a mile to my office (um, coffee shop) and carry my 13-inch MacBook Pro, charging cord and a few other tools comfortably in the 2nd Brain bag designed perfectly for the size computer I carry. Sometimes, I don't need that much computer, so I switch to the vertical tablet bag, which easily carries my iPad mini, a camera and a few extras.

One bonus: Of all the bags in my life, these seem to stay put on my round right shoulder. — David Pierini

Buy from: Amazon (13-inch briefcase) and Amazon (tablet) 

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

Jawbreaker sunglasses with Prizm lens by Oakley

I feel like a freaking superhero every time I put on these sunglasses. Oakley's Jawbreaker frames were designed in partnership with professional cyclist Mark Cavendish, and while they're the perfect eyeball shields for mountain biking and street riding, I've found they're also great when hitting the trails on foot.

The frames are built with the same durable plastic frame and impact-hesitant lenses we've come to expect from Oakley, except they're way bigger than any pair of sunglasses I've ever worn. That proves to be incredibly beneficial because you don't have the frame obscuring your peripheral vision, and it almost makes you forget that you're wearing glasses.

The Jawbreakers look like a pair of shades from the '80s, only they boast some fancy tech that sets them apart as more than just futuristic goggles. The added ventilation keeps sweat from fogging up your vision on a jog. They also use Oakley's Switchlock lens-changing technology that lets you swap out lenses on the fly.

I tested the Jawbreakers with Oakley's Prizm lenses, which were a revelation for my vision. The world looks sharper when donning the Jawbreakers, thanks to Prizm tech that emphasizes colors where the eye is most sensitive to detail. Adjusting to the orangey sepia tone can take a minute, but once your retinas adjust it's like upgrading your eyeballs to 4K after living in HD for 20 years. With a $220 price tag they're definitely expensive, and they will draw some strange looks from your friends, but it's impossible to beat these large lens' performance. — Buster Hein

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Buster Hein/Cult of Mac

Star Wars second-edition headphones by SMS Audio

While we wait for Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens to blow us out of the water in December, we want to show our true fan colors with these fantastic over-the-ear wired headphones from SMS Audio. These second-edition designs come looking like R2-D2, Chewbacca, Darth Vader or a TIE fighter.

Nothing says "Star Wars nerd with audiophile taste" like these high-performance headphones. They just scream Star Wars, letting all around you know whether you've chosen the dark side or the light.

The oval ear cups are simply amazing at filtering out external sounds, even without active electronics, and their unique shape makes sure you'll be able to listen to hours of your favorite cantina songs without discomfort.

The $179.95 Star Wars headphones fold up into an easily transported, themed carrying case, and come with a detachable cable with an in-line mic and pause/play button. The 40-mm drivers ensure brilliant highs, solid bass and clear midrange sound delivered at astonishing volume and clarity. There's some sweet extras in the box like a hologram card, certificate of authenticity and (in my set) a TIE fighter pilot sticker. Heck, even the box itself is a collector's item. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Square water bottle by Clean Bottle

"Hey what is that bottle?" asks the animated woman in the queue at San Francisco International Airport.

"It's called Square," I respond.

"That is so awesome," she replies. "It will never roll away on the floor of the plane."

So true, so true. The form factor is perfect for people constantly chasing their water bottle around the floor of the car. And the Square Water Bottle was an excellent companion while in Rome, saving us a ton of money on bottled water as we filled up at all the amazing public fountains spewing delicious, cold and free water.

The handle is awesome and the bottle is easily cleaned and rinsed from both ends. At $49.95 list it's a bit on the pricey side, but when it looked like we had lost our Square Bottle forever in a tiny church in Tuscany, my wife went to spectacular lengths to get it back.

Turns out there is such a thing as water bottle romance in Chianti. — Jim Merithew

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac


Betrayal at House on the Hill

I'm a sucker for a good — or even bad — horror movie. So $49.99 board game Betrayal at House on the Hill, which has you and your friends exploring a spooky haunted house, is a pretty easy sell. And you really do explore it — each room in the mansion is on its own, separate tile, and you establish the layout as you uncover more rooms.

But exploring is only the first half of this $49.99 game from Wizards of the Coast. Eventually, you'll activate one of 50 different end-game scenarios. At that point, things transition from cooperative to competitive as one player becomes the "traitor" and everyone else has to stop them.

I wanna play this game right now, actually. — Evan Killham

Buy from: Amazon

Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac

AliveCor ECG iPhone case

If you've got heart issues, like my friend who experiences premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) fairly regularly, you need to keep track of your blood-pumper.

If your cardiologist agrees, you should give the AliveCor ECG iPhone case a try. It installs on your phone with a snap, and adds very little bulk to your Apple smartphone. The case itself protects from most drops and other dangers, and it includes two metal plates on the back of the device. You simply place your finger tips on the two plates and the free app will measure your heart rate using this single-lead electrocardiogram device.

The app is fantastic, keeping track of your heart over time and letting you email results to your heart doctor (or anyone else, really). My friend was able to show her cardiologist a few weeks of PVC activity so he could interpret the results. In fact, the cardiologist's own father uses a similar device to send his heart data to his doctor son. D'awwww.

At $74.99, the AliveCor mobile ECG system costs a relative pittance, considering it gathers the data your doc needs and delivers serious peace of mind (since you'll be able to check your own heart as needed, possibly avoiding pricey emergency room visits). It's a pretty darn fantastic way to keep tabs on your beating heart, arrhythmia or no. — Rob LeFebvre

Buy from: AliveCor

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Lust List: Apple wrappers and other showstoppers



Lust List: October 2014

We love our Apple gear, and we also love things that keep Cupertino's finest products safe and sound. And just as the iPhones and MacBooks keep getting sleeker and slimmer, so do the cases that protect them. This month's Lust List shows off our favorite Apple wrappers, plus some other gear that keeps us going as we head into fall.

Aecraft Flow Natural Leather MacBook Pro Sleeve (above)

Sometimes you just want to carry your MacBook Pro from place to place without having to lug along an entire messenger bag, notebook or briefcase. You just want a stylish, well-designed, classy-looking sleeve to protect your precious cargo.

The Aecraft Flow ($175), an all-natural leather MacBook Pro sleeve, is just such a product, and I find myself using it almost daily as I run from office to living room to coffee shop to meeting. The creamy, light-brown tone of the leather gets better with use and age, while the magnetic closure at the top keeps my 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop securely inside. The Norwegian vegetable-tanned leather is hand-stitched with a complementary-colored thread that keeps the single piece of leather securely folded up and around my MacBook.

Using it is like the first time you get a fancy suit: You feel like you're playing dress-up. I'm definitely a lot classier when I've got my MacBook in this scrumptious leather sleeve; now if only I could get the same sort of effect with my wardrobe. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Pinarello Dogma 65.1 Think 2

The Pinarello Dogma is one of the sexiest road bikes ever built. The swirl-a-licious fork blades and seatstays make for an incredibly lust-inducing look, and winning the Tour de France and the World Championships does not hurt its appeal.

There are lighter bikes and bikes that roll with more character (even the new Pinarello Dogma F8 swaps some of the 65.1's sexiness for some weight loss and better aerodynamics), but there are none with more sex appeal. The Dogma actually looks better in person than in photographs, which is hard to do.

I was lucky enough to spend a week on the 65.1 while riding around Portugal with inGamba and I can say without hesitation that the bike was not the reason I didn't "win" every stage. The 65.1 might be heavy by today's standard — it's certainly heavier than some other bikes I have been riding — but this whip climbs beautifully, hammers the flats without hesitation and railed the big descent in Portugal.

I can't wait to throw my leg over the new Pinarello Dogma F8 ... maybe when inGamba invites me back next year. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Acre Hauser Trail Pack

The Acre Hauser Trail Pack is high-end hydration pack goodness. Made by Acre, a sub-brand of San Francisco's Mission Workshop focused on mountain biking, the waterproof bag is phenomenal. It's beautifully constructed and thoughtfully designed.

The hydration pocket is fully zippered for easy access and the drink tube can be run out any one of four directions — being a leftie, I totally appreciate the options. All the zippers are weatherproof and the roll top makes over-packing or picking up a little something extra on the way home totally doable.

The Hauser bag is priced at the high end of such things, with the 10-liter model retailing for $195 and the 14-liter version coming in at $205. Acre thought of just about everything, from waist and chest straps to keep the bag secure, to straps to attach a helmet during transit. Even a tool roll is included for essentials and whatnot. — Jim Merithew

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Microplane Classic Zester Grater

The Microplane Classic Zester Grater ($12.95) looks more like a bastard file than a kitchen utensil. But don't let its woodshop aura fool you: If your recipe calls for a little lemon zest or grated Parmesan, this inexpensive tool will get the job done right — pronto.

It's quicker and more precise than a standard box grater, especially for small jobs, and it's far easier to clean. Run it over a hunk of hard cheese and you'll be rewarded with thin shreds that seem lighter than air. Rub the Microplane over a nubbin of ginger and you'll reduce that root to a juicy pulp.

So, what makes this Microplane a "Classic"? The company peddles a "Premium" model that, for a measly two bucks extra, puts a prettier face on the grater. It's essentially the same design, only with brightly colored soft-touch handles and "non-scratch end tabs." I've tried them both, and the Classic's old-school black plastic handle works fine for me. Try either model and you'll wonder how you ever got through your kitchen routine without it. — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

iPhone 6 Plus Leather Case

I tried and tested dozens of different cases for the iPhone 5s, and the one I kept returning to was Apple's official leather case. It had everything I look for in a case, and it looked fantastic. When I pre-ordered my iPhone 6 Plus, I didn't hesitate to pick up the new leather case to go with it. And I'm glad I did.

Just like everything you'll buy from Apple, it's incredibly well-made. It fits the iPhone 6 Plus like a glove, and because it's so thin and lightweight, it adds hardly any bulk, so your shiny new phablet will still fit comfortably in your pocket (just be careful you don't bend it!).

The $49 case protects the back and sides of your device, and there's a slight lip that wraps around the front edge to provide some protection for its display. You still get easy access to your headphone jack, Lightning connector and mute switch, and the protruding iSight camera is no longer an issue.

I picked up the iPhone 6 Plus Leather Case in olive brown and, while it looks great, I've since seen the red model in my local Apple store and it looks even more dazzling, especially when combined with a white device. — Killian Bell

Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Mac

Jawbone UP24

The UP24 fitness band ($129.99 list) has become my constant companion, even when I'm crashed out for the night. This thing measures my steps daily, tracks my sleep and wakes me up in the morning (within a 20-minute window that helps ease my re-entry to wakefulness).

Jawbone's accompanying app is fantastic, too, with little tips based on my actual activity to help keep fitness at the front of my brain, rather than on the couch like it wants to be. The band reminds me to sync up and charge it, something I wish my iPhone did as well. There's even a stopwatch and a way to track your power naps — this thing is slick.

The band itself is rad, with a design that allows it to stay on either wrist without some awful watch band. It keeps in place, and is easy to take off for showers or swimming. It charges incredibly quickly and a charge lasts about seven days. The proprietary charger itself is easy to misplace, though, so I keep it in the same bedside table drawer to prevent freak-outs; if you lose it, you won't be able to charge the thing without a replacement.

Regardless, this is the coolest fitness band I've worn, and it's worth every penny. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

iPhone 6 Plus

I've loved every iPhone, from the first model onward, but they all seem impossibly small now. I haven't owned the iPhone 6 Plus (starting at $299 with two-year contract) for long, but already it feels like the right size for a phone that's more like a portable computer — that is, gigantic.

All the things the naysayers said would be a problem — small-pocket-syndrome, bending, looking like an idiot holding it to my face — weren't true (except the looking like an idiot part).

I keep it in my back pocket, and I have sat on it heavily every single day getting into my car or collapsing on the couch. I get a sickening feeling, but the iPhone's yet to show any damage. It's tougher than Bendghazi would have you believe.

I love the long battery life, the bigger screen, the Touch ID. Even Siri is better, thanks to faster Wi-Fi and LTE. I can even use the 6 Plus one-handed (but I have unnaturally long chicken fingers).

The biggest problems so far are the lack of a wallet case and finding the earphone speaker during a call. The phone's so big, it's easy to position the speaker beyond your ear, muffling the sound. I have to jigger it around my head until it gets loud. And if these are the biggest problems, there's not much to complain about. — Leander Kahney

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac


Sodastream Source

I've been a soda addict from way back. My drug of choice? Diet Coke, with a more recent foray into Coke Zero. No Pepsi for this guy. Lately, though, I've started trying to be a bit healthier — my body is a temple and all that. With this new attitude, I started buying essence-infused sparkling water from the store, because no one likes plain tap water. Do you know how many plastic bottles I went through in a month? Too many, that's how many.

As a way to keep myself in carbonated water while not having to recycle tons of plastic each week to feed my habit, I picked up a Sodastream Source, which benefits from brilliant industrial design by Yves Behar. This thing is fantastic: There's no electricity, just a compressed air bottle that slides into the rear of the device to deliver 60 liters of carbonated beverages to my fridge, whenever I want. There are tons of flavors, if you're into sugary drinks or chemical-laden diet sodas, and you can also buy essences to make your fizzy water taste like that chichi Perrier or Sparkletts stuff.

This unobtrusive device has become my go-to source for bubble water — and better yet, my kids have followed in my footsteps and started drinking this over juice or soda. We're all feeling healthier as a result (since even the sugar syrups aren't high-fructose anything), and we save, according to the Sodastream site, more than 500 plastic bottles yearly. That's a great thing. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

Lust List: Gear that keeps us crazy in love


Lust List: May 2014

Life is a blur of cool gear here at the Cult of Mac offices. We put it all through rigorous trials, but it’s like living in a fast-spinning revolving door of flashy accessories, cool bags and high-end accoutrements. Some of it gets dropped like a lying girlfriend as soon as the next sexy thing comes along, but sometimes we develop long-term love affairs with certain bits of kit. The gear featured in our monthly Lust LIst roundups is the equipment that’s made the grade over the long haul: These are the items we couldn’t live without.

Ona’s The Chelsea

There’s something about all the smart compartments in camera bags that works even if you’re not actually toting around a camera. So Ona’s Chelsea ($370) is just the thing: This capacious bowler bag offers protected spaces for a DSLR, up to three lenses, your keys and stuff, plus an iPad or notebook. But I packed it with a 13-inch MacBook Pro, a pear (the lens dividers are perfect for keeping your snacks unbruised), The Economist and all the cords, headphones and chargers carried by a modern-day scribe. One thing: The size and saffiano leather (that’s the grainy type that Prada favors for long-wearing briefcases and the like) can be a little Insta-ma’am if you don’t dress it down. -- Nicole Martinelli

Apple Magic Trackpad

The name is ridiculous -- total Steve Jobs hyperbole. It’s actually embarrassing to say out loud. But the Magic Trackpad ($69) is actually kinda magical. Sitting on your desktop, it works better than any mouse. Tracking on it is intuitive and easy. But the magic is in the gestures. Once you get used to them (there’s a bit of a learning curve), you begin to wonder how you ever surfed the Web without two-finger swipes. -- Leander Kahney

Chrome Industries Excursion Rolltop 37

This giant duffel bag of a backpack grew on me, both literally and figuratively. I have to admit at first I was like, “Meh.” The Chrome Industries Excursion Rolltop 37 ($160) has no bells or whistles: no media pocket, no hidden compartments, no velco closures. It has a laptop sleeve and super-nice loop carrying straps, but it’s about as basic as a bag gets. What the lightweight bag lacks in features, though, it more than makes up for in massive gear-swallowing goodness. I keep tossing more and more stuff into this bag and it just keeps grinning back, always ready for more. -- Jim Merithew

Rode Podcaster

When you have a high-pitched voice like mine that sounds silly and squeaky on any recording, you need all the help you can get. The Rode Podcaster microphone ($369) makes anyone’s voice sound rich and sonorous. OK, I made that up, but the Rode’s audio quality is not to be beat. The entire CultCast team uses Rode Podcasters to produce the best Apple conversation you’ll hear all week long. Since we switched from lesser microphones, soundcheck is a lot less painful. The Rode is a serious piece of pro-level audio equipment at a podcaster’s price. -- Leander Kahney

Mission Workshop’s The Orion

It was pouring buckets, but I didn’t care: I was pedaling with a huge smile on my face, because any time on the bike is way more fun than time spent on the bus or BART. Plus, I was protected. I was wearing Mission Workshop’s The Orion ($415): The hooded waterproof coat is seam-sealed, pit-zipped and cut perfect in the sleeves. No water was getting in and the bone-chilling wind was being held at bay. I don’t really think about getting my upper body wet anymore -- the jacket is just there, doing its job, while I go about grinning like a school boy. Ride on. -- Jim Merithew

Lacie Rugged USB 3.0 Thunderbolt Series

Simple. Elegant. Rugged. What more needs to be said? The Lacie Rugged series is the standard by which all other portable storage drives are judged, and now they’ve got Thunderbolt support ($229 for 1 TB model). If you are on the run and need to back up everything, this is a no-brainer. -- Jim Merithew

Teva Pivot MTB Shoe

Teva doesn’t make the Pivot MTB shoe ($150) anymore. They actually killed their entire bike line late last year. Find a pair. Buy them. Seriously. -- Jim Merithew


Ferrero Pocket Coffee

Smart people usually don’t stash espressos in their coat pockets, what with the stains and the blisters and all. But with the Ferrero Pocket Coffee, caffeine fiends are no longer tethered to the espresso bar. These thumb-size miracles wrap a satisfying liquid dose of inky Italian coffee inside a dark chocolate shell. Pop one and you’ll perk right up. Soon you’ll be buying them by the case ($38 for 60 pieces). -- Lewis Wallace

Kryptonite Fahgettaboudit Chain

If the San Francisco bike thieves steal my whip, at least I’ll know they really wanted it. This will be a small consolation for me: I’ll cry a little less knowing I did everything I could to make those scumbags’ crime a difficult task. How to thwart the thievery? After visiting countless bike shops and online forums I settled on the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit ($175). It’s as close as I could get to a safe, for it is a well-known fact that if the bitches want to steal your steed there is nothing you can actually do to stop them. I am happy I can leave the beefy lock at the office, since I’m not sure I am man enough to haul this behemoth back and forth to work everyday. I still double-lock my bike with a u-lock and take my front wheel with me. Here’s to being safe and trying my best to get them to steal someone else’s chariot. -- Jim Merithew

BookBook for iPhone 5

There are only two things I carry with me every single day -- my phone and my wallet. Best of all, my wallet is also my phone case. The BookBook from Twelve South ($60) looks like an old, leather-bound pocket book. Slots inside hold several credit cards and my ID. My BookBook is totally beaten up -- I keep it in my back jeans pocket -- but it’s lasted really well. It protects my phone better than any case I’ve had and it gets tons of comments. Everyone says they wish they could ditch their wallet too, but they have too much stuff in it. I thought that too, until I jettisoned everything but a couple of cards. I haven’t looked back. -- Leander Kahney