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Lightweight iPad Pro folio won’t drain your wallet [Review]

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EasyAcc Ultra Slim Folio Case with 12.9 iPad Pro
EasyAcc’s Ultra Slim Folio Case is very inexpensive but functional.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Anyone who choked at the $99 pricetag on the Apple Smart Folio cover for the latest iPad Pro should consider EasyAcc’s rival. This is slim and light, and costs less than half what Apple’s does.

We put this budget folio case through weeks of daily use and bring you our findings.

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

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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

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

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

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) 

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

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

"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

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

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

Best List: Gear so great we can’t stop talking about it

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You know you've found a great piece of gear when you can't wait to tell your friends about it. "Check this out," you gush, eager to share the latest thing you just can't live without. "You've gotta get one of these."

That's what Lust List is all about, and this month we're all abuzz about gear for music, grooming, eating, getting organized and maybe even saving your life.

Timbuk2 Snoop Camera Messenger Bag

I'm a photographer, not a bike messenger. This flashed through my mind when the Snoop Camera Messenger Bag by Timbuk2 arrived at my door. Yes, it is more stylish than the standard, drab canvas bag that usually slings my gear, but the only cool that matters to me is a state of being while trying to meet the demands of editors.

As if it sensed my skepticism, the bag immediately began to show off. I customized the camera compartment and stuffed the bag with a body, lenses, notebooks and my laptop. It felt balanced and comfortable and stayed up on my round right shoulder. Two hours later, I found myself in a downpour at a baseball game. I bagged one camera and continued shooting. But I was distracted because I was in awe of the rainwater beading on the Snoop's nylon exterior and rolling off.

The ump finally called the game and as I sat soaked in my car, I found everything in the bag dry. Always in search of a better bag, the hunt had ended. Comes in three sizes and two color combos: extra small ($129), small ($149) and medium ($169). — David Pierini

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

I'm through with those cheapo nail clippers you get for a buck at the drugstore: They're always rusting, getting dull or, worst of all, slipping out of alignment and chewing up the end of your fingernail. I've always dreaded clipping my nails for these reasons, but for some reason I never thought about upgrading the tool I use for this mundane weekly task.

When I finally got wise, I bought a pair of Seki Edge Stainless Steel Fingernail Clippers ($18 list), a Japanese grooming implement that costs more than your typical throwaway clippers but cuts nails quickly, cleanly and reliably. Buy them for the utility; admire them for their quality craftsmanship, reassuring heft and sleek, Mac-like sheen. It's time to start clipping your nails like a samurai. — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

This might be the best pairing since Batman and Robin: digital organizer Evernote plus classic Moleskin notebooks. Fighting your messy mind and your terrible tendency to carry a torch for paper, the notebooks make it easy to keep yourself together. You can sketch or take notes with the Moleskin, then harness the camera of your iPhone or iPad to log it digitally in Evernote. A cute set of smart stickers help you tag your scribblings so you don't end up with a digital slush pile (the standards are: home, action, travel, and work rejected and approved, but you can also customize them). Also, a three-month premium membership is included with the $29.95 price, putting extras like searchable text from images at your fingertips. Holy agility, Batman! — Nicole Martinelli

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

If you don't have a dedicated roadie or one of those robotic tuning guitars, there's no easier way to tune your ax than with a Snark. Just squeeze the thumb-size mount and slide your headstock between the rubberized grips. Then press the little button on the front of the Snark's colorful LCD readout, pluck a string and get your instrument ready to play.

Lightweight and accurate, the Snark SN-2 All Instrument Tuner works with acoustic or electric guitars and basses, mandolins, banjos, whatever. It's perfect for situations like in-studio radio shows, where you don't want to drag around a stompbox tuner or a large amp that might have one built-in tuner. It also boasts pitch calibration, which lets you tune to something besides A-440, and a metronome that I can't complain about because I've never used it. The Snark SN-2 is a great buy at $39 list (and a steal at Amazon's price of $12.99). — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

I was on the hunt for a good AirPlay speaker for months before I came across the Loop by Libratone. The company makes some other great speakers at different prices, but I've been loving my Loop. Its sleek, minimalist design fits in with just about any kind of decor, and the included wall mount is super-useful and easy to install. Pairing is easy enough over AirPlay after the initial setup with the Loop's companion iPhone app. Once you set up, you really don't need to touch the speaker again.

I've been using my Loop in the kitchen while preparing delicacies such as cereal, eggs and macaroni and cheese. The sound is really quite impressive, especially the bass. Pro tip: Place this speaker as close to a wall as possible, because it bounces sound off the surfaces behind it, creating insanely deep bass. It will blow you away the first time you crank up the volume. The only major downside to the Loop is that it's incredibly pricey at $500. It's not an impulse buy by any stretch of the imagination, but if you've been saving up for a nice AirPlay speaker, I definitely recommend the Loop. — Alex Heath

Photo: Alex Heath/Cult of Mac

Even when Bay Area waters are calm sailing, there's one piece of tech you always need: a decent VHF radio. Your iPhone and iPad might be handy navigation tools, but nothing beats the ease-of-use and reliability of a waterproof, handheld radio like the Standard Horizon HX300. It repaid the $130 list price during a midnight cruise when the crew threatened mutiny for fear of running aground on the Berkeley Shoal. (Thanks to the radio, the boats ahead guided us to safety.)

The HX300 comes with a standard USB charger, cutting down on the kit you need to keep it running; compact and relatively lightweight, it also floats. And, if it goes overboard, a red strobe light will help you scoop it up. — Stefano Maffulli

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Holy smoke! If you savor the magic that happens when meat cooks over an open flame, The Barbecue Bible should be one of your sacred texts. The book contains 500 recipes, countless tips on grilling techniques and loads of engrossing stories drawn from author Stephen Raichlen's globe-hopping jaunts to the world's barbecue meccas. Classic American fare like steaks and ribs gets plenty of ink, as do the fundamentals behind various types of live-fire cooking, but the real treasures here are the exotic international recipes that will take your next cookout from a polite "Good burgers, man" to "Oh my God, how did you make this?!?"

It's not just red meat, either: You'll find plenty of super-flavorful preparations for vegetables and seafood in this must-have manual, which simply brims with delicious side dishes that will augment the awesome main courses. Instead of potatoes slathered in boring mayo, try serving up a Korean "three hots" salad or spicy Japanese bean sprout salad the next time you fire up the grill. If you are interested in expanding your smoke-filled culinary horizons, this fun-to-read and easy-to-follow book ($22.95 list for paperback) will launch you on many worthwhile journeys. — Lewis Wallace

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

I've been a coffee guy ever since I tried my first mocha back in the heady days of my undergraduate degree (psychology, since you asked) at UCLA. These days I use a basic French press set up to get the best taste out of the coffee I have every morning. While I used to just boil water in an old kettle on the stove, when I found this sweet Cuisinart electric water kettle, I had to have it. I mean, just look at it: sleek lines, bright blue light-up panel and a clever little pedestal that plugs into the wall, letting the kettle itself ride free when you pour the heated water into your cup or coffee press.

The Cuisinart electric kettle I use has a fast-heating 1,500 watts of power with six different temperature options and a Keep Warm setting that will hold your water at a specific temp you set. This all seems ridiculous until you become a tea geek and realize that white tea works best at 185 degrees, oolong tea is best at 190 degrees and green tea tastes best warmed to 175 degrees. It's all very exciting to be able to press a button and get the best tea experience possible, especially when you hit the fancy tea store and buy your tea in little packets that recommend these exact temperatures.

I can't imagine my morning life without my coffee, and my afternoons without a cuppa to keep me rolling. This Cuisinart electric kettle is the best thing in my kitchen, next to the actual coffee and tea itself. — Rob LeFebvre

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

When I work at home, much of my day is spent sitting at my iMac, listening to music or public radio through iTunes. A couple years ago, I was looking for a small, powered speaker system with a neutral, natural sound for hours of listening. The Bowers & Wilkins MM-1 speakers are stylish and sonically satisfying — they fit the bill beautifully.

B&W has long specialized in high-end audiophile loudspeakers, but the company also offers a line of smaller systems for computers and portable devices. The MM-1s are compact, two-way enclosures, about 7 inches tall by 3.5 inches wide and deep. Black cloth wraps completely around the units, complemented by a brushed-aluminum top and band around the middle. The right speaker houses all the electronics. Thanks to the magic of amplification and advanced digital signal processing, the sound is surprisingly full and rich, despite the small enclosures and the lack of a separate subwoofer. These speakers won't fill an entire house with sound but have a depth of field and overall detail that's rarely heard from desktop computer monitors.

Both USB and mini-phone-jack analog inputs are provided; the USB inputs allow digital sound directly from the computer to speaker, and works with the Mac's own Sound Preference Pane and system volume controls. A small, egg-shaped remote control is included. The black-and-silver styling complements modern Apple aluminum desktops and laptops quite elegantly, with a minimum of desk space required. The MM-1s aren't cheap ($499 on Amazon), but the company's high-end heritage doesn't disappoint. These puppies are well worth the price. — Adam Rosen

Photo courtesy Bowers & Wilkins