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All Ears For Extravaganza

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A roomful of sound, and just the one visible speaker. That's the promise of soundbars, a recent phenomenon in the home AV market. Little wonder really, home theaters either meant dealing with professional installers or the prospect of meters of wires running all over your entertainment room and many hours trying to hide them all yet ensuring they're all plugged in correctly! Is there a catch to soundbars, though? I took the recently launched Bose Lifestyle 135 soundbar for a spin to find out.

Unboxing the 135, the emphasis on simplicity is pretty evident — the package consists of a soundbar, a wireless Acoustimass module (for the really low frequencies) and a control console, which accepts all your AV sources including the bundled iPod dock. The soundbar can be placed either vertically alongside your TV or horizontally under your TV — a feature called Flexmount automatically adjusts the sound to compensate. The Unify setup system then holds your hand via on-screen messages/images while you go through the motions of connecting each new device and configuring it to work with the Bose remote. Connectivity options on the 135s console are rich — 4 HDMI inputs for audio and video, 2 HD audio and component/composite inputs, among others. There's USB too, but sadly doesn't play back audio or video (only photos), which means that you're still going to be plugging in an additional media player for all your video format compatibility.

All these inputs get pushed out over one output to your TV, so your Bose console can be the one box that rules them all. A set of infrared emitters is also included in the retail package, so that you can keep all equipment hidden away in a cabinet and still control everything using the Bose remote. What's even more neat is that the Acoustimass module connects wirelessly to the soundbar, and only needs a power source, so it can be hidden away unobtrusively somewhere. The end result- a clean uncluttered room with the soundbar and the console the only signs something has changed.

Once the system is plugged in and the sources are connected, Bose's AdaptiQ calibration system can analyse the dimensions of your room (including things like furniture that absorb sound) and intelligently adjusts the speaker's output to best deliver surround sound across the room. Performance is pretty great - you don't get the feeling you're dealing with a single speaker setup, and sound is dispersed evenly across the room. I wouldn't go so far as to rate it the best sound I've heard coming out a Bose system, but it performs above average across a range of movie and music audio.

Which really begs the question - would you pay the asking price for the Lifestyle 135 when you could get a 5.1 system from Bose for thereabout the same price, just for the convenience of setup and somewhat arguable space saving? I'm guessing not. It's the price which lets the 135 down — while the design, aesthetics and setup are brilliant, putting down 1.8 lakhs for a soundbar setup is something only very few space-constrained-yet-wealthy folks will want to consider.

Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 1,79,888

Nokia Asha 300
Pros: Great build quality, 3G support, small and light, average resistive touchscreen, Angry Birds!

Cons: Pricey (approx. Rs. 6000) for a Series 40 device given the great Android handsets in this price bracket, under utilised processor, poor 5MP camera, no Wi-Fi
LG Optimus Sol
Pros:Impressive display, good camera performance and results, multimedia pro, average battery life, thin and light

Cons: Plasticky build, no flash, no TV-out capabilities, jerky UI, not as feature rich as the competition for the price (Rs. 16990)














Screening The Future

Got a new tablet and want to eke out some more value from the device? Did you know that you could turn the iPad or an Android tablet into a second monitor for your PC/Mac and extend your screen estate? Imagine it'd be a boon for laptop users, wouldn't it? Now, with a few apps, you can make the iPad or Android tablet work in tandem with the PC/Mac, rather than let it languish unused when you're at your main computer.
Here's what you need to do? Pick up one of the many apps —Air Display/iDisplay for the iPad or iDisplay/Screenslider for your Android tablet — install the accompanying server software on your Windows or Mac computer, and then run the app on your tablet. Simple, isn't it? (While there are some free alternatives, Air Display easily outpaces the options and is well worth the price.)

You can then drag the Windows/Mac software you want to run on the secondary tablet display, and use the tablet touchscreen to interact with the software. Air Display adds in some additional functionality, such as the ability to mirror your desktop, so you can show someone what you're doing on your computer, say when you're teaching someone. Or you could use Photoshop on the secondary display and use a stylus to draw something on the screen, or even keep a stock market website open permanently on the tablet to keep an eye on the market while you work! Whatever the use you pick, the tablet screen is just the right size for parking instant messenger windows or other small but useful widgets and gadgets that you'd like to keep an eye on but don't want to clutter up your main screen with. Just keep in mind that you will need to be connected to a wireless network for all these apps to work, but you can read the link below to setup an ad-hoc wireless network if you're say at a coffee shop and don't have a wireless network handy.
AirDisplay: ($9.99),
ScreenSlider: ($0.99) and iDisplay: ($4.99)
How to Setup an Ad-Hoc Wireless Network:

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