Marvelous mobile devices for the discriminating motorhomer.
By Jim Brightly
Each January, the electronics industry kicks off the new year with the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Companies from all around the world take part in this event, which is billed as the largest annual trade show focusing on consumer technology. Company representatives exhibit, buy, and sell new and improved products.
For the past few years, less has been more for cameras and computers. In fact, computers are becoming so small that they need external keyboards for full-figured fingers. But bigger is better for televisions. TV screens “” especially plasma screens “” have grown larger with increasingly clearer pictures.
Speaking of computer keyboards, they have changed too. Gyration Inc. displayed a wireless keyboard with a range of 100 feet (and an accompanying mouse), truly a plus in a motorhome’s mobile office, during the 2003 CES.
External speakers also received some attention from several research and development departments during the past year. Maxell Corporation of America, known for its audio, video, and data recording media, now offers flat speakers that are just a couple of centimeters thick (ideal for motorhomes where space and weight are always at a premium). For outside entertainment centers, Ellula is marketing an unusual solution “” air-filled speakers. They’re lightweight, easy to store, and extremely colorful, and they have good sound qualities.
But enough of the introduction; let’s get to the products.
Do you suffer from withdrawal pangs whenever you leave your coach? Not for the motorhome itself, but from missing your XM Radio? Listening to your favorite stations from coast to coast can become addicting in a very short time. But now Delphi offers a way to take your XM with you, no matter where you’re at, with its SKYFi system.
Since 1936, when Delphi first integrated a radio into the dashboard of a car, until 2001, when it introduced the first satellite radio receiver systems for the automotive market, the company has continued to expand its in-vehicle and consumer electronics technologies. This year, Delphi and XM Radio have teamed to offer the Delphi XM SKYFi Radio, an attractive, compact XM receiver that is said to have the most advanced user features of any satellite radio on the market today. The receiver, along with vehicle and home adapter kits (required to use the receiver), are now available at major retail outlets. The vehicle adapter kit, onto which the receiver is attached, completes the SKYFi Radio system in your motorhome for less than $200.
Those who want to take their XM radio with them wherever they go can find such portability in the XM SKYFi Audio System. This “boom box” is equipped with a docking station for the XM SKYFi Radio and remote control, has an integrated antenna, and can be powered by 120-volt AC power or six “D” cell batteries. Delphi Corporation, 1441 W. Long Lake Road, Troy, MI 48098-5090; (866) 227-9071; www.delphi.com.
Whether your coach is equipped with an outside entertainment center or you prefer pulling out your “boom box” to play your favorite music, an enhanced sound system is just a few breaths away with the HotAir inflatable speakers by Ellula. At home, on the beach, or around the campsite, the inflatable HotAir Stereo Subwoofer System includes a 25-watt subwoofer and two 5-watt satellite speakers “” creating a fairly sophisticated outside sound system. Inflated, the satellite speakers stand 9 inches high; deflated, they collapse to a mere 2 inches, perfect for packing away. Ellula US Inc., 109 E. 38th St., Penthouse, New York, NY 10016; (646) 935-0912; www.ellula.com.
Maxell Corporation of America entered the accessory speaker marketplace for the first time in January with its new Max FPS-1 flat-panel speaker system. The system, which includes a subwoofer, features all-metal construction and a wired remote that permits the listener to turn the system on and off and control volume and bass levels from a distance. The 3/4-inch-thick speakers can be hung from a wall or placed on a counter, making them ideal for the tight confines of many motorhomes. The system is said to provide listeners with a rich, wide-ranging sound, plus the flexibility to place the speakers where they are the most convenient, and all for $49.99. Maxell Corporation of America, 22-08 Route 208, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410; (800) 533-2836; www.maxell.com.
Family Radio Service (FRS) handheld radios have proven to be quite popular among FMCA members since they were introduced several years ago. Attend an FMCA international convention and you’ll see many attendees with these personal radios clipped to their waistbands, pockets, or purses. The microTALK PR 4000 WX model from Cobra Electronics Corporation takes FRS to the next level with a 3-watt, 22-channel handheld radio (with 38 privacy codes) that provides up to a 7-mile range. Features include UHF/FM reception; a digital compass; a clock/stopwatch/alarm; 10 channels of NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration) all-hazards alert radio; voice-operated transmissions; a vibrating silent call alert; a key lock; 10 call tones; and water resistance. Cobra Electronics Corporation, 6500 W. Cortland St., Chicago, IL 60707; (773) 889-8870; www.cobra.com.
Longtime GPS (global positioning system) leader Garmin International now offers the StreetPilot III portable GPS receiver with trip routing and audible instructions. Equipped with a 3.4-inch-by-1.8-inch color display, StreetPilot III offers automatic route capability, voice prompts, and portability, which means you can move it from the motorhome to a towed vehicle (just plug the adapter into a 12-volt power source), or even carry it with you on short walks (six AA batteries will power it for up to two hours). It comes with everything necessary to download additional map data from the MapSource City Navigator CD-ROM, which is included. The mapping software shows business and residential streets, plus locations of restaurants and attractions. Select a destination and StreetPilot III calculates the route and provides turn-by-turn directions. Garmin International Inc., 1200 E. 151st St., Olathe, KS 66062; (913) 397-8200; www.garmin.com.
According to Horizon Navigation, you can relax and let the portable NavMate help you find your way no matter whether you’re driving your motorhome or a towed vehicle. The NavMate 2.1 Portable GPS navigation system is packaged in a compact, durable travel bag (12 inches by 9-1/2 inches by 6-1/2 inches) that holds everything necessary to transfer the unit from motorhome to towed vehicle and back again, easily and quickly. The system includes the controller, a GPS antenna, a 12-volt power cord, and the NavMate display unit. By providing turn-by-turn voice prompts and audible tones, NavMate lets you keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. The unit’s display indicates minutes and miles remaining until you reach your destination; the next turn with an arrow pointing in the direction; a map of the local area; your current location; and a detour mode that provides alternate routing when necessary. Horizon Navigation, 4701 Patrick Henry Drive., Suite 1301, Santa Clara, CA 95054; (866) 286-2831; horizonnav.com.
With its latest software improvement, Kenwood USA Corporation has added 40 new cities, better map graphics, and more than 1 million new points of interest to its DVD-based, touch-screen vehicle GPS navigation system, the Excelon KNA-DV2100. The software upgrade (KNA-MP212) also includes 250,000 more miles of roads and highways and now provides mapping of 5.8 million miles of roadways in Canada and the United States, with dynamic route guidance for nearly 2 million miles. Preprogrammed points of interest in the location database also have been increased to 1.8 million.
Other improvements include one-touch access to detour route alternatives, reduced screen brightness for evening driving, and new color schemes to improve map and screen visibility. The KNA-DV2100’s touch-screen capability gives users direct menu access and navigation through the unit’s functions instead of requiring the use of a remote. Kenwood USA Corporation, P.O. Box 22745, Long Beach, CA 90801; (800) 536-9663; www.kenwoodusa.com.
Most of us enjoy the security of deadbolts on the doors of our stationary homes and on the entry doors of our motorhomes, but have you ever thought of putting deadbolt locks on your towed vehicle’s doors or the driver and passenger doors of a motorhome? Auto-Bolt Security Systems has created the DoubleLock, an installation kit for double-locking your vehicle, be it a motorhome, car, van, sport utility vehicle, or pickup truck. Each set consists of two electrically operated deadbolts (one per door), two remote key fobs, wiring, a switch, an alarm speaker, and a controller. When armed, DoubleLock extends the bolts, disables the starter, and sets the alarm. Plus, the device is not visible from inside or outside the vehicle. The DoubleLock adds another layer of protection for your motorhome and your towed vehicle. Auto-Bolt Security Systems, 24856 Romano, Warren, MI 48091; (866) 422-7700; www.doublelocksecurity.com.
Computer users can break free from the cords that bind them to their computer with two wireless products from Gyration Inc. The company’s Wireless RF Keyboard has a tremendous 100-foot range with no line-of-sight limitations. The keyboard’s lightweight design enhances its portability, and its sturdy snap-on cover provides excellent key protection while traveling. Conveniently placed Internet and multimedia keys allow keyboard users to perform common tasks with the push of a button (it uses standard Windows keyboard drivers, so no special software is required). When preparing to break camp, you never need to worry about tangled wires “” simply snap on the keyboard’s cover and store it in a convenient cabinet.
Gyration’s equally convenient Ultra Cordless Optical Mouse makes a matched pair for your motorhome, and the mouse batteries are rechargeable for even more convenience. Its patented gyroscopic motion sensor technology allows you to move the mouse with natural hand movements, on the desktop or in the air (much like using a flashlight), which is said to reduce fatigue and discomfort associated with repetitive motion. Just like the keyboard, the wireless mouse packs away cleanly in a cabinet or drawer. Gyration Inc., 12930 Saratoga Ave., Bldg. C, Saratoga, CA 95070; (800) 316-5432; www.gyration.com.
Motorhomers in search of multiuse items and new ways to save on storage space will appreciate Digivogue Tech. Co. Ltd.‘s combination digital camera and binocular. This cool double-duty device is ideal for birdwatchers, race-goers, and others. Simply watch your subject through the binocular’s eight-power lenses and when the time is right, click the shutter on the F/4.5 fixed-lens camera (it can even record up to 30 seconds of video). The 1.3-megapixel camera, with auto-exposure and automatic white balance, saves the image on the 8-megabyte SD memory card. The entire device is powered by just two AAA batteries. As of this writing, Digivogue is signing dealers in the United States. Digivogue Tech. Co. Ltd., No. 7, Road Alley 15, Lane 340, Jung Hua 2nd Road, Yung Kang, Tainan, Taiwan 710; www.digivogue.com.
With so many people carrying laptop computers or even compact desktop computers in their motorhomes, digital photography is fast becoming the image-saving medium of choice. No longer do you have to buy expensive film, wait for your film to be developed and processed at a lab, or scan your pictures so you can e-mail them back home to the family. Now all you need is a digital camera and you can save all the images on your computer and send them to anyone with an e-mail account. Casio Inc., the same company that has provided us with calculators and watches for decades, now has a tiny camera that is just slightly larger than a credit card and less than 1/2-inch thick. Easily carried in a hip or shirt pocket, the Exilim EX-S2 offers red eye reduction, auto flash, fixed focus, automatic shutter speed, 4x digital zoom, and 30 seconds of video. The camera kit includes a USB cradle, a charger/AC adapter, a rechargeable battery, and a USB cable for connection with your computer. It has 12 megabytes of built-in memory and an SD/MMC slot for memory expansion. Casio Inc., 570 Mount Pleasant Ave., Dover, NJ 07801; (800) 836-8580; www.casio.com.
As I’ve mentioned before, space is nearly always at a premium in a motorhome, so carrying cases that can be packed tightly with sensitive equipment, but that also protect the equipment without unnecessary padding or unusable space, are invaluable. Naneu Pro has taken this into consideration when designing its wide array of camera cases. Offering a specially designed case for every level of photographer from amateur to professional, Naneu Pro has digital camera bags, fanny packs, and backpacks. Many are divided into separate compartments for camera bodies, lenses, strobes, etc. The cases are made from different materials depending on the bag’s intended use. Bags in the company’s Four Seasons series come with rain covers to protect equipment. Naneu Pro also offers the Napoli, a stylish, deluxe laptop case. Naneu Pro, 4101 Lindy Circle, Orlando, FL 32827; (866) 806-2638; www.naneu.com.