Fasten your seatbelt and hold on tight as we zoom down the technological highway to track down some of the coolest new products.
By Jim Brightly, F358406, Technical Editor
Can you imagine life without cell phones, high-speed Internet, and e-mail? Not long ago, these conveniences were considered high-tech wonders more than everyday necessities. But as many people have discovered, the speed of technology, particularly in electronics, is measured not in time, but in the rollout of new models with more advanced features.
The products described below include some of the latest technological innovations and have been selected because they fit the motorhoming lifestyle. You will discover TV monitors, GPS systems, photo displays, and other items that are sure to make life on the road easier or more enjoyable.
TVs, Monitors, And Accessories
What’s in store for the future? How about a wireless portable television on which you can watch your favorite satellite or cable programs? RCA (www.rca.com) is developing a lightweight high-definition TV that provides television on the go. The compact 17-inch LCD display receives its signal via a small wireless base transmitter that connects to a satellite receiver, cable box, personal computer, or other audiovisual component. The range from the base transmitter to the TV exceeds 250 feet. The unit also includes a digital tuner to receive local TV broadcasts and operates on rechargeable batteries, AC power, or DC power.
Now, on to the things you can add to your motorhoming lifestyle right now.
Even though new plasma sets are more resistant to heat and altitude extremes than previous years’ models “” I was told that plasma TVs no longer have outgassing problems at high altitudes “” LCD TVs are now competing with plasmas in size and clarity. Sharp (www.sharpusa.com) has introduced a range of LCD TVs, including what it proclaimed as “the world’s largest LCD TV,” a 108-inch model. Although the 108-inch LCD TV may be a tad too big for a motorhome, Sharp and other manufacturers are now rolling out LCD models up to 102 inches in size, making it highly probable that more LCDs will begin appearing in RVs in the near future.
Something you might be seeing in 2008 model-year motorhomes are televisions mounted on articulating robotic arms that can tilt or swing from side to side to aim the screen directly at you no matter where you’re sitting in the coach. CLO Systems (www.closystems.com) provides a range of motorized, remote-controlled TV mounts. The recessed TV screens are flush with the wall but can be extended outward and pointed in any direction “” all controlled by a remote, allowing you to maneuver the screen without ever having to climb out of your chair. Prices range from $599 to $999.
The DeLorme Earthmate GPS PN-20 (www.delorme.com) is a low-cost, fully integrated GPS receiver that is said to deliver a bright color screen for amazing clarity in lighting situations ranging from glaring sun to full darkness; fast satellite acquisition and outstanding signal retention; and high data storage capacity.
The Earthmate GPS PN-20 features a “six maps in one” solution with free Topo USA 6.0 software on a DVD, which includes up-to-date topographic, street, and road detail for the entire United States, plus regional routable road maps for easy upload. The unit can be used in conjunction with a laptop in your motorhome or can be hand-carried for hiking, biking, or boating. Prices range from $369.95 to $449.95, depending on what’s bundled with the receiver.
The Garmin ní¼vi 680 (www.garmin.com) widescreen “personal travel assistant” features a super-bright 4.3-inch touch screen and dynamic data from Microsoft’s MSN Direct network. It includes an FM transmitter and offers hands-free calling when paired with a compatible Bluetooth phone. The unit receives up-to-date traffic incident and flow information for major cities across the United States. Once a motorist programs a destination into the device, MSN Direct traffic data helps select a route that can save driving time by avoiding traffic accidents, road closures, and construction.
The ní¼vi 680 with MSN Direct also receives fuel price data from more than 100,000 service stations across the nation. Drivers will always know where to get the best prices “” and save time and fuel “” by using their unit to navigate directly to the station of their choice. In addition, the ní¼vi 680 features current weather conditions, three-day weather forecasts, and even displays movie show times for area theaters.
The ní¼vi 680 has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $899. The MSN Direct package includes one free year of service. After the first year, subscription for the service is $49.95 a year.
Now, you can own a GPS with advanced vehicle navigation and outdoor routing capabilities in the pocket-sized Magellan CrossoverGPS (www.magellangps.com). Touch-screen menus make it easy to select virtually any destination and get turn-by-turn voice and visual guidance while on the road. Or you can take it on your Saturday hike, mark waypoints along the way, and save the route to go again next weekend. Detailed built-in street maps of the 50 United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and topographic maps of the 48 contiguous United States are provided. The unit features a rugged, water-resistant design, as well as slip-resistant protection and a built-in lanyard hook.
Add the optional detailed regional MapSend Topo topographic maps, MapSend BlueNav marine charts, or MapSend Lakes charts via memory cards and enhance your outdoor adventures. The unit’s battery offers up to eight hours of use so you can navigate, search points of interest, plan trips, listen to music, and view pictures from wherever you are.
Advanced auto navigation features include multi-destination routing; SmartDetour to route drivers around slow freeway traffic; and SayWhere text-to-speech, which tells the driver where to turn and the name of the street. The optional TrafficKit accessory makes it easy to avoid traffic with real-time incident reports (a subscription is required for traffic reports only). The CrossoverGPS has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $549.99.
Lowrance recently introduced an all-new color GPS navigation system designed for off-highway adventures. The Lowrance GlobalMap Baja 540c (www.lowrance.com) is designed to be mounted on a motorcycle, ATV, snowmobile, or four-wheeler. The unit’s hardened chassis protects it from severe shocks. The Baja 540c, which has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $499, includes a 5-inch-diagonal 16-bit SolarMax TFT display that is viewable in bright, direct sunlight as well as a weather- and dust-proof MMC/SD memory card slot that accepts a wide variety of Lowrance high-detail mapping options with plug-and-play ease.
The Baja 540c stores up to 1,000 waypoints, 1,000 event markers, 100 routes (up to 100 waypoints per route), and up to 100 savable plot trails with up to 10,000 points in any trail. It also provides 40 map display ranges “” from 0.02 to 4,000 miles “” and 42 different graphic icons to mark spots.
The Pioneer AVIC-Z2 (www.pioneerelectronics.com), touted as the company’s top-of-the-line navigation/entertainment system, is equipped with a 30-gigabyte hard drive to deliver information, entertainment, and convenience on the road. It is reportedly the industry’s first to use the new Tele Atlas MultiNet database, which lets users select an exact address, rather than a range of addresses on a specific street, and offers 12 million points of interest. The AVIC-Z2, which has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $2,200, also includes a built-in music library, DVD playback on the 7-inch display, and iPod-direct control expansion. In addition, subscription-based XM Nav Traffic service is available to view traffic flow data in 44 major markets.
Two years ago, several companies were wetting their corporate toes in the digital picture frame stream to test the market. I guess the market proved to be more than tepid, because a multitude of companies are now offering digital picture frames of varying sizes.
The new wireless Digital Spectrum Solutions MemoryFrame 8104 Premium (www.dsicentral.com) can access and share photos, music, and video stored on a PC or network. It also can share photos over the Internet through photo-sharing sites such as Webshots, Flickr, Windows Live Spaces, and Digital Spectrum’s My MemoryFrame.
The MemoryFrame 8104 Premium, which is priced at $349.99, features a bright active-matrix 10.4-inch LCD screen, built-in stereo speakers, a remote control, an automatic slide show function, and an on-screen menu system. The display has 256 megabytes of internal memory; however, with its built-in card reader, wireless capability, USB host and device ports, and universal “plug and play” capability, it can access and play up to 2 gigabytes of content in one show. In addition, the device can play audio in the background while a slide show or video is running. All of these features make the MemoryFrame ideal for displaying photos from vacations, family reunions, weddings, and many other activities.
The MemoryFrame comes mounted in an attractive frame that can be placed on a desktop, hung on a motorhome wall, or placed into any standard 8-inch-by-10-inch photo frame.
Axion (www.axiontv.com) digital picture frames support several different memory systems, such as compact flash, SD cards, and memory sticks. Images can automatically be uploaded to the frames, which feature screens ranging from 7 inches to 10.4 inches with prices ranging between $139.99 and $199.99. The new frames boast resolution at 480 x 234 pixels and precise brightness control for optimal viewing in any lighting condition. The internal memory on the AXN-9701 can store up to 15 images for viewing without a memory card. The frame can display up to 2 gigabytes of images from a memory card and supports flash drives with a USB connection. Its auto-sort feature provides an automatic thumbnail view of all the images in your memory card regardless of their location (from all folders). The thin credit-card-size remote allows you to control a slide show, single image viewing, and other key features from up to 25 feet away.
Kodak Easyshare (www.kodak.com) wireless digital picture frames can add pictures and videos wirelessly from your computer or the Kodak Easyshare Gallery using your Wi-Fi network. Start viewing your pictures and videos right away “” just insert a memory card or connect your digital camera and enjoy. View your pictures on the high-resolution screen featuring Kodak Color Science, said to provide vibrant color and crisp detail. Music from MP3s can be listened to via the frames’ built-in speakers.
The frames come with a remote control, 128 megabytes of internal memory, and a convenient drag-and-drop feature that makes transferring pictures a snap. Choose from 7-inch or 8-inch standard frames or 8-inch or 10-inch wireless frames. Prices for standard frames range from $129.95 to $199.95, while the wireless frames are priced at $199.95 (8-inch) and $249.95 (10-inch
The Pyramat G-Flex Sound Booster (www.pyramat.com) is a portable audio chair for enjoying video games, movies, and music. Plug it into any game console or portable device and hear sound so clear you’ll feel like you are literally in the action. Two aluminum-cone performance speakers create a personal surround-sound effect. The G-Flex rocking action allows you to rock backward for more comfort and real gaming action. Watch your favorite DVDs or connect your iPod or MP3 player, and the Sound Booster provides a personal surround-sound experience. The foldable G-Flex is battery-powered, lightweight, and features a built-in carrying handle. It has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $49.99.
Like to fish, jog, or hike in all kinds of weather conditions while listening to music? Keep your tunes dry with the Atlantic Ego Waterproof Sound Case for iPod (www.lovemyego.com). The Ego, which is available for $149.95, floats in water and is designed to protect fourth- and fifth-generation iPods as well as iPod nanos and minis. It is also a boombox, featuring sealed waterproof speakers, sealed bass venting ports, and sound powered by dual, full-range neodymium drivers. The case’s polycarbonate body and rubber bumpers are designed to provide shockproof protection. The silicone gasket and snap-locking closure are specially designed to seal in and protect iPods while still providing full-feature access to the click wheel from the outside of the case through the waterproof click-wheel membrane. Powered by four AA batteries, the case is said to provide 30 hours of continuous playing time.
An Eton FR300 (www.etoncorp.com) AM-FM radio with NOAA weather, VHF TV sound, flashlight, and cell phone charger could be a dynamite icebreaker at the next potluck, and a handy device to have for emergencies. The FR300 provides you with radio, light, and cell phone battery life when you need it the most. The hand-crank power generator charges the internal rechargeable Ni-MH battery pack. The device also can be powered via three AA batteries, or an optional AC adapter. With the NOAA weather channels and TV VHF channels, you can find weather forecasts or listen to TV shows when you’re away from the motorhome. The FR300 has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $50.
Another series of weather monitors are offered by Weather X (www.weather-x.net). Weather X offers several models, but the FR1807 Flashlight/Radio might prove to be a great choice for a motorhomer, because it includes a flashlight capability. It’s the smallest offering from Weather X and retails for only $9.99. The FR1807 comes with AM-FM radio and NOAA weather band emergency warning and news channels, and is powered by four AA batteries. Illumination is provided by an 8 LED lantern and a 5 LED flashlight. It also includes a built-in siren and blinker for emergency use.
Great for the patio pad, a couple of Jasco GE BriteBEAM Fluorescent Lanterns (www.jascoproducts.com) can add a festive and friendly air to your under-awning patio, and are better than a welcome mat for inviting folks to stop by and chat. They are also a long-life, low-cost solution for emergencies, whether you’re preparing to weather a storm or wait for a tow truck. Each lantern, which retails for $29.99, requires four D-cell batteries; has a 16-hour battery life; and includes an 8,000-hour-rated light bulb. The weather-resistant lantern features a sleek look, a convenient hanging hook, and has an extra-strong plastic body for durability.
I can remember when a 20-gigabyte hard drive was a respectable size for a desktop computer, but now you can buy a 16-gigabyte card for your camera! Whatever your life’s passion may be, SanDisk (www.sandisk.com) has an array of products for transferring, storing, and viewing photos, music, video, and data. The company markets USB flash drives, SD and SDHC cards, CompactFlash cards, picture cards, mini and micro SD cards, mobile memory cards, and related accessories, along with music and video players, mobile products, and more.
Obviously, I’ve only scratched the surface of cutting-edge electronics available. I’ve tried to include products that would enhance the life of an RVer without detracting from that by consuming too much weight or space. If you’re interested in the products included in this article, go to the manufacturers’ Web sites and explore them and any newer products more fully.