In an ideal world, product reviews would provide a valuable service: letting you know which gadgets are worth spending your hard earned / stolen money on. The problem is that most reviewers wind up straddling an awkward line, too scared of alienating advertisers to truly push a product to its limitations.
After attending an electronics trade show earlier this year, I found myself inundated with offers to "review" a number of products. I realized that this was my chance to give something back to the Internet I've taken so, so much from. You people need brutally honest product reviews, written by someone willing to truly test gadgets in real-world conditions.
I decided to start by road-hauling some speakers behind my car.
#4. Dragging Some "Rugged" Speakers Behind A Car
"Rugged" is one of those words that reviewers should take as a gleeful challenge. But when some manufacturer claims their product is water resistant and drop resistant, most reviewers don't go very far in testing those claims. Maybe they'll splash some water on it or drop it on the floor from a couple of feet up. Boooooring.
I know the question that's really on Joe Consumer's mind when he's out shopping for a "tough" set of speakers: "Can I road-haul these?" After all, if I can't drag a set of speakers behind my car while jamming out, what use are they? When the good, hilariously trusting people at Outdoor Technology sent me a set of their Turtle Shell 2.0 speakers, that road haul question was the only thing on my mind.
The first step was securing the speakers, which proved more difficult than I anticipated, thanks to the unforgivable fact that Toyota apparently built my car without any consideration for road-hauling. (That should be the real Toyota scandal.) I managed to improvise by tying the speakers to some rope, and then tying that rope to a bunch of wire that I looped through the undercarriage of my car.
Like nerd Truck Nutz.
Disaster struck almost immediately in the form of my general knot-based incompetence. The speakers came untied a few seconds after the road haul began. My assistant/fiance saved the day with a proper knot and a long glare that spotlighted my incompetence, and then started down the road, with me running behind the car with the camera.
If you're too busy reading this article in a public bathroom / office to play that video, I'll summarize the highlights:
1. My fiance/assistant refused to ghost ride the whip, no matter how many times I yelled at her. We are now separated.
2. The speakers continued playing even when the car drove through puddles and hit bumps, only becoming inaudible about 1:50 in, when they got too far away.
They didn't get out of the road haul unscathed; you'll notice that the downward facing side was scraped pretty badly.
However, the wire looked fantastic. 10/10.
If the test had gone on for another two or three miles, I think we might've worn out the casing entirely. When Outdoor Tech releases their next generation of speakers, I'd recommend a detachable road-hauling case, ideally made out of a metal that generates a shitload of awesome sparks when dragged across asphalt.
Overall Score: 8.5/10. The Turtle Shell handles short-term road-hauling like a champ, but it has some issues with distance.
#3. The Liam Neeson Battery Test
External batteries are apparently all the rage this year. For all our triumphs, mankind still appears utterly incapable of making smartphone batteries that last longer than a teenager with his first girlfriend. I received test models from a bunch of different companies:
Figuring out a proper real-world test for these batteries was a genuine challenge. Fortunately, my roommate David Bell pointed me to this wonderful YouTube video, in which Liam Neeson's unblinking eyes stare at you for ten hours straight, accompanied by only the sound of rushing wind:
Just like that, I had my test: How many hours of pure, uncut Neeson could this collection of batteries give me? I drained the battery of my iPad to one percent and then plugged in my first battery: the Kodiak. This was at 10:30 p.m. on a Thursday. Liam watched over me as I drifted off to sleep, and throughout the night.
I awoke several times that night, and each time I was greeted by Liam's gaze. At first I interpreted his look as one of anger, even hate. But once we were truly alone, shrouded by the night, I sensed something different in his eyes. Was it ... fear? And perhaps a deep sense of resignation? I slept uneasily with such questions in my head.
When I awoke at 9 the next morning, Liam still stared at me, but the charge from the first battery was on its last legs. I had breakfast and hopped in the shower while the last of the juice died down.
I sensed less fear in Liam (and in myself) now that the sober light of day was upon us. Around 10 a.m. I plugged in my second battery, the iBattz 20400, and drove to work with Liam Neeson's cold, unbroken gaze beside me.
In retrospect, that was probably not the safest decision. I found my eyes repeatedly drawn away from the road towards Liam. This lead to near-misses with a variety of trucks and pedestrians, but I eventually made it safely to work.
Not today, Penske.
I worked happily throughout the day, with Liam staring at me from my desk and following from meeting to meeting. Initially, my coworkers weren't particularly happy about sharing my attention with a looping video of Liam Neeson's face, but after I ignored their obvious discomfort for several hours straight, everything was fine.
If anyone tried to say something, I'd turn the screen so their gaze met his. Met the silence.
At around 1 p.m., I noticed that the bloody spot on his cheek is actually shaped exactly like a heart. It's clearly visible if you can just look past the smudged edges:
We are all His valentine.
The second battery finally died around 9:23 that night. It was, by far, the highest rate of Neeson-per-battery of the entire test. The next one I plugged in was the Danboard, which carried me through a solitary Friday night of staring at Liam Neeson and avoiding the accusatory stares of my roommates. I'm going to guess it died around 4 or 5 a.m., because that's the last time I clearly remember waking up and seeing Him. When I awoke for real at 9:00, my iPad was black.
Panicking, I plugged my next battery in and booted up again, getting back to Liam's now-comforting stare within a matter of minutes. I resolved not to sleep again until all the batteries were dead. And to aid me in this endeavor, I prepared a batch of hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria mushrooms.
I am a professional. Don't try this at home ... or whatever. I'm not your fucking dad.
Amanita muscaria is actually completely legal in the United States, due mainly to the fact that it causes nightmarish intestinal discomfort when taken improperly. Taking them under the influence of Neeson leads to a whole different experience altogether. I began to notice things. Rather than a dull flint grey, his eyes are actually a rich baby blue:
Where once I saw fear and anger there now dwelt only compassion and a deep, almost motherly sense of concern. Liam Neeson just wanted a better life for me -- for all of us -- and now I understood that. The lines of his face spoke to me like a lover, whispering promises his mouth never needed to voice.
The Vogue Battstation lasted just three hours, until noon. I think because I'd turned my iPad's brightness up to maximum. The last battery, the Danboard Mini, carried me until 7 p.m. Altogether, I'd gone nearly a full 48 hours of unbroken Liam Neeson.
Overall Winner: The iBattz 20400 provided by far the greatest density of Liam Neeson on a single charge.
Now I found myself out of batteries and out of Liam. It turned out the real test had just begun. Was I fit to live in a world where Liam Neeson's eyes didn't carefully watch my every move?