Being a frequent traveler you quickly have to learn how to relax on a daily 30 minute commute or a 5 hour cross country flight without carrying a 20lb backpack.
I’ve played with many distractions over time, and these are the best way to entertain yourself for minutes or hours that will easily slip into into your bag.
Personal Video Player
Archos 605 WiFi. This small video player did something unique; its basic version is not that expensive allowing a low cost to entry; and it has many add-ons which do raise the price – but you don’t have to pay for it you’ll never use them. It’s main purpose – watching video. A clear crisp screen and decent battery life will allow you to watch several TV shows or movies on your flight. It supports quite a few formats, more than most players and doesn’t lock you into a single provider like the next selection.
iPod Touch. This is the iPhone for those who don’t want AT&T. While it doesn’t make calls, it’s other features (WiFi, music, video) are top notch. I only have two complaints about the touch. The first is that you’re locked into iTunes (one of the biggest walled gardens ever created). The second is that it does not have stereo Bluetooth support. When it has bluetooth 2.0; this product might leapfrog the Archos just due to the simplicity of use.
CNet did a great prizefight between these two products.
The only product that can be considered in 3rd place is the new Cowon. The last product worth considering is the 80gig Video iPod, especially if you connect it to a set of video glasses. Note: Some people (including me) hate video glasses; they just don’t look right. Some people love them. Make sure you have the option of returning them.
<added>Since I wrote this post, Archos launched a new set of products. They are more focused around being an internet tablet than just a PVP player, however, they are worth a look.</added>
For those of you who want free *legal* video; there is absolutely one best option – TiVo.
TiVo offers a desktop software which will let you transfer (via the net) files from your TiVo to your computer. If you don’t have an encoding program, you can also use the upgraded TiVo software to create mp4 files for your iPod that can be managed via iTunes. Easily auto-schedule your favorite shows and movies to be moved to your computer.
Which headset to choose?
Everywhere you look around first class you will see the Bose noise canceling headsets. While they are decent headsets (and heavily promoted by the affiliate-minded airlines) – they are too big to easily fit into our commuter bag. Here’s the best of the small headsets.
The best bluetooth stereo headset is from Jaybird Gear. This headset has nice sound, and easily pairs with bluetooth 1.0 and 2.0 devices. You can also buy bluetooth receivers that work with an iPod, iPhone (which also isn’t bluetooth stereo), or any device with a standard headset jack. If you ride a train everyday, the lack of wires between your iPod and headset that catch on things will make your life much easier.
My favorite bluetooth headset for my phone (while Jaybird gear is a great stereo headset, I don’t find it’s noise canceling technology great for calls) is the Jawbone II. My only complaint is that it does not fit everyone’s ears perfectly; and if you’re trying to adjust the fit, you can accidentally make a phone call.
Since you can’t use bluetooth on a plane, there is a need for a corded headset with a small footprint that sounds great. The Sennheiser earbuds have been my favorite – but not just for the sound. The street and sport earbuds have a version that does not actually fit in your ear. It has a twist clip at the top of the earbud that easily fits into the ear without having to push them into the ear. I find this is better for the changing ear pressure of a plane. Best of all, they’re under $50.
If you want top of the line small footprint earphones, the Shure e3 or e4 doesn’t have a comparison. They are also $300+ depending on the model you choose. Due to the air pressure of planes, I’ve found that my ears will actually push these out of my ear on decent making them unusable for me. So, the Sennheiser’s are 1/4th the price and almost as good for a few hundred dollars less.
If you choose the iTouch under video; you’re probably done picking music. If you choose the Archos, there’s only one reason to carry a second music device – size (the larger Archos isn’t always jeans pocket friendly).
There’s been so much written about iPod vs Zune vs Creative, etc – I’m not gong to rehash the conversation. However, if you carry a larger PVP device, you might want to also carry a small iPod or Zune for music listening; this can be useful if you’re working on a laptop and just want some extra music to drown out the neighbors on a plane.
Nintendo DS vs PSP. While the Nintendo DS does have some interesting abilities to connect DSs together. The PSP has Wi-Fi, has been known to be hacked for Skype, and includes more mainstream games. Overall, if this is your first portable gaming unit – take a look at the types of games available for each system – that will help you decide more than a feature comparision list.
Reading – Carry Thousands of Books with You
Don’t want to carry 10 books with you? Don’t even want to carry one heavy book? I don’t blame you; I now carry hundreds of books with me. How? The magical Amazon Kindle. I can’t say enough good things about this device. Easy-to-read screen interface. No LDC to wear out the eyes. Due to the ink technology, I’ve had the battery last two weeks before recharging. Need a new book? Use the built-in wireless technology to shop for new books on Amazon from the device. You can even send your PDF files to the Kindle so you can catch up on all the eBooks you download but don’t read.
There are rumors of a new one coming out before Christmas, so while you might want to hold off buying one; I’d recommend the first generation if they go on sale when the next gen is released.