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Getting small: Tiny microphones, PCs and speakers

Keith Shaw | May 14, 2014
This week's column was totally unintentional - at first it was just three separate roundups of some of the latest devices I've found interesting. But after I completed the reviews, I realized a common thread between all of them - these devices are really small (in fact, the M39p even has "Tiny" as part of its name). While some things in the world are getting larger (displays, smartphones, TVs, etc.), there's still room in the world for smaller gadgets that provide big performance.

What is it? Looking more like a wireless router or desktop storage drive than a full computer, the ThinkCentre M93p is designed for office/cube workers who want to save a lot of space in their work areas without a classic-looking tower computer. The M93p weighs less than 3 pounds, and measures 1.35 inches thick. The latest version of the Tiny has a 4th-generation Intel Core processor (it can go up to the i7 model), as well as Intel 4600 graphics. Lenovo offers customers the ability to choose different ports and connectors for the device — for example, you can add an HDMI port if you want to connect the M93p to an HDMI monitor (instead of traditional VGA or DVI monitors). The unit we tested included five USB 3.0 ports (two on the front, three on the back), a DisplayPort, VGA output, Ethernet and Wi-Fi antenna. Other features include Windows 7 Pro 64-bit (upgradeable to Windows 8 Pro 64-bit), a 500GB hard drive (7200 RPM), 4GB of RAM (upgradeable to 16GB) and 802.11n wireless (Intel Centrino Wireless N-105).

Why it's cool: During the time I had the PC on the desk, everyone who walked by was amazed that this was a PC and not a router or other storage device. "That's a PC?" was a common question I heard from others. The addition of performance in such a small package should be appealing to workers looking to clear up their work areas or maximize the space they have, especially if they have issues with current desktop systems overheating because they're placed in compact spaces.

Some caveats: The smaller chassis means that there's no optical drive on the unit — you have to add that as a separate option.

Grade: 4.5 stars

The scoop: CERA wireless portable speaker, by Tego Audio, about $90

What is it? This device is a very small portable speaker that connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to your mobile phone, tablet or even your PC to provide mobile audio beyond the speakers inside your devices/computer. The spherical speaker has a pop-up top that opens up the 360-degree speaker (think of it like a hidden canister that pops up out of a counter/desktop like in a science fiction movie). The top also includes a touch interface that provides inputs for volume control and next/previous track for music. Opening the top also initiates Bluetooth pairing mode, making it relatively easy to pair/re-pair/connect with your devices. The system includes an audio cable for direct-device attachment, a USB charging cable and a daisy-chain cable that lets you connect a second speaker (one side into the USB charging port, the second side into the second speaker's audio line-in port).

 

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