Gadgetology: Budget 1080p Drone and More

This week is all about obeying the rule of three.

From high up the friendly skies all the way down to your work desk and even your beloved smartphone screen, we’ve got a mix of three items for your perusal in this edition of Gadgetology.

The roundup kicks off with a drone for budget-conscious folks interested in shooting 1080p video from the air. We then wrap things up with a Bluetooth controller for Mac users and a cleaning solution for smartphone users who are weary of icky germs.

To quote OutKast, this roundup is so fresh it’s so clean, clean, baby!

What do you get when you combine people’s affinity for remote-controlled thingamabobs and humans’ innate interest in video? You get the video drone boom, that’s what, which continues to add to its list of entrants in the aerial video space.

Following its release of the Swann QuadForce, the makers of the aforementioned budget mini-drone are taking the next step with the Swann Xtreem Gravity Pursuit 1080p Video Drone. For starters, unlike the QuadForce, the Xtreem Gravity Pursuit is a lot bigger at about 500 millimeters — or more than 19 inches — at its widest point. Like the QuadForce, however, this video drone has an eye for affordability, ringing in between $250 to $300. To put that in context, drone stalwarts such as the Blade 350 QX series, for example, average closer to $500 or more.

As its name implies, the Gravity Pursuit comes with a 1080p camera, which sounds quite ambitious for that price point. Then again, the quality isn’t at GoPro levels and I’m honestly having a hard time seeing the difference between this camera’s 1080p vs., say, 720p video. For the price, however, I think it’s fine. The camera also comes with a 4GB card, which is enough for 30 minutes of video. Otherwise, you can insert your own card at up to 32GB for more recording capacity.

Operation time itself for the drone courtesy of its 7.4-volt, 2,000mAh battery is about 12 minutes, according to Swann but you’ll only really get that much time if you reduce the weight and take out the camera, for example. Otherwise, it’s probably closer to 9 minutes. I recommend getting a spare battery or two so you can stay out longer.

As someone whose first experience with computers involved Apple’s boxy Macintosh computer, I marvel at how far today’s Mac line has come in both looks and functionality. In addition to being a vessel for productivity, Macs are now go-to devices for imbibing in all sorts of apps as well as music.

While I wouldn’t say that controlling all that stuff is inconvenient, I’m sure there are some folks out there who wish that changing the volume and making all sorts of other inputs were a lot easier. If you’re one of those, then Griffin has a solution to your First-World problem with the PowerMate Bluetooth controller.

Shaped like a hockey puck that syncs wirelessly with your computer, the PowerMate can be used as a controller that streamlines your most common actions with a touch or twist. By default, the PowerMate lowers the volume of your music when turning its knob left and raises it by turning  right. Pushing down either plays or pauses your tunes. More adventurous users, however, can program it to do all sorts of other stuff like launching apps or assigning keyboard functions, shortcuts or commands.

All in all, you can program six actions to the device. In addition to the three mentioned earlier, other programmable actions involve clicking and holding, as well as clicking and turning left or right. Power is provided by two AAA batteries and the device automatically shuts down after a certain amount of time goes by while it isn’t used. Admittedly, software was a bit spotty when the device was launched but has seen improvements since then. The PowerMate works with Macs that use OSX 10.8 or higher and are Bluetooth 4.0 compatible. Cost is about $60.

 Did you know that 16 percent of smartphones are contaminated with fecal flora a E.coli? I wish I didn’t. But that’s the claim made by Whoosh! on its site, citing Yahoo as a source. What I really want to know is what those 16 percent have been doing with their phones or even tabletss. I mean, really now.

If you’re the type to prioritize hygiene while being environmentally conscious, the Whoosh! line of Screen Shine cleaners might just fit the bill. The product uses a liquid cleaner that doesn’t damage screens, is non-toxic and also makes your display resist fingerprints better. It also comes with an anti-microbial microfiber cloth so you don’t have to wipe stuff with your shirt.

Pricing starts at $6 for the pocket-sized cleanser and goes up to $20 for the Duo+, which also throws in a larger bottle you can set at your desk. It might not replace breathing on your screen and wiping with your clothes for some folks. Those who don’t mind paying for a cleaner, however, might want to check it out.

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too.