The guys over at Griffin Technology were very kind to send us over two of their products for evaluation: the SightLight and the iFire. Here’s what we think about these two Mac products.SightLight
The SightLight is an iSight addon. It looks like a ring, you slide it in your iSight camera and then when you turn it on it emits light (like a bulb) that shines on your face. This is needed in rooms with low light conditions where the iSight’s brightness levels give up to the overall darkness. Like in my office (“the dungeon”)…
Installation is really a no-brainer, you use iSight’s incoming firewire cable to connect to the SightLight and then you use the extra firewire cable of SightLight to connect the iSight to the system. On top of the “ring” there is a sliding button with three states: off, normal light, brighter light.
One installation problem I had particularly in my case, was the fact that I couldn’t mount the iSight & SightLight with my SightFlex (my Christmas present :). SightFlex is a another must-have accessory from MacMice, a flexible iSight stand that goes anywhere, very handy and more practical than Apple’s default mounts. However, the SightFlex was not able to easily withstand the weight of both the iSight and the SightLight (!) plus I couldn’t mound the iSight on it anymore, because both the iSight and the SightLight need to mount on the same firewire port on top of the SightFlex. It is a shame that you can’t really use both SightFlex and SightLight (you could connect the SightLight on another firewire cable, but then it becomes even heavier and the whole thing falls down).
On the image on the right you can see how SightLight performs (and sorry for the ugly shots, I had just woken up after the UPS guy delivered the goods, at 11 AM ;). It ain’t bad, but it ain’t that fantastic either. It is definetely an improvement over iChat’s default settings (yes, I have installed Apple’s iSight updates), but for the pain it gives to your eyes, it doesn’t perform as expected. You see, the light of the bulb really gets into your eyes after a few minutes (notice the bright spot on my glasses on pictures 2 and 3). It is really bright (even on the lowest setting) and honestly, I don’t think it is usable for long durations (e.g. long, useless chit-chat ;-). If you move the iSight far away so the light won’t bother you much, well, in that case the light emmiting won’t be that strong, so you gain nothing by doing that.
One thing that really puzzles me though is the iSight situation in general. The camera itself *is* capable under low-light conditions. The problem really is with iChat’s default settings. There are no pref panels to change the brightness and from what I know, there are no “hacks” that tell the camera to go brighter when under the control of iChat. Here’s my proof: iVeZeen. While this application controls iSight’s brightness only for its own purposes (not for iChat purposes), it is a… living testament that iSight is a very capable camera and that it is just plagued with the wrong default settings. I hope the new iChat on OSX Tiger will have some pref panels for contrast/brighteness…
Until that happens though, Griffin’s SightLight is your only chance to get some decent performance off iSight on iChat, on a dark(er) room. Either that, or add more illumination in your room…
Pros: Nice fitting design, handy on dark rooms, slick packaging
Cons: Strain in the eyes, performance not optimal, doesn’t play nice with other iSight peripherals
We got two pairs of Apple Speakers, but their lifetime is limited by the fact that they use a proprietary connector not found on newer Macs or other types of computers. This is where the iFire comes in. You plug your Apple Pro Speakers directly to the iFire device instead of your computer and then the iFire connects to a firewire port (to get power for the speakers) and the audio-out jack (to get access to the sound) and makes the Apple Pro speakers work as normal speakers. The connection happens via the a multi-cable (firewire and audio-out) with adjustable length.
The iFire can also allow the Apple Speakers to be used with the iPod! The iFire device is a really nice piece of equipment. It is sexy and it doesn’t take too much space. I can’t complain at all about the iFire it does what it promises and delivers it great. The sound is the same as before, I noticed no glitches.
A good idea would have been though to add one more firewire port (there is space to do so on the other end of the device) so you free up the port you just used for the speakers. As a 12″ Powerbook user with a single firewire port, I would much like to have a firewire port free after using the Apple Pro Spekers with the iFire.
Pros: Good looking, saves your Apple Pro speakers from eBaying them
Cons: Eats up your firewire port just to give you something as “trivial” as sound is these days.
Related reading: Mini Review: Griffin Technology’s USB iMic
Why are the devices rated so high?
We have the iFire that fires a too bright light and the tester noticed it can not be used over a long duration because of that. The tester even said it is not usable for many situations – it makes only sense if you really can not illuminate your office better. So why is it rated 7 out of 10 pts? Shouldn’t it be more like 3 or 4 points ( taken the other disadvantages like not mountable with the other i-Thingy ).
Also: Why is the impact on battery time not tested???
Similar the iFire:
The tester noticed that it blocks the only port on the 12″ books. It won’t be usable for me then because I regularly use the port on my 12″ iBook. Even worse, it does that just to get powered! But then again: Why is the impact on the battery not tested???
If the iFire comes with a firewire port, why does it not act as a firewire device, giving your system another audio output device?
And finally, how is the audio quality?
Jet alone the blocked firewire port should have downgraded the rating to as most as 6 points out of 10. Why is it rated like being almost the best device ever?
This is a pretty useless review to me 🙁
Correction: My first paragraph refers to the SightLight. Sorry for that.
Another solution is to add a firewire hub. I also have a 12″ Powerbook and I solved my firewire problems by adding a FireWire hub. They are available on the Apple online store, and Belkin has quite a selection of some now :
Because if they rate it too low, Griffin will think twice about sending them any new toys to play with next time they release something new. It’s a rather common phenomenon on review sites. Rate it high and they’ll be happy to continue sending you there products for ‘testing’.
I agree that they’re getting a way too high of a score given the negative points brought up in the review. If the sightlight is unusable for a longer period of time and it makes use of the isight itself cumbersome, then why would it get a 7/10? I’d give it a mere 5 or less to be honest.
And the iFire, sorry to say, but if I’m at home, I have my ipod connected to my ibooks firewire port. Having to constantly switch between the ipod and the iFire audio output is annoying and unworkable, to say the least. This would have better been rated at 6/10.
Then again, I can’t do these kinds of reviews (because I already know that there will be comments along the lines of ‘if you can do it better, then you submit a review’). Companies don’t send their products to mere mortals like me to review.
Being a developer for firewire devices, I have some of them lying around here 😉
But I do not want to take anything more with me than the bare minimum of devices.
Why use Firewire as the power source? Why not a mini AC adaptor? Firewire is not standard on PCs (yet) and most PC laptops only have the 4-pin version – that does not carry power.
>The tester even said it is not usable for many situations – it makes only sense if you really can not illuminate your office better.
This is NOT true. Read more carefully of what I said.
>Why is the impact on battery time not tested???
Because I mostly used it with my Powermac, not my Powerbook.
>And finally, how is the audio quality?
I have ALREADY commented on that.
I suggest you stop trying to be a pain and read the article a bit more carefully.
Firewire is available on many PC’s. They also have cheap expansion cards! PC’s that are marketed as Multimedia, will have them also since many DV cameras use Firewire.
I know, I added a FW card to my PC too. But the iFire product itself becomes a little less attractive if it means having to purchase yet another product just to reuse an Apple Pro Speaker.
>>The tester even said it is not usable for many situations – it makes only sense if you really can not illuminate your office better.
>This is NOT true. Read more carefully of what I said.
Ok, I read again. Found the following:
but for the pain it gives to your eyes, it doesn’t perform as expected. You see, the light of the bulb really gets into your eyes after a few minutes
and honestly, I don’t think it is usable for long durations
You say that a user should even use the thing that fits on the quotes above, or illuminate their room better. I think given the choice of “pain in your eyes” or “add more illumination in your room”, who votes for the pain?
I am sorry I missed your “The sound is the same as before, I noticed no glitches” comment. Being a technical interested guy, I expecet from a review testing an amplifier, that the tester does at least try to find out how the audio quality is. I see you obviously just played back some random MP3 file and noticed “OK, sounds familiar”.
> I suggest you stop trying to be a pain and read the article a bit more carefully.
Sorry for being a pain to you. Now I have read again the article and the single thing I see is that I missed your comment about the audio quality.
I see you are the “editor in chief” here. Fine. If you react on criticism with: you are “trying to be a pain” , well I think any reasonable editor should think twice before publishing his/her article on “OSNews”.
To me, criticism on my work is important. To you, obviously, it is personal offense.