Reviews: Griffin’s SightLight and iFire

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

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).

Tests 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

Overall: 7/10


iFire 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.

Overall: 9.5/10

Related reading: Mini Review: Griffin Technology’s USB iMic


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