MacGizmoGuy shares his quarter-century of Apple computer experience to help folk find insanely great Macintosh gadgets: Mac SSD and HDD backup drives, OSX web cameras, Wireless Bluetooth and USB speakers, Microphones and Audio accessories, Keyboards, Mice, Printers - and more.
Ever get tired of the growing RATS NEST of wires involved with your computer system? Or just HATE the horrible, tinny, weak sounding speakers in your MacBook, iBook or Mac mini? Looking for a compact self-powered audio solution?
USB bus-powered computer speakers can bridge the gap between mobile laptop speaker portability and full-blown desktop speaker systems - and consolidate and minimize some of the tangle of wires. The ability for USB speakers to get both pure digital stereo audio AND power over a single USB cable can be appealing - especially for road warriors who want acceptable audio in a compact form factor for music listening or doing a presentation and need to fill a room with sound.
Although the 5 volt, 500MaH power available from a USB port does limit these travel speakers wattage to typically 1.5-3 watts RMS -- the Best USB speakers with sensitive, well-engineered drivers and enclosures CAN deliver surprising volume, frequency response and loudness. There are also multi-powered portable speakers that may use USB, as well as have optional battery or AC power supplies to provide versatile power options - AND higher volume levels when additional power is available.
Tritton's little SoundBite USB speaker (and it's newly revised sucessor) the SoundBite xTreme are just one example of a surprisingly loud and nice sounding USB speaker the size of a Big Mac hamburger - TO GO! No batteries required. For those of you wanting wide-stereo separation in a truly mobile and lightweight 2-piece USB speaker system for the road, Logitech's V20 USB speakers have garnered rave reviews for each units 2" driver and 3" passive radiator cone to deliver decent bass response drawing only USB port power.
MacGizmoGuy has seen 25 years of computer gadgets come and go. But one of the best back-at-home Desktop USB peripherals I've ever bought has been my Logitech AudioHub multi-function USB speaker.
This AC-powered speaker has full 2.1 stereo sound with 2" drivers and a 3" sub-woofer - AND - a built-in 3 Port USB 2.0 Speed hub. AND OFTEN SELLS FOR LESS THAN SOME USB 2.0 HUBS SELL FOR! It's like getting free computer speakers thrown in for nuttin'! It's done wonders for giving me a one-piece speaker unit with USB hub that instantly cut my wiring nightmare in half. Although it does require (and includes) an AC power-supply, it can pump out 15 watts RMS of great sounding audio. Highly recommended for you Less-Is-More types.
Not all Macintosh computers have built-in iSight web cameras. Older G4 and G5 Macintosh owners, or those with a Mac Pro tower or Mac mini often discover finding a fully Mac compatible web cam to be a challenge. Not all webcams made (especially in the mid to low-end price range) work on a Mac, or even have webcam drivers for anything other than Windows PCs.
Ideally you want to buy a web camera based on a new webcam standard: UVC - "USB 2.0 Video Class" which is supported by OSX 10.5 Leopard - and 10.4.11 Tiger. NO DRIVERS NEEDED, the driver needed is built into OS X - so getting a webcam working is just plug and play easy.
It is important to note that Video Class compliant webcams are based on the USB 2.0 speed standard. So you've GOT to have at least a fairly recent Mac (generally with a processor speed of 1GHZ or faster) to take advantage of a modern driverless webcam. USB 1.1 is just TOO slow to deliver the video chat quality and frame-rates you need for video conferencing.
Beyond iChat and PhotoBooth included with current Macs - other great video chat and capture programs are worth exploring - including Skype For Mac, Yahoo Instant Messenger, ISPQ, CamFrog - and more.
For those wanting to make and upload their own videos for YouTube or elsewhere - Using PhotoBooth or QuickTime Pro's video capture function is simple and straightforward. Lastly, It's important to know that external USB webcams can't be used directly with Apple's iMovie: You've GOT to use some other program to capture the video, then you can bring it into iMovie for final editing. Only FireWire webcams like the original 1394 iSight or select DV camcorders with FireWire can capture directly in iMovie.