2014 iPad iPhone iPod Buyers' Guide from iLounge.com

$15/$30
Apps

The Mental Faculty Mental Case

Technology was supposed to improve education. Years ago, students took notes with pen and paper; these days, laptops are as likely being used for Facebook as for studying. A recently updated app called Mental Case ($15/$30) has a chance to change how students study with their computers, by reinventing the concept of flashcards. Instead of simple text notes and scribbled images on paper cards, The Mental Faculty’s app lets you create digital cards with images and videos—a multimedia experience, complete with structured study schedules.

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$5
Apps

MumboJumbo 7 Wonders: Magical Mystery Tour HD

MumboJumbo’s games tend to have a few things in common: addictive gameplay, beautiful graphics, and nice soundtracks. So we jumped right on top of 7 Wonders: Magical Mystery Tour HD ($5) when it showed up in the Mac App Store this week, and came away impressed—this match-three puzzle title has the added depth and frills we’ve come to expect from the company, including both a rune-matching main game and construction-themed mini-games to break up the action.

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$50*
Apps

Nuance Dragon Express

If you’ve been using Siri on your iPhone 4S over the past month, you’re probably starting to get used to having a personal assistant within easy reach. Voice control may be built into that phone, but the software’s not cheap. The big voice recognition developer is Nuance, whose technology powers many other voice control apps. Nuance’s own Dragon Dictate application starts at $180, but thankfully, the company has introduced a new title that offers a lot of the same benefits at a much lower price: Dragon Express ($50*).

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$80
Apps

Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 Editor

A few weeks ago, we featured the newest version of Pixelmator as a great alternative to Adobe’s expensive Photoshop software. We like that it’s much more affordable, yet still has many of the features home users find important. Well, Adobe has debuted its own low-end option: Photoshop Elements 10 Editor ($80) has just become available in the Mac App Store, two months after the boxed version came out. It has almost all of the same features, with the exception of the Elements Organizer and support for Case Sensitive HFS Volumes. It’s also $20 less expensive than before.

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$2
Apps

David Johnson SpotRemote for Spotify

We’ve enjoyed using Spotify on the Macs since it launched—the ability to listen to virtually anything has introduced us to all kinds of new music. The only downside apart from the annoyingly cheesy ads is the lack of a mini player. Apple’s had one for years in iTunes, but the folks at Spotify haven’t seemed to figure it out yet. Luckily, third party developers such as David Johnson have arrived to fill the gap, so we have SpotRemote for Spotify ($2).

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$40
Apps

Feral Interactive Batman: Arkham Asylum

Batman: Arkham Asylum ($40) isn’t brand new; it’s been available for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PCs since 2009. But even by today’s standards, the game is so impressive that it’s definitely worth spotlighting its release for the Mac, courtesy of Feral Interactive and the Mac App Store. If you’ve never played it, Arkham Asylum is stunning, packed with a rich story, beautiful graphics, an awesome combat system, and plenty of fan service—a great game for comic enthusiasts and general video game lovers alike.

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$5*
Apps

Austin Blackwood VirtuaScore Basketball

One of the coolest aspects of the app culture Apple has created is how many single-use, physical objects can be replaced by relatively inexpensive apps on multifunction devices. We’ve seen this time and time again with the iPhone and iPad, and the latest example for the Mac is developer Austin Blackwood’s VirtualScore Basketball ($5*). It turns your computer into a customizable basketball scoreboard, complete with a classic design, quick controls, and video output for monitors or projectors.

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$6
Apps

Krystian Majewski Trauma

Trauma ($6) by German developer Krystian Majewski is surely one of the most different games we’ve ever played. Not different in a bad way, and not different in a “gee, there are some weird characters and levels” way. Different in that the gameplay mechanics, plot, level layout—everything, really—are unlike anything we’ve seen in a game before. And the result is a really cool experience, now available in the Mac App Store.

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Free
Apps

Retickr LLC Retickr

Some people get their news by visiting sites multiple times throughout the day. Others use RSS readers to stay up to date. With its eponymous app, Retickr (Free) presents a third option: it’s a scrolling ticker that runs across your Mac’s screen with the stories that you care about. It integrates RSS feeds as well as your Facebook and Twitter accounts to show you the posts and articles that you want to see, either with preset playlists or ones that you create yourself. Click on any story, and you get a full view of it instantly.

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$60, $149-$199
Apps
Peripherals

MCE Technologies Blu-ray Player

Blu-ray Disc playback has long been a white whale for Mac owners, and if the Mac mini and MacBook Air are any indication, the chances of seeing any optical drive incorporated into future Apple machines is getting slimmer and slimmer. The drives that you can currently hook up to your Mac only allow you to author; you can’t even watch Blu-ray movies without dual-booting into Windows. Or at least that’s the way it was up until now. MCE Technologies has finally found a solution to the problem, and is now offering its Blu-ray Player software as a free add-on with its internal drive for the Mac Pro ($149) and external USB 2.0 and eSATA drive ($199). If you want to buy the software on its own, it’ll cost you $60.

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$99 Upgrade/$199
Apps

Alien Skin Software Blow Up 3

Shrinking a photo is easy, but making it bigger is challenging. Stretching just resizes the pixels you have, so the result is blurry, pixelated images that don’t look too great. Alien Skin Software has been making Photoshop plugins for almost 20 years, and its Blow Up 3 ($99 Upgrade/$199) is a direct solution to this issue. It works with Photoshop CS4 or newer, Elements 8+, and now Lightroom 2+ as well.

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$5
Apps

Maha::Software PandaBar

In recent months, music services such as Pandora have become essential parts of our working and relaxing time. One big problem with some services is that there’s no convenient way to control them as easily as iTunes offers with the Mini Player. That’s where Maha::Software’s PandaBar ($5) comes in. This Mac app gives you a variety of quick controls for your Pandora stations, including an easy-access Menu Bar tool.

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$2
Apps

St. Clair Software Jettison

St. Clair Software’s Jettison ($2) is one of those apps that offers a feature you’d think would already be baked into OS X, but is missing for one reason or another. In this case, it’s automatic ejection of external disks. If you close the lid on your MacBook and unplug your drives, you’re going to see the “disk was not ejected properly” dialog box when you open it back up, suggesting that your files may have been damaged in the process. Jettison is smart enough to automatically eject all of the external drives you have attached when you put your Mac to sleep, letting you pick up and go without worrying about corrupted files.

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$5
Apps

Jammbox Discovr Music

The developers at Jammbox know there are dozens of ways to listen to music on your computer now, so they took a different approach with the music app Discovr Music ($5). Instead of playing music, this Mac App Store title helps you find your next favorite band or artist. It’s an awesome tool for discovery, and looks really cool too.

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$30/$60
Apps

Pixelmator Team Pixelmator

Let’s face it: most people who think they need Photoshop don’t need Photoshop. Unless you’re a professional who constantly uses dozens of Photoshop-exclusive features, you can save several hundred dollars and go with Pixelmator Team’s Pixelmator ($30/$60) instead. We’re only comparing it to Photoshop for reference, but the title really stands on its own—it was just updated to version 2.0 this morning, and is now an even better value, especially if you get it before the price hike.

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