5 iPad gadgets for geeks

Custom-designed for technophiles who want their iPads to do more

To most users, the iPad is a sleek tablet for watching videos, nosing around the Web and reading the occasional e-book. But to tech enthusiasts, the iPad can also be a platform to satisfy their intense curiosity.

We've gathered a bunch of unique gizmos that have one thing in common: they can take the iPad into new -- and often unexpected -- directions.

Ranging from techno toy to digital tool, these devices include a mini joystick, a digital voltmeter, an oscilloscope that lets you peer inside an electronic circuit, an iPad-controlled telescope that helps you view the night sky and a fascinating robotic ball.

These gadgets and instruments work with all iOS-based devices, including the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. However, after using each, I've found that all work best with the big screen that the iPad offers.

In short, these iPad add-ons can turn an ordinary iPad into a tool for exploration and discovery.


Ten One Design

Price: $19.95

Fun and games is what Ten One's Fling is all about. This snap-on mini joystick can help gamers play more efficiently (and get to new game levels faster) -- however, it only works with some of the iPad-ready games available.

iPad add-ons
The Fling snap-on mini joystick offers better game play.

Fling's small, circular plastic frame has a central button surrounded by a flexible, plastic, spiral-shaped arm. It is held in place on the iPad's screen by a pair of suction cups. At 3 in. wide, it's a good size for the iPad's 9.7-in. screen; Ten One makes a pair of smaller joysticks called Fling mini for iPhones ($24.95).

The best part about Fling is that it is purely mechanical and doesn't require any software to use. In the lower left corner of many iPad games is a circular control pad that looks like a compass; it lets you control the game by pressing with your finger. You just wait for your game to start and then press the cups into place right over the game's controller spot. Serious gamers playing complex games can use two Flings at once.

I used it with an iPad to conquer new worlds (BattleNoidz HD), fend off alien attacks Heavy Gunner 3D) and drive a monster truck (4X4 Offroad Racing). Fling gave me more precise control over the action. It also allowed me to respond to on-screen events faster because I was able to keep my finger on the button rather than having to take it off the screen's surface periodically. It works just as well with a thumb or forefinger on either hand, so lefties can use it too.

Currently, Fling works with only about 200 games (Ten One has an informal list); with luck, over time there will be more that are compatible.

Bottom line

At $20, the Fling (which comes with a microfiber pouch for storage) is a bargain that can make iPad gaming a lot more rewarding.

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Fling (video from Ten One Design)

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