A50 headset, $300, www.astrogaming.com

Astro Gaming has long designed premium headsets for video game aficionados, and its latest, the A50, updates the device for fans.

The headset appears bulky but is actually light and flexible. And the Dolby 7.1 surround sound is crystal clear. You can hear every footstep of your enemy combatants and every shell casing dropped from a fired gun, all delivered over a 5.8 GHz wireless connection.

The headset has one sound mode for gameplay, a flatter mode for undistorted audio, and a third intended for music and movies. The sound and volume controls are tucked out of the way behind the right ear cup.

The smartest update in this model is the integration of Astro's MixAmp technology into the ear cup. A quick touch on the outside of the cup allows you to balance the sounds of the video game with the voices of other players.


Tech 21 phones cases, $30-$136, www.tech21.uk.com

The super-shock-absorbent material called non-Newtonian polymer inspires a lot of "don't try this at home" stunts, like getting whacked in the head with a shovel through a layer of the stuff.

But these materials also are used in protective clothing for skiers and motorcyclists, and -- no surprise here -- cases for phones. A company called Tech21 from Britain has been producing protective cases using the polymer D30 for T-Mobile, but in May it spun off its own line.

These materials, also known generically as "rate-dependent materials," work because their molecules freeze in place when struck hard but are pliant when moved gently.

Tech21 has put D30 in cases for a variety of phones and some tablets and e-readers. Most of the cases are like the bumpers you see on iPhones, a protective strip of material that surrounds the outer edges. The D30 shows as an orange stripe on the part of the case where the company says a phone is most likely to take a jolt.