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Monthly Archive:: October 2010

Another New Product: Summer Infant Prodigy

OK, this one is perhaps the biggest news of the ABC Kids Expo from a carseat perspective.  It’s all-new, and it’s from a company new to child safety seats.  It’s the Prodigy from Summer Infant.  It’s not available yet, so please don’t contact them for information until next year!  It should appear at a Babies R Us store near you around January, 2011!

What’s the big deal?  First, it goes from 4-32 pounds and they say it should fit preemies well with their infant insert.  Next, it has an innovative mechanical ratchet system to tighten the LATCH strap or seatbelt.  It is reminiscent of a certain aftermarket product we know, but it’s built-in to the infant seat base and we had a chance to try it first hand.  It works very well!  Plus, it’s integrated into a digital display with smiley faces that tell you if the recline angle is acceptable and when the seatbelt or LATCH system is tight enough using the ratchet system for a good installation.  And last, but not least, it features IMMI/SafeGuard harness system components, including their new “Belt Tightening System” that automatically adjusts to the proper shoulder height and tightness.  The IMMI LATCH attachments have indicators to verify proper attachment to the vehicle as well.  The crotch strap has two positions, while the handle has three positions that may all be used in the vehicle.

It was impressive enough even in prototype form that I have to say it is “Best Exhibit in Show”.  Well, the fact that they had free food and beer may have swayed the judges a bit!  The Prodigy will retail at $179 for the infant seat with base, $299 in a travel system with the matching stroller (rated to 50 pounds) and $89 for an extra base with the patent pending digital display and tightening system.  No photos or videos were allowed, but we hope to have some stock images for you soon.

Like many established manufacturers, Summer Infant has also built a nice team with a lot of expertise in child passenger safety, including a CPST-Instructor advocate.  Granted, it was a prototype, but it looked very impressive already and we love to see innovations that advance ease-of-use to keep kids safe.  We also hope to have a review in the not-to-distant future!  Until then, we ask that you please don’t pester them for more details until the official launch early next year when the Prodigy will be available.

The All New Graco Smart Seat 3-in-1!

Here is the first of our new product announcements for today.  It’s the Graco Smart Seat, a true rear-facing to forward-facing to booster seat!  Unfortunately, there was only a sneak peek at the show.  Kecia or I will be attending the official launch in Atlanta on November 2nd.  Short of slipping them a Hamilton or Franklin, we did our best to convince them to allow us to take some photos and video, but it was still in prototype trim so the great people at Graco provided us some stock photography for your perusal.  Fortunately, we can share some of the details!

It will arrive at Babies R Us and/or Toys R Us in February of 2011.  There will be at least one neutral fabric and one girly fabric.  It will start at $299 and an upscale version with additional padding and inserts will retail at $329.  An extra base will be $99.  Base, you ask?  Yes, it’s a steel-reinforced base that installs with a seatbelt or lower attachments.  You install the base once and then the actual seat can be removed from the base like an infant seat to change it from rear-facing to forward-facing!  A heavy duty locking system and fool-proof indicator make sure the seat is correctly attached at all times.  The base is not used in booster mode.  While the base is quite wide overall, the seatbelt routing path is internal and much narrower so it should be compatible with more vehicles in terms of getting a good installation.  The lockoff system looked similar in appearance to the one on the Snugride 35.  The LATCH attachments are heavy-duty extra width hooks with a tilt-lock adjuster.

Ratings?  5-40 pounds rear-facing.  20-65 pounds forward-facing.  30-100 pounds as a belt positioning booster.  An internal harness and head restraint system has 6 height positions.  We were unable to take measurements on the prototype, but it does not appear that it will have unusually low or top harness settings.  Rear-facing height limits are based on the child’s head being 1″ from the top of the shell, rather than the adjustable head restraint section.  The shell appeared to be similar in height to the Graco My Ride, but we could not tell for sure.

Once installed, there is a 5-position recline system built into the seat that can be changed on the fly when forward or rear-facing.  There’s a single cupholder and flip-up armrests.  A level bubble is built-in to make sure you have the correct angle for babies.  There are two adjustments for the crotch strap depth.  EPS foam lines the area around the head.  The seat itself has tubular steel re-inforcements and like the base, it is relatively wide.  The harness is not removed completely for booster mode, but rather it pulls through the cover andstows away in a compartment behind the cover.

Beyond that, we can’t tell you a whole lot just yet, but we hope to learn more in the next month or two!

Safety 1st Comfy Carry, Essential Air and Boost Air Photos

Oops!  Apparently I’m THE photographer and forgot to hand off the memory card to Heather so she could use them for the latest news!  Unfortunately, I don’t have the notes, so I have to wing it on the commentary.  So, I’ll just post a few more images from the Dorel encampment.  Most exhibits at ABC Kids are booths you stroll past or open area exhibits with displays scattered around the floor to browse.  You wander in, look around, talk to the representatives and wander to the next one.  In contrast, Dorel really has an encampment.  If the neighboring convention of healthcare case managers decided to invade ABC Kids Expo, this is the place where you’d retreat to weather the siege.  It’s all the way at the very back of the seemingly mile-long trade show floor, making it difficult for the attackers to get there quickly.  It is surrounded on all four sides by high walls and has single, narrow, hidden entrance facing the back that is heavily guarded by sales, marketing and PR staff.  Here, you can see me attempting to scale the front wall, before we discovered the bridge over the moat on the opposite side.

The treasure kept within was worth the effort!  Here are a couple shots of the Safety 1st branded version of the Comfy Carry infant seat.  It’s 5″ bottom slots help it to fit the Huggable Images 4 lb. preemie doll at a budget price point:  The base has two recline positions, a spot to put a knee during installation and rounded corners above the belt path for leverage with your hand.  The carrier is also ultra-light, coming in at 5.8 pounds.

Here are the Essential Air Combiation seats (formerly known as the Rumi).  You can see the premium versions (left), standard versions, a cutaway showing the Flextech shell design and the top harness height measurement (right).  It’s actually about 16.75″ to the top setting, which is a hair above the opening you see in the fabric cover.  The lowest setting was about 12″.  Keep in mind these are prototypes and subject to minor changes before they ship.

Here are a couple shots of the BoostAir high back boster, including a view of the substantial energy absorbing foam liner behind the head and the Air Protect cushions:

In other news, Dorel has simplified the offerings of the onBoard 35 infant seat.  They’ve phased out the myriad of confusing previous versions of the standard onBoard that varied in terms of minimum weight ratings, infant padding, fabrics and base options.  Now, there will apparently be just a single version of the standard onBoard.  It will be rated from 4-35 pounds, will have the standard base and will have a partial set of infant/preemie inserts.  The onBoard 35 Air remains the same as before.  It will include the premium base, upgraded infant inserts and, of course, the Air Protect feature.  The standard and deluxe bases are cross compatible and can still be used with any onBoard 35 model.

Also, stay tuned for some new and improved offerings from Maxi Cosi next year.  They were not present at the show, but they sound like they will be very nice!  More photos from Dorel and others still to come.  I have to get ready to head out to the show for another round of appointments today, including a couple of brand new product announcements that we hope to be able to share!

Cybex, Sunshine Kids, Combi, and Dorel ABC Kids Overview

We decided to divide and conquer this year with 2 teams: a carseat team and a stroller team, as we’ve been touting.  We’re very excited to be offering this to our readers this year because we know that strollers are a natural progression from carseats for the gear obsessed and if you’ve got a kid, you’ve likely got a stroller or want one.  Our stroller team will be filing their own reports as we go through the show, hopefully showcasing the awesome strollers that we’ve been seeing as we’ve been strolling around.

Apparently, just like last year, all the pictures are on Darren’s camera, so he’ll have to fill those in for me later.  Sorry!

Since Darren has talked about the big Britax news, I’ll talk about the other manufacturers we talked with today.  After Britax, we visited Cybex (Regal/Lager).  We had to walk past the loads of Atons they had to get to the Solution X-Fix, so we just stopped at the Aton, of course ;).  If the Aton sounds familiar, KetchupQueen wrote about it not too long ago for us in her KIM report for us.  When it comes (they’re aiming for 1st quarter 2011), it’s rated for 4-30 lbs.  It has a clip on the back of the seat for Euro shoulder belt routing when used baseless and the handle can be up in the vehicle.  The carrier itself weighs only 7.5 lbs. and part of that is because the release mechanism is on the base itself–they’ve scaled back what’s on the seat to make it lightweight.  It looks small and the base is narrow, so it should fit in smaller vehicles very well.  But the base is drool-worthy.  The thing practically installs itself: you buckle the seatbelt and press down on the seatbelt tensioner.  Very innovative.  The X-Fix has been updated and the shoulder belt guides are 1″ taller and molded/smoother, the seat pan is deeper, and the back is upholstered as well, so no plastic is seen (sorry, no pics allowed here).

On to Sunshine Kids next to see what was new there.  They have some new fabrics for the Radian, including plush polka dots (Heather’s favorite), blue (Kecia’s favorite, though it’s mesh and Kecia doesn’t like mesh because it snags and is hard to clean crumbs out of), and leather.  Did you know that the Monterey and Santa Fe (backless Monterey) have 2 pull straps for the LATCH connectors?  Neither did we, but we do now.  One pull strap for each side.  It’s a legal thing about a center pull LATCH strap.

We stopped at Combi to see what was new there.  They had the most incredible strollers on display in authentic kimono fabrics–simply beautiful.  The Shuttle 33 will soon be known as the Shuttle as soon as the next round of production gets started.  It will also be rated to 35 lbs. with no changes.  We inquired about new fabric choices for the Coccoro and were informed that there are no new cover options coming anytime soon but there will be a few discontinuations. Cool Mint, Strawberry Shake & Hazelnut are all going bye-bye.  So if you really want a Coccoro in any one of those covers – better scoop it up while you still can.       

Dorel has a few new products and changes to current products.  Changes to current products include new grippy harness pads on the harness straps that must be used on the AO/AOE/All-in-One line.  These are also on the Complete Air products as well.  One important thing to be aware of as you use these harness pads is that they are looped around the metal harness adjuster bar on the back of the seat.  As that bar gets moved up and down, the harness pad loop may get caught underneath the metal bar, between the bar and the slot that the bar is supposed to fit into, so the bar won’t click into place.  While Kecia found this on the display models at BRU that have been . . . uh . . . extensively tested, this may or may not happen on your seat.  Just check to make sure that as you raise or lower your harness  height, the bar is clicking into place.

The Essential Air was known for a long time pre-release as the Rumi.  It’s a combo seat, 22-65 lbs. harnessed, 40-100 lbs. bpb, and is entirely encased in plastic which gives Dorel lots of design possibilities.  For those of you wondering already, you access the splitter plate from the bottom of the seat.  Release date around April 2011 for $179.  For the more heavily designed seats, they’re looking at mid-2011 at $229.  They also have a new, lower pricepoint infant seat called the Comfy Carry branded under both Cosco (rear-adjust only) and Safety 1st (rear- and front-adjust models).  It’s a very lightweight seat–just under 6 lbs. IIRC–with a basic base.  The front-adjust will retail for $79 and the rear-adjust will retail for $59.  Very, very reasonable for these seats and the fashions were nice too.

We did also stop in at Harmony and see their vast selection of boosters, plus a possible convertible on the horizon.  However, by that point, I was pretty tired and my brain was mush–as it is right now.  To say anything else besides mentioning the new Carpooler narrow backless booster (3-across!) would be a disservice.  So, I’ll let Kecia fill you in on Harmony.