Bluetooth speakers are a dime a dozen, nowadays. Quite frankly, it is hard to get excited about them. While they can be used with a desktop at a workstation, the true allure is portability with a smartphone or tablet. You see, there is typically a trade-off of quality for convenience, and the average audiophile would likely turn up their nose at using them.
While I have heard some great Bluetooth speakers like the UE BOOM and JBL Flip, they ultimately were not enough to replace my desktop speakers, the Logitech Z-2300. Those desktop speakers are quite phenomenal and hard to beat. I recently tested the Cambridge Audio Minx M5 and found them to be wonderful, but they do not offer a wireless connection. Today, I am looking at the Grace Digial aptX Bluetooth Speakers, which work as both wired and wireless.
While we all await the arrival of the next Nexus from Google -- and the wait isn't likely to be very long now -- other low cost Android tablets are trying to attract both our attention and our cash. Asus has a good track record in this respect. Lest we forget, Asus was in fact Google's partner for the last Nexus tablet, though it looks like Google may be ringing the changes in terms of a hardware partner this time round.
Anyhow, what we have here is the MeMO Pad 8, the latest in a line of smaller format, lower cost tablets from Asus that are designed to cater to our desire for a larger than phablet screen that's still potentially pocket-friendly in size and wallet-friendly in price. The MeMO Pad 8 will set you back around £160.
The new iPhone, as every smartphone fan knows by now, is not in fact one phone, but two. And unlike last time Apple launched two handsets at once, this time you don't have to choose between a cut down version (the iPhone 5c) or a full-fat version (the iPhone 5s).
This time, while there are some differences between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, apart from screen size they are subtle ones, and your choice is primarily about size -- do you want a 4.7-inch screen or a 5.5-inch one? This review is of the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, kindly provided by Three -- our review of the iPhone 6 Plus will follow.
Windows Phone is a very polarizing operating system to say the least. Many consumers refuse to give it a chance, and the ones that do, either hate it or love it. Despite the shortcomings of Microsoft's phone-focused OS, I find it to be a very rewarding experience. Of course, the biggest complaint is a lack of apps, and while there has been much improvement in that area, it is still a valid argument when compared against the iPhone or Android.
Apps aside, it is an intuitive experience that enhances one's life rather than take it over. Android and iPhone users are often in a zombie-like state while using the device, as if it is the sole-focus of their existence. Windows Phone is designed more to be glance-and-go. Unfortunately, while Nokia Lumia handsets have been wonderful, brand-diversity and selection has been severely lacking. Luckily, Microsoft majorly scored by getting HTC to produce a version of its One (M8) that runs Windows Phone. Can the sexy HTC handset outdo the sexiness of the popular Lumia line?
Ultra-portables, tablets, Ultrabooks and hybrids may be great feats of miniaturization, but if you want serious power a larger device will be a necessity. Anyone serious about the quality and resolution of their entertainment will need a desktop replacement of some sort. Gigabyte's P25X v2 is definitely in the latter camp, with its 15in chassis packed full of processing and graphics power. But its price isn't as hefty as its chassis.
The P25X v2 is not exactly subtle in its styling. It boasts a bright yellow lid with chrome effect edging and hinge, although the remainder of the system is a much more sober black. At 2.8kg, it's not exactly lightweight, although this is par for the course with the 15in chassis format.
We seem to have had something of a run on Lumsing products recently, but the focus has been on power -- both in-car and portable. Now it's time for something a little different from the same company: a wireless Bluetooth speaker. It can be used with phones, tablets, laptops and anything else that chucks out a Bluetooth signal; actually, there's a 3.5mm jack, so there is a wired option too. As this is, primarily, a wireless speaker, it should come as no surprise that it features a built in rechargeable battery. Charging comes via a USB port which you can connect to either a computer or a phone charger.
Let's skirt over the fact that the instruction manual provided with the speaker has a spelling mistake ("Propeht" rather than Prophet) and look at what the Prophet has to offer. This is a budget speaker, but its looks don’t give this away. The disc shape hides two speaker cones, surrounded by a silver trim. Smack in the middle of the speaker grill is a play/pause button which allows for music playback control, and also doubles up as a pick up/hang up button for your phone -- as well as play music from your phone, the Prophet can also be used to make (very loud) hands-free phone calls thanks to the built in microphone.
Earlier this year, Microsoft successfully blurred the lines between laptop and tablet with the Surface Pro 3. Yes, the company had attempted it twice before, but the small screens on the previous models made it a less-than-ideal laptop replacement. On the Surface Pro 3, stretching the screen to 12-inches and making it lighter finally achieved the portable productivity nirvana of which many of us dreamed.
While this was great for many, others like me had a dilemma; we do much of our computing at home. Sure, I need a portable machine for travel and working in, let's say, Starbucks; however, at home in my office, I want to use a big 27-inch screen, keyboard and mouse. This was achievable by using Bluetooth peripherals and connecting my monitor directly to the Surface. Sadly, this proved clunky and I needed a better way. Supposedly, that better way is now available with the official Docking Station, so I bought it. The question is, how is it?
If you're specifying a notebook for your kids or your school, the attractive world of ultra-portables probably won't be top of your list of possibilities. Robustness, durability and value are far more likely to be your chief considerations. Dell's Latitude 13 Education Series 3340 is designed specifically to satisfy this kind of need. It's clearly built to last, and has both a specification and price that should appeal to the target audience.
The Latitude 3340 is not going to win any style awards, but it is very sturdy. The dark gray plastic chassis feels tough and is surrounded by rubber edges on the base and screen bezel. The hinge is similarly solid, and rotates 180 degrees so it can lie flat on the desk alongside the base, although the screen isn't touch-enabled so this facility is less useful than it could have been.
Amazon's Fire phone does not have access to Google's Play Store. I want to get that out of the way first, as it may be a consumer's biggest concern about the phone. However, that said, it might not be a big deal. In fact, it is quite refreshing to experience Google's Linux-based operating system without Google. In my opinion it is dangerous for Android to become synonymous with Google's store.
With Android, you do have the ability to add 3rd party stores without rooting or hacking. Unfortunately, on most devices, only Google's Play Store comes installed. While I have seen some devices come with the Amazon Appstore preloaded too, make no mistake, the Play Store is always the main focus. The Fire phone bucks that trend and puts Amazon's store into the spotlight and that is not a bad thing. Actually, as I will explain later, you can add additional app stores and even install some of Google's apps.
Self-proclaimed tech nerds around the world are turning their backs on system-building. This is tragic, as this art is part of the foundation of the tech nerd lifestyle. It is hard to argue with these perceived traitors -- an off-the-shelf tablet such as an iPad can do very much. In other words, why spend the time and money building a PC? The same can be said for much in life. I mean, why cook when you can get take out? Why mow your lawn when you can pay someone to do it? The answer is simple -- fun and self satisfaction. Yes, building a computer is a rewarding experience and everyone should at least attempt it.
System-building is something I am still a fan of and I know I am not alone -- you guys are out there. Amazing components are constantly being released -- motherboards, processors and even power supplies. A power supply is the unsung hero of any system build. It literally powers the computer! It is sad how often people choose cheap PSUs for their builds and instead focus on the "fun" stuff, like RAM and processors. I have always cautioned against cheap power supplies. When I say "cheap", please do not misunderstand -- I am referring to poor quality and not low price. If you can get high quality for a low price, awesome. However, if you've never heard of the manufacturer, it is probably a good Idea to pass. Recently, I saw a new PSU from world-renowned manufacturer Cooler Master that got my motor running -- the V1200 Platinum. Once I wiped the drool from my chin, I obtained one to review.
When it comes to productivity, no tablet is as good as the Surface Pro 3. Of course, that tablet also comes at a very high price. While the price is justified for a laptop or desktop replacement, it wouldn't make financial sense to purchase it as a companion to an existing Windows computer. Sure, you could go with a small-screen Windows tablet, but currently, app selection isn't too great (it is getting better though). In the mean time, an Apple or Android tablet would serve as a better companion.
In my testing, I have found the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 to be the current king of companion tablets, beating out the iPad Air. However, Samsung's tablet is very capable of creation too. In theory, you may be able to use it as your main computer. Logitech wants to help with that -- its Type-S keyboard cover turns the Galaxy Tab S into a mini laptop. But is it good?
Android is a very capable operating system. With it, Google accomplished the unthinkable -- widespread Linux use by average home users. Linus Torvalds popularized his kernel with nerds and the enterprise, but the search giant made it accessible for all. Here's the thing though -- the fact that Android is powered by Linux doesn't matter. No, to the average consumer, all that matters is the experience. What lies beneath is inconsequential.
Samsung recently released the Galaxy Tab S 10.5, its newest flagship tablet. The device's closest competitor is the iPad Air -- which is a tablet I love. Besides Apple's tablet, there is really no other product to consider at the $500 price point. So, if you are considering a $500 general-use tablet, the only question that must be asked is -- is it better than the iPad Air?
If you want to send images, videos or music to your TV from another device the obvious choice might seem to be Google's Chromecast. However it's not the only game in town, the Tronsmart may not be a name you've heard of but at $24.09 it's around $10 cheaper than Google's alternative, so is it worth considering?
First impressions are good, it's made of a nice smooth matt plastic and the design is tidy if unexciting. The unit plugs directly into the HDMI port of your TV or projector and it offers 1080P resolution, though can be switched to 720P for older TVs. The T1000 will work with Android (including Kindle Fire HDX), iOS or Windows devices, you just need to download the right software.
Hitting the road means luggage, and luggage is a pain -- all that… stuff… to carry from place to place. Traveling light can help to make the journey less of a chore, but there are some things that simply have to be packed: no self-respecting technology fan would go on vacation without taking a raft of devices with them. But devices need power, and this means chargers are needed. iPhones, MP3 players, Android tablets, iPads, digital cameras, Chromebooks, and countless other devices all need power -- and that means a lot of chargers.
We just took a look at the Lumsing DCH-5U 5-Port USB Travel Wall Charger which enables you to leave the chargers at home and charge up to five devices simultaneously from a single power point. And we have one to give away!
A few weeks ago I took a look at Lumsing's harmonica battery pack. Now from the same stables comes the lengthily titled DCH-5U 5-Port USB Travel Wall Charger. This is a slightly different twist on the idea of providing power to travellers' devices -- this is a wall charger rather than a portable battery pack. If you're going on vacation, taking a trip, or even just hitting the office, there are your devices to consider. Your phone, tablet, MP3 player, and other bits and pieces all need power, all need their own charger.
Except they don’t. Leave all of your chargers at home, and just take a selection of USB cables -- this 5-port hub allows for up to five USB devices (obviously) to be charged from a single wall power point. The 31W/6.2A unit has two 5V 1A ports for phones, and three 5V 2A ports for tablets and devices with higher power demands. Oddly, the ports are labelled, left to right, iPad, iPad, Samsung Tab, iPhone, and Android. It would have made more sense to simply indicate which of the five were the high-powered ports, but this is a minor niggle in the grand scheme of things.