Archive for October, 2016

By October 6, 2016 Read More →

Google Home in a nutshell

download-31Tuesday the 4th of October saw Google enter into a new domain, launching an item of hardware that intertwines all of the smart technology brands they have been purchasing for the last number of years and packaging them up into a neat solution to become a central feature of your home, Google Home. What this boils down it is that Home is a voice-controlled speaker. As highlighted by the Google Pixel, launched the same day, Google Home is that it will be powered by Google Assistant. This app is Google’s updated  smart digital assistant, much like Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, or Amazon’s Alexa, and will help you get things done. Current Android users will know saying “Ok Google” to their phone provides much functionality, this does that and much more.

 

The hardware on display is a small, minimalist cylinder with an angled top. The bottom part of the casing is modular and can be replaced with bases of varying colours. Above this is white with four LED lights built into the slanted touch sensitive surface. Google mentioned the design is based on wine glasses and candles. No hardware specs have been confirmed for the innards.

Google Home works a speaker, it will streams audio over Wi-Fi, using your voice or smartphone as a control mechanism. Imagine the Chromecast functionality for music. So far only Google Play Music, Spotify, Youtube Music, TuneIn. iHeartRadio and Pandora have been mentioned as compatible. We would expect other sources to work when the Home ships worldwide. You’ll also be able to connect to multiple Home speakers at the same time too, so you should be able to create a Sonos-style multi-room system with relative ease.

download-32

download-34

You’ll also get some home automation features, which means you’ll be able to control various connected products around the house. Much like the Audio side, only a few brands have been mentioned, Nest Thermostat, Samsung SmartThings and Philips Hue lightbulbs. IFTTT is listed so the potential is almost limitless!

Will the Google Home be a hit or the new Nexus Q? The price of $129 seems welcome and if you have Nest or Hue Lightbulbs it might be a no-brainer. However, I feel for many it might be an impulse purchase and will probably will only really benefit the family with the most hectic of schedules or perhaps Google Employee themselves.

By October 5, 2016 Read More →

GoPro HERO5 Cameras – Cloud-Connected and Simplified.

5s
HERO5 Session
The Best, Only Smaller. For $299.
HERO5 Session shares the same small design and brilliant convenience of the original HERO Session camera, but benefits from significant performance upgrades:
  • Video Resolutions up to 4K at 30 Frames per Second
  • Professional Quality 10MP Photos
  • Auto-Upload of Photos and Video to Cloud when Camera is Charging*
  • Voice Control with Support for 7 Languages (additional languages coming)
  • Simple 1-Button Control
  • Waterproof Without a Housing to 33 Feet (10m)
  • Compatible with Existing GoPro, Mounts Including Karma
  • Professional-Grade Electronic Video Stabilization
  • Distortion-Free Wide Angle Video and Photos with new Linear-View Setting
HERO5 Session will be available October 2nd for an MSRP of $299.99. Learn more HERE.
Posted in: Cameras, News
By October 5, 2016 Read More →

Panasonic RP-HXS200 Review

download-41I recently had the opportunity to try out the RP-HXS200 headphones by Panasonic. These are budget headphones (retailing for around £18 on Amazon), something immediately evident from the rather basic clamshell packaging which claims “Clear & powerful sound”. The set I tried were a funky black, blue and light grey combination and I must admit, I did like the look of them. Once you get them out of the packaging and in hand, they do feel very plasticky and I’m not sure how much daily abuse they’ll take, although I was pleasantly surprised to see the flat, tangle-free type cables do seem reassuringly robust. A rarity at this end of the market.

One of the main gripes I have with on-ear headphones has always been a question of where you put them when they aren’t in use. I am nowhere near hipster enough to dander around with them around my neck like a big plastic fashion accessory and they are usually too big or fragile to be just chucked in a bag. The Panasonic party piece is that they fold up Transformer style into a neat little form factor that can be easily tucked into a bag or jacket pocket. This is a great feature, but sadly these headphones are not the clunky, rugged Transformers of old, they are the flimsy plastic modern ones and I was more than a little wary of putting too much strain on the various joints, hinges, and rotating pieces.

img_5281

Once they were transformed and ready to roll out, I plugged them into my iPhone to see what kind of sound they were capable of. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much, but I was actually rather impressed. For under £20, the sound quality was really rather good. Well, initially it was. The Panasonics seem to handle intros and simple pieces very well indeed, punching well above their weight. I was listening to S.O.B. by Nathaniel Rateliff and was getting some great separation and a nice tone during the opening of the song. The acapella vocals, humming and clapping were all coming through extremely well. Sadly this ended swiftly when the rest of the band kicked in and price point of the Panasonics showed through. Unable to handle all the layers and detailing, the sound appeared compressed as they struggled to funnel the high, mid and bass levels through the drivers. I tried several pieces across a number of musical genres and found this to be consistent.

They did very well with the stripped back sounds of Lorde, but sounded terrible with Metallica’s layered detail and depth. I initially spent about 25-30mins testing out these headphones before I had to take them off. The plastic covering of the earpieces had slowly roasted my ears almost to the point of combustion and I had to take a break. The Panasonics are very light and have a great range of adjustment and I suspect if you are the sort that can put up with the plastic against your skin for extended periods of time, you’ll probably have no trouble with them. But if you are the sort that finds headphones make your ears start to get warm after a while, I’d maybe pass on these. In truth, I personally have never found on ear headphones particularly comfortable and these are certainly no exception, but your mileage may vary.

img_5283

Overall I’d say these headphones are aimed at the younger user and at the price point there is always going to be a compromise with the quality of sound and construction. If you like on ear headphones and simple pop music, then they are a pretty good buy and certainly worthy of consideration. For those looking for a quality sound however, I would suggest leaving these for the kid in the skinny jeans and slouch hat behind you.

The Panasonic RP-HXS200’s are available at www.reichelt.co.uk the online electronics retailer where many products up to 20% cheaper than elsewhere in the UK.

Posted in: Headphones, Reviews
Tags:
By October 5, 2016 Read More →

The Google Pixel and Pixel XL in a nutshell

download-4Most are saying farewell to the Nexus brand however I’m not committed to that mindset, as with Indiana Jones and Red Dwarf, never say never. The Pixel phone is the new phone on the block. A pair of super high-end offerings with price tags at one particular end of the spectrum. There was a lot of speculation and excitement right up until the announcement itself and then the controversy started.

ct5xiavukaafh4h

On the one hand, there was nothing along the lines of the recent Apple controversy. Google are not reinventing the wheel with the Pixel, it’s just another phone line with specs you would expect from any other high-end phone. There is a distinctive look that some, including myself, are not 100% on. There is a camera with some bold statements and, given the demonstration material, impressive results. However, many of the features of the Pixel’s announcement were down to the apps themselves, Google Assistant, Duo and Drive.

download-12

Under the polished glass, the Pixel has a 5-inch, 1080p AMOLED display, not a Quad HD. Unlike the Pixel XL’s larger 5.5-inch AMOLED Quad HD display. A quad-core Snapdragon 821 chipsets (2x 2.15Ghz / 2x 1.6 GHz,) the first of its type in the US and the UK. Backed by 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM keeps things lightening fast. The Pixel has a 2,770mAh whilst the Pixel XL’s  sits at 3,450mAh.

On the back is a little imprint fingerprint sensor, nothing particularly special by today’s standards. However, above this is the 12.3MP, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus sensor with a 1.55µm pixel size, at the same number of pixels, bigger pixels in a camera sensor means more area for light to strike the sensor, larger pixel sensors meaning you will have more accurate color and luminance in each pixel. Helping Google outline this are independent researchers at DxOMark judging this as the best you’ll find in a smartphone. The front sees a 8 MP, f/2.0, 1/3.2″ sensor size, 1.4 µm pixel size.

There is a 3.5mm headphone jack and every “ahem” and wink Google peppered into the presentation was accompanied by a little groan from myself.

download-13

Three colours are to be made available and the naming system is quite cute. Quite Black, Really Blue and Very Silver.

Much of the Pixels launch was taken up by the Google Assistant demonstration. This can’t be considered a backbone of the Pixel as most Android users will be able to take advantage of the service once rocking Nougat. Assistant is a complex app, integrated with most of Google’s services to provide you with itineraries, news, search results and suggestions through a casual conversation. Assistant keeps track of your searches and preferences to cater better results as you use it.

The pricing is the same as the iPhone, a 32GB Pixel is £599 and a 128GB is £699. Whereas the Pixel XL is £719 for the 32GB, and £819 for the 128GB.

https://store.google.com/product/pixel_phone

download-42

Posted in: News, Phones
Tags:
By October 4, 2016 Read More →

Griffin Elevator Unboxing

vlcsnap-00045Griffin has sent their Elevator for out appraisal. This is a simple stand that raises your laptop on the desk to make it more comfortable to use.

Elevator’s sturdy brushed aluminum and minimal design goes great with any desk decor.

 

Elevator conforms to health and safety standards, making your laptop safer and more comfortable to use all day long. Healthycomputing.com, the premier source for office ergonomics, recommends positioning the top of your screen level with your eyes and sitting at least an arm’s length from the screen. Both of these key ergonomic standards are made possible using Elevator with an external keyboard.

https://griffintechnology.com/us/elevator

By October 4, 2016 Read More →

GoPro, Now an End-to-End Storytelling Solution with Cloud-Connected HERO5 Cameras

GoPro, Inc. today unveiled new products and services that dramatically simplify the process of capturing, editing and sharing engaging content, establishing GoPro as an end-to-end storytelling solution. GoPro’s founder and CEO, Nicholas Woodman, introduced a new line of HERO5 cameras, cloud- based software, and drone, Karma, to international press at the base of Squaw Valley, CA, near Lake Tahoe. Here is the event as it was broadcast live:
With these new products, were delivering on our promise to make it easy to capture and share engaging stories, said Woodman. HERO5’s ability to auto-upload photos and videos to a GoPro Plus account dramatically simplifies mobile, on-the- go editing, sharing and enjoyment.
52
This is a game-changing experience that we will continue to build upon. Woodman adds, We’re stoked to launch Karma and show how much more it is than a drone. Karma packs Hollywood-caliber aerial, handheld and gear-mounted image stabilization into a backpack for $799. It’s so easy to use, a beginner can have fun straight away.
In addition to significant gains in performance and convenience, GoPro’s all-new HERO5 line of cameras can auto-upload photos and videos to GoPro Plus, a cloud-based subscription service that makes it easy to access, edit and share GoPro content anytime, anywhere using a phone or computer.5Exciting features include:
  • 2-inch Touch Display + Simplified Controls
  • Video Resolutions up to 4K at 30 Frames per Second
  • Professional Quality 12MP Photos
  • Auto-Upload of Photos and Video to Cloud when Camera is Charging*
  • Voice Control with Support for 7 Languages (additional languages coming)
  • Simple 1-Button Control
  • Waterproof Without a Housing to 33 Feet (10m)
  • Compatible with Existing GoPro Mounts, Including Karma
  • Stereo Audio Recording and Advanced Wind Noise Reduction
  • Professional-Grade Electronic Video Stabilization
  • Distortion-Free Wide Angle Video and Photos with New Linear-View Setting
  • RAW and WDR Photo Modes
  • GPSHERO5 Black will be available October 2nd for an MSRP of $399.99. Learn more HERE.
By October 3, 2016 Read More →

BenQ EW2775ZH Eye-care monitor Review

1453360061This Benq EW2775 is a very standard looking full HD monitor, not 4k, a standard 1920 x 1080, a refresh rate of 60hz and a response time of 12ms. However, to separate if from the rest there is Brightness Intelligence Technology. This technology brightens certain areas of the screen to reduce strain on the user’s eyes when the areas are darkened.

In addition, there is Low Blue Light Plus. Some will have come to this review looking for this exclusively as it can be something of a Godsend. Working in the evenings in a darkened room, at the screen, blue-light causes can cause eye strain. There are various solutions out there, however, none are as effective as having the technology built into the hardware.

p1030122

Round the back are two HDMI inputs and a D-Sub connector (some might know this as a VGA connector.) There is a 3.5mm line-in audio jack so that you can connect audio to it when using the D-Sub connector, HDMI includes an audio line in the architecture. There are speakers on the back of the unit also, to make worse the weakest part of the screen.

p1030127

How does the AMVA panel square up against the more popular TN/IPS approach these days at 1080p/60Hz? IPS is generally recommended for better colour accuracy, etc, but with a 3000:1 contrast the picture looks great. One of the main concerns about VA or AMVA is that there can be a problem of direct viewing issues. On the one hand, this is a screen that you would have facing you so the likelihood of having problems with view angle are limited. In reality, I found it had to really notice any reports of weird colour shifting when changing positions. The picture and colours remained steady.

TUV Rheinland Certification for Flicker-free boasting on the packaging means Technischer Überwachungsverein or Technical Inspection Association is a German organisation who specialises in validating the safety of products.

So how does the Low Blue Light Plus work in reality? This isn’t entirely new technology, or particularly groundbreaking. Samsung has ‘Warm2’, Dell has ‘Paper’ mode and other manufacturer have ‘Warm’ or ‘Reading’ settings built into their settings. However, it’s predictable that Benq has their own variant. Then of course, if your monitor does not have it you could manually reduce the blue colour channel manually. Not the easiest thing to do and who could be bothered fiddling with setting when you want to achieve this. There are software options however in reality nothing beats a button on the front of the screen that does it.

In reality, it does put a lot less strain on the user’s eyes and can be combined with software efforts like f.lux to make your computer perfectly fine to use at night. When using it I realised just how much of a difference it makes. Sitting up late at night typing reviews or editing videos the screen I have always felt the screen cutting my eyes to pieces. The Benq simply eased the discomfort and I hardly noticed.

p1030130

The stand does not allow you to turn the screen to a portrait mode, a missed opportunity as this would make a great second screen at the price, and there is no mounting interface to make use of other solutions.p1030126

Another gripe is with the bezel. Certainly, it looks minimal when first out of the box. However, once up and running the screen does not reach all the way to the corner. Instead, there is a 3 mm black gap between the edge of the display and the bezel.img_20160925_123301

This Is a fine monitor in every sense of the word. Looking elegant on a desk, certain design flourishes extend a higher quality and the panel provides a crystal clear and acceptably bright picture. And that’s what counts at the end of the day.

Certainly the limitations of the mount will affect some, however, I wouldn’t imagine the vast majority would dismiss the quality of the panel and competitive price tag on this alone.

The Benq EW2775 opened my eyes to the world of blue light reduction and eye strain. From myths growing up about TVs turning your eyes square to the reality of eye strain disturbing sleep and headaches there this really is a perfect example of something that works better as a built-in feature. Certainly, you can download one of the software solutions and work that way, however, it when shopping for a screen it makes sense to just have it built in and this Benq is a decent screen, with some stand drawbacks, with an acceptable price tag.

By October 1, 2016 Read More →

Projector Room Episode 2: Close To The Edge

projectorroom-300Listen using the player here:


Download Projector Room #2 (“Gareth Myles”,29/09/2016) manually (Size: 33MB, 46 minutes duration).

Projector Room

Show Notes – Show 2

Ted Salmon and Steve Litchfield with Gareth Myles

The Cutting Room Floor

Projector Room Google+ Community

Ted’s Top Ton – Ted’s 100 Favourite films, in no particular order!

Rob Anderson posted his Top 10 Films

John Campion posted his Top 10 Films

Which Remakes are better than Originals Discussion

Magic in the Moonlight, Ted’s Written Review

Community Members Suggest

The Shallows
– on Amazon UK

The Thing (1982) – on Amazon UK

Sully

Starring Role

Getting to know…Gareth Myles

Worth Watching

Reservoir Dogs – on Amazon UK

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – on Amazon UK

Amadeus – on Amazon UK

Curb Your Enthusiasm – on Amazon UK

Fargo (Film) – on Amazon UKFargo (TV)

Hugo – on Amazon UK

Dial M for Murder  – on Amazon UK

Argo on Amazon UK

To Live and Die in L.A. – on Amazon UK

Sorcerer – on Amazon UK

Film Picks

The Edge – on Amazon UK

A Simple Plan – on Amazon UK

The Magnificent Seven – on Amazon UK

Links of Interest

PodHubUKChewing Gum for the EarsPhones Show ChatWhatever WorksAAWP