Archive for April, 2017

By April 29, 2017 Read More →

Google Home Review

P1030686Google reinvented the wheel when it came to the Chromecast. A small, inexpensive piece of hardware that changed the way we used our television. Can they do it again with a speaker that hopes to change the way we deal with life? Thanks to out friends over at Maplin who can provide you with a Google Home of your own.

Google have taken a speaker, put their Google Assistant software inside and styled it up to be distinct and attractive in almost every home. From a design point of view, things are impressively well balanced.

Home was originally released in the United States 6 months before the UK launch on the 6th of April and must have sold well enough for Google not to kill it in the early stages, much like the Nexus Q. The reason for the delay is an obvious one, the differing services for geographic locations. Alongside adapted the voice recognition software of the assistant to allow the huge variety of vocal tones in the United Kingdom work.

This £129 system really has to impress if it is to be taken seriously as there is some tough competition from Amazon managed to beat Google to the market with the Echo and Dot hardware. Much fuss has been made of these and the ease of triggering the assistant and even some false orders.

Looking around the device, on the sloped top is a touch sensitive panel with a couple of microphone holes. The centre has a rotational dial with different colourings depending on the function being used.

To be back of the Google Home is a mute button, a small LED and the Google Logo.

Below this is the speaker cover, this is a material finish, and is available in various colours. The fabric adds a little more of a homely feel to the unit.

On the bottom is a rubber ring to prevent the unit sliding and the power connector.

The closed comparison of Google’s design is something like an air-freshener. Some might scoff that the top is plastic and unable to change colour, and they might be right. For £129.99 it feels like there could have been perspex with an LED to create a little ambience. Perhaps, this is a look we might see in the future and the device is refined over time.

The two microphones on the top of the unit appear to be the only microphones on the device. When asked, Google Home cryptically replies there is “at least one.” Whilst the Amazon Echo features 7 microphones Google equipped the home with only two. Google Home has never failed to hear me.

Google home 802.11ac Wi-Fi and some Bluetooth capability, however, the Bluetooth has not yet been activated.

Interacting with Google Home couldn’t be easier, you talk, it listens. Once connected to Wi-Fi, sorry no ethernet here, the experience is entirely audio based. Save for a little touch action on the top for volume control. Popping out simple commands receives an appropriate response and if you are unsure what to do, you simply ask that too.

As Google is connected to, arguably, the largest online resource of search requests you might think there is little it can;t answer. Unfortunately, there is. Questions and requests cannot be too complicated, the Assistant will respond with a standard statement that things are being worked on and she cannot do. When I say she, the Assistant admits she cannot talk like a “bloke” at the moment.

Much has been made of the ability to continue a line of questioning on a particular topic, for example, “Who is the President of the United States of America?” the Answer with a little extra information if give. Following this with “How old is he?” meets with silence. I had been under the impression this flow of questioning was a thing, however, it would seem not, for the time being at any rate.

To wake the device with “Okay Google” or “Hey, Google”. Two phrases worked deep into the bowels of the system, and the user is unable to change, so if your dog is called “Blokey Doodle”, chances are Google Home is going to wake up and you are going to give your Dog a more sensible name. Thankfully the trigger words are harder to accidently use that Alexia from Amazon that seems to be leading to light pericombobulations amongst users, but it can cause other friends and family’s phones to jump into action.

Once Google Home’s personality has been summoned, four coloured dots dance on the top of the unit as it listens to you and formulates a reply. Google Home consults Google’s Knowledge Graph and uses a superb vocabulary to generate a reply. If there is a fairly concrete record online Google is able to answer most factually orientated questions and states it’s source as backup, for example, “according to Wikipedia.” Complex questions can stump the little piece of plastic, however, whilst is tries and you can’t help but feel sorry of Google Home the first couple of times you stump it.

However, understanding your knowledge needs is not Google Home’s only trick. You can connect to Spotify, remember particular numbers or phrases, set alarms and timers, and give you a basic crash course in languages. Home plugs itself into Maps and gets to know what is around you, being able to offer tips on where to find local services.

At this the time of writing, Google Home has seen a couple of firmware revisions, however, nothing major. My experience was based on feature available at launch. The main app to interact with Google Home is the newly redressed Chromecast app, now titled Google Home. This really only serves as an aid for setup, inspiration and troubleshooting. There is very little you can actually do from here.

The settings are where most of the action is. You can configure the News source from a limited range of choices, step a Shopping List as a default when you realise you are out of Milk and some other rather standard settings.

After this, the app serves to help you get the most out of Home. recommending services on Google Play and audio prompts it for the handiest features. There is no definitive list and search the web will find many more interactions not listed here.

Google Home manages to be both things, an assistant and a toy. Only time will tell if it will stick like the Chromecast, or will it fade away into obscurity. With the Google Assistant being ready for action on your phone it will make the draw of Google Home ever more difficult, however, it’s something that at least needs to be tried to see if it actually fits.

Over the last fortnight, I have been considering adding two more units to you home as the Home has become an invaluable asset to my daily routine. From reading me the headlines and weather outlook in the morning to reminding me of appointments to reminding me how to spell pericombobulations for this review. Despite Home sitting beside some computer speakers, I find myself throwing the oddly podcast over it as the sound quality is perfectly acceptable for voice. And I admit that I have played the inbuilt trivia game more than one.

However, will it last? Once you have tired of trying to catch it out and finding Easter Eggs there is life in the platform. I can think of a number of little additions that will prove invaluable to be down the road. Google Home is continually evolving and I love the idea that this will be here beside me. Certainly my phone can do it, however, the trigger has to be turned on and this doesn’t help battery life.

Google Home might occupy a small amount of space, however, it offers some big opportunities. Many thanks to Maplin for providing a unit for this review, check out their listing if we have sold you on Google Home

 

By April 28, 2017 Read More →

A Look At The Cozyphones Kids

Image40Cozyphones Kids are headphones designed for children. A soft fleece material headband provides the style and support for the headphone units. Rather than inserting earbuds and with less chance of them falling of Cozyphones provides a safe and fun way to help smaller children experience music and other sounds on their own.

You can purchase the Coxyphones Kids Headphones from Amazon for £15.99 here.

CozyPhones Kids Character Headband Headphones

By April 27, 2017 Read More →

New technology to help over 50s who struggle with their smartphones

008_front_with_phoneOn Thursday 27th April, Zone V will launch with a new software and hardware combination to make the smartphone easy to read and simple to use.

The V software is available for all Samsung Android phones, delivering a range of features to help give elderly and partially-sighted people access to the smartphone without compromising on functionality:

  • Large text: Renowned accessibility font ‘Tiresias’ has been used to maximise visibility. Text on the phone is larger than on standard software and adjustable to suit the user.
  • Clear menu: Large icons and intuitive navigation replace existing menus.
  • Vibration feedback: Sensory vibration feedback confirms when icons and keys have been selected to give the user added reassurance.
  • Alternative menu colours: Schemes including black-on-white and white-on-black make the screen easier to read, particularly for those with visual impairment.

The V case is an expertly-developed case offering additional assistance for Samsung Galaxy A3 users:

  • Easy charger: Magnets on the case and the charger guide the cable, making it easy to plug-in.
  • Robust case: Protects the phone from knocks and drops.
  • Magnifying lens: Dedicated lens slides over the camera to form a magnifying glass.
  • Hand grip: Detachable hand loop secures to the end of the case, making the phone easier to hold.
  • Front facing audio: Additional speakers send clear audio out of the front of the phone.

New inclusive technology set to simplify the smartphone has been unveiled today by a new mobile entrant. British startup Zone V has designed a unique combination of software and hardware that makes the smartphone easy to read and simple to use.

The technology, which is available to buy from today via Google Play store, Amazon and www.zonev.com, will support a range of Samsung handsets to meet the needs of a more mature and less-savvy mobile enthusiast and those with visibility impairment who want to use cutting edge smartphones.

The UK’s Digital Divide

Zone V was inspired by the mobile digital divide that exists in society. Despite smartphone penetration in the 55 to 64 age group more than doubling since 2012 (19% to 50%i), there are still millions of adults in Britain who struggle to get to grips with the latest technology.

New and extensive research commissioned by Zone V reveals that nearly half (46%) of UK adults over 50 who own a smartphone say they are difficult or complicated to useii. What’s more, 30% of the over 50s don’t have a smartphone at all, with 26% of those saying smartphones are too difficult to even attempt to use.

These findings expose the reality that whilst there is a healthy and growing appetite for smartphones within the aging population, there are still many people who feel overwhelmed by the innovation on offer. Rather than dumb-down existing technology to meet this requirement, an opportunity exists to make the high-standards of innovation more accessible.

The demand for simplicity

When asked what features would assist the over 50s to use a smartphone, the response was overwhelming – 97% wanted a smartphone that was easy to read and 91% said it must be easy to hold.

In the development of the unique and highly-sophisticated product, Zone V studied smartphone innovation in the market and created solutions to enhance and unlock it for a new section of society. The company has worked closely with Samsung to develop products that support and bring to life Samsung’s leading innovation, including that of Samsung Knox, an Android-based solution that offers protection, privacy, and productivity for your mobile life.

Zone V’s unique combination of software and hardware offers a range of new and inclusive features that simplify the smartphone, making it easy to read and simple to use, and releasing the cutting edge features of the latest smartphones to a wider audience.

V Software

The V software completely revolutionises the Android experience to cater for the needs of a previously underserved section of society. The deeply integrated software, powered by Samsung Knox, delivers a range of features including:

  • Large text: Renowned accessibility font ‘Tiresias’ has been used to maximise visibility. Text on the phone is larger than on standard software and adjustable to suit the user.
  • Clear menu: Large icons and intuitive navigation replace existing menus.
  • Vibration feedback: Sensory vibration feedback confirms when icons and keys have been selected to give the user added reassurance.
  • Alternative menu colours: Schemes including black-on-white and white-on-black make the screen easier to read, particularly for those with visual impairment.

 

V Case

An expertly designed, feature-packed case offers a host of additional assistance and functionality for the Samsung Galaxy A3 – with more to be added in the coming months.  Those features include:

  • Easy charger: Magnets on the case and the charger guide the cable, making it easy to plug-in.
  • Robust case: Protects the phone from knocks and drops.
  • Magnifying lens: Dedicated lens slides over the camera to form a magnifying glass.
  • Hand grip: Detachable hand loop secures to the end of the case, making the phone easier to hold.
  • Front facing audio: Additional speakers send clear audio out of the front of the phone.

Disability and inclusive product consultant, Mary-Anne Rankin said of the launch of Zone V:

“For too long the aging persons’ market has been inadequately served by exciting developments in smartphones. As we age, bits don’t work as well as they used to – eyesight changes and perhaps our fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were. I meet people everyday who have a real passion for the latest tech with a bit of a ‘wow’ factor, but often find that buttons are too small and fiddly and screens difficult to read.

“I love that Zone V has set out to provide people with something that’s simple to use and easy to read and I was overwhelmed by the response my network had to the software and case – I think it could make a huge difference to the lives of so many people.”

The team behind Zone V

Zone V is overseen by former Nokia executives Frank Nuovo and Peter Ashall. Frank is famed for heading up Nokia’s first global design team, overseeing the creation of some of the world’s most recognised handsets including the iconic Nokia 3210.

Together with Peter, former Vice President of Concept Creation at Nokia, they launched Vertu in the early 2000s, the first luxury communications company famed for taking technology to a new market. The pair reunited to develop Zone V, running an extensive four-year product development process, involving relentless market and user testing to ensure the product would genuinely change the lives of the people who use it.

Development of Zone V has involved a team of international experts across technology through to customer insight.

Frank Nuovo, Creative Director at Zone V said:

“Today’s mobile industry is full of companies competing to be the first to launch the latest and greatest technology, but there are still far too many people in the world who feel that technology isn’t for them.

“I’ve always been passionate about designing things that people love to use. Zone V is unique because, for the very first time, we’re allowing everyone to be able to communicate their way. And I mean everyone – we’re not leaving anyone behind. Over the last four years, we have been completely committed to launching something that will change people’s lives – something magical and, at last, something truly inclusive.”

Peter Ashall, CEO at Zone V said:
“There are a great deal of people who want to enjoy the benefits of the latest tech but find it difficult to use. We have built something for them that makes the smartphone easier to read and hold and, overall, much simpler to use.

“We have had a brilliant response to the large and clear text, simpler menus and charger that’s easier to plug in, so we know we’re launching something that directly meets the needs of a sizeable group of people. We can’t wait for them to start seeing the benefits.”

Today’s launch comes with news that the Zone V technology was selected as a finalist in a leading UK technology competition.

Will Pryke, Head of BT Infinity Lab said:

“Zone V’s innovative approach has been recognised, with the technology being selected as a finalist in BT’s 2016 Infinity Lab Mobile Innovation competition.”

Posted in: Accessories, News, Phones
By April 26, 2017 Read More →

Tech Addicts UK Podcast – 26th Apr 2017 – At Home With Google

Slink Podcast Logo 1400 x 1400With Gareth Myles, Jay Garrett

RSS Link: http://mobiletechaddicts.libsyn.com/rss

Direct Download.

iTunes

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Show Notes

News:

Play Test:

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Gareth

Bargain Basement:

Main Show URL: http://www.techaddicts.uk

Email: contact@techaddicts.uk

Twitter: @techaddictsuk ; @garethmyles ; @gavinfabiani  ; @GadgetyNewsCom ; @JayGarrett ; @swanny ; @girlsngadgets ; @wildlime

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Web: http://gavinsgadgets.com ; http://GadgetyNews.com ; http://swanny.me/

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Posted in: Featured, News, Podcast
By April 25, 2017 Read More →

MIXX Audio Launches S3 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker & Digital Alarm Clock

unspecified3UK audio specialists Mixx Audio today announces the launch of its S3 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker with built in digital alarm clock. The Mixx S3 offers great sound and functionality; whether as a bedside wireless speaker, a digital clock with alarm or a phone charger, as well as being portable enough to use in all areas of your home. All this, in one in stylish, lightweight device.

The Mixx S3 is the perfect solution for anyone who is looking for a speaker that is small in size, sounds great and is incredibly easy to use. Available in pink and black, with anti-slip base to reduce surface vibration and dual speaker design for bass and detail, the S3 is packed full of extra features. Heavy sleepers need not despair as its two alarm settings will ensure you are up in time for your first meeting, your lecture or to get the kids to school before the bell rings. For those reluctant to emerge from under the duvet, there is also the comfort of a touch to snooze button for those extra few minutes of rest!

 

Whilst being used as an alarm clock, the S3 can power up your phone with its built in charging port so you can wake up gently with your phone fully charged, ready to start the day with a strong coffee and your favourite tunes pumping.  The built in microphone allows for hands-free calls so ideal for multi-tasking and calls on the go.

The S3 uses Bluetooth 4.0, allowing it to easily connect to any audio device such as smartphones, laptops or tablets within 30 feet/10 metres and has a rechargeable battery with up to 7 hours music playback. There is also the option of an additional back up battery option to retain clock time and alarm.

So, if you are looking for one device which wakes you up, charges your phone, plays your music, allows for hands free calling and is light and portable, the Mixx S3 is for you. Style, versatility and functionality for anyone, anywhere.

The Mixx S3 is available from www.mixx-audio.com for £40

By April 25, 2017 Read More →

Speedlink QUINOX Pro USB Gamepad Review

P1030630For years gamepads for PCs were not a thing, now it seems, they have caught up with and even overtake the complex stylings of the console competition. Some prefer them, so, therefore, there is a market. Microsoft and Playstation are forever bettering their input methods from generation to generation and sometimes in between, however with the PC gamers can open a whole next level of customisation and Speedlink knew this, delivering the Quinox Pro. This is a comfortable gamepad, with reconfiguration to the hilt and a price that doesn’t upset.

Looking around the device the front sees most of the action. A D-pad with independent buttons might be one of the more controversial design elements. The non-replaceable thumb sticks are identical and possess a decent amount of travel. Four large action buttons sit to the right with illumination. A Back and Start button sit in the centre with a large Xbox style guide button. A small OLED screen is positioned in the centre bottom region.

On the back, there are 4 accessible paddles and two slider switches, one for switching vibration on and off, the other switches from Xinput to Directinput, cunningly titled X and D. Crucially, the Quinox supports both Directinput, for mouse input signals and Xinput, mimicking the Xbox configuration.

On the bottom are two controller dials which, when pressed or flicked left and right, navigate a menu on the OLED screen.

These dials are separated into left and right and adhere to the left of right thumbstick for the most part. flicking dial brings up the. The left dial configures and selects the Marco modes, remapping buttons to the bumper buttons and paddles on the top and back. Flicking the right dial and using the D-pad turn the LEDs on and off. Time is required to get the most out of these buttons. Initially, they are quite confusing however, the benefits are obvious once you successfully bind a button to a complicated button combination.

The top sees two analogue triggers and two bumper buttons. In addition, there are two programmable buttons. These require quite a bit of extra travel and should not be relied on for frequent usage.

The Quinox connects by a 2.4m braided microUSB to USB cable that is detachable from the controller. This is a good length to please most folks, of course from some I won’t be long enough however it is replaceable with a longer MicroUSB cable. One warning is, do not pull this out unless you have to, plugging the cable back into the controller is not easy and quite frustrating. The braided cable is good quality, tough yet soft to the touch.

In the hand, the Quinox Pro is a comfortable gamepad. Very similar in feel to the Xbox One controller if a little thinner. The rear paddles might be a little uncomfortable for the larger hands however they might just take some getting used to. Gaming feels quite natural however as an old school gamer I found it a little daunting to have so many buttons, something the youth or seasoned gamer might not experience.

The build quality is perfectly acceptable with strong plastic and durable buttons that feel they last a long time and take quite a pounding.There are no details or design flourishes to speak of and this is quite refreshing where an over saturated market has some great controllers with nonsense etched into the body. Speedlink have things, simple and black but not without and an eye-catching dash of red.

Some folks will use a Gamepad for every game, personally I am not a fan of gamepads in general, however, I do concede they have their merit when pairing with the right game. Project Car has some easy benefit from the analogue sticks, platforming games perform well and the controller wipes the floor with any keyboard and mouse combo. However, it cannot measure up to a first person shoot or strategy game that demand keyboard and mouse.

The Speedlink Quinox Pro USB has everything you would want from a gamepad. There is little to fault and a price tag that makes it worth considering.

For more information, check out the Speedlink site here.

Posted in: Accessories, gaming, Reviews
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By April 21, 2017 Read More →

Google Home Unboxing

Image28It might have been released stateside 6 months ago, Google Home has now been released in the UK with some optimisation for the UK consumer. This is a hands-free smart speaker powered by the Google Assistant. Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your assistant, triggered by saying, “Ok Google”.

Here we take a look at the basic setup and first operation before a full review.

Thanks to Maplin for sending over a review sample. You can pick one up from here.

By April 20, 2017 Read More →

Venturer PrimePro 12 TS review

P1030596aThe world of the laptop and two-in-one device is a crowded one at the moment and Windows 10 has really excelled at providing an operating system that is both lightweight and features packed for the budget to mid-range device to run quite well. Venturer look to be making waves and this environment and whilst their latest device, the PrimePro 12 TS, is not without its flaws, the sum of the parts is commendable.

The Prime Pro 12 TS easily feels like they have learnt from the mistakes of previous models. It looks a lot better, it feels more premium and most importantly it runs smoothly.

A 12-inch screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1200 pixels proves to be just perfect for day to day interactions. Of course, this is a touchscreen device and therefore prone to large, oily fingerprints, something that is very difficult to avoid. One thing I will say about the screen and whilst it’s hardly a negative a small quirk is that the display is off-centre due to the camera on the left-hand side. Once noticed it’s impossible not to notice again. Everything is fine when running this in portrait mode, however, adopting landscape to plug it into the keyboard it just feels a little Asymmetric.

The keyboard bundled with the unit is a great feature and one that will attract many a business person who isn’t interested in the high price of the Surface line. By comparison with the previous Venturer model we looked at, the keys are greatly improved, there is decent spacing and enough travel so that you know that you press the button once you’ve pressed it.  Early usage finds that the keyboard dock was a little unresponsive and this annoyed me to some degree.  I felt I needed to push a little harder for the keyboard to respond, building up speed saw letters being dropped however once I got the knack I was able to build up speed whilst also pushing the buttons to a degree that I was sure of that the keyboard had received the signal. Over time this went away and now it’s very simple to type without issue. Perhaps the keys had a “bedding in” period of sorts.

The magnetic connection between the keyboard and the screen is very strong, I never doubted it for one moment which is commendable. When connecting the screen to the keyboard it always worked the first time, there was no fiddling around trying to find the connection and with a solid “thunk” you knew you were there.

The touchpad is great. Measuring almost 5 inches by 2 inches, there is plenty of travel in any direction. With no moving parts and stylishly cut into the keyboard’s base, there is little that can go wrong with it.

One thing that can be said about the unit as a whole is that it’s not the lightest, in fact, the whole thing bundled together is quite heavy. Weighing in at 1500 grammes, it’s on the heavier side,  but thrown it in the bag and it’s not that noticeable.

Folding the device up and putting it away is initially quite tricky but after using it for a few days you realise just how simple that actually is and becomes second nature. Once bundled up everything feels secure and protected save for the exposed microSD card, the one big problem on the exterior of the device. This popped out once on the train and landed on the table. Whilst it only happened once, it was one time too many.  I noticed it and felt it as I tapped it with one of my knuckles however on a busy train or leaving a flight this might be less than ideal. Perhaps a little piece of tape might hold things together a little better but who wants that?

Port-wise the Venturer Prime Pro has a lot to offer. Some my gripe there is only one USB, however, I never noticed the need for more. The mini HDMI is handy however I feel it’s a little redundant and was replaced by the micro HDMI and the micro USB was something I never found a use for.

The addition of the rear camera is a peculiar one and the device could do without it. For most of the time, I forgot it was there and whilst it is only two megapixels I guess it might be handy for capturing a business card but it certainly isn’t going to record your holiday memories. With a fixed focus and strange zoom in appearance, the photos feel as if there should be a warning that objects may be closer than they appear.

In the unboxing video, I was unsure of the volume switch, as to whether or not it was a handy placement. In usage it became invaluable. Easy to find and as it’s a button it was actually more responsive than other options like rollers.

Windows 10 runs very well. Initially, I was highly concerned as upgrading to the latest version of Windows 10 took a ridiculous amount of time. After almost 24 hours I finally had the machine up to date. This concerned me as I figured things were quite slow when it came to the Intel atom 1.83 gigahertz processor inside, coupled with 4 gigabytes of RAM. Thankfully once updated the machine appeared to be pretty quick. I rarely noticed any slow down when opening multiple applications and even managed some light gaming with some older titles downloaded through GOG Galaxy.

To boot the device from fully powered off to a usable state took roughly 20 seconds. When using the device it lasted for around 5 hours doing a little word processing and web development,  nothing too intensive. The media playback on the screen worked well, movies look good and the full HD display impressed. The speaker was acceptable however as with most speakers there is always room for improvement. Viewing photographs, the colour representation was pleasantly more than adequate and at no stage did it appear washed out. The screen gets a solid thumbs up indoors. Outside, one a sunny day things were a little different. With the brightness up full, the screen’s glossy finish made things impossible to see, a real shame.

The Venturer Prime Pro 12 TS is a very good alternative if you aren’t prepared to spend the money for the typically recommended Windows 10 experience. At £350 it is a little more than a budget laptop however you do get a more accessible experience having the choice to leave the keyboard behind and that might be worth that price difference.

I have enjoyed my time with the Ventura prime pro12 TS. It’s an interesting form factor from a company daring to be a little different. The Prime Pro does turning heads and people have asked questions. I can nit pick, but there is nothing I can really complain about, it’s a strong package at a good price and worth considering if you’re looking for a portable Windows 10 two-in-one device.

Posted in: Laptops, Reviews, Tablets
By April 17, 2017 Read More →

A Look At Google Home in the UK

Image28It might have been released stateside 6 months ago, Google Home has now bee released in the UK with some optimisation for the UK consumer. This is a hands-free smart speaker powered by the Google Assistant. Ask it questions. Tell it to do things. It’s your assistant, triggered by saying, “Ok Google”.

Here we take a look at the basic setup and first operation before a full review.

Thanks to Maplin for sending over a review sample. You can pick one up from here.

By April 16, 2017 Read More →

Speedlink Ultor Review

P1030602Speedlink have sent over their latest Ultor Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and a keyboard that can be considered as a portable offering. Featuring Red switches the Ultro loses the numerical pad leaving the keyboard much shorter than other on the market and a lower price tag than some of the competitors.

This mechanical keyboard has an impressive metallic red chassis buried under its keys. There are only small portions of the chassis peeking out in various places as Speedlink have cut down on any excess to make a keyboard truly too the point. The Chassis might have a plastic underside however that makes sense as it is rarely visible.

The keys on the Ultor feature Red switches, also known as Kailh switches. Kailh switches may be a copy of Cherry MX (Red) however they have a good reputation in the gaming community and are not a cheap alternative or second best. that are almost indistinguishable from their Cherry MX (Red) counterparts.

Some may take issue with the lack of additional keys, volume control and no USB or audio ports. There is a multitude of gaming keyboards on the market and it’s refreshing to have a mechanical keyboard in its purest form. There will be a market out there.

Underneath, the keyboard features three rubber feet that keep the keyboard in one place when in use and two rear legs can be raised or lower depending on the angle required. These 10mm legs can be locked into position and only feature one locking position. The are not adjustable.

Connecting the keyboard to the computer is a hard wearing braided cable. Oddly this connects off centre on the keyboard, however, I can’t imagine too many people finding fault with this, perhaps it was in the centre before a D’Pad was chopped off. The cable is 1.7m long and that feels generous.

When activated the keys glow blue and leak light stylishly onto the red chassis and things look pretty good. Some might scoff that the keys should glow red to match the keyboard, however, the blue allows for a much clear visual especially when tapping away, late at night, much like I am doing now. The buttons are bright and eye catching and I am personally a fan of the blue on red. A nice mix from Speedlink. The WASD and cursor buttons glow white to differentiate themselves and it’s a nice touch. However, there is no option for the user to colour coordinate and this might both some. The default is good, but customisation is always better.

 

Losing keys does not mean losing functions, additional functionality comes from the Fn button found to the right of the Space Bar. This alters the functionality of all of the F keys along the top of the keyboard alongside the Print Screen and Scrl Lock keys.

F1 through to F4 adjusts the USB polling Rate.

F5 through to F8 are media controls

F9 pulls up your media player and F10 through to F12 are volume controls

The Print Screen key turns the Ultor into Gaming mode, activating the Macro keys. Scrl Lock key adjusts of Brightness in a cycling mode and a Breathing Effect thrown in for fun. There are 11 different brightness levels (10% increments including off.) Under these buttons is a total of Six Macros keys described as M1 to M6 are configurable through the Speedlink software.

In use I found the keys to be responsive and comfortable. The odd time I had to remind myself that this is a mechanical keyboard and it responds to the tiniest pressure and resting a finger on the button can accidentally register a hit.

For typing, the keys don’t feel too crammed together, however, there isn’t much space between each for someone with large fingers like myself. If you think you might have encroached on a neighbouring key then you likely have as the keys are that sensitive. The Return button does have an odd quirk. Tapping the bottom right corner can cause a crunch, it will still register the stroke however it just feels a little unnatural.

The Speedlink software is not lacking in any features however it doesn’t really go above and beyond either. We have three tabs, Main keys, Macros and Advanced. Along the bottom are five profile tabs, when selected each of these profiles will be configurable by the three tabs above.

Under the Main Keys tab, you can remap keys for each profile and remapping is as simple as clicking on the key and reassigning the function in a pop-up menu. This is for key remapping only, not button combinations.

The Macro tab is where you can reassign any of the six Macro keys. The Macro keys allow for simple keyboard commands or more complex commands such as Windows functions and key combination.

The Advanced tab allows you to adjust various other settings on the keyboard such as USB Polling Rate, Windows Key Setting Key, Response Time and Light Intensity. Not entirely sure why these are summarised as Advanced and adjusting something like the brightness here adds an awkward delay in the outcome on the keyboard. You are better off using the Fn key.

If I was to gripe about one thing, it would be the tray icon, it’s the same as other peripherals from Speedlink, if you own a Speedlink mouse you will have to guess or hover over to assess which tray icon you need to open to adjust any settings.

Overall, I like the Speedlink Ultro very much and it has become my main keyboard, at least for the time being. The compact design saves space and the red, metal chassis is a subtle eye-catcher. With the price tag of around £80, the Ultro is great value and a superb example of a gaming keyboard on a budget. This much quality at such a low price is hard to find.

You can pick one up from Amazon here.

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